Standing on the Promises

In an effort to stay in touch with our culture, I will sometimes turn on the car radio to listen to a local talk radio station. The various programs generally focus upon issues that are currently in the news, issues that include a variety of topics that are important to us as believers in Jesus Christ. Typically, the radio hosts introduce the topic, take a position, expound upon it and then invite listeners to call in and voice their opinion.  Many of the comments are startling if not disturbing.

Several years ago just before Christmas the topic of conversation was a local church that was raffling off the front pews for their very busy Christmas Eve service.  For a donation of $1,000 you and your family were not only guaranteed a place to sit but front row seats without the inconvenience of having to arrive early.  As you might imagine the practice was causing quite the stir in the congregation and the community at large.

Much of the conversation was predictable with many noting that the money was going to support the school that was associated with the church and therefore the ends justified the means.  Others pointed out that the church should be the one place where money shouldn’t be able to buy privilege.  Still others didn’t see any distinction between this and other forms of fundraising done by the church such as bake sales, bingo and church bazaars.  Opinions abounded.  Some were outrageous, others were well thought out and carefully presented but virtually all missed the significance of what was taking place.

None of this is news, of course, but I was struck with a particular point in the program.  A female listener called in and informed the radio hosts that they need not wonder about the correctness of such a practice or what God would think because the Bible had specifically addressed this very circumstance.  She then read from James chapter 2, verses 2-6a,

For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘You sit here in a good place’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil motives?  Listen my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?  But you have dishonored the poor man.’

No sooner had she read these words and the host responded with, “You don’t think the pastor has read the book of James? He obviously has a different interpretation.”  The point was discredited, dismissed and the discussion moved on to more of the same.

The incident had several points of application for me.  The first was the reminder that the majority of the world does not share our world-view or our understanding of the Bible as God’s Word given to us for our instruction.  And they certainly would not afford the Bible the same level of authority that we give it, that it is the final authority in all matters of life and faith.

This reality holds tremendous implications for our interactions with those outside the faith, especially as it relates to evangelism.  We need first of all to inform people of what the Bible says about God, the fall of mankind and of the person of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Then we need to show them why they should believe the Bible is true.  And finally we need to convince them that all of this applies to them and invite them to respond in repentance and faith.  There is much work to be done before presenting the Good News of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

A second, and more personal, application was to consider what level of authority the Bible carries in my own life. Normally, this is understood in a negative sense such as applying to the commandments of God to inform our behavior. While this is a proper application, it is only half of the story.  We must also declare the truthfulness of those statements that are made about the unconditional love, the extravagant grace, the abounding mercy and the unending forgiveness of the God of the Scriptures.  These truths rightly define God’s character and His disposition toward us as His creatures.  Our ability to think and act correctly in the myriad of life circumstances that will come our way depends upon our understanding and really believing the promises of God.  When life doesn’t make sense and circumstances are pressing in against us, tempting us to doubt and unbelief, we must stand firm on the truthfulness of God’s Word and the character of God.

As a response today you might ask yourself some questions.  First, what is God saying to me right now?  Is He bringing a word of comfort or a word of challenge?  Am I allowing the Word of God to be the final authority in every area of my life?  Or only those areas that are comfortable for me?  Second, what is calling me to do about what He is saying to me? What specific actions do I need to take in order to walk in obedience to His revealed will?  To do nothing invites a hardening of our hearts that will ultimately undo us spiritually.

As people we want our lives to count for something, that in the end we would know that we had made a difference with the life that we lived.  As our culture continues its drift into increasing levels of lawlessness and rebellion it is our opportunity to make a difference.  To take a stand in a graceful way and declare both the errors of the general culture but more importantly the goodness of God that will lead people to repentance.  It is a high calling to be salt and light in a world that walks in darkness.  Are you standing on the promises of God?  

Beginning Sunday morning November 16 at 9:30 am in the Heritage Sanctuary I will begin a four week study on the Bible.  We will be looking at issues like, where did the Bible come from? Can I really trust the Bible?  Why should I listen to what the Bible says about anything?  How do I make any sense of the Bible and more importantly make application to my life?  If you struggle to know what to do or what to say about many of life’s challenges this will be a great opportunity for you.  Hope to see you there.