In Front of Your Nose

My third book, The Radical Jesus, was hot off the press. While holding a fresh copy in my hands I thought that the printer did an excellent job. I was excited over how wonderfully my wife designed the front and back covers and laid the entire book out. It was better than I expected.

Within the next couple of days my wife and I sent copies of the book to everyone that helped with the editing. A week or so later I got an email from Kathy Gallagher, the wife of Steve who wrote the foreword to the book.  In a very sweet and humble way Kathy informed me that we spelled their last name wrong on the front cover. I was shocked. How could Jessica and I have missed such an obvious mistake? We only printed 250 books for a trial run so the error will not be too far reaching. Nevertheless, it will be a testimony of how blind we can often be to the obvious.

It was interesting to me that neither of us could see what was right in front of our noses; we were blind. This issue when applied to our spiritual life and character is not a minor problem but a potentially deadly blindness with far reaching consequences. What sins and character flaws are we blind to that everybody else can plainly see? Let me give an example from my family. My dad had just turned 91. Two years prior he buried his third wife (the first two he divorced). While his third wife was slowly dying in a convalescent home he had a girlfriend on the side that lived in the same retirement complex. The family of this woman secretly removed her from the complex due to my father’s inappropriate conduct.

Throughout all of my dad’s marriages he never accepted any responsibility for their breakdown. He always blamed the “stupid women,” to use his phrase and manner of thinking. He also drove his three sons away from him and refused to acknowledge the reasons they all, at one time or another, disowned him. My dad is willfully blind to the obvious truth of his bad character. His sin is right in front of his nose, but he stubbornly refuses to open his eyes and own up to his sin.

When I recognize the blindness people have concerning their sin and the ugly dimensions of their character, I often wonder what corrupt areas of my life others can clearly see but to which I am blind. Spiritual blindness is most always a willful choice. We think it is easier to ignore the problem, blame others or hide behind whatever excuses we fabricate rather than face the cold, hard facts about what we actually are on the inside.

More times than I care to count I have seen families that call themselves Christian suffering under the ravages of their sin, yet refuse to repent and change. Even though they are damaging their children and the cause of Christ they deny that they have done anything wrong. And even if they do acknowledge that they have sinned, all too often, they do little to change the situation. Stories abound about violent martial fights with police being called; habitual arguing that tears the family apart; incest, adultery, homosexuality and pornography that devastates the home; drug and alcohol use that leaves scars that last a lifetime; foolish financial decisions that bring ruin to the family and the list goes on and on.

At times there is a form of self-righteousness that accompanies spiritual blindness whether it is in the life of a professing Christian or nonbeliever. Sometimes this self- righteousness is expressed in the deceptive belief that they are “good people.” As a result, they cannot see the reality that the motions of sin are working in and through them to their own ruin and that of others.

Take for example the breakdown of marriages. They disintegrate because spouses refuse to accept responsibility in the destruction of the marriage. They become experts at blaming each other and can recite from memory a long list of offenses the spouse has committed. All the while they refuse to acknowledge their part in the matter, repent of their sin and change.

Through our foolish ways of thinking we can even blame others for the sins we practice as if we are innocent of the matter. This often happens with alcoholics and drug addicts that blame their condition on their parents or other circumstances. Even though they may confess that they are sinners, they refuse to accept personal responsibility for their actions. They think it is easier to cope with their problems by blaming others for their sin rather than receiving God’s transforming grace.

Another way people hide behind this pseudo-form of self-righteousness is by comparing themselves with others. In this state of affairs, people downplay their sin by claiming they are not as bad as other people or that everybody is doing it so it cannot be that bad. They maintain their sins are only little ones such as “white lies” or “I’m only a recreational drinker.” Yet God’s Word informs us that “drunkards” and “all liars” will be cast into “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (1 Cor. 6:10; Rev. 21:8). This means that there is no such thing as a small sin.

Along with the above scenario people often try to hide behind the declaration that “God understands.” This shallow argument comes out of the false belief that they are somehow exempt from responsibility for their sins or above God’s laws. One man I confronted over his sexual sins claimed his sex drive was stronger than other men’s so God understood his problem. Such statements should terrify us because the Lord knows why we practice sin and that we have no excuses to hide behind. The ever increasing number of church folk that are living in common law marriages (which are no marriages at all), are also quick to claim “God understands.” The Scriptures call this sin fornication and boldly declares that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). In spite of what the Word clearly teaches, many believe they will not face divine judgment because God is love and He “knows my heart.” They erroneous believe that God would never judge them for loving someone.

Oh, the seemingly endless stories of people and families that are rushing headlong into a major train wreck of life. You see the coming disaster, you warn them of their approaching ruin, yet they refuse to see what is right in front of their nose. When their actions produce a moral, spiritual and relational train wreck, devastating those they claim to love, they often blame God for their suffering because of the evil they practiced.

The Lord declared through the prophet Zephaniah that, “I will bring distress on the people and they will walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD” (Zep. 1:17). This is a cyclical problem: the more we practice sin the greater the blindness that ensues and through our blindness we recklessly rush into more sin. Breaking this pattern can only happen when we are willing to see our sin and take the path of repentance. Out of genuine repentance comes the desire to right the wrongs we have committed. Failure to repent will only make the impending train wreck worse.

God’s love made personal to us is seen in His reproof, “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal” (Job 5:17-18). The Lord knows our natural propensity to spiritual blindness so He actively labors to help our blind eyes to see. Sometimes this is an agonizing process due to our stubbornness. He uses everything from pain and suffering to loneliness and despair to bring us to the place where He can heal our sin-sick souls. Friends, family and even strangers can be instruments in His hands to reprove us. Solomon was right, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Pr. 27:6). We need help from those who can see in us what we cannot see ourselves.

David, addressing this issue declared, “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5). The king was humble enough to receive instruction and wise enough to know that it was an act of kindness. Pride and insecurity can cause us to reject correction. We can even be so defiant as to stubbornly continue in the very practices that we have been reproved over. It takes a tender heart towards Jesus to receive discipline.

The Lord gave the church shepherds to love and care for His flock. One of the tools that godly pastors have to help shepherd the sheep is loving reproof, both from the pulpit and through personal discipleship. However, we can be very rebellious sheep. As a result, many self- professing Christians surround themselves with cowardly pastors that speak what their itching ears want to hear. Such shepherds abuse the sheep and “multiply kisses” through their soft messages. They are actually unkind, even heartless when they give their congregations crossless, costless sermons that leave the people in their sin. Jeremiah accurately described these man- pleasing leaders, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). The Lord declared that this proliferation of pathetic ministers has come upon us because “my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” (Jer. 5:31).

At times we all need help seeing what is right in front of our nose. The wiser we become the more we will rightly respond to the Lord’s loving care that often comes in the form of reproof.  Can you receive a rebuke from a pastor, friend or family member? Is your heart tender to powerful and convicting preaching? As Solomon wrote, “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Pr. 9:8). So are you a foolish mocker or a wise man or woman? Let me be transparent here, nobody likes to receive correction, including myself. Nonetheless, it is a very necessary work that the Lord uses to get us to our heavenly home.

We must look beyond our offended pride and insecurities to grab hold of the prize that awaits us when we respond to the Lord’s reproof. With great tenderness the Lord stated, “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you” (Pr. 1:23). Is not such a prize worth it all?

Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.

Lies of Tolerance

One evening while ministering in Vermont I saw a commercial aired during the evening news. It was filled with children and teens pleading with the viewers to be tolerant with those of different races, religions and lifestyle choices. They sounded so sincere, so guileless. The message was simple and appealing. Their statements held a certain validity. And yet, underlying this seemingly innocent commercial was a propaganda based upon lies to engineer society.

THE HYPOCRISY OF TOLERANCE
The sad irony about the tolerance movement is that it is not tolerant. The moment you disagree with those who believe in the secular version of tolerance, you are labeled a bigot, homophobe, extremist or worse. This is actually a justified form of hate advanced by the politically correct. While visiting some relatives a discussion about homosexuality arose. I presented the Biblical view that homosexuality is sin. When my relative’s arguments broke down she turned to personal attacks by labeling me a homophobe. Though she claimed to be open-minded and an active proponent of tolerance she demonstrated that she was extremely intolerant.

Let me illustrate this further. A friend of mine who pastors a church on a major university campus held a series of lectures at the church. He brought in noted Christian speakers on major world religions who opened the floor for questions after each lecture. The meetings were well received until the night of the lecture on Hinduism. Hinduism has 330 million deities. Here is a religion that prides itself on diversity and tolerance. That is, until Christ’s exclusive claims to truth and salvation are presented. The Hindus in the meeting were enraged. They proved that they are not tolerant.

Noted apologist Ravi Zacharias clearly defined the core convictions of the mass-produced propaganda of tolerance. “Philosophically, you can believe anything, so long as you do not claim it to be true. Morally, you can practice anything, so long as you do not claim that it is a ‘better’ way. Religiously, you can hold to anything, so long as you do not bring Jesus Christ into it. . . . A journalist can walk into a church and mock its carryings on, but he or she dare not do the same if the ceremony is from the eastern fold.”

The problem with the tolerance movement is not in the promotion of tolerance in and of itself, but in its philosophical foundations. This non-Christian belief system is predominately the by-product of naturalism, humanism and moral relativism, each of which is antagonistic to Biblical Christianity and the health and well being of society. I will briefly outline these three philosophical points and then address how they relate to the secular concept of tolerance.

NATURALISM
Naturalism is the atheistic belief that reality can be explained through mere natural terms. Evolution, realism and determinism are foundations of naturalism. Naturalists claim that the character and behavior of human beings are wholly determined by heredity and environment. Humanity is nothing more than an evolved species that struggle with instinctive drives, such as hunger and sexuality, along with external social and economic influences. Though the formal philosophy of naturalism began in the late 19th century and was short lived, it has become the common belief of the majority of Americans. It is aggressively taught in our schools.

Evolution is a theory which purports that the material world came into being through time and chance. In other words, time and chance is the creator of all that is and through that same impersonal random act life came forth from lifeless matter. Actually, naturalism and evolution are faith based explanations of the existence of man that has removed God from the equation.

HUMANISM
The Greek philosopher Protagoras of the 5th century BC gave us the definition of humanism, “Man is the measure of all things.” This sentiment became the driving force of the 14th century Renaissance that
began in Italy. The Renaissance removed the Christian influence from the study of ancient Latin and Greek authors. This brought about a compartmentalizing of the person. The intellectual, worldly and temporal
was removed from the spiritual and eternal.

As with naturalism, humanism has evolved and trickled down from the intelligentsia to the mass of western civilization. It is so thoroughly incorporated into our society that it is hard for us to comprehend its depth of influence. Modern humanism attempts to offer dignity to the human race without God. If man, and the pleasure of man is, as Protagoras claimed, the measure of all things, then God is either removed from society or compartmentalized to an insignificant part of life. Morals are then left to the dictates of the individual and the powerbrokers of society.

RELATIVISM
Moral relativism works hand-in-hand with naturalism and humanism. Relativists reject the Biblical standards of morality by claiming that there is no such thing as self-evident moral principles that are true for everyone. Morality is determined by traditions and customs. This means that whatever society determines is right is right. Morality is then decided and engineered according to whatever is considered beneficial for that society no matter how evil it may be.

Relativism is both pragmatic and existential. Pragmatism asserts that whatever works is right, while existentialism claims that morals change given each situation. Relativism taken to its logical conclusion would produce social chaos. It would be a world where nothing is good or evil, where justice and fairness are meaningless and where moral improvement is irrelevant. It is a bankrupt philosophy that is thoroughly illogical.

THE LIES OF TOLERANCE
If humanity is only the product of time and chance, and if man is the measure of all things, and if morals are only the pragmatic and existential results of society, then how do you get people to tolerate each other? The moral relativist would say through education and law. For the Christian, hate and prejudice are part of our sinful nature and will never be eradicated by education, laws or propaganda.

When deviant moral practices such as homosexuality, premarital sex, and pedophilia are deemed legitimate lifestyle choices by special interest groups they aggressively strive to legalize the sin, and manipulate the populace with propaganda so they believe the lie. However, history proves that immorality is always destructive to society because sin is destitute of the power to accomplish good. Notice that, as God is further removed from American life society grows more corrupt. When we reap the whirlwind of our wickedness we can see the worthlessness of moral relativism, that is, if we have eyes to see.

Relentless reports on the violence in our schools burden our hearts. Relativistic morality offers nothing more than commercials on tolerance and laws to prohibit violence and hate. Yet the hearts of the people have not changed. When godless philosophies overran the classrooms the standard for morality was driven out as well. The violence and disrespect in our schools are at unprecedented levels. Moral relativism is not working. Propaganda and legislation will never be able to curb our natural propensity to sin and evil.

Only through Jesus is there power to change the character of man. Left to ourselves we are self-absorbed people who want to justify our sinful lifestyles and even propagate them. The Scriptures plainly state that morals are not relative because they are based upon the character of God who does not change. That is why He told us to, “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pe 1:16).

God is truly the only tolerant being. He tolerates our sin while calling us to repent. His tolerance is never a justification of sin, for He is also the Just Judge. The wages of sin will be distributed with eternal justice unless the sinner turns from his sin through repentance. God’s tolerance gives us space to repent. If we refuse to repent then we are left to face His holy justice.

There is no dignity in man if he is only an evolved ameba that was once slime on the sea. God created man in His own image and for His own good pleasure. We were created with a purpose that does not change: to love God first and foremost and then to love others as ourselves. Only as we are rightly related to God can we correctly love others. Jesus did not ask His disciples to be tolerant, but to love others as He loved them. This is the high calling of a Christian.

Genuine Christians learn true tolerance as they become more like Jesus. There is no place for hate and prejudice in Christ’s kingdom. Jesus told us that by our love the world will know that we are His disciples (Jn. 13:35). Throughout church history the cause of Christ has been slandered when those who call themselves Christians walk in hatred and prejudice. As Jesus said, “a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Mt 12:33).

A person is not born a Christian but becomes one by surrendering his life to Jesus as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). Since Christians were once rebels against Christ they ought to be Biblically tolerant of those who do not know the Savior because they once lived as the unbelievers now do. Paul told us, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Christians are never called to justify the sins of others, but to call them out of their rebellion against God by turning to Jesus with all their heart. Notice that the commercial stated at the beginning of the article did not ask the viewers to love each other, only to be tolerant. Godless philosophies are powerless to change human nature. Underlying the commercial was relativism’s approval of alternative lifestyles no matter how evil and destructive they are. This is done, not out of charity, but out of the propagation and love of evil. These godless philosophies cannot transform the evil in men’s hearts, so they legitimize them. Evil can only be what it is, and if it is left unrestrained, will endeavor to accomplish its end—the infliction of pain and suffering, both temporally and eternally.

The secular version of tolerance is a lie and will never be able to accomplish what it propagates. Jesus is the only remedy to the sin sick soul.

Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.

Love That Costs by Jessica Meldrum

“I hate you! You’re not my mom and dad. I’m going to ask my social worker to move me to a new home!”

As Lynn* stormed off and slammed her bedroom door, I looked at my husband. The hurt I saw in Glenn’s eyes mirrored my own. Just a month ago everything seemed to be going so well. Lynn had been in our home two years now and we had witnessed many wonderful changes in her. We knew she had begun to believe that we would not abandon her, a very legitimate fear because she had been abandoned by family and other foster parents.

Lynn was 10 years old when I first met her as a volunteer helping with an outing at a local foster care agency. I fell in love with her immediately. After five years foster parenting and many years of working with unwanted kids on the streets of Detroit, I could tell Lynn had potential. I saw her often over the next two years and kept hoping that her current foster home would work out for her. It was number six since coming into the foster care system at four years old.

One day while at the agency office, I overheard one of the social workers talking about how hard it would be to place a 12 year old. The other worker agreed adding that such a nice kid like Lynn could really use break. At once I felt the Lord speak to my heart about taking her. I spoke to Glenn that night and he also believed it was God’s will for us to share our home and our hearts with her

The first year with Lynn was certainly not uneventful. It is common for a foster child to test their foster parents for at least the first year. Due to attachment issues, they want to know as soon as possible if a foster family with keep them or “give them back” once the family discovers negative behaviors in them.

Over the next two years, we came to love Lynn as we would our own daughter. She slowly opened up to us, but still we sensed that she was fighting her growing attachment to us. Two weeks before we were to celebrate our second anniversary, Lynn began doing things to sabotage our relationship. She betrayed our trust, lied to us and began forming detrimental friendships behind our backs.

When she disobeyed us, it seemed she wanted to be found out. When we confronted her about her behavior, she suggested we just get rid of her since we didn’t like what she was doing. Although we made many mistakes through this time, we did try to confirm our love for Lynn and let her know we would be very sorry if she chose to leave us.

The decision to become foster parents was not really our decision, Jesus chose it for us. He showed us a need and we simply obeyed His command to care for the “least of these.”  It began with taking in teens off the street and getting some type of legal guardianship. Because of their age and circumstances we never had to be concerned about giving them up. When Glenn and I decided to take Lynn, we again believed that we would not be in danger of losing her. Although she was younger, given the history, it was very doubtful that she would ever be given back to her mother. We hadn’t considered the possibility of Lynn rejecting us.

I was facing the predictions and warnings that many had made to us over the years; “You’re going to get your heart broken if you foster parent, that’s why I would never do it.”  It was looking like we were going to lose Lynn and I realized that I had never really prepared myself for a loss like this. But how could I have prepared for it? By not giving my heart away? How could I ever make a difference in the life of a child unless I let them into my heart?

The world teaches us to preserve our life; to save our life. That it is a very foolish thing to knowingly put yourself in a position to be hurt or suffer loss. The Scriptures teach the opposite. To love as Jesus loves is never safe. To give your life away is risky and sooner or later it will cost. As Christians we are to lose our lives through absolute surrender and follow our Master even if He takes us to a cross.

Lynn’s social worker did not grant her request to be moved to another home and soon afterwards she came to the point to love us and trust us. We had many more trying situations to go through with her, but today Lynn is a tender-hearted, young adult following Jesus. She is not repeating the sins of her natural family. Her life is a wonderful testimony of the love and mercy of God.

It all worked out well with Lynn; however all our stories don’t end like this one. At times Jesus chose for us more difficult paths, ones that included the pain of loss or the sting of betrayal. Our decisions to love must never be based on the predicted outcome. To love as Jesus loved will always cost, yet to share in the fellowship of His sufferings by giving our lives away is in truth, a great privilege. Whether we join with Christ in His sufferings by spending hours on our knees for someone who is hurting or we give ourselves in some manner of service for Him, it is a gift from Him, no matter the outcome.

Emma Booth-Tucker, a granddaughter of William Booth, understood the real blessing in living on this earth. “The portions of my life which have given me the most satisfaction,” she confessed, “are the seasons when I carried the cross for Jesus, and the one regret which fastens down upon my spirit at the thought of turning from earth and entering heaven is the realization that I shall never again be able to companion Jesus by bearing the cross, by suffering with Him for the salvation of sinners, and by ministering to Him by ministering to the sorrowing, suffering multitudes for whom His blood was given.”

* The name has been changed.

Jessica Meldrum has been a national evangelist with her husband Glenn since 1997. She speaks to women’s groups, is a freelance author and wrote the book Floods on Dry Ground: The Story of the Hebrides Awakening. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn and Jessica Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.

The Blessings of Suffering

Suffering is a reality that we wish never existed.  We flee from its sight, are repulsed by its touch and sickened with its embrace.  Seemingly out of nowhere it assaults us as a venomous snake attempting to fill our hearts and minds with its deadly poison. It wraps itself around us, trying to squeeze the life out of us.  We want to be free from its clutches, free from its influence, free from its pain.  But we can’t, for it is a part of us, a byproduct of what we are and an integral part of our fallen world. We are both its creator and its victim.

Suffering exposes our true character—what we are on the inside. Either it reveals the beauty of a Christlike character or brings to light the ugliness of our sinful nature.  Suffering can bring out of us those wicked attitudes and actions that we thought were long dead or reveal dimensions of our character we never knew existed. Even Saint Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24).

Fortunately, in the midst of our pain there is purpose.  Divine purpose!  The Lord uses suffering to conform us into the “image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). The Great Physician will skillfully use His scalpel to cut out of us the evil that is so interwoven into our nature. But we must yield to His handiwork and surrender to His will or we will suffer under the ravages of our unconquered characters.

Suffering is no respecter of persons.  It crosses all economic, religious and racial lines.  We live in an unsafe world and suffering brings this truth home.  Pride and self-will are attacked by the mighty blows that suffering inflicts.  If we are wise, we will learn from our pain.  If we are foolish, we will rebel against the good that suffering can afford.

Unfortunately, most western Christians approach the subject of suffering from a secular worldview. When we make happiness and prosperity the prize of our existence then suffering is only a cruel obstacle. We desperately need to have a biblical worldview that compels us to live surrendered lives to Christ. Then we will find the blessings that come out of suffering. As we journey through life’s valleys we can find profound comfort knowing that Jesus can turn our mourning into dancing (Ps. 30:11-12; KJV).

Listed below are just a few of the blessings that come out of suffering.

SALVATION

Most people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through suffering. When life is going well we ignore our spiritually bankrupt condition. Only when the raw truth of our sin pierces our hard hearts will we will receive God’s gift of repentance. It usually takes a strong dose of pain and suffering to bring us to our knees. We must be convinced that we need saving before we will seek the Savior.

The Lord also uses suffering as a tool to drive His wayward children home. This is a great kindness. To forsake our “first love” means we have played the spiritual whore (Rev. 2:4). The moment we cease to passionately seek after the Lord we start loving gods of our own making. Then the Spirit begins to convict us through the Word. If we refuse to listen to the Lord’s sweet call then He will amplify the voices of the Word and Spirit with suffering. The prodigal son would have never returned home to his father had he not severely suffered over his backsliding.

DRAWING CLOSER TO JESUS

The greatest way in which our characters are transformed is by sitting at Jesus’ feet, nurturing a passion to be with Him and to be like Him. But before we will fully surrender to Jesus we must come to see our desperate neediness. At times this can be a painful process as L. E. Maxwell points out:

You must learn by kindness or by terror.  God’s sword of providence may be laid successively to every tie that binds you to self and sin.  Wealth, and health, and friends, may fall before that sword.  The inward fabric of your life will go to pieces.  Your joy will depart.  Smitten within and without, burned and peeled and blasted, you may finally, amidst the dreadful baptism, be driven from the sinful inconsistency of living for yourself.  You may at length be disposed to yield self over to the victory and undoing of Calvary.

In this divine work of delivering us from our natural propensity to rebellion and self-absorption we find the infinite blessing of Christ and His nearness.

Hearts filled with love for God will discover that suffering only presses them deeper into His love. Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, learned this truth. As the Mission grew so did the trials. Eventually Mr. Taylor had to trust the Lord for the financial needs of almost a thousand missionaries. He wrote to a friend, “My path is far from easy. . . It is well, that it should be so. Difficulties afford a platform upon which He can show Himself.  Without them we could never know how tender, faithful and almighty our God is.”

Mr. Taylor turned his trials into blessings by seeking hard after the Savior. It was the matchless love of Christ that captured his heart. The struggles of life should press us deeper into His presence, never away from Him. When we wholeheartedly seek our Precious Savior we will surely find Him though hardships and sufferings abound or the devil and the world do their worst.

Paul had a burning passion to “know Christ” (Phil. 3:10). His desire was not obscured with worthless fantasies about financial prosperity or vain illusions about fleeting happiness. He knew all too well that to intimately know Jesus meant to fellowship with Him in His sufferings. Too many Christians today know Christ only superficially because they do not want to pay the price to build a deep relationship with the Lord. But there is a type of suffering associated with knowing Christ in a deep manner. David Brainerd called it a “pleasing pain that makes my soul press after God.”

BUILDING CHRIST’S CHURCH

Jesus loves His church! He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own” (Titus 2:14). All true Christians are called be co-laborers with Christ in building and nurturing His kingdom. We are not called to criticize it or tear it down, but to build it. Paul labored with all that was in him to build Christ’s church. This same call and responsibility rests upon our shoulders today.

It’s costly to build Christ’s kingdom in a hostile world. If we are not willing to suffer then our Lord’s church will not be built. The truth lies naked before our eyes—we are failing our Lord; His church is shrinking in America because we are unwilling to suffer in order to build it. Scores of self-proclaimed Christians have a hard time attending church once a week, much less giving their lives to build Christ’s kingdom. Their self-absorbed lifestyles are contrary to what it means to be a biblical Christian.

The Lord warned Israel through Haggai saying, “Give careful thought to your ways” (Hag. 1:7). Why did the rebuke come? Because the people were building their own houses while God’s “house remains a ruin” (Hag. 1:4). Are we any different today? Was not the prophet also speaking directly to the church of the 21st century? But are we listening?

The Lord is speaking the same rebuke to us, “‘You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house’” (Hag. 1:9). Like Israel, we have become a self-absorbed people thinking that happiness comes through the pursuit of our own desires. We have failed to recognize the privilege of suffering to build the kingdom of God—I will even go further—of laying down our lives for the Savior.

REACHING THE LOST

Another reason we are called to suffer with Jesus is to perpetuate His mission to rescue the perishing (Pr. 24:11-12; Lk. 19:10).  The early church was a wonderful example of the value suffering plays in reaching non-believers. “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed” (Acts 5:16). After the entire crowd was healed the high priests and all their associates were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and threw them in jail.

That night the Lord sent an angel to open the prison doors so they could continue ministering (Acts 5:19). At daybreak they preached in the temple courts. The religious leaders were astonished when someone said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people” (Acts 5:25). Notice that when they got out of jail they did not cower in a corner or start complaining over their suffering.

Whether we are thrown into jail, beaten with rods or rejected by family and friends, it is costly to be a witness for Jesus. The suffering we experience may be great or minuscule, but it will always be worth it when seen in light of Calvary. The sacrifice of our money, possessions, time and the pursuit of pleasure is a small price to pay to win the unsaved to Christ. Let us not stand before the Lord filled with worthless excuses of why we did not spend our lives in rescuing a perishing world. At the judgment seat of Christ our excuses will be seen as nothing other than cowardice, pride and self-absorption.

HOLINESS

Suffering is one of the tools Jesus uses to mold our character to be like His own. This is why Paul included suffering into his discourse on the maturing process of every believer. He told us to “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). For suffering to help mold our character for good we must learn how to live a surrendered life to Christ.

Our attempts at avoiding suffering may actually cause us to fight against the only One who can genuinely help us in our time of need. Victory is available through God’s grace when we submit to His will, face our trials head on and then crucify everything in our lives that is contrary to Christ. Instead of whining and complaining when we suffer we ought to be asking the Lord to use these trials to make us more like Him.

When we suffer it’s extremely important to keep our eyes on Jesus, and not upon ourselves, or we will feed our natural inclination towards self-absorption. We need to have a right understanding of eternity so our hope will not rest in those things that “moth and rust destroy” (Mt. 6:19). This thought moved Paul to state, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

Remember, “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal. 6:7). If we live selfish lives then we will reap the consequences of our wickedness both in this life and in the one to come. However, when we suffer for Jesus we will also reap what we sow. Our Wonderful Savior will never abandon His own. He will walk with us through our suffering and wait at death’s door to take us home. Jesus is not slow to reward those who love Him supremely. He will be our “exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15:1, KJV).

Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.

The Men God Has Used by Horatius Bonar

Let us look for a little at the instruments and their success. Let us note their character and contemplate their success. They were men of like passions as we are, yet how marvelously blest in their labors! Whence, then, came their vast success? What manner of men were they? What weapons did they employ?

THEY WERE IN EARNEST ABOUT THE GREAT WORK OF THE MINISTRY ON WHICH THEY HAD ENTERED

They felt their infinite responsibility as stewards of the mysteries of God, and shepherds appointed by the Chief Shepherd to gather in and watch over souls. They lived and labored and preached like men on whose lips the immortality of thousands hung. Everything they did and spoke bore the stamp of earnestness, and proclaimed to all with whom they came into contact that the matters about which they had been sent to speak were of infinite moment, admitting of no indifference, no postponement even for a day. Yet their fervor was not that of excitement; it was the steadfast, tranquil purpose of men who felt the urgency and weight of the cause entrusted to them, and who knew that necessity was laid upon them, yea, woe was unto them if they preached not the gospel. They felt that, as ministers of the gospel they dared not act otherwise; they dared not throw less than their whole soul into the conflict; they dared not take their ease or fold their arms; they dared not be indifferent to the issue when professing to lead on the hosts of the living God against the armies of the prince of darkness.

THEY WERE BENT UPON SUCCESS

It was with a good hope of success that they first undertook the awful (full of awe; reverential) office of the ministry, and to despair of this would have been shameful distrust of Him who had sent them forth, while to be indifferent to it would have been to prove themselves nothing short of traitors to Him and to His cause. As warriors, they set their hearts on victory, and fought with the believing anticipation of triumph, under the guidance of such a Captain as their head. As shepherds, they could not sit idle on the mountainside in the sunshine, or the breeze, or the tempest, heedless of their straying, perishing, bleating flock. They watched, gathered, guarded, fed the sheep committed to their care.

THEY WERE MEN OF FAITH

They ploughed and sowed in hope. They might sometimes go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, yet these were the tears of sorrow and compassion, not of despair; they knew that in due season they would reap if they fainted not, that their labor in the Lord would not be in vain, and that ere long they would return bringing their sheaves with them. They had confidence in the God whose they were and whom they served, knowing that He would not send them on this warfare on their own charges. They had confidence in the Savior whose commission they bore, and on whose errands they were gone forth. They had confidence in the promises of glorious success with which He had armed and comforted them. They had confidence in the Holy Spirit’s almighty power and grace, as the glorifier of Christ, the testifier of His work, and the quickener of dead souls. They had confidence in the Word, the gospel, the message of reconciliation which they proclaimed, knowing that it could not return void to Him who sent it forth. Thus they went forth in faith and confidence, anticipating victory, defying enemies, despising obstacles, and “counting not their lives dear unto them that they might finish their course with joy”.

THEY WERE MEN OF LABOR

They were required to bear the burden and heat of the day. It might be truly said of them that “they scorned delights and lived laborious days”. Their lives are the annals of incessant, unwearied toil of body and soul: time, strength, substance, health, all they were and possessed, they freely offered to the Lord, keeping back nothing, grudging nothing, joyfully, thankfully, surrendering all to Him who loved them and washed them from their sins in His own blood— regretting only this that they had so little, so very little to give up for Him who for their sakes had freely given Himself! They knew by experience something of what the apostle testifies concerning himself to the Corinthian Church. They knew what it was to be “in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness”. They had no time for levity, or sloth, or pleasure, or idle companionship. They rose before dawn to commence their labors, and the shades of evening found them, though wearied and fainting, still toiling on. They labored for eternity, and as men who knew that time was short and the day of recompense at hand.

THEY WERE MEN OF PATIENCE

They were not discouraged, though they had to labor long without seeing all the fruit they desired. They continued still to sow. Day after day they pursued what, to the eye of the world, appeared a thankless and fruitless round of toil. They were not soon weary in well-doing, remembering the example of the husbandman in regard to his perishable harvest: “Behold the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it until he receive the early and latter rain.”

Many a good plan has been rendered abortive by impatience. Many a day of toil has been thrown away by impatience. Many a rash step has been taken and hasty changes adopted in consequence of impatience. Attempts have been made to force on a revival by men who were impatient at the slow progress of the work in their hand; and seldom have these ended in anything but calamitous failure, or at best a momentary excitement which scorched and sterilized a soil from which a little more patient toil would have reaped an abundant harvest.

THEY WERE MEN OF BOLDNESS AND DETERMINATION

Adversaries might contend and oppose, timid friends might hesitate, they pressed forward, in nothing terrified by difficulty or opposition. Timidity shuts many a door of usefulness, and loses many a precious opportunity; it wins no friends, while it strengthens many an enemy. Nothing is lost by boldness, or gained by fear. It seems often as if there were a premium upon mere boldness and vigor. Even natural courage and resolution will accomplish much; how much more, courage created and upheld by faith and prayer. In regard, for instance, to the dense masses of ungodliness and profligacy in our large towns, what will ever be effected, if we timidly shrink back, or slothfully fold our hands, because the array is so terrific, and the apparent probabilities of success so slender? Let us be prepared to give battle, though it should be one against ten thousand.

There is needed not merely natural courage in order to face natural danger or difficulty; there is, in our own day, a still greater need of moral boldness, in order to neutralize the fear of man, the dread of public opinion, that god of our idolatry in this last age, which boasts of superior enlightenment, and which would bring everything to the test of reason, or decide it by the votes of the majority. We need strength from above to be faithful in these days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy—to set our faces like flint alike against the censure and applause of the multitude, and to dare to be singular for righteousness’ sake, and to fight, single-handed, the battles of the faith. The sneer, the scoff, the contemptuous smile of superiority, the cold support, the cordial opposition, the timid friendship, the bold hostility, in private and in public, from lips of companions, or neighbors, or fellow-citizens—and to meet these nothing less than divine grace is needed. Never, perhaps, in any age has wickedness assumed a bolder front and attitude; and never, therefore, was Christian courage more required than now.

Men of the world and mere professors can tolerate the customary routine of ministerial duty; but to step beyond that—to preach and labor in season and out of season—to deal faithfully and closely with men’s consciences—to be always the minister, always the watchman, always the lover of souls—this is to turn the world upside down, to offend against every rule of good breeding, and to tear up the landmarks of civilized society. Ministers and Christians require more than ever to be “strong and of good courage”, to be “steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”.

THEY WERE MEN OF PRAYER

It is true that they labored much, visited much, studied much, but they also prayed much. In this they abounded. They were much alone with God, replenishing their own souls out of the living fountain that out of them might flow to their people rivers of living water. In our day there is doubtless many a grievous mistake upon this point. Some who are really seeking to feed the flock, and to save souls, are led to exhaust their energies upon external duties and labors, overlooking the absolute necessity of enriching, ripening, filling, elevating their own souls by prayer and fasting. On this account there is much time wasted and labor thrown away. A single word, coming fresh from lips that have been kindled into heavenly warmth, by near fellowship with God, will avail more than a thousand others.

If Christ’s faithful ministers would act more on this principle they would soon learn what an increased fruitfulness and power are thereby imparted to all their labors. Were more of each returning Saturday to spend in fellowship with God, in solemn intercession for the people, in humiliation for sin, and supplication for the outpouring of the Spirit, our Sabbaths would be far more blest, our sermons would be far more successful, our faces would shine as did Moses’, a more solemn awe and reverence would be over all our assemblies. What might be lost in elaborate composition, or critical exactness of style or argument would be far more than compensated for the “double portion of the Spirit” we might then expect to receive.

THEY WERE MEN WHOSE DOCTRINES WERE OF THE MOST DECIDED KIND

There is a breadth and power about their preaching—a glow and energy about their words and thoughts, that makes us feel that they were men of might. Their trumpet gave no feeble or uncertain sound, either to saint or sinner, to the church or the world. They lifted up their voices, and spared not. There was no flinching, no flattering, or prophesying of smooth things.

Their preaching seems to have been of the most masculine and fearless kind, falling on the audience with tremendous power. It was not vehement, it was not fierce, it was not noisy; it was far too solemn to be such; it was massive, weighty, cutting, piercing, sharper than a two-edged sword. The weapons wielded by them were well tempered, well furbished, sharp and keen. Nor were they wielded by a feeble or unpracticed arm. These warriors did not fight with the scabbard instead of the blade. Nor did they smite with the flat instead of the edge of the sword. Nor did they spare any effort, either of strength or skill, which might carry home the thrust of the stroke to the very vitals. Cambridge, regarding whom it is said, that “he scarce ever preached a sermon but some or other of his congregation were struck with great distress, and cried out in agony, ‘What shall I do to be saved’”.

THEY WERE MEN OF SOLEMN DEPORTMENT AND DEEP SPIRITUALITY

Their lives and their lips accorded with each other. Their daily walk furnished the best attestation and illustration of the truth they preached. They were always ministers of Christ, wherever they were to be found or seen. No frivolity, no flippancy, no gaiety, no worldly conviviality (friendly agreement) or companionships neutralized their public preaching, or marred the work they were seeking to accomplish. These men could not be accused of being like the world, or as men who, though faithful in the pulpit, forgot throughout the week their character, their office, their errand. Luther once remarked regarding a beloved and much admired friend, “He lives what we preach”. So it was with these much-honored men, whose names are in the Book of Life.

This article is an edited excerpt from True Revival and the Men God Uses by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). This book is available through Kindle for $.99. It is a worthwhile book.

Thou Shalt Not Whine

Once I received a gift from a friend that was meant as joke. It became one those gifts that keeps on giving, but not the way you normally would think. The gift was a small tapestry quoting what some humorously call the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt not whine.” I decided to temporarily hang it in my motorhome thinking that it would give me an occasional chuckle.

Well, it’s still hanging in its place. It seems that every time I begin whining the tapestry is in my face warning, “Thou shalt not whine.” Never would I have imagined that a little wall-hanging could be so convicting. The Lord has used that tapestry to reveal to me that complaining is a corrupt area of my character that has not been conquered.

A LOVING REBUKE

As a young believer I was presented with the erroneous idea that if we are in God’s will then life and ministry will go easy. At age 24 my wife and I pioneered an inner-city church in Detroit, Michigan. It didn’t take long to find out that both life and ministry can be very hard and demanding.  I was putting in ridiculous hours pastoring fulltime while working a secular job. The church was open seven nights a week. We had Friday night street evangelism, Saturday night concerts, Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible study. The remaining evenings the church was open as a drop in center for youth.

As a young Christian I didn’t know anything about pastoring. Our house was full of new converts that needed a place to stay. We were living in poverty because all of our personal income went into the ministry. I sold my motorcycle so the church would have a down payment to buy a building. Then I sold a nice car and bought an old jalopy so the church could have chairs for the sanctuary. It was costing me everything.

Eventually I started complaining. Then the Lord gave me a rebuke that I will never forget. First He spoke to me from the Scriptures; “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jer. 12:5). Then He warned me saying; “Child, stop your whining! You haven’t even seen a fierce battle yet. Stand up and be a man.  Quit your complaining or I will pass you by and find someone who will follow Me no matter the cost.”

The Lord’s rebuke shook me to the bone. He was exposing a sinful part of my character and it hurt to see the truth. I thought Jesus was Lord of my life until I was confronted with the reality that entire areas of my life were not under His authority. The truth was laid bare; my will and God’s will were at odds with each other and obviously I was the one in the wrong. His reproof was an expression of divine love that I sorely needed; it was health to my life.  

Our complaining makes us miserable, inflicts our misery upon those closest to us and slanders Christ before the world. Most terrifying of all, God’s strong displeasure rests upon complainers. “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp” (Num. 11:1).  Since divine fire does not burn us up when we start whining we do not think it’s a dangerous thing to do. But God hasn’t changed His mind about complaining.

Probably the biggest reason we start complaining is that we have perverted views about God and ourselves. Until we learn to think correctly we will never amend those corrupt portions of our characters. We often start complaining when our expectations of life are not being fulfilled. This happens when we make the primary purpose of our existence the pursuit of a safe, happy, pain free life. But such lives only exist in the fantasies of our minds.

There are no rewards given to whining warriors who avoid the battlefield or to perpetual babies who cry at the least discomfort and problem. When we live self-absorbed lives we will be consumed with our problems, whether real or perceived, and ignore the fact that the mass of humanity is dying in their sins. Its time we grow up and stop our whining. We must take the war to the highway and hedges, to the country and the cities, to the highest places of learning and to the most illiterate, to places of power and to the powerless.

Victories in life are not obtained while sitting in a comfy recliner. They are seized in the heat of battle, in the front lines of conflict, in the throws of spiritual combat. That’s where we receive our eternal rewards; that’s where medals are won; that’s where the entire church is commanded be because that’s where the Lord Jesus is, fighting for the souls of mankind.

SCARS

Paul was a spiritual revolutionary because he strove to be like his Lord. It began with his radical conversion. For three days Paul was in deep repentance over his sins. Then the Lord told Ananias, “I will show [Paul] how much he must suffer for my name. . . . At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. . . . Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him” (Acts 9:16, 20, 22-23). This is what a Biblical conversion looks like, whether in Paul’s day or our own.

The suffering that followed Paul’s conversion did not make him run away from the Savior but to Him. Notice that the Lord told Paul that he must suffer for Him. It was not an option for Paul, nor is it for us today. We forfeit a tremendous amount of joy because we grumble and complain when we go through trials.

Years later Paul testified, “For I bear in my body, the marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17). Most western believers will never be beaten for their faith, but we can bear the “marks of Jesus” upon our lives in different ways.  For example, we can bear His marks upon our wallets. This is the idea of living simple lives so we can give more money to advance the kingdom of God. We can bear the “marks of Jesus” upon our time by wearing holes in the carpet of our prayer closets. Some can bear those “marks” by giving up a prosperous career to preach the Gospel. His “marks” should grace the life of every believer with efforts to passionately reach the lost. And we must allow His “marks” to beautify our lives through an aggressive pursuit of holiness.

The Lord will not examine us at the judgment seat looking for degrees, success or fortunes, but for scars. What will he find when He examines us?  Will He find scars upon our bodies, bank accounts and time spent building His kingdom? What proof will we be able to offer Him of our love and devotion? Though we may not receive physical scares testifying to our devotion to Christ He will, nonetheless, look for those scares of loving sacrifice that were just as costly in a culture where Christians at the present time do not have to face a bloody persecution.

Some of the credentials that verified Paul’s apostleship are based upon what he suffered out of love for Christ (how many self-proclaimed modern-day “apostles” could boost of such credentials?). He suffered imprisonments and floggings, five times he received 39 lashes from the Jews; three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned. He was shipwrecked three times, once spending a night and a day in the open sea. He lived in constant danger, in want and in need. He toiled and labored because he did not count his life dear unto himself rather he loved Jesus more than his own life (2 Cor. 11:23-28).

Paul’s credentials are as nothing compared to the testimony of how God used him to turn the world upside down. The Lord poured His power through the man because his life and character were usable by a holy God. Paul’s character demonstrates what it means to make Jesus Lord of our lives no matter what we face or have to endure. Whining was not an option for him nor should it be for us. God is still looking for people like Paul who will give up their lives to advance Christ’s kingdom.

From experience Peter came to understand the value of suffering. While admonishing his readers on suffering he told them, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Pe. 3:15). When Jesus is Lord of our lives we will find deliverance from whippy, whiny characters.  Complaining is telling God that we don’t want His lordship over our lives, that we think His plans for us are detrimental to our desires and agendas. If we had the fear of God we would tremble when we comprehend that our complaining is an accusation against the character of God, an attack upon His very person.

The seeming unfairness of the pain and suffering we experience can make us reel as if we are being driven by a raging sea. At such times complaining is something we are all tempted to do. Yet when our hearts are set upon “Christ as Lord,” and not upon ourselves or earthly things, then we will learn to rest in His perfect love and wisdom no matter what storms we may face. A character of complaining will disappear when our eyes are fixed upon the Savior’s lovely face.

When the waves are ferocious and it seems that the storm will swallow us up, if we look upon the water we will see Christ’s lovely face as He comes walking out to meet us in our desperate need. In our pain, in our moment of greatest need, if we listen closely, we will hear His sweet voice calling us to come to Him. But we must get out of the worthless boat we have constructed of self-trust and self-absorption and step into the midst of the raging storm. Everything in us will cry “save yourself.” The world will think we are mad. But His hand will be there to rescue us. In His presence the fiercest storms cannot disturb us; we are safe in His arms.

Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.

Throne of Grace

Divine grace and the lordship of Christ are spiritual realities intricately interwoven to reveal a portion of the awe inspiring tapestry of the magnificence of God and His gift of salvation. The Hebrew writer penned, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Notice that this verse focuses upon a God of grace that sits enthroned as King of Kings. This means that the acceptance of Christ’s lordship is central to our reception of grace and that our characters play a vital role in the equation.

This issue of grace and lordship generates in us a great tension: grace is exclusively the gift of God which can never be earned, yet the reception of that gift is linked to our rightly approaching His throne. Since grace comes from the One who sits on the throne, only those who have authentically made Christ Lord will taste of His grace. John told us that anyone who continues in the practice of sin does not know Jesus and is outside of the benefits of saving grace (1 Jn. 3:6). The Savior freely offers all the supernatural power that we need to live godly lives when we authentically bow to Him as Lord (2 Pe. 1:2-3). With a pure heart and clean hands we can confidently approach His throne of grace (Ps. 24:3-4).

During the formative years of the early church the word “grace” (Greek: charis) was a common secular word that had a wide variety of definitions, some of which are employed in the New Testament. The word spans a large spectrum ranging from expressions of thankfulness to exclamations of external beauty to references on pleasing mannerisms. The Greek New Testament uses this elastic word over 170 times.

Early church fathers took this expressive word and formed it into an important theological term by uniquely applying it to God’s acts of mercy towards undeserving sinners. Paul eloquently employed charis to express the commonly taught definition of grace which is God’s undeserved love and favor demonstrated towards sinful humanity (Rom. 11:5-6). Grace teaches us that all a Christian is or has, is found exclusively in Christ and depends entirely upon Him.

Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is a graphic picture of divine grace in action and the price it took for that grace to be made freely available to mankind (Rom. 3:22-24; Eph. 2:4-7). The Christian life can only be lived through divine grace. The transformation of our characters is directly linked to how we apply the gift of grace to our lives (1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 6:1). It is impossible for us to live such a lofty, other worldly life through natural strength, wisdom and abilities (Rom. 11:6).

Grace has never been, nor will it ever be, cheap. Its cost is beyond reckoning and demands that we stop practicing sin and self-governance through the power of that same grace (Tit. 2:11-14; 2 Tim. 1:8-9). Unmerited favor is offered to us so we can overcome sin, not wallow in it or make excuses for it. This marvelous gift is liberally supplied to rescue all who desire to live free from the power and love of sin. To turn grace into a means to justify sin is thoroughly wicked and wholly forbidden (Rom. 6:1-2). 

How we view God and His grace directly affects the development of our characters and how we live in this world. We practice sin and become worldly whenever we turn grace into a cheap commodity. Remove grace from our faith and we are left with just another legalistic religion dependent upon human strength and will.

Paul taught that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). By grace alone we are saved, not through Bible knowledge, water baptism, church affiliation or natural abilities. How we respond to divine grace is our responsibility. To understand that the Lord is perfect in holiness and offers unholy people supernatural power to overcome their sin and corrupt characters is a major step towards victory.

A THRONE

A throne is a seat of authority and power. The King of Creation sits upon His throne possessing infinite power to fulfill all of His plans and execute all of His decrees. He is not like earthly monarchs, dictators and rulers who strive to control their kingdom through political maneuverings which easily succumbs to oppression, deception and manipulation. The Sovereign Lord does not use political intrigues to remain in power, for there is no threat to His throne. We can learn how to rightly approach Him because He is consistent in nature and temperament. “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Mal. 3:6).

Christ is a good, benevolent and merciful king. He calls humanity to, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:13). His throne is established upon righteousness, truth and justice. The treasures of His throne are mercy and love, which are inexhaustible. He delights in bestowing such gifts upon those who cherish them.

The Lord has only one throne. To one person is it a throne of grace, to another it is a throne of wrath. Our spiritual condition decides the function Christ will fulfill upon His throne as advocate or prosecutor, friend or enemy. The Lord dispenses mercy or wrath through absolute truth. Never has it been His desire to damn people to an eternal hell because He longs to demonstrate mercy (2 Pe. 3:9). He will do everything in keeping with His perfect character to redeem men and woman to Himself. Yet this Just Judge is not afraid to execute righteous punishment upon all who refuse to turn from their wicked ways. His promises of judgment upon the faithless are no less sure than those of blessings upon the faithful.

DRAW NEAR

How we approach the throne of grace is of infinite importance since God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (Jam. 4:6; 1 Pe. 5:5). Our character will either cause God to thrust us out of His presence or draw us to Him.

The Savior who sits upon the throne of grace is also our high priest (Heb. 4:14-15). Through grace alone we can “approach,” or draw near to the One who sits enthroned. To approach in the Greek presents an idea that we can constantly draw near to our sympathizing and great high priest who was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Heb. 4:15).  Yet it is madness to think that we can boldly come before a compassionate and Holy God in any condition we chose.

Jesus told a parable about a king holding a wedding banquet (Mt. 22:1-14). Those he initially invited refused to attend. Some even mistreated and killed the messengers sent to bring them to the banquet. “The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers” (Mt. 22:7). What a dangerous thing it is for people to reject the rightful reign of Christ over their lives, for it will bring upon them the justice of His wrath. 

After the king’s wrath was poured out against those rebellious subjects he sent messengers into the highways and hedges to bring in people so his banquet would be full.  After the hall was filled the king entered to see the guests and “noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless” (Mt. 22:11-12). Judgment was immediately executed against the man for the presumptuous pride of thinking he could come before the king in an irreverent condition. What an eternally perilous abuse of grace.

Character, grace and judgment are clearly seen in this parable. Grace was shown by the king’s undeserved invitation to the banquet. Those first invited would be deemed as religiously and socially fit for such a high societal function. When they rejected the offer of grace those considered unfit were invited. The first group was prideful, rebellious and thoroughly offensive to the king. His judgment upon them was quick, sure and just.

The second group invited understood the great honor offered them and promptly came. Though they were poor, it is implied by the story that they prepared themselves to attend such a privileged event. In this parable the type of clothing signifies a person’s condition of holiness and righteousness. The man that was not rightly clothed for the celebration arrogantly thought that the king would not mind if he was improperly clothed. This indicates that the man assumed he could approach the king with an ungodly character. Again, judgment was quick, sure and just.

There is a right and wrong way to approach the King of Kings. The Savior is not a cruel, moody or quickly angered lord. With confidence we can approach His throne so long as we are rightly clothed in humility, holiness and godly fear. He has made Himself approachable because He desires our nearness. Through brokenness, humility, holiness and the fear of God we can boldly draw near to Him. It is sheer foolishness to think that we could approach a holy God in sin, pride, and self-will and not face His wrath.

Paul closed his epistle to the Ephesians with a benediction crammed full of meaning. “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Eph. 6:24). Unmerited favor is freely available to us all. However, the One who sits on the throne demands a right response to His indescribable gift—to love Him with an undying love.

 

             Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.

Voices

In each of our lives there are voices calling to us; demanding our attention, competing for our interests, luring our affections.  These voices come from within and without.  They are everywhere—in the city and country, among the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, the young and old.  Relentlessly they tug and pull at us, compelling us to follow, to yield to their desires, to love what they love and hate what they hate.  The voices of the past haunt us with regrets, stir up past offenses, consume us with despair, fill us with pride or awaken deep desires.  The voices of the present battle for our attention, our affections, our very lives.  Whether good or evil, from heaven or hell, these voices yearn to shape our present, future and eternity.  They are a reality we must deal with.

The voices within are our thoughts, emotions, desires, hurts, joys, and conscience.  They are the byproduct of our personal history that has shaped our character and determined our destiny.  The voices from without are the social influences of family, friends, school, career, religion, TV, music and more.  We can willfully silence many of these voices.  With others we are forced to listen.  Nevertheless, whatever enters into us will mold us into the people we are and will be.

In the end, all these voices, both internal and external are rooted in spiritual realities.  They either come from Satan and his worldly kingdom or from God and the kingdom of heaven.  The spiritual prince of this world is Satan (2 Cor. 4:14).  He fluently speaks our language and knows how to manipulate our desires, emotions and intellect.  He can whisper in our ears, speak through men (Mt. 16:23), and use our kingdoms, inventions, intellect and passions to advance his wicked schemes.  Though he offers freedom, he makes men slaves to sin in all of its hideous forms.  His is the voice of pain, suffering and damnation.

The ultimate voice of authority is God.  His voice can pierce the thickest darkness and penetrate the hardest heart.  Heaven and earth tremble when He speaks but a whisper.  Creation will be remade when He roars.  Life is in His words and healing in His touch.  He is the only lasting answer to our problems. 

Far too often, when the Almighty speaks, we choose not to listen or selectively hear what we want.  What causes us to ignore God’s voice and yet be in tune with the voices of this world?  We have immersed ourselves in the language and love of this world—what they are we have become. 

LONGINGS OF THE HEART

Imagine how terrifying it was for Lot and his family to flee Sodom (Gen. 19).  Warned by two angels that the godless city would be divinely destroyed they reluctantly fled to the mountains.  Before leaving the angels warned them not to look back, but ahead to their deliverance.    

Mrs. Lot would not have agreed with most of Sodom’s sinful practices. Nonetheless, Sodom had supplied her with those possessions that became so precious to her. It also had a culture that freely allowed her to pursue the love of pleasure she had come to expect out of life. Without realizing it her constant association with the world had caused her to grow numb to its wicked environment.  In her mind the loss of her beloved worldly lifestyle was more than she could bear, more important then even Sodom’s destruction.  So Mrs. Lot looked back with longing desire and judgment came on her too. That is why Jesus commanded us to “Remember Lot’s wife” so we would not suffer her same fate (Lk. 17:32).  

As Mrs. Lot fled the voices of Sodom called out to her: “Why are you fleeing?  Sodom is not that evil.  Hasn’t God prospered her?  She will not be destroyed.  You can serve God and enjoy the pleasures of Sodom too.  If you leave you will surely suffer.  Consider all that you will loose.”  Her ears were in tune with the voices she loved. When she harkened to those lying voices she received the reward of what they truly have to offer—death. 

The question must be asked: are we the spiritual citizens of Sodom or of heaven?  If we yield to the voices of Sodom, which is an emblem of wickedness and worldliness, we will be formed into worldly people whether-or-not we call ourselves Christians.  Those who are molded by this world have their minds and hearts set on worldly things because they have become “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4).

Worldly minded people live for the moment, for the satisfying of their desires, lusts and pride.  They do not want to be burdened with Biblical Christianity that demands their entire abandonment.  Many will accept a watered-down version of the Gospel that does not upset their selfish way of life even though it is powerless to save.  Their love self and sin has blinded their hearts and minds to the temporal and eternal consequences of worldliness and compromise.

THERE IS VICTORY

We cannot overcome our natural propensity to worldliness by just claiming to be Christian or attending a local church.  True citizens of heaven have heard God’s voice commanding them to flee Sodom and not look back.  Through loving obedience they have broken Sodom’s control over their lives by setting their “minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Col. 3:2).  Like Paul, they have counted this world as dung “compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).  

We will never be victorious Christians as long as our minds are fixed on the passions and pursuits of earthly things.  Worldly thoughts are the result of worldly hearts, for whatever our hearts love our minds will dwell upon.  Jesus taught that, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Mt. 15:19).  Our lifestyles are worldly and self-centered because we love ourselves and this world more than God. 

To change our thoughts we must have a radical change of heart.  We are commanded to set our “hearts on things above” (Col. 3:1).  If our hearts are consumed with Jesus there will be no room for worldly loves.  God has promised to give His people a new heart and mind if we will thoroughly repent of our sins (Ezk. 36:26).  True repentance incorporates the turning from our sin and our absolute surrender to God.  We are then to zealously pursue God in everything we say and do until our dying day. 

We have believed the lies of a multitude of voices that have told us happiness and purpose comes through the pursuit of pleasure and possessions.  As a result, many professing Christians are willful captives of Satan and are now slaves of Sodom through their passions, lusts, greed and pride.  Its time we silence in our hearts and minds these evil, lying voices, for they have done us great harm. 

Jesus taught us to aggressively deal with our sins by cutting them off (Mk. 9:47).  We must have the courage and honesty to examine our lives by God’s Word so we can comprehend how our worldliness has offended a holy God and hurt our family and friends.  Only then will we truly repent of our sins. 

This is war in the inward parts of man. The heart and mind is the battlefield for the soul.  Whoever possesses the heart will control the mind and own the soul.  It is our choice who possesses the deed to our souls, whether it is God or Satan.  There is no middle ground, no demilitarized zone and no place for compromise.   

Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.