Pessimist or realist. Which is it – when you look at the future?
A pessimist reflects a negative attitude. A realist states the facts as they are.
Paul says: “There will be terrible times in the last days.”
And…he goes even further: “…evildoers and imposters will go from bad to worse…”
So…when you speak of the increase of wickedness – are you being a pessimist or a realist?
Some will say you are a pessimist…a negativist…a person with a bad attitude.
No – you are being a realist…seeing the world as God sees it.
Indeed…in these last days the world is going from bad to worse.
But God’s people rejoice…knowing that their redemption is at the door.
That’s being a realist.
A sheltered life. That’s God’s promise to you.
And…that is reassuring. There are uncertainties at every side – challenges to health…fear of betrayal…natural catastrophes…and much more.
A shelter is needed.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
The shelter is a shadow – and where there is a shadow there is a presence — Almighty God.
This is a safe place. Any opposing force would need to penetrate that Presence.
So…what about the attacks? Rest assured of this – Almighty God will not allow any destructive force to penetrate His shelter…except what is intended for an ultimate good.
That’s the promise – a sheltered life.
Under divine scrutiny. That can lead to spiritual health and vitality.
It was David’s prayer: “Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind…”
Tested…tried…examined – and that at the hand of God.
It is the kind of openness before God that can expose hidden sins…lead to repentance…and result in a new level of wholeness.
Sadly…some try instead to hide from God…conceal their sins…and hope that God’s mercy will cover them.
But…that is not possible without openness and transparency before God.
Yet…how dare anyone submit to such openness? The psalmist has the answer: “…for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.”
Under divine scrutiny – it’s a safe place to be.
A worthwhile purpose for life. Without it…life is meaningless.
Jesus identified His purpose – to do the will of the Father. “…yet not my will, but yours be done.”
And…this is God’s purpose for your life – to do His will.
What does this mean? How is it possible to know God’s will?
The psalmist said: “I desire to do your will, my God…” That’s the key – desire. That’s the path to a discovery of God’s will.
Ask the Lord to intensify that desire. Let it become the very passion of your life.
A worthwhile purpose for life.
By and through. These are two very instructive prepositions.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…”
The preposition by in this context speaks of the source of our salvation – its origin is in God alone.
The preposition through in this context speaks of the means by which salvation is received.
In other words…these two prepositions refer to God’s part and man’s part – when it comes to salvation.
Salvation has its source in God. There is no salvation apart from Him. But…this gift of salvation must be received. That’s man’s part.
Paul clarifies this relationship: “…it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
By and through. God’s part and man’s part.
Context. This is important in every area of life.
Look at adversity – in the context of God’s love. Look at suffering – in the context of sustaining grace. Look at eternity – in the context of God’s sovereign plan for His creation.
But…more. Learn to understand the individual verses of the Bible – in their context. That includes the historical and literary background of both the Biblical authors and their readers.
In addition…never lose sight of the recurring themes of the Bible. What is the totality of what God says about specific truths?
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
That includes context.
To draw or to drive. Which is God’s way?
The Apostle Paul reminds us: “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
So…God’s way is to draw.
These two words describe the difference between law and grace – grace draws and law drives.
Also…this describes the difference between a spirit of legalism…and a spirit of grace.
Grace draws. Legalism drives.
Paul’s words are incredibly instructive. God uses kindness…to draw people to repentance.
For example…people enjoying a good life should understand they are being drawn to repentance.
It is God’s kindness that draws.
Drawn – not driven. That’s God’s way.
The circle of your concern. How wide is its sweep?
It’s easy to draw a tight circle…enough for you and yours…with little beyond.
Not so with the Apostle Paul. He drew a circle wide enough to encompass the whole world.
“…all people…all those in authority…all people to be saved…”
Listen to your prayers. How far do they reach?
Consider your stewardship. Are you investing in ministries that reach to the ends of the earth?
Analyze your thoughts. Do you allow the peril of the world to occupy your thinking?
Check your emotions. Do you care about peoples far away?
So today…how wide is the sweep of your concern? Let it be wide enough to encircle the whole world.
Biblical illiteracy. Many believers have a very limited understanding of Bible content.
Amos the prophet spoke of a time when there would be “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Sadly…such a time has come.
Statisticians report that many Christians seldomly read the Bible.
That’s consequential. Why?
Because the Word hidden in the heart is the path to spiritual maturity.
The psalmist said: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
Ask the Lord to give you a strong appetite for God’s Word.
Let that always be the commitment of your heart.
Transformational listening. This alone can produce the change that is needed.
It is possible to hear a sermon…participate in a Bible discussion…or practice daily devotions – without producing change.
What is needed is transformational listening — that is…assimilating information in a way that will stir intentions to the point of altered behavior.
By the power of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s provision by which information can be translated into behavioral and attitudinal change.
Put differently…it’s about the anointed Word…both in the listening and in the response.
That’s the setting for transformation.