Easter And Your Contentment
Posted on 2020 Apr 2
 
 Easter is generally considered to be a pretty significant holiday for most people. It can include a celebration of spring, an excuse for a new dress, an Easter bunny, Easter eggs, and above all a reminder of the death and resurrection of Jesus. What we may not realize is that Easter is also the remedy for discontentment.
 
What is discontentment? Before we can answer that, we need to know what contentment is. Here is how Noah Webster defined it, “Rest or quietness of the mind in the present condition; satisfaction which holds the mind in peace, restraining complaint.” So, to be content is to be able to rest in, be satisfied in, or be at peace with your circumstances. This does not mean that you are necessarily happy about how everything is going. It does not mean that you would not change something if you could. It just means that you are able to be at peace with your circumstances.
 
So, what is it to be discontent? It means that you are not at all at peace with what is happening in your life. One of the main ways that we can tell we are discontent is that we are not “restraining complaint”. We complain because we feel like we are not being paid enough in our job. We complain because we feel like we deserve a promotion, or some recognition and we don’t get it. We complain because we think other people are acting badly and no one is doing anything about it. We complain because other people’s cars, smartphones, clothes, houses, jobs, etc. are better than ours. (Of course, daily we are bombarded by advertisers trying to convince us that what they are selling is better than what we have and we deserve better.)
 
Discontentment is one of the great American pastimes. But there is a big problem here. The Bible says that it is a sin. The tenth commandment says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife nor his male servant nor his maid servant nor his ox nor his donkey nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” In other words, be satisfied with what you have. Be content. So how do we deal with the problem of discontentment?
 
That is where Easter comes in. One of the big problems we encounter in discontentment is that we think that we deserve better. We deserve to be healthy, we deserve to be respected, we deserve more money—that is the glasses we wear. But let’s put on some different glasses for a moment. Let’s look through the lens of what happened on Good Friday. That is the day that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified. Why was He crucified? It was because some people hated the things He was teaching. Some people lied about Him so that He would be declared guilty of treason. Some people stirred up a fickle crowd to shout out “Crucify Him”. As a result, Jesus Christ was brutally scourged and died an extremely painful and humiliating death. He didn’t deserve that.
 
But the reason Jesus died goes deeper than that. God the Father ordained that His Son would die as a substitute for sinners. Jesus was perfectly holy and righteous and did not deserve anything that happened to him on Good Friday. But Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice for sinners. Since God is righteous, it is perfectly just that sinners be punished for their sin. So, the painful and shameful death of the cross that Jesus endured was on behalf of sinners like you and me. In other words, that is what every one of us deserve. All of it.
 
So, when we catch ourselves complaining about things—remember the cross. What Jesus endured is what all of us deserve. It is hard to complain when you remember that you deserve hell. But salvation through faith in Christ is the perfect remedy for a discontented heart. May the Lord enable us to rest in and be eternally satisfied with Christ.
Beware of an Apathetic Christmas
Posted on 2020 Dec 20
 
 One of the well-known parts of the Christmas story is the visit of the Wise Men to see the new born Messiah. These men were likely from Persia and they arrived when Jesus was around 2 years old. They were looking for “He who has been born King of the Jews.” As they followed a miraculous star, they came to Jerusalem—a very natural place to look for the King of the Jews. But when Herod, the current king of the Jews, heard what they were looking for he got very agitated.
 

So, Herod gathered together the chief priests and scribes to find out where the Messiah was prophesied to be born. They correctly quoted from the prophet Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. It is very interesting to note how those involved in this story responded to this information.

Herod found out from the Wise Men that the star had appeared to them about two years earlier. He asked the Wise Men to report back to him when they had found the Child because he wanted to worship him. Liar. His intention was to have this perceived challenger to his throne killed. When Herod was unsuccessful with the Wise Men, he proceeded to have
all the male children two years and younger, who were in the vicinity of Bethlehem, to be slaughtered. So, Herod’s response to the news of the Messiah was hostile unbelief. Some still respond to Christ that way today.

The Wise Men made their way to Bethlehem and found the Child with Mary and Joseph. They proceeded to give Him gifts and bow to Him in worship. By God’s grace, many still respond to Christ that way today.

What about the chief priests and scribes? They also heard about the amazing report of the Wise Men. They gave Herod the information he needed to understand better the facts about the birthplace of the Messiah. What did they do then? Nothing. They were completely apathetic. They apparently went about their business while the Wise Men worshiped and Herod killed innocent baby boys. They did nothing. They were not even the least bit curious about what the Wise Men had to say.

This is a terrible and dangerous response. The Persian Wise Men would have little or no access to the Word of God. They likely heard of the Messiah from Jews living in their area. Herod was an Idumean—not a Jew. He was appointed as king over Judah by the Roman authority. He was a politician and would have had a natural aversion to one called the King of
the Jews. But the chief priests and scribes were different. They were not only Jews, they were the religious leaders of the Jews. They were intimately acquainted with the Scriptures and had much of it memorized. They would have been taught from childhood of the promises of the Messiah. Of all people you would think they would at least show some interest in what the Wise Men were saying. But they had more important things to do, so they ignored reports of the coming of the One who could save them from their sin.

You might think being apathetic about the coming of the Messiah would not be as bad as what Herod did. But in time their apathy morphed into something more dangerous. When Jesus began His public ministry; the religious leaders lead the opposition to Him. Their unbelief became so hostile that they turned Jesus over to the Roman authorities to be
crucified.

No one can remain apathetic toward Jesus Christ. The one who is Savior and Lord requires a response. It isn’t just kings and religious leaders who resist His lordship—we all do. So, beware of an apathetic Christmas. Emulate the Wise Men who responded to the new born king with worship.

Merry Christmas.

A Reformer Made Strong in Weakness
Posted on 2020 Oct 20
 
I often feel quite weak in my faith. I have been a Christian for nearly 50 years and in the ministry for around 35 years—but still, I often feel quite weak in my faith.
I don’t pray as much as I should. Sometimes I lack the courage to take a stand for truth. My love for people is greatly limited by my own self-centeredness. I have many weaknesses. An encouraging passage for weak Christians is 2 Corinthians 12:9 in which the Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
 

Another encouragement for weak Christians is seeing how the Lord has worked in the lives of other believers who also have obvious weaknesses. One such man is Thomas Bilney. Bilney lived from 1495 to 1531. He was a man God used during the Reformation to introduce the gospel to England. Thomas Bilney was an instructor at Cambridge University. He was very religious but struggled greatly with his faith. He had exhausted every means he knew of to try to find peace with God. He had fasted, disciplined his body, bought indulgences, went daily to mass and often confessed his sins to the priest—but he still failed to find peace with God.

In 1514 Erasmus, the Dutch scholar and theologian, produced a Greek New Testament. Church leaders were afraid that it might lead to “Lutheran ideas” and so it was banned in England. Thomas Bilney desperately wanted one of these New Testaments so that he could see for himself what the Bible taught. He knew where he could get a copy—but he was afraid. He was fearful of going to prison or worse if he was found with this illegal book. But he finally worked up the courage to buy the book, then he ran back to his room. He excitedly began to read. He read in 1 Timothy 1:15, that, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” Bilney knew very well that he was a sinner and at this invitation, he embraced Jesus Christ as his Savior. The Lord had changed his heart.

Thomas began to share with others what he was learning. He took his Greek New Testament to the White Horse Inn, where scholars often gathered. They began to read and study the Scriptures together. Many were converted and encouraged in their faith. Soon Bilney left Cambridge and this once fearful Christian began to preach openly. At times angry priests dragged him from the pulpit. Soon he was arrested and stood trial in London. He was declared a heretic. But instead of executing Bilney, the church leaders thought it would be more effective if they could get him to recant. After much badgering, Thomas Bilney did in fact recant to save his life. As penance, he was forced to carry a large bundle of sticks as he walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Bilney was also forced to burn a pile of William Tyndale’s English Bibles. Then he was held in prison for another year.

Thomas was heartbroken. He was in deep despair over the fact that he had denied his Lord and Savior. His friends tried to comfort him, but he would not be comforted. He had failed.

Then by God’s grace, Bilney received the Lord’s forgiveness and once again began preaching the gospel. Everywhere he went he gave away copies of Tyndale’s English New Testament—which was forbidden by the king. Once again, he was arrested and convicted of heresy. But there was no recanting this time. God had given him the courage he needed to die for his faith. On the morning of his execution, Thomas Bilney was lead to the place of execution. Once he saw the stake where he was to be burned, Bilney ran and embraced it. He prayed and recited Psalm 143. Then as the fire was lit he called out, “Jesus, I believe!” Soon, the man who once recanted his faith to avoid death was dead.

In Christ we can be forgiven of our sin and made righteous before God like Thomas Bilney was. It is by grace we are saved through faith in Christ. It is also by grace that weak and fearful Christians live out their salvation even in hard trials.

The Lord’s grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.