The Importance of Preparation

Christmas, The Gospel, Malachi 3:1As I write this it is a little bit less than two weeks until Christmas.  Even if I were not aware of the calendar date I would surely know that something important is about to happen because of the amount of preparation that is happening all around me.  All the shops and stores, both big and small, are decorated for the season and seem to be announcing new sales daily in an attempt to get customers in to the store or shopping online.

Suddenly there are lights appearing on my neighbors houses that weren’t there before and even in my own house a small army of snowmen (snow-people?) have taken up positions in most every room of the house dressed in their winter finery and holiday garb.  And on my list of things to do today are a Christmas luncheon with some extended family members and an afternoon Christmas shopping expedition with my wife.

Looking at all of the evidence around me I can conclude that Christmas seems to be something that we spend a great deal of time and effort preparing for and that we place a very high degree of importance on.  As a nation and as a culture we really like Christmas and that is not a bad thing so long as we take great care to remember what Christmas is all about.

What would happen, I wonder, if we were to take that same attitude and a similar amount of effort in preparing ourselves for worship and communion with the Lord and in telling other people that Jesus loves them?  Because as important as Christmas is, it isn’t more important than our personal relationship with the Lord and it isn’t more important than the work of preparing hearts and lives to receive the gospel message.

Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:1 (NKJV)

As Christians we should know that Jesus is coming back one day and that day could be soon.  Malachi 3:1 begins by talking about the messenger and his work of preparation but quickly shifts to talking about how the Lord will come “suddenly”.  God’s word also says that “No man knows the day or the hour” of His coming and so there is no more important work for us than that of preparing ourselves and those around us for the coming of the Lord.  We are the messengers.  To us is given the responsibility of telling the world that Jesus saves and that He is coming back soon.

Personally, I want to make sure that I am spending time with the Lord every day and offering up the sacrifice of my praise and the worship that is due to Him.  I want to make sure that I am drawing strength from His presence and His word and that I am using that strength and that power to prepare the hearts of those around me for the coming of the Lord.  Even as I and my family are preparing for Christmas and will enjoy it immensely it is not the most important preparation that I will do today or this week or for the remainder of this year.

I pray that God would bless you and your family this Christmas season and that your hearts are prepared to receive Him and His love for you.


The Only Question That Really Matters

sin, salvation, the gospel, faithI try not to pay much attention to politics or current events.  I have a friend at work who, I am fairly certain, thinks of me as either willfully ignorant or somewhat uncaring about the world at large.  Whenever he tells me about the latest plane crash, energy crisis or political scandal that is making the headlines my usual response is something like “hmm” or “oh, really?”

It’s not that I don’t care or that I am unconcerned about the world in which I live.  It’s simply a matter of perspective and the difference between mine and his.  He’s a professed atheist and I am not.  I love the Lord Jesus, read my Bible daily and I try to view him and the world around me through the lens of God’s grace and redemptive plan.

He knows that I am a believer in Christ and that I attend church weekly but as a non-believer without a strong biblical background he doesn’t really understand my point of view.  No one can, not unless they are first adopted into the family of God by faith and belief on the Lord Jesus Christ and the washing and remission of sins.

What I would really like to say to him is “God is in control, love and serve Him with all of your heart and leave the rest to Him” but as my desire is not to antagonize Him it comes out as “hmm” or “oh, really”.

I say all of that to say we need to be careful about not getting so caught up in lesser matters.  What exactly is a lesser matter, you might ask?  I leave the precise answer of that question up to your conscience and the leading of the Holy Spirit but for me a lesser matter is one that distracts from the message of the gospel and the good news that Jesus saves.

In terms of politics do I want a strong believer in the White House?  Absolutely, I do.  I pray for my country and its leadership often.  But I am not open to entering into political debate on my position because ultimately it is going to lead back to my belief in Jesus Christ and in God’s plan for this world and for His people.

In terms of social matters, do I support gay marriage?  Well, I believe the act of homosexuality is a sin and I also believe that marriage is defined by the Bible as the union between one man and one woman.  However, our lawmakers, the ones in charge, have decided to extend the same rights and privileges to same sex couples as heterosexual couples and now I, as a believer, have a choice in how I will respond.  Will it be a response that is filled with care and concern for the soul of each individual or will it be a bitter complaint against the sorry state of our world?

I will insert here C.S. Lewis’s response to a question about homosexuality just because it is such a good one:  “I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying. Second, our speculations on the cause of homosexuality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why the man was born blind (John 9:1-3): only the final cause: that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”  Notice how C.S. Lewis takes on the question of homosexuality?  By answering it in the context of scripture and bringing the discussion around to God’s plan.  And that is exactly how we should be striving to answer any and all questions about our society and our world.

In short, you can’t expect the unrighteous to live righteous lives and instead of focusing on the fruits of sin and the behaviors of the lost we should instead be focusing on God’s grace and doing everything in our power to point the lost to Him.  I’m not condemning those who get involved in good causes and spend their time and energy to make the world a better place but I am saying that if we lose the message of the gospel or if it gets somehow overshadowed by our cause then we have lost everything that this world really needs.  And at that point our cause amounts to very little.

The world we live in has issues but the reality is there is only one issue: Sin.  And that means that there is only one question that really matters.  Everything we do should lead up to and expand upon this one question.  “Do you love the Lord and live each day to serve Him?”

The Power of the Message

the gospel,Jesus Christ, salvationI have had the great privilege of hearing some wonderful preaching and singing recently.  Both the preaching and the singing were inspired messages from God about His great love, redeeming power and coming judgment.

Even though one was spoken and one was sung, they were both forms of the gospel message presented in such a way that all who heard it were blessed and challenged.  The message was consistent even though the delivery and the messengers were very different.  And that brings us to an important point about the gospel:  no matter who we are, where we come from or what our talents might be, we are all called to share the gospel.

The gospel message is the good news, the very best news that there has ever been.  It simply says that God loved us so much that he sent His only Son to die for us, taking the penalty for sin in our place and providing a way in which we might have eternal life.

This world is a fallen one and we are fallen creatures.  We inherited a sinful nature from the very first humans and have been making wrong choices ever since.  But God was not content to allow His most beloved creation to die in their sins and has provided a way for us to be redeemed.  By admitting that we are sinners and confessing our faith in Jesus Christ and asking Him to be our Lord forevermore we can be freed from the power of sin and the certainty of eternal damnation.

And make no mistake, without Jesus, we are eternally lost.  The penalty for our sin and rebellion against God is eternal separation in a place that God designed for the devil and his followers.  Hell was not created for man, but man may choose hell by the way in which he lives his life.  This is the truth that we must never forget.  Although we are now living in a period of grace in which all who call on the name of the Lord may be saved, judgment day is coming.  And on that day we will all be called to give an account of how we lived our lives and what we did with God’s son; whether we accepted Him or rejected Him.

The power of the message has not diminished although it is thousands of years old.  The power of the message is as fresh and real today as it was on that morning that God rolled the stone away from the tomb and Jesus walked out, alive and reborn.  The power of the message continues because it is God’s message to His creation and because He still desires all people to come to repentance.

Commit to being a messenger for the One who still has the power to save men’s souls.  Share the gospel with those you know, both in what you say and in what you do.