Friday, March 27, 2015

Consciences of the Unsaved

Chuckle: Thomas Edison's Mother: "Of course I'm proud that you invented the electric light bulb. Now turn it off and go to bed!"
Quote: "Trust that man in nothing who has not a conscience in everything." --Laurence Sterne
    "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14 NIV).
We often observe criminal activity and the offender shows no pangs of conscience or remorse. We marvel at such out of control lives and the obvious total disregard for the welfare of others. One truth is patently clear -- unless a person's conscience is adequately trained and sensitized, it is useless as a moral guide for human conduct. Our consciences will be trained in the secular morality of the world or by the morality of God's Word and the Holy Spirit.
Before we become Christians, our consciences are trained by the definitions of right and wrong that we have been taught in the home, school, and other life-shaping venues. Unfortunately, all too many children grow up in homes where parents have no moral compass. These children will, in turn, contribute to a society with no moral absolutes -- seemingly without conscience. This is the "if it feels good, do it" generation. Right and wrong become relative terms and their definitions depend upon the situation at the time. The conscience of a non-Christian is missing the key factor for a conscience that will lead to conduct that pleases God and glorifies him through one's relationships with others. The unsaved conscience has no concept of what it means to live one's life with the sole purpose of pleasing God.
You may say, "But, Jerry, I know a lot of people who are not Christians who live good clean moral lives -- how do you explain that?" You're right. I have also made such observations, and we should be thankful for such people. Some non-Christian homes produce children who live moral lives -- up to the point of pleasing God. They make a huge difference in alleviating human suffering and their kindnesses are extremely beneficial to our society. However, none of what they do will lead to their eternal salvation or gain them any status in the eyes of God. Without Christ, they are still lost and without hope. . . .
You see, when our consciences are being shaped and ruled by the Holy Spirit, we not only will do good deeds and live a morally upright life, but our very motives for our actions will also be controlled by the Spirit. When we live by a Spirit-controlled conscience, we please and honor God. "The Lord's searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive" (Proverbs 20:27 NIV).
In our Hebrews passage, we see that only the blood of Christ can cleanse and purify our consciences so we no longer make wrong decisions that can lead to our spiritual death. Such decisions include choosing the wrong way to salvation -- i.e., depending on a good moral life to earn God's favor and ensure us a place in heaven.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Searing of Conscience

Chuckle: The customer called the waiter over and said, while pointing to his steak, "Didn't I tell you, 'Well done'?" The waiter replied, "Thank you, Sir; I seldom get a compliment."
Quote: "Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest that I know, and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do." --Oswald Chambers
    "Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:2 NIV). "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:19 NIV).
Last time, we saw how living Spirit controlled lives will sensitize our consciences to detect even the most minute breach in our moral and ethical standard of conduct. We saw that Paul was striving to have a clear conscience before God and before people. In our Scripture passages for today, we see that our consciences can become seared, dulled, and unreliable as guides for our lives. How can our consciences become "seared?" In the simplest terms -- SIN!
"The conscience is like a sharp square peg in our hearts. If we are confronted by a questionable situation, that square begins to turn and it's corners cut into our hearts, warning us with an inward sensation against doing whatever confronts us. If the conscience is ignored time after time, the corners of the square are gradually worn down, and it virtually becomes a circle. When that circle turns within our hearts, there is no inner sensation of warning, and we are left without a conscience."  --Illustrations for Biblical Preaching; Edited by Michael P. Green
If we allow unconfessed and unforgiven sin to become prevalent in our lives and compromise, our consciences will lose their sensitivity to right and wrong. This will gradually render us spiritually undiscerning -- unable to discern what is right from what is wrong. Eventually our consciences will become useless. We then begin to live a life of disobedience and sin without the pangs of conscience we once felt. I believe this explains why some professed "Christians" can indulge in the most destructive, hurtful, and immoral behavior with, seemingly, no remorse or regret. The more we sin, the more our consciences are disabled. The "hot iron" of sin will have "seared" our consciences. They have hardened our hearts against the Holy Spirit.
The positive side of all this is that the Spirit can, and will, provide our consciences with very definite and reliable guidance if only we allow him to do so. The Spirit filled life is the Spirit controlled life. The Spirit controlled life will be led by a Spirit controlled conscience. Whatever sin is in your life that interferes with your inner communion with God, confess it, ask forgiveness for it, and let it go so that your inner vision from God (conscience) will remain clear and crisp.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Consciences Within Us

Chuckle:   "God does not believe in atheists; therefore atheists do not exist."
Quote: "A man who loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping." --Izaak Walton
    "So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man" (Acts 24:16 NIV). "I speak the truth in Christ -- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 9:1 NIV).
"A mother was helping her son with his spelling assignment and came to the words 'conscious and 'conscience.' When she asked him if he knew the difference between the two, he responded, 'Sure, Mom, 'conscious' is when you are aware of something and 'conscience' is when you wish your weren't.'"
The human conscience is a complex subject indeed. We often hear such statements as: "Let your conscience be your guide;" "My conscience is clear;" "I did it with a clear conscience;" "I can sleep well at night;" or "My conscience is bothering me." Sometimes, we see someone do a terrible thing and we react with: "Don't you have a conscience?"
In Scripture, the word for conscience is "that faculty by which we apprehend the will of God, as that which is designed to govern our lives." Hence we feel a sense of guiltiness before God when we sin against him. The Holy Spirit guides the Christian conscience in knowledge and emotion.
The Spirit controlled conscience results in a process of thought which distinguishes what it considers morally good or bad, commending the good, condemning the bad, and so prompting us to do the good and avoid the bad. As we grow in our faith, our consciences become progressively more sensitive to the will of God. If you have occasion to question whether an action is right or wrong, it's probably wrong in the sight of God. Otherwise, your conscience would have allowed you to do it without question.
Have you ever done something after having rationalized that it was not a sin, but you felt a sense of guilt from having done it anyway. As a Christian, when you sin against another person or against God, you will have this miserable feeling of guilt and sorrow. That's because your conscience is being influenced by the Holy Spirit that dwells within you, and is being sensitized to even the nuances of right and wrong. As you allow the Spirit to control your life, your conscience will become increasingly reliable as your moral guide. It could be said that God's Word and the Holy Spirit become the conscience of a Christian.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thirst For Living Water

Chuckle:  A man sat in the pew, scratching and scratching. Finally, the minister stopped his sermon and asked, "Why are you scratching like that?" The man replied, "Cause I'm the only one who knows where I itch!"
Quote:  “The inward stirring and touching of God makes us hungry and yearning; for the Spirit of God hurts our spirit; and the more he touches it, the greater our hunger and craving.”  --Jan van Ruysbroeck
    "On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, 'If you are thirsty, come to me! If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within.' When he said, 'living water,' he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him" (John 7:37-39a NLT).  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled"  (Matthew 5:6 NIV).
Do you have a deep and sincere craving/thirst for the Holy Spirit to fill your life? The Spirit-filled life begins with a thirst that nothing else can quench -- a desire growing out of discontentment with our current spiritual condition. This discontentment grows into a deep longing for a life filled with the Spirit. This is the first step toward experiencing the abundant flow and overflow of the "streams of living water."
When Jesus used the words "come and drink," he was alluding to the theme of many Bible passages that make reference to the Messiah's life-giving blessings. By promising to give the Holy Spirit to all who believed, Jesus was putting forth his claim that he was the promised Messiah. No one except the Messiah could make good on such an offer.
In John 4:10, Jesus spoke of "living water" to indicate eternal life. But, here, he uses it to refer to the Holy Spirit. Of course, this double usage makes sense because for whomever accepts the Holy Spirit, the Spirit brings eternal life. Jesus taught us much about the Holy Spirit and then the Spirit empowered Jesus' followers at Pentecost. Down through the ages, since that time, the Spirit has been available and resident in everyone who believes in Jesus as Savior.
When your thirst allows the Spirit to fill your life, you are taught, convicted, comforted, and led by Him in every aspect of your life. In other words, you are filled with the Spirit each day. Your thirst is quenched and you experience the power and peace of God in every thing you do. How about you -- do you have that thirst about which Jesus was teaching? If so, you will not be disappointed. These words by J. S. Baxter describe God's plan for his Holy Spirit in your life.
"What God chooses, He cleanses.
What God cleanses, He molds.
What God molds, He fills.
What God fills, He uses."
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Boasting in the Lord

Chuckle: A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt." His son asked, "What happened to the flea?"
Quote: "My great concern is not whether God is on our side, my great concern is to be on God's side." --Abraham Lincoln
    "The person who wishes to boast should boast only of what the Lord has done" (1 Corinthians 1:31 NLT).
Many of us like to draw attention to ourselves by boasting about what we have done. Some have the idea that the way to earn God’s favor and attain eternal life is to live a moral life. If we can convince God of our “goodness,” surely He will find us acceptable in His sight. But we must realize that skills, wisdom, and good deeds do not get a person into God’s kingdom – simple faith in Jesus Christ does. Let’s delve into this amazing truth more deeply and learn how to satisfy our desire to boast.   
In our passage, Paul gives us some sage advice concerning boasting. It's easy for us to want the credit for all the good things in life as if we had earned them all on our own. When we begin to think too highly of ourselves, we risk having our pride take control and everything becomes about us and what we have done. "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12:3 NIV). We are warned that "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18 NIV).
Our pride and boasting should always be about what God has done. That way He receives all the honor He deserves. When it comes to our salvation, no one can boast that personal achievements helped him or her secure eternal life. No, our salvation is a gift from God through our faith in Jesus Christ. We can never be "good" enough to earn it. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
If we have been saved by God’s grace through faith, what is the significance of doing good deeds/works? This verse reveals the answer. “For we are God’s workmaship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”  (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). Now our good works are to glorify God, not to earn our way into His favor.  
If we recognize that everything we are and everything we have comes from God, we have accepted the truth that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father . . ." (James 1:17 NIV). When we glorify God, we praise Him and our only boasting is about what He has done in our lives.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Responding to New Ownership

Chuckle: "Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on."
Quote: "After we bow our heads seeking Divine Guidance, we often bow our necks in resistance to His will." --William Arthur Ward
". . . you are not your own. For you are bought with a (high) price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are (belong to) God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20 KJV).
When I was about to go away to college, and later into the U. S. Army, my dad asked me to remember to whom I belonged -- to God first and then to our family. He counseled me to "keep my feet on the ground," which was his way of saying I should remain rooted in the Christian principles I had learned at home and in church. I should live my live in such a way as to bring honor to my Savior and to my earthly family. This wise counsel helped me to avoid yielding to many temptations and served as a constant reminder of the price Christ paid for my salvation and my inclusion in the family of God.
We live in a society that says "everything is about me and what I want." "I don't belong to anyone and am not obligated to anyone." Our passage refers to slaves being purchased at auction. Using this analogy, Paul reminds us that we have been redeemed from slavery to sin and that the price of that redemption was the life of our Lord freely given on the cruel cross of Calvary. The terrible price paid for our salvation reminds us of God's indescribable love for us and also reminds us of our obligation to serve Him and bring honor to Him by the way we live.
Perhaps now, or sometime in your life, you have lived in a rented apartment or house. While living there, you were obligated to take care of the dwelling and follow the owner's rules because it belonged to someone else. When we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we become Christians and our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies take on new ownership. We belong to the One who purchased us and tells us that our bodies are the temple (dwelling place) of God's Holy Spirit. In other words, God owns the body (dwelling) in which we live, along with His Holy Spirit.
"Or don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God" (vs. 19). Because of what God has done for us, our sacrifice of obedience is a small price for us to pay. Because our bodies belong to God, we should never violate His standards for holy living. We should take care of our bodies as the temple of God and never forget the One who purchased us and to whom we truly belong.
Love, Jerry & Dotse

Monday, March 2, 2015

Humility and Relationships

Chuckle: Grandson: "Grandpa, do you know how you and God are alike?"  While mentally polishing his halo, grandpa said, "how are we alike?'' "You're both old.”
Quote: "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self." --Charles Spurgeon
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:10 NIV). “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”  (Ephesians 4:2 NIV).
What does it mean to humble ourselves before our Lord and others?  I ran across the following two stories which can teach us valuable lessons about humility.
1. In September of 1986, two Soviet ships, a liner and a freighter, collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. 398 passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship's presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. When they came to their senses, it was too late.
2. A former missionary told the story of two rugged mountain goats who met on a narrow mountainside pathway. On one side was a chasm 1,000 feet deep; on the other, a steep cliff rising straight up. There was no room to turn around, and the goats could not back up without falling. What would they do? Rather than fight for the right to pass, one of the goats knelt down and became as flat as possible. The other goat then walked over him, and they both proceeded safely.
The story about the mountain goats teaches us a valuable lesson about humility when compared to the stubborn pride of the ships captains. When Jesus left His heavenly home, He humbled Himself and paid the penalty for your sins and mine. He saw us literally trapped between our sin and God's righteousness with no way to help ourselves -- no way of escape. He came in humility and took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:5-8). Then, by dying for sinful mankind, He let us "walk over Him" so that we could experience forgiveness and receive eternal life.
By His humility, Jesus took the penalty for our sins upon Himself. Peter pointed to Christ as an example of humility. When we are mistreated for Jesus' sake, we must learn to be humble enough to let others walk over us if need be. This is not a sign of weakness but of strength and true humility. Such a response, when done for Christ's sake, brings glory to His name.
Jesus said, ". . ., whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave -- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28 NIV). Does stubborn pride dictate the way we relate to others? Will we humble ourselves for the sake of others and for God's glory?
Love, Jerry & Dotse