Salvation is so easy, even a caveman could do it! Salvation is so easy, what are you waiting for? Just believe. Right? Get your fire insurance. It’s free. Well–actually–it’s not. I can hear the ‘just believe’ crowd chambering rounds … let me explain. Your life literally depends on this.
Precious in the sight of the Lord are the death of His saints. Psalm 116:15. I’ll say what comes to mind–that seems harsh! Maybe this is just a bad translation. Could the deaths of the Lord’s saints really be precious in His sight? Honestly, it’s one of those things I’ve wrestled with. If you’d like to join me, let’s take this to the mat together.
“Job cursed God,” a seminary student told a group of us. I was in college and had decided to attend an on-campus Bible Study. That was the first, and last time I attended. I pointed out, rather sheepishly (not really) that if Job cursed God, then the whole point of the book would be lost! Of course, the seminary student chuckled at my lack of proper understanding (like of Job 1:22 and 2:10, “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”). But then, I recently started going through the book again ….
I’ve written before about sorcery. I refused to go to the multiplex to be entertained by Marvel’s Doctor Strange because–though it is “Marvel’s” sorcery–it softens us to accept sorcery overall. I also have written about whether or not witches have real power, or whether we secretly practice paganism. But, if you care about whether Jesus is actually your Lord and Savior, you may want to delve into His word to see the nature of what Paul calls Doctrines of Demons.
The Apostle Paul gives us benchmarks for what define true love in 1 Corinthians 13. As I noted in part 1, none of us can claim to show perfect love all the time. A big reason for this is that in our fallen natures we are rebels against God, who is love. The more we resemble the Lord, the more we will show true love (which is what Paul is getting at with the Corinthians).
The first characteristic was patience, or long-suffering. The next is kindness. We have to be careful with these because the Bible isn’t written so we can tell when everyone else is failing. It’s written to reveal our own hearts to ourselves so that we can repent and follow the Lord, reflecting His glory more perfectly.
Here’s what Matthew Henry says about this trait:
It is kind – chrēsteuetai. It is benign, bountiful; it is courteous and obliging. The law of kindness is in her lips; her heart is large, and her hand open. She is ready to show favours and to do good. She seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them. This is her general character. She is patient under injuries, and apt and inclined to do all the good offices in her power. And under these two generals all the particulars of the character may be reduced.
Benign, bountiful, courteous and obliging. That paints a picture, but I like the part about seizing on opportunities to do good, searching for them, in fact.
Do we look for ways we can help those around us? Do we anticipate someone’s feelings or needs and then try to meet them to the best of our ability?
Or, are we mostly focused on what interests us and everyone else needs to get with that program?
Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Jesus tells of a man who was overcome by thieves and ravaged, left for dead. That’s you and me at various points in our lives. We are ravaged by the temptations of this world, we’re beaten by the desires of our flesh, we’re left alone to die. The Pharisees and the people who have human religion and are full of pride will walk by, pretending not to see us. We, will walk by, pretending not to see our neighbor, friend or spouse. That’s their issue, and they need to work it out!
But, the heart of love looks with compassion on the person who–some might say–got themselves into that mess. Love is kind and will look to do good for people.
This shows up in little things. We teach our kids that if they see a mess in the kitchen, don’t just walk by–help clean it up. Take out the trash, keep the bathrooms looking nice. But this is easier taught than put in practice. It’s not in the human nature (mostly) to look for something good to do that doesn’t impact our own immediate needs. After all, someone else made the mess, and why should it be me to clean it up?
Love is kind. It thinks of the good it can do, then does it at great cost. God could have scrapped the whole creation, sending us all to Hell. And it would have been just to do so. But since God is love, He made a way that we can be given freedom from the sentence of death that is justly ours. He did the most good, the most benign thing, the most compassionate thing, and actually took the penalty for our sin.
Shouldn’t we be able to show such kindness to those around us who may be equally as wicked as we were toward God? Perhaps we should imitate God more in our daily life and let the kindness of His love work through us.
Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.
Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.
To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”?
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.
A Useless Message?
Isaiah wouldn’t be considered a successful minister. Despite his prophecies, kings did what they wanted, repented only when it seemed they had to, then returned to their selfish, prideful ways.
Isaiah is remarkable because his prophecies pointed down the vast corridors of time to Jesus Christ, our Lord. He reminds us of God’s sovereignty over all matters of life. He reminds us that we don’t even have a frame of reference to interpret God’s ways.
That could be frightening. Imagining God looking down on humanity, regarding the lofty princes and powerful nations as “less than nothing,” and the people as grasshoppers, dust on the scales. We make no impact at all to God.
We don’t like that idea. We like to think that we have a purpose and make our mark on history. We want to be somebody. We want to make a name for ourselves. We believe we can reach the stars or build a tower to heaven. We prefer to think that we can know the deep things of knowledge both of good and evil, and that in that pursuit, we’ll become like God.
It’s all absurd. It would be like the comedy sketch Jim Gaffigan did about the toddlers who try to run away. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Only, with God, it’s even more absurd.
Who Is Like God?
There is nothing to which we can compare God. He is intimately involved in his creation, including all the stars in the galaxy, which he calls by name, not missing a single one.
Think about that when you think you’ve been forgotten by God. He doesn’t regard people the way we do. Pomp and status in our society means nothing to Him. When Jesus stood before Pilate, it was actually Pilate who stood before Jesus, his soul on trial.
With all our striving, we grow tired. Even when we are young, we do not possess the strength to go on forever. There comes a time when we are exhausted, hemmed in on every side.
True Hope of Deliverance
But if we look to the Lord, He renews our strength. He gives power to the faint. Though we be as lame, weak people, we’ll be more than conquerors by His might.
The promise that continues in chapter 41 is to God’s people, not to people in general. It is only the repentant who have put their faith in the absolute justice and holiness of God’s nature, have renounced all claim of control on their life that can then rest in the declarations that follow.
Our enemies will be as nothing at all. We’ll look for them and not find them.
The Lord holds us in His right hand. We need not fear. He is our Lord.
I’d note that all “church goers” are deceived. The true church, the ekklesia of Christ, is not deceived. They hear His voice and follow.
I’d like to point out, too that any so-called pastor who doesn’t obey the Lord in declaring the gospel is to be accursed (Paul’s words in Galatians, not mine). In other words, they are wolves, not undershepherds.