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Are You A Fake Christian? Part 1, 1 John 4:20-21

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Most of us dog owners love to dress up our dogs. Sometimes it’s gratuitous, like Buddy’s Hawaiian shirt, or at times, like the above, it’s necessary to keep him warm or dry in inclement weather conditions. Buddy tolerates the coats and neck scarves but hates to wear anything on his head.

It’s sad when people claim to be Christians but really aren’t. They give God a bad name. It’s even sadder when the person believes they know Christ but don’t. They are presenting a false image to the public, wearing fake clothing.

Now I cannot look into a person’s heart and know if they are saved or not–only God truly knows who His sheep are and will reveal them on Judgment Day, when He separates His sheep from the goats (Matthew 13:25-30). But it deeply grieves me when someone claims to know Christ but puts down and criticizes their brothers and sisters, particularly publicly to nonbelievers and doubters.

“If someone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.'”–1 John 4:20-21

Many times recently I’ve heard people who claim to know Christ say they don’t like to go to church or hang around other Christians because they aren’t sophisticated enough, or educated enough, or just enough of something or other. They don’t meet this particular person’s standards.

“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”–Apostle Paul, Romans 12:16

Apparently, it escapes their notice that they don’t have a right to judge their brothers and sisters because NO ONE measures up to God’s standards. As Christians, we are only acceptable to God because Christ died for our sins and attributes His righteousness to us. Otherwise, this holy God could not tolerate the presence of unholy people. That means all of us.

Not only that, but everything we have and are as persons is a gift from God: our talent, our IQ, our physical abilities, our level of beauty, is from God. We cannot brag about being smarter than others, because God is the one who gave us our intelligence. We cannot brag about being more handsome or beautiful than someone else, because our bodies were designed by God. Probably most people would like to be smarter or have more talent or skill, but everyone was designed to please God and serve His purpose. If anyone has a right to brag or put someone down, it’s God: our perfectly holy, omniscient and omnipotent God could easily squash any of us in a few words, but He doesn’t. He encourages, uplifts, heals, exhorts and strengthens us instead.

Rather than shun us, He chose to love and find a way to fellowship with unholy and far less intelligent and talented and creative people than He is.

Who invented color? Or thought up the concepts of rocks, grass, trees, and dirt? Or birds and fish and feathers and scales and skin? Who designed dinosaurs and worms and bacteria? Who flung the stars and planets across the galaxy and spun gold in the depths of the earth? Who invented air and water (the most miraculous of substances) and wove DNA?

There really is no more humbling philosophy than Christianity, because no one earns their way to Heaven by being good enough or smart enough or wise enough (Gnosticism). We all enter the same way, regardless of race, age, sex, health, beauty, talent or experience: By humbling our pride, acknowledging that we are sinners and require God’s forgiveness and guidance to understand right from wrong. We all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”–Jesus, John 13:34-35

“There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes…”–Proverbs 6:16-17a

Listed #1 as the thing that God hates (strong word) is haughtiness. Thinking you’re better than someone else, instead of being humble and serving others.

Even Jesus washed the dirty feet of His disciples. The great God stooped down and washed the feet of his quarreling, imperfect followers (John 13:4-16).

Do you love your fellow believers in Christ? If not, please ask yourself why.

We love you. Dawn and Buddy

PS. No apologies for creating blog titles designed to get your attention!

 

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The Most Powerful God, 1 Samuel 5:1-6

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Buddy depends upon me to take are of him. It would be foolish for him to run off and take his chances on moving into a stranger’s home. The stranger doesn’t love him and hasn’t sacrificed for him over the years like I, who love him dearly, has.

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament (Tanak) is from the time period before kings ruled over ancient Israel, when the nation was ruled by a series of judges appointed by God. When Samuel the prophet was a youth, the Philistines captured the ark of the covenant of the Lord and brought this holy seat of God Almighty into the house of their god, Dagon. Dagon was considered the “Lord of Many Cities” according to Wikipedia, or a god over many gods. Some archeologists believe it was a fish-god, or Merman, or, most likely, an agricultural god of grain.

By capturing the ark, the Philistines thought that their god, Dagon, had defeated the god of the Hebrews. But they  quickly discovered that they were very wrong.

“When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him…Now the hand of the Lord was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and their territories. When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, ‘The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.'”–1 Samuel 5:1-6

The Philistines thought they had defeated the God of Israel because they had defeated His people. But God had permitted it, one reason being, because the sons of the head priest, Eli, had taken the ark into battle and they had disgraced themselves with ungodly conduct as God’s representatives. God Almighty demonstrated which god had the real power.

This actually wasn’t my original point in writing this blog, but there are some who think that because Christians fail, morally or intellectually or in some other personal habit, that means that God Himself is flawed or not real. Nonbelievers judge God Almighty by the behavior of imperfect persons. No, it means that a mighty God has chosen to love and appoint as His ambassadors people who are totally incapable of meeting or living up to His holy standards 24/7. Just because God’s people are defeated doesn’t mean that God is any less totally holy or omnipotent. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What amazes me is that God Almighty, the Lord of Hosts, who created the universe and exists outside of time, space and His creation, would even bother with us. Yet, He extends His grace and mercy to every person every day. He sustains life on the planet and allows people the freedom to choose Him or not to. Every breath is a gift from Him. And everything we use in our daily lives originates from this planet that we did not create, but He created and allows us to rule over and utilize its resources.

I could go on but you get the point.

The failure of God’s people doesn’t mean God has failed; it means that God chooses to call Christians His children and extend His love to people who are totally unworthy of it, people totally incapable of being as holy, good and kind as He is.

God bless you. Dawn and Buddy

***

Jesus provided a way for unholy people to approach a holy God. He is the “merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17) who intercedes for us with the Father. Because God cannot tolerate evil and must punish it, yet loves us, Jesus took on human form and accepted humankind’s punishment for our sin. All we have to do is admit we’re sinners who require Christ’s sin sacrifice to pay for our sinfulness and ask Him to govern our lives. When we give our lives to God, the Holy Spirit enters into us, which makes us “born again”. We become new creations by the presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17) and our trespasses are no longer counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). God is so holy that we can never meet his standard of perfection to be granted eternal life. (Matthew 5:47). It’s totally impossible. We cannot work for our salvation or earn the right to enter God’s presence.

If you haven’t, please invite Him into your life.

And if you do know Christ, please remember that you are also imperfect before you’re tempted to judge someone harshly. I also have to remind myself to be kind because I also fall short of God’s standards every day and need His grace too.

 

Our Sabbath Rest, Hebrews 4:9

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One reason I have so many photos of Buddy sleeping is because it’s one of the few times he’s not trying to run from the camera. But my point tonight is, that Buddy doesn’t have to do anything to earn our love. He can sleep peacefully and get his needed rest because he knows he is safe in our home and will be taken care of and watched over. He doesn’t need to keep alert out of fear.

Although “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Hebrews 9:4)” most people don’t enter into God’s rest, including many of his people. It’s not because Christians don’t love the Lord or desire to follow Him with all their hearts; rather, it’s because of bad teaching and a misunderstanding of the difference between the Old and New Covenants (Old and New Testaments) between humanity and God.

All of God’s way are for our good. To take time to rest from our labors is not a bad idea. Too much overwork and stress is very damaging to our bodies and souls; we all need time to rest and refresh.

But some Christians, in their zeal to follow the Lord, tell others that they MUST take Sunday or Saturday off as a Sabbath Day or they are being disobedient to God. This isn’t correct. This must’ve been a misunderstanding in the early Church because Apostle Paul clearly addressed this issue twice in his letters to the Colossians and Romans.

“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”–Colossians 2:16-17

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced I’m his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord,…”–Romans 14:5-6

Apostle Paul clearly teaches that what is important is not to judge your brother and sister, but rather, to follow his own conscience in such matters:

“The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself is what he approves…whatever is not from faith is sin.”–Romans 14:22-23

Apostle Paul was very concerned about people bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and the Apostle John in loving our fellow Christians (1 John). Not in Sabbath observances.

If you believe it’s important to take regular time to rest and refresh and reflect on God, that’s fine. But there has been a new push from some quarters to force Christians to formerly observe the Sabbath and to declare those who don’t as unfaithful or heretics.

Nonsense!

Because the book of Hebrews is so little studied, outside of the first and eleventh chapters, the Church has been missing a lot of essential teaching on the difference between the Old and New Covenants.

The Law serves its purpose in our lives by showing our sinfulness and inability to live up to God’s righteous standards and please Him. Not that the Law isn’t good–we benefit by following God’s ways (Proverbs 4:20-23). But it’s impossible to please God by living up to the Law, because He’s perfect and we aren’t.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him…”–Hebrews 11:6

The Old Covenant was a foreshadowing of the New Covenant, pointing us to Christ. “For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come…”–Hebrews 10:1  It was vitally important for the Jewish people to abstain from working on the Sabbath Day, as it was a foreshadow of the New Covenant rest for God’s people in Christ, Our Sabbath rest.

The Jewish nation wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they disobeyed God. They didn’t believe in His goodness and trustworthiness, so they didn’t enter the Promised Land when He commanded them to. “So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:19)” They didn’t have faith in God to obey His commands.

“So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”–Hebrews 4:9-10

‘When the crowd asked Jesus, “What shall we do, so that we may work the words of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”‘–John 6:28-29

The Old Covenant was a covenant of salvation by works: If we did “X”, then God promised to respond with “Y”. The New Covenant, however, is one based upon a covenant of faith, not works.”For when the priesthood is changed of necessity there takes place a change of law, also. (Hebrews 7:12)”

It was vitally important for the Jewish people under the Old Covenant not to work on the Sabbath as it was a foreshadowing of our total reliance on resting from our works righteousness in order to totally embrace the righteousness of Christ for our salvation. No one can go to Heaven by being good but only in having faith in Christ’s work on our behalf.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with with He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ…For by grace you have been said through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”–Ephesians 4:4-5, 8-9

Under the New Covenant, we’re supposed to want to obey God out of trust and love for Him:

“If you love me, you will keep My commandments (Jesus, John 14:15) 

and not fear of punishment:

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfect in love. We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19).

James puts things into perspective by warning that, if we have true faith in Christ, we’ll obey God (James 2:14-17). Or, as Christ pointed out that when the Word is planted in our hearts, we’ll bear fruit for His kingdom (Mark 4:20) to the extent that we abide in Christ, the vine:

“I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.”–John 15:5 (emphasis mine)

So, if you want to observe a particular day as your Sabbath rest, that’s fine, if that’s your conviction. I’m not supposed to judge you for that. But if you choose to do so and I don’t, you’re not supposed to judge me, either, for observing the Sabbath doesn’t make you ANY MORE HOLY or MORE RIGHTEOUS before God than someone who chooses to consider Christ alone our Sabbath rest. Because, whether we celebrate the Sabbath on a particular day or not, CHRIST ALONE is our righteousness. There is no other way to be in right standing before a perfectly holy God than the shed blood of Christ:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws upon their heart, and one their mind I will write them,” And then He says, “And their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.'”–Hebrews 10:10,14-17

We’re supposed to rest in Christ’s works, not ours.

But do get some regular rest.

And please consider reading the entire book of Hebrews, if you haven’t recently.

*** If you’d like to enter into Christ’s Sabbath rest, please pray: Dear Father, I realize that I’m a sinner and can never be good enough to earn my way into Heaven. Your standards are too perfect for me to live up to. I accept that Jesus died for my sins, having lived the holy life I could never live. Please forgive my sin. May the Holy Spirit enter my heart and make me a new creation in Christ. Please exchange my filthy rags with the holiness of Christ. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.

PS. I’d like to acknowledge that the above is not my own. I have benefitted from almost 19 years of strong Christian teaching from Pastors Dr. Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, Bob George, Bob Christopher, Blaine Smith, Michael Youssef and Kay Arthur. I give no credit to myself but only that God has enabled me to assimilate their teaching and convey it to others in a way, I hope, is easily understood.