Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Believe the Best

God believes in people. He believes in people even though they sin against Him, reject Him, and ultimately fail to be like Him. But God believes in people because He created them. And a Father always wants to believe in His children.

We tend to be the same way with our children. We give our children a longer leash than anyone else in our lives. We do this because we know they have to grow and we understand that in their maturation process they are going to make mistakes.
What if we took the same approach to believing in others as we take with our children? What if we allowed people to have their own personality, their own weaknesses and strengths, and their own opinions about those things which were not matters of faith? If we could do this the church would be better, happier, and more love and peace and joy would abound in our fellowship.
Unfortunately we often don’t practice brotherly love. One of the last things Jesus told His disciples was, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”  Jesus knew that not only was this best for the hearts of all believers, it would be what distinguished them from the world.

Why is it then that we seem to judge our brethren more harshly than anyone else? While Paul taught the Corinthians to work out matters amongst themselves, and to examine themselves individually and collectively and to deal with sin in the church, the overtone of the whole experience still expressed the need for humility and grace and love. Why is it that from time to time we stereotype our brethren, think the worst of the best people, and tend to write off the people with whom we worship as soon as they do something we don’t like or approve?
The church everywhere could be benefited with a heaping dose of humility. In a world so full of sin and strife the church is supposed to be a refuge. We can stand for truth without being hall monitors. We can preach the saving gospel without always making the worst kind of assumptions about people, especially when we have scarcely sacrificed any of our time and energy to truly understand them.

If you want the church to grow, if you want it to be full of peace and comfort, if you want it to be a place where joy and love abound – then you need to believe in the people. Don’t go to church, be the church. Don’t be a part of a click, but get out of your comfort zone and fellowship with the whole body. Learn about your brethren, their lives, their circumstances, their dreams, and their challenges. See how God is working through them, and look for something in them that you know you need yourself.

Sitting next to you in the pew or across the building somewhere are the people who are the salt of the earth. They are the best of this world, so believe the best about them. They are the blood-bought people of God. They are the faithful followers of Jehovah. They are the people who truly make up your spiritual and eternal family. They deserve the benefit of the doubt. They deserve your love and affection. They deserve your time and effort. They deserved to be loved with the love of Christ.
To my church family: I love you.  I believe in you. And I am happy to call you, “brethren.”

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” – 1 John 4:7

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Committing to the Covenant

God is a covenant making God. He is good. He blesses. He promises. He delivers. In fact, God is so perfectly good and so completely holy that it is sometimes hard to fathom why He would be willing to make covenants with mere men. God is not like man (Num. 23:19). He never breaks a promise. He never fails to keep His part of the covenant. Nevertheless, because He is a loving God He makes covenants. He has not only made covenants with men, but He has even made covenants with all of creation (Genesis 9:9-17).

Since God offers covenants in benevolence and mercy and love, they ought to be embraced! It is  time for the rest of us to realize that God expects us to accept our part of the covenant. The truth is that we struggle with covenants because we know upfront we are going to break them. We know we are fragile and weak and many times we even fail to please our own spirit. So we look at God's contractual offer and we often turn away, feeling that we'd better not commit to anything like a covenant, especially when it involves the One who is going to judge our souls. But to err on the side of caution - is still to err!

There are two common examples of our failure to commit that can be seen in every day living. They both involve the two greatest commitments a person can make during their lifetime. They are the two basic forms of marriage, spiritual and physical. We have the spiritual marriage of making a commitment to Christ through obedience to the gospel. We have the physical marriage that involves the public exchanging of vows to be once and for all obligated to our mate. In these two cases there are some common denominators that describe each individual's fear of commitment:

1. We are afraid we will regret the decision to give ourselves up completely.
2. We are afraid things will not turn out as we had hoped, that our expectations won't be realized.
3. We are afraid we will fail in our duties to the one to whom we have made the promise.
4. We are afraid we don't have enough experience or knowledge to perform our commitment as we should.

Remember this - God knows how weak we are. He knows how sinful we are. He knew Jesus would have to die for us even before He made us. He made us anyway. He wants us anyway. He loves us anyway. He is a gracious and merciful God! Do we not understand that God is not as interested in our ability to perform as He is in our desire to love Him completely?

Noah agreed to a covenant and then committed an egregious sin that broke up his family. Abram agreed to a covenant and then lied about who he was. Moses agreed to a covenant and then failed to give God the glory. David agreed to a covenant and then committed adultery and murder. All of these men broke the covenant, but they repented and turned back to God and God restored them. They are considered spiritual giants! God was willing to be patient and let them learn and grow until they could love the way He loves. God will do the same for us.

If we needed to be perfect to enter into a covenant with God, we would forever be lost and cut off from His holiness. God simply wants us to know the means by which we can enter the covenant, and then He wants us to enter the covenant with our whole heart. The rest we will figure out as we go. And if we stay humble, His grace will be there for us.

Stop making excuses about why you can't make a promise. Realize that it is in the covenant alone that love and hope and salvation and joy and relationship exist. Without covenants, without relationships, our lives would be meaningless and loneliness would abound. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. So He made covenants. Now it is your turn. Make the commitment! Walk by faith! Enjoy the blessings of the covenants God has made available! Live your life in praise and glory to the God who offers covenants!

"Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments." - Deuteronomy 7:9