A Shooting Star

My grandfather warned me of shooting stars in the church. Beware of shooting stars. As quickly as they appear they burn out. 

A shooting star is a small, rapidly moving meteor. As it enters Earth’s atmosphere, friction causes it to burn, leaving a blazing trail of rock, dust, and ice behind it. When there is nothing left to burn, it vanishes.

Many pastors give special recognition to new converts. They are allowed to testify, or because of their eagerness to be involved, given a part in the work of ministry. Sometimes these new converts are elevated because they are seeking attention; sometimes it’s the pride of the pastor desiring to be recognized for leading someone one Christ. Either way, the problem created is two-fold.

First, it is impossible to know that someone has been born again until that person’s faith has been tested. Anything else is a dead confession or profession. No matter what someone professes, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20).

Jesus warned of the deceptiveness of counterfeit converts in a parable. He said, He hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Others hear the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he become unfruitful (Matthew 13:20-22). Salvation is marked by the growth and increase of Christian virtues (Mt 13:23; 2 Pet 1:3-11).

Second, being recognized so quickly creates a false assurance in that person. He believes he’s saved, after all the pastor said so. When faith proves to be counterfeit after being paraded in the church, it causes other believers to stumble.

How do you know true regeneration? Not because you repeated a prayer, joined a church, were baptized in water, or accepted Jesus in your heart. You know you are born again because the Holy Spirit is actively producing and increasing the fruits of Christ-likeness in you. That is something proven only by the dual tests of time and trials.

Don’t create shooting stars which are here today but burn up and disappear tomorrow.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:7).

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Enduring Hardship

We are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5).

Nothing reveals the heart of a person faster or more accurately than trouble. People are often willing to follow an idea or a leader as long as it’s made easy and doesn’t cost anything personally. Trouble and temptation weed out those who are only emotional or mere intellectual followers (Mt 13:20-22).

Even today there are many false followers of Jesus. They appear by all outward scrutiny to be Christians, but in reality are Christian in name only and not from a changed, born-again heart. These people are along for the ride because it’s culturally popular, it satisfies a personal longing, or it fulfills a tradition. Trouble or temptation strikes and they abandon their drummed up faith.

Christian faith, however, doesn’t fail when trouble rises. Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph 2:8-9). The Christian doesn’t endure hardship because he is strong, but because he is held and kept by a strong Saviour.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Transfigured

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1-2).

For 33 years, everyone only saw a man, until Jesus gave three of His disciples a small glimpse of His eternal glory.

The word transfigured comes from the Greek word metamorphosis, meaning to be changed from the inside out. Rather than a heavenly light shining upon Jesus, a bit of the glory from within Jesus and which belonged to Him from eternity was visible.

No one can free himself from himself, so we turn to outward pressures. We yearn for someone or something like a Marine Corps drill instructor to force us into a desired behavior. Weakness of spirit and character demands that someone control us by commands like: Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle (Colossians 2:21). We beg to be under the conforming thumb of a slave master with rules, regulations, pressure, fear of punishment, or promises of reward as a way to control our actions and thoughts.

God transforms from the inside; only He can change the inside of a person. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind … (Romans 12:2). The word transformed is the word metamorphosis or transfigured used in Matthew 17:2. God’s transformation of the sinner isn’t by outward pressure, but by an inward changing of the mind and heart.

The unconverted heart of man is corrupted incurably by sin; it can’t be mended or repaired, it must be made wholly new. A new heart comes only by a new birth, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). From a new heart God transfigures us, transforming the way we think, talk, and act. From within He changes our goals, morals, and desires, fitting us for Heaven rather than this fallen world.

The Spirit of God works through the Scriptures transforming us from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), internally and not by slavery to an outside influence.

As the free children of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we don’t know all of what we’ll be like in the end, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).

Are You Gold?

Be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:10).

Puritan pastor Thomas Brooks wrote, Assurance is the believer’s ark where he sits, Noah-like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, commotions and confusions

Peter wrote the last of his letters to reveal the evil character of false teachers and show that growing Christ-like character is the proof of salvation.

Years ago I bought a used Ford Taurus that two days later had engine trouble. In the glove box I found a note from another purchaser only a week earlier reporting the same problem. Attached was a statement from the dealership’s own mechanic that the car needed a new transmission.

Since I bought the car from a dealership, Oregon’s Lemon Law allowed me to return the car for a full refund. There is little more frustrating to a consumer than buying a product only to discover that it isn’t what is claimed.

In the same way, Peter tells each of us who claims the name of Christ to eagerly prove and guarantee to ourselves that our salvation is what we claim it is. He says that the assurance of genuine faith is based on the character of Christ being formed within us.

Salvation isn’t proven through the repetition of a prayer, a feeling in the heart, the joining of a church, or having someone else affirm us. By these outward means we falsely claim converts. Assurance of salvation – like Noah sitting still and quiet in the ark – is the result of the Spirit’s internal work, proven by a tried and tested faith (Matthew 13:18-23).

Paul was persuaded or convinced by evidentiary facts that he was saved and nothing could separate him from the love of God in Jesus (Romans 8:38). His faith had been tested again and again by trials and hardships and proven genuine (Romans 8:35-39). His Christlike character proved him to be a conqueror not a victim as every circumstance in his life was working together for good (Romans 8:28).

As you are tested, genuine saving faith is proven the same way it was in Job: When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).

The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!

Circumcision

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love (Galatians 5:6).

When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to Him and repeated the covenant He’d made many years earlier. The Abrahamic Covenant was God’s promise that He would:

  • Produce descendants from Abraham as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore;
  • Make Abraham’s name great;
  • Bless all the families of the earth through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).

When God repeated His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), He commanded that every baby boy on the 8th day after birth, was to have his foreskin removed; no other part of the human anatomy illustrates sin so well. From man springs human life, reproduced in his own sinful image (Genesis 5:5) who must be cleansed at the most personal and intimate level of his being.

Circumcision was widely practiced in the ancient world long before Abraham lived, and he would have been very familiar with the medical procedure.

God’s commandment for circumcision didn’t take away sins or bring a relationship with God; God called it the outward sign of the covenant between Me and you (Genesis 17:11). Today, Jews still religiously practice the rite of circumcision.

The purpose of every sign is to draw your attention to something else. When you see a sign for bread, you don’t stop, cover the sign with butter and begin eating away. The sign points you to where you can find bread. So what is circumcision a symbol of?

Cutting of the body doesn’t save a person, remove sin, or make a person right with God. The ritual symbol of circumcision was given by God to Israel to represent God’s desire to give people a new heart. The symbol directed every Jew to seek God for a changed heart from sin through faith in Him (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:5; Jeremiah 4:4; Romans 2:29).

That new heart is found only by personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Fully Preventable

According to government statistics, 110 Americans die each day in car accidents. The three leading causes of traffic deaths are:

  • Distractions, like cell phones
  • Speeding
  • Substance intoxication

Each of these causes of death is completely preventable. The use of a phone is fully banned for drivers in 15 states, and 47 states ban texting while driving. Driving above the speed limit is illegal in all 50 states. Substance intoxication is against the law in all 50 states.

An eternity in Hell is also fully preventable.

The Bible says that Jesus surrendered His life on a cross, dying in the place of sinners. By trusting in Jesus alone to take your sins upon Himself, you can receive eternal life.

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Matthew the Murderer

How many of you have ever murdered another person?” I asked the class at Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. One hand went up. It was the hand of my son in the faith.

Heads turned and looked around the room focusing on Matthew.

I asked, “How many of you have ever committed adultery?” Again, Matthew alone raised his hand.

One student later admitted that when he saw Matthew’s hand rise, he began thinking of ways to avoid the murdering-adulterer at the back of the room.

I had the students turn in their Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus said: You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder,” and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…. You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28).

Matthew understood something none of the students comprehended. In our minds, the physical act is the sin, but Jesus said that even the thought of the mind or motivation of the heart is sin. Matthew wasn’t the only murderer and adulterer in the room; every one of us is guilty of these things, at least in our minds and hearts. Each of us is a sinner, and even after we are born again we are still in desperate and continual need of a Saviour.

But the Scriptures also make this promise to the child of God: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Have You Heard of Our Water?

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:16).

Last week we attended the annual Oregon State Fair in Salem. It’s always so much fun.

We enjoy looking at the dairy cows, draft horses, Asian chickens, old cars, pig races, and strangely dressed people from across our state. One fair venue houses hundreds of booths where people sell their wares, everything from hair chalk to snake jerky, bed mattresses to pickles the size of a football.

As we were wandering through the building, a young woman held out a cup of water. Have you heard of our water? It’s imported from Japan and it’s prolonging the lives of people all over the world. It’s been proven to extend your life, prevent cancer, and even cure diabetes. Would you like to try it?

I thanked her for the offer on such a hot day, but said, I’m a Christian and believe that God ordained the day of my birth, the day of my death, and everything in between. He’s in control of my life and none of your water is going to change that. 

She smiled and agreed. As we walked away a few minutes later, my son said, There you go again freaking people out. 

Jesus was offered a cup of water from a women. In return He offered her the water of life. He said to her, Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall given him will never thirst again. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13-14).

A Garden Hose and Eternal Life

Ahhh, how I love these sweltering days of summer.

Growing up, we lived nearby my grandparent’s home. During the blistering hot days of summer, I’d turn on the old electric pump, find the end of the green garden hose lying somewhere among the beans, peace, cucumbers or carrots, and take a long drink of the cool well water. Hose water, watermelon, and fudgsicles were the unforgettable tastes of summer.

No matter how much of that cool hose water I’d drink, my thirst always returned.

In John 4, we’re told that Jesus became thirsty as He traveled through the area known as Samaria. The disciples went into a town to buy lunch which Jesus sat alone by a well dug by the patriarch Jacob centuries earlier.

In the heat of the day, a woman of ill-repute appeared at the well to pull up her daily supply of water. Jesus asked her for a drink and then offered her something amazing in return.

Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again. But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into eternal life (John 4:13-14).

Jesus said that once a person drinks from Him, that person will never thirst again. The one who is born again will never wander from Him in search of something else to satisfy the soul. Jesus saves, Jesus keeps, and Jesus satisfies those who are truly saved.

Anyone who wanders from the Water of Life in search of some other drink, has never really drunk from Him.