Saturday, January 31, 2015

They are antichrist - 1 John 2:18-19

"Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:18-19)
John is remembering the works of his Lord, "And then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ'; or, 'Behold, He is there'; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance." (Mark 13:21-23) Jesus warned us that, through out time, there will be those who claim to be Him, complete with their own prophets to give testimony to the false Christ. However, we are not to be dissuaded from our firm believe and faith in Christ, Christ has come, He had delivered His message, the message taught to us by His apostles, and he will return one day in a way that all will know and all will see. Christ has come, there is no need for us to look for or to expect another.

What I find interesting is that John is the only apostolic writer to use the term "antichrist" which means, "opposite of Christ" or to "oppose Christ".  Often we, or at least I, think of the antichrist as some end-time prophetic figure, and in truth he is. But John also reminds us that antichrist is a spirit that has already invaded the world and has already made itself know through those who have received this spirit. Specifically, John is speaking of those who, "do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh." (2 John 7) In John's day, several men had gone out with a message that struck at the heart of both the divinity and humanity of Jesus. Men like Marcion, Simon, and Valentinus. Many of them made a distinction between Jesus the man and Jesus being God, separating Christ into two distinct persons. Thus they either made Jesus a super human who was yet not quite divine or a super God who was in no way united with the humanity which He came to save. These men spoke a message that was opposite to that of Christ and they also opposed the will, purpose, and work of Christ upon the Earth.

Many of these heretics got their start in the church. For example, in the case of Simon, when the Apostles went to Samaria to lay hands on the disciples that they might receive the Holy Spirit, Simon was already there, observing what the Apostles were doing and saying. "Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, 'Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'" (Acts 8:18-19) However, he was turned away by Peter, saying, "May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God." (Acts 8:20-21) This Simon would leave the church and become the leader of a destructive heresy know and the Simonites.

John is not saying that all who leave our churches are antichrist and that they are bringing upon themselves the destruction that they justly deserve. There are many reasons people leave the church and its not always the person who leaves who is in the wrong, if there is wrong to be had. However, he is saying that we should not be surprised when heresies arise and are apparently "birthed" out of the church, for even in the church the spirit of Antichrist can reside, for a time, until it is made manifest in the lives of those who embrace its error. There will be those who leave to appose the church and the message and work of Christ. However, we are not to be alarmed, confused, distracted, or deceived. Jesus has warned us that these things should happen but that we should continue in our devotion to Jesus and to His Church. We must remember the words of Jesus, "So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,' do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matt 24:26-27) Let us remain steadfast and not be distracted by those who would seek to oppose Christ.

David Robison

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Loving the world - 1 John 2:15-17

"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17)
There are several words in the Greek language that are translated into English as "Love." Chief among them is the word agape and its verb form agapao. This word is used almost exclusively in the New Testament writings of God's love for us and our love for one another. So it is interesting that John would use the same word here when he speaks of those who agapao the world. While in the scriptures, this word is used for divine love, in other ancient Greek texts this word also speaks of devoted love between a husband and a wife, for general affection, and for a disposition of good will towards some by way of preference.

John is warning us against an unnatural attachment to the world. These qualities of agape (devotion, affection, and preference) belong solely to God. We are to "love [agapao] the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all thy mind." (Matthew 22:37) rather than the world. When we agapao the world rather than God, we steal the affections due to Him and give them to another who is unworthy of them and unable to reward them with eternal felicity and life. Our devotion, affections, and preference belong first to God, not to the world.

John speaks of three ways temptation enters our soul: the lust of the flesh, the list of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. It is interesting to note that all three of these were present in the garden when Adam and Eve sinned. "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." (Genesis 3:6) She saw that it was good for food (the lust of the flesh), it was appealing to the behold (the lust of the eye), and it could make here wise (the pride of life). These three things combined to produce agape in her heart for the fruit and she reached out and took it to her shame and condemnation. As believers we must discipline our flesh, attractions, and pride so that we might withstand the allurements of this world and that our agape may remain intact and secure in God.

This world is not eternal. It is growing old and passing away. Each day the world, and its present system, decays a bit more. The work of sin is in full force in this life, working its death and destruction, not only in the lives of people, but in the very creation around us. Speaking of this creation, Paul writes, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." (Romans 8:20-22

One day, all we see will be done away with; the end will come to all. This world and all that we lust for in it will one day be destroyed and replaced with a new heaven and a new earth. Why should we give our agape to that which is already passing away? Why should we give our love to that which is temporary? Why should we pursue what we cannot posses for eternity? Why live life for that which, in the end, does not really matter? It's time to turn our devotion and affections elsewhere. It's time to "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." (Colossians 3:2) It's time to love that which is truly worthy of being loved.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Our progression in God - 1 John 2:12-14

"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name's sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 John 2:12-14)
I believe that John is describing our grow in God; growing form children, to young men and women, and finally to full grown fathers and mothers. John describes our starting point, our goal, and the intermediate step to reaching our goal. Here are the three stages of Christian life John describes.

Children. The state of being a child is characterized by our introduction to the Father. Through one means or another, we come to hear about the love of God and the forgiveness He offers us. In coming to God, we see Him as, not a demanding and exacting God, but a loving and forgiving Father. Our response in faith to Him secures for us our forgiveness and makes us children of God. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12) Though we were children of the world, we have now become born again as children of God.

Young Men and Women. As we continue to grow in God, the Word of God finds place and root in our lives. This is not only the Word of God who is Jesus but also the written word of God which records His words and deeds. The word of God strengthens us and teaches us to overcome the evil one. This is both our enemy in the world, the Devil, and also the passions and lusts that wage war within us. The Word of God empowers us and emboldens us to say "No!" to sin and "Yes" to God. We learn to live free from sin as slaves of righteousness. Our inner man becomes the master of our flesh rather than our flesh dictating to our inner man. Though we were once disciples of the world, we are now disciples of Christ.

Fathers and Mothers. In the end, the goal is to know and love God; not as some impersonal force or guiding idea, but as the one who always existed, the one who created us, and the one who will ever love us. As our love for God deepens, our obedience shifts from that which is born out of reason and instruction to that which is born out of love and obedience. We come to a place where we have been transformed through the knowledge of God in the renewing of our mind. We have come to understand a wisdom that is hidden from the world and the immature. We see the world through God's perspective and it colors all we do, think, and feel. Where we once loved the world and all it held for us, we now love God and are content with His will and portion for our lives.

There are two main errors we commit in regards to these stages of Christian growth. One is we fail to progress. We are content with salvation but indisposed to discipline our lives. Many are settled in churches where they hear a salvation message each week but never an appeal for discipleship. Many of these truly love the Father but have never come to know the Instructor. The second error is that we try and skip steps. We want to go from salvation to maturity without the process of maturity. Some proclaim an intimacy with God who have never experienced the discipline of the Word in their lives. They are content with emotions but disdain the hard work for maturation.

God has a plan for our lives from beginning to end. Let us rejoice in the journey as we progress step to step, stage to stage, and knowing to knowing.

David Robison

Monday, January 26, 2015

The darkness of hate - 1 John 2:7-11

"Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard. On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." (1 John 2:7-11)
We are never without the message of God. Even creation itself speaks forth His message. David reminds us, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4 NIV) God's word is always around us, speaking to us, telling us of the greatness of God. Along with creation, we also have His written word contained in stories of long ago and prophesies of times to come. As we journey deeper and deeper into Jesus, we discover not newer revelations but rather clearer understanding of what has been said and shown before. As we live with Christ, we look not for something new but for an understanding of something old. God never changes, but our understanding and acknowledgement of Him grow as we grow in Him. Jesus' light has shined within us, and this light illuminates the word of God and gives life to us through a greater understanding of God, His will, and His word.

If light is understanding, then darkness is its opposite. If understanding brings life, then darkness only death. God is a god of love and love bring to us the light of understanding. However, darkness has nothing in common with God and it darkens our understanding and obscures our way. When we hate those around us, our hatred crowds our the love of God in our minds and displaces the light of God with the darkness of self-love. We cannot hate and claim enlightenment; we cannot hate and claim the knowledge of God nor the love of God perfected within us. We are either full of light and love or of darkness and hate.

Hatred is as a cloud that darkens our understanding. While we might still conciser ourselves keen and sharp, our hatred has blinded us and has deceived us; telling us we see and know when in reality we have become blind and ignorant. Hatred causes us to do and say things we would would normally not do. Hatred causes us to turn from our normal course of life to lead us down a path whose end we do not perceive. Hatred darkens our mind and our understanding and causes us to stumble in the way.

We must break free from our deception; that we can hate and still successfully navigate through life. Hatred will lead to death and only the love of God can restore us to the right way. We must proceed no further towards destruction. Rather we must stop and repent that the darkness may be taken away and that we might see the path of light clearly and to rejoin Christ along His way.

David Robison

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The proof of knowledge - 1 John 2:3-6

"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked." (1 John 2:3-6)
The is a vast difference between what one professes and what one truly possesses. A man's value and the quality of his life is not calculated based on what he professes to be but rather by what his life demonstrates him to be in reality. If a man professes to be a Christian yet lives like the condemned, his profession is worthless and serves only to deceive himself for his life shows forth who he truly is indeed. To possess truth is to possess it in a way that makes a difference in our lives; to possess it in a way that makes a tangible, qualitative, and demonstrable difference in the way we act, speak, and relate to others. If we say that we have the truth of God living within us then we must be able, in some way, to demonstrate the reality of that truth through our life. To say you have the truth of God yet fail to show any change or conformance to the truth is a lie and contrary to the very truth you claim to have.

John is challenging us to judge our words by our lives. God spoke to Israel saying, "Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know Me?" (Jeremiah 22:15-16) God asks, "Is this not what it means to know Me?" The evidence of the knowledge of God He is speaking of is the imitation of God. Their testimony to their knowledge of God was that they did the things that God did. They cared for the afflicted and needy and worked justice and righteousness; all things that God did and is still doing. Their knowledge of God made them godlike and converted their former behavior to be in conformance with the behavior and nature of God. To claim the knowledge of God and yet to resist its transformative powers to be conformed into His image is to lie against the truth and to deny our need to know Him in a real and vital way.

The love of God has a mission in our life.The Greek word for "perfected" means to mature, perfect, or to reach one's goal. It contains the same root word as we use for our word "telescope." It refers to a distant goal or mark that one aims for, and then reaches or obtains. The love of God has a goal in our life and its aim is that we should obtain that goal. To be perfected in love is to obtain the goal for which it was sent, and the goal of love is our conformance to the nature and behavior of God. Paul wrote, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified." (Romans 8:29-30) The love of God predestined us to be conformed to His image and likeness, and then the love of God worked in our lives to accomplish that goal with the hope that, when perfected, we should be like Him in every way. The love of God did not come to give us a warm feeling but to change us into something new. It is not enough to feel loved but we must allow ourselves to be loved, to the point where that love actually changes us into something lovely, into the very image of God's Son.

David Robison

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The goal of sinlessness - 1 John 2:1-2

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." (1 John 2:1-2)
Sinlessness is within our grasp! Prior to Jesus, sin had dominion over us and we were slaves to its will. We were given to sin in obedience to it and, by it, handed over to death. Jesus came to set us free from our bondage to sin, to give us the power to say "No!" to sin, and by our freedom from sin to find new life with God in Christ Jesus. Paul put it this way, "You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Romans 6:16-18) Previously, we couldn't help but sin, now we have the freedom to chose righteousness. Previously, righteousness was impossible, now sinlessness is possible. For those struggling in sin, this is great news!.

However, achieving sinlessness is a process and it doesn't happen in a day. Along the way we will all stumble and fall many times, but, by the grace and power of God, we will learn to stumble less and to rise up after falling in a shorter period of time. Through all this, we have Jesus to help us. The Greek word for "advocate" can also mean a layer; one who pleads the case of one before another. When we do sin, Jesus advocates for us before the Father, securing our forgiveness and continued acceptance and right standing before God. He can do this because He alone is righteous and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins. The word "propitiation" simply means to atone, appease, or to satisfy the requirements of judgment. Jesus paid the price for our sins so He is worthy and able to plead our forgiveness before the Father. His life was the full payment for the full penalty of our sins and His propitiation leaves us righteous before God. His righteous life and sacrificial death covers all sin and guilt in our lives.

In the Jewish Tabernacle there was the Arc of the Covenant and above it, where the glory of God rested, was what was called the "Mercy Seat". The writer of Hebrews describes it as, "the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron's rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat." (Hebrews 9:3-5) The term "Mercy Seat" could as easily be translated as "the place of propitiation." Jesus is our mercy seat, the place where the glory of God rests and where His mercy triumphs over judgment. Inside the arc is, among other things, the law contained in ten commandments, but over the arc is the mercy seat where mercy and forgiveness reign. The law stands to judge us but Jesus sits to show us mercy and forgiveness.

The goal is sinlessness and the process is towards sinlessness, but along the way we will all stumble and fall. In times like these we must not be discouraged nor fear the face of God. Rather we must see Him sitting on His Mercy Seat, ready to forgo judgment in favor of mercy and forgiveness. For all who chose to draw near to Him, they shall find Him full of mercy, lovingkindness , and acceptance.

David Robison

Thursday, January 22, 2015

New commentary on the book of James

I have compiled my posts on the letter of James to the dispersion, edited it, and made it available in a downloadable format on the Commentary tab on my blog. I hope you enjoy this commentary.

David Robison

All have sinned - 1 John 1:8-10

"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:8-10)
The Gospel is not about ferreting out who has sinned and who has not, for all have sinned. Jesus did not come to "check us out," or to give us a "sin test" to see who was naughty and who was nice. He already knew and the verdict is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) The Gospel came not to judge us but to provide a way to forgive us.

The one malady common to the whole human race is sin. We may be rich or we may be poor, we may be great or we may be base, either way, not matter who or what we are, we are all sinners. Sin unites us all in common brotherhood and a common need for forgiveness and salvation. We are all sinners.

This understanding, and the acknowledgment of its truth, are the first steps towards reconciliation with God. Until we acknowledge our sin, we cannot even begin our journey towards salvation. Jesus often ran into the religious elite of His day who, although knowing the law, still believed themselves to be righteous according to the law. They refused to believe that they too were sinners like the rest, but Jesus told them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains." (John 9:41) Their inability, or unwillingness, to acknowledge their sin disqualified them from the grace and forgiveness Jesus had come to bring. We cannot side step the issue of sin, we cannot wink at it and ignore it as if it isn't all that bad. We must face it head on and acknowledge it and our need for help in expunging ourselves from its stain. Only then are we ready to face our maker and our savior.

When our first ancestors sinned, God asked them this question, "What is this you have done?" (Genesis 3:13) He did not ask them to shame them or to condemn them, but He was offering them an opportunity to be forgiven. He is ever standing ready to forgive us of our sin if we will but confess it to Him. David knew this and said, "I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord'; and You forgave the guilt of my sin." (Psalm 32:5) Jesus is not only faithful to forgive us of our sins, but He is also just in forgiving us of our sins. Paul says, "This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-26) Jesus is both the just and the justifier of our sins.

Moreover, He not only forgives us but also cleanses us from our sins. There was forgiveness in the Old Testament, but it was a forgiveness that still left a stain. "'Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,' declares the Lord God" (Jeremiah 2:22) They were forgiven but the filth of their hearts remained. However, when we are forgiven by Jesus, He proceeds to cleanse the filth from our hearts and from our souls. He not only remits our sins, but begins a process of removing them from our lives. This process is called sanctification and is one that continually brings us closer in agreement to His nature and image. What glorious news that, not only can we now be forgiven, but our sin and the evil that lurks with in us can be washed away by the precious blood of the Lamb.

David Robison

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

God is light - 1 John 1:5-7

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:5-7)
This was a profound statement for his day, that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. This was not true of the Greek and Roman gods. In there gods there was a lot of darkness. They were not adverse to immorality, outbursts of anger, jealousy, pettiness, and revenge. Their gods committed incest, rape, and lewdness of all kinds. They were moody and easily offended. They also contended one with another for power, position, and erotic affection. To say that they were light would be to slander all that is understood to be good about light. To these people, John was proclaiming a god that was so much higher, in every way, than the gods they knew. Our God is not to be compared to their myriad of gods. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9)

Ours is the one true and good God who is kind and beneficial to all. The people of John's day sought to appease their gods so that they might not act in a malevolent way towards them. You never knew what mood they would be in and when they would bless and when they would curse. However, our God bent low to tell us of His love for us. He is always light, He is always love, and He is always good. We need not fear our God in the same way the Greeks and Romans feared their gods for the nature and character of our God is always the same; it is always light. We have no need to appease our God for He is already gracious towards us. It is merely left for us to receive His love and goodness into our lives.

If God is light, and we are children of our God, then we ought to also be children of light. To call upon God as our Father necessitates us to expel every residue of darkness that remains in our lives. We cannot claim light and walk in darkness at the same time. Those who do lie against the truth and show forth a contradictory message to the world; a message of light in Christ yet darkness in action. To the degree that darkness remains withing us, to the same degree we have not yet been conformed to the truth. To claim otherwise is a lie and a self deception that darkens our whole heart. Jesus said, "If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Matthew 6:23)

The key to walking in fellowship with God and with each other is to walk in the light. This does not mean that we must be perfect or must have already been made complete and whole, but we must be honest about who and what we are and we must be willing to bring our "stuff" into the light and to let the light of God shine in the dark areas of our lives. It's like having a cluttered garage whose doors we keep shut because we are ashamed at what is inside. We need to open wide the doors and let the sun shine in. We must become honest about our need to clean our garage and not be ashamed about our need or worry about what God will think because he knows already. Those who walk in darkness, who try to hide their sin and their need, separate themselves from God and others, from the very people who love them and are willing to help them. When facing our sin we often think, "I can do this myself." yet that is the wrong tack to take. Bring it to the light and let God and those who love us help us to walk in the truth so that we might be set free. Sin hidden is death to us. As David said, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long." (Psalms 32:3) Yet sin brought into the light is forgiveness, healing, and life.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The manifestation of life - 1 John 1:1-4

"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life —  and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us —  what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." (1 John 1:1-4)
Some have asked how we can trust and believe in a book that is almost two thousand years old, yet its not the book we trust in but its message; it is its message that gives hope to our lives and in which we trust and believe. It is a message of the Christ who came and lived among us and it is related to us, not secondhandedly, but by those who actually heard Christ and lived with Him and walked with Him. Their message is their first hand experience with Jesus and their message is the things He taught them personally and expressly. Our faith rests not in some ancient text or manuscript but in the words of those Apostles, chosen by God, to personally witness and report what they heard, saw, and learned. They are the apostles of our faith; they are the ones God entrusted with His message; they are the ones who heard and knew Jesus as He lived among us. Our faith is solid because we count them and their testimony true and reliable. Among these apostles was John.

John's message was a message of life, not ordinary life, but life eternal, full of grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. This life, and its knowledge, was hidden with the Father yet, at the proper time, was revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not come to communicate to us some new religion or to impart some new philosophy, rather He came to impart to us life and to show us the path to eternal life with the Father. At the heart of the teaching of Christ is the teaching of life. What we believe and what we teach are judged by the measure to which they reveal eternal life with God. By this I do not mean just the message of salvation. Rather, does our life and teaching reflect the true nature of this eternal life or does it obscure the message of Christ and lead us back into death and the bondages of this life? When people watch what we do and hear what we say, do they see and hear a message of life or a message of decay and death? John lived this life and his teachings reveal this life to us.

There is no fellowship in doctrine but there is fellowship in revelation. John had a revelation of life and this revelation brought him into fellowship with the Father and His Son. John's goal in his teaching was that others might understand the revelation and that together, John with those who had likewise received the revelation, might together have fellowship with the Father and with Christ. Some Christians find fellowship in identity, they all belong to the same denomination and their identity and fellowship is bound by their common association. Others find fellowship in common beliefs or in their common affinity to certain teachers or christian persuasions. And others find fellowship in their common fear, fear of punishment should they in anyway depart or stay from the tenants and demands of their religion. However, these are all week bonds that are easily broken by offense, persecution, and time itself. The bond that joins us all as believers and that makes us brothers and sisters is our common revelation of the life Jesus came to bring us. This commonality, that we are all partakers of a common life in Christ, is strong enough to bind us together in fellowship and to preserve our fellowship through whatever may come.

John's joy was in seeing others come to the same revelation he had and to see them enter with him into the same fellowship with the Father and the Son. Love always seeks to expand, to increase its circle of communion, to continually bring more and varying ones into fellowship with itself. John's teachings were not for his own benefit but that others might benefit and come to know the life Jesus came to reveal. His joy was not found in some satisfaction this life could provide but in seeing others find satisfaction, peace, and Joy in God. John does not speak of "my joy" or "your joy" but "our joy." The joy we have in God is communal and increases, not only as more individuals find joy in God, but as we together grow together and find joy together in God. God's joy is a joy that is not meant to be loved alone but in communion and fellowship with others. Only then can your joy and my joy "be made complete."

David Robison

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Don't judge me - James 5:19-20

"My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20)
James is not talking about a mental or theological straying from the truth but an actual wandering from the right way, from the truth we were called and meant to live. It is a straying in our behavior, actions, and deeds. Sin has a price, and those who serve to revert someone from their way of error back to the way of truth, delivers the erring from death, judgment, and the ravages of sin.

We live in a popular culture that seeks to deflect all judgment from ourselves. We live destructive lives and say to others, "Don't judge me!" Even in the church we are told that it is wrong to judge others and that we should live a lifestyle free from judging, even though Paul asks, "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? ... Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?" (1 Corinthians 6:2-3) We speak of unconditional love as a love that would never judge us for our conditions when, rather, it is a love that continues to love even in spite of one's judgement on our conditions. Unconditional love is able to see the truth in other people and to judge the sin of others and yet continue to treat them lovingly in spite of what they've done or are doing. Love without judgment is worthless. Love requires judgment to be love!

The goal of what James is saying is that we should seek to save and restore those who are lost or who have wandered from the good and right way. The first step in restoring such a one is to judge ourselves. Jesus taught, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." (Luke 6:41-42) Jesus is not saying that we should ignore the speck in our brother's eye but rather that we should first consider our own lives and attend to them first. How can we help free someone from sin if we ourselves are caught in sin? However, if we free ourselves from sin then we will be able to free others from sin as well. I had a friend who was contemplating a corrective word from God and God spoke to him saying, "Before you run anyone through with that sword, make sure you run it through your own heart a couple of times first." We should seek to apply the word of God to our lives first before we try and apply it to the lives of others.

The second step us to judge ourselves. Paul said, "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." (Galatians 6:1) We must judge ourselves not only for our own behavior and sins but also for our proclivities. There is a pride that can creep in when we think we have it together; a pride that can weaken us towards temptation and cause us to fall even while attempting something good. Paul said, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12) When we judge others by saying, "I would never do that!" then we deceive ourselves as to our true nature. Someone once said, "There but for the grace of God go I." This truth we should keep before our eyes while seeking to save others. We are all sinners, we are all susceptible to falling, we are all merely human. Such humility will allow us to help others without endangering ourselves.

The final step is to reach out in the gentleness and love of God. Paul says that, "we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (2 Corinthians 5:20) When we see people who are lost, hurting, or caught in sin, sometimes our instincts are to rush in to help. However, we must stop and realize that what they need is God. They don't need us, our ideas, or our platitudes, rather then need God to intervene in their lives to heal then, set them free, and restore them back to right relationship with God. God wants to reach out and we are but His ambassadors; not proclaiming ourselves but Christ and His message of love. Our goal is not to restore them to us and our view of how their life ought to be lived, but to restore them to God that they may receive His message and find obedience to Him and His will. We must learn what John once said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30)

David Robison

Friday, January 16, 2015

Living before God - James 5:13-18

"Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit." (James 5:13-18)
When you're sad, where do you go for comfort? When you're happy, who do you share it with? When your sick, who do you turn to for help? Most of us life our lives and share our lives with other people, all the while forgetting the God who created us and who cares for us. James is encouraging us that our lives must first be lived before God and our thoughts should first be towards Him above all others. When we are sad, we should first turn towards God and seek His comfort. When we are happy, we should first give thanks to God from whom, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights," (James 1:17) When we are sick, we should first turn to the our heavenly doctor who is able to heal us and save our soul. All these we should do first before turning to each other and seeking help from earthly agents.

In reference to physical healing, James says that we should pray and enlist the help of the elders to anoint us with oil and prayer. However, our dependence should not be on the elders or their prayers, but on the Lord who answers. In asking for prayers from others we must never do so as seeking aid from them but as seeking the aid that comes from God through the prayers of the righteous. Sirach, long before the birth of Christ, put it this way, "My child, when you get sick, don't ignore it. Pray to the Lord, and he will make you well. Confess all your sins and determine that in the future you will live a righteous life. Offer incense and a grain offering, as fine as you can afford. Then call the doctor—for the Lord created him—and keep him at your side; you need him. There are times when you have to depend on his skill. The doctor's prayer is that the Lord will make him able to ease his patients' pain and make them well again." (Sirach 38:9-14 GNT) Seek the Lord first, then enlist the help and aid of others, seeking the help and aid they bring from the Lord.

Above all, our life should be lived in conversation with the Lord; in prayer, rejoicing, and fellowship. Such a life is not left to the pious elite but is available to everyone. The most eminent of prophets, kings, and apostles were men just like us with like passions, temptations, and concerns, yet they found a life of conversation with God; a life lived out in the presence of God. If they can find such a life, we can too, if we look first to Him above all else.

David Robison

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't swear - James 5:12

"But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment." (James 5:12)
My grandmother was called as a witness during a criminal trial. When asked to swear that she would "tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God!" she declined and merely said, "I affirm." One of the lawyers took exception to this, but the judge upheld her right saying that some, because of their religious beliefs against swearing oaths, we allowed to simply affirm that they would tell the truth. They were allowed the right to merely say "yes" or "no." My grandmother was a believer and she would not swear any oath. Her word was sufficient.

The Greek word for oath means to construct an enclosure or to fence one in. It represents a restriction we place upon ourselves in showing others the assuredness of what we promise. However, God does not wish us to be bound by any oath, whether ours or not. Paul wrote, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1) We have need set free for freedom and God does not wish us to bound again, even under sworn oaths.

There was a time when Israel, under King Saul, was pursuing the Philistines. The men pursued hard and Saul put his entire army under an oath, "Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies." (1 Samuel 14:24) Unfortunately, his son Jonathan did not hear his command. As the day wore on, he became hungry. As they pursued the enemy into the forest, there was found honey on the ground and Jonathan, "put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes brightened." (1 Samuel 14:27) Those with him warned him of his father's oath, yet he retorted, "My father has troubled the land. See now, how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey. How much more, if only the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found! For now the slaughter among the Philistines has not been great." (1 Samuel 14:29-30) Latter that night, when God refused to advise Saul on his battle plans, it was discovered what Jonathan had done. Even though he was his son, Saul said, "May God do this to me and more also, for you shall surely die, Jonathan." (1 Samuel 14:44) However, the people interceded for Jonathan and Saul let him live. The story ends with this statement, "Then Saul went up from pursuing the Philistines, and the Philistines went to their own place." (1 Samuel 14:46)

Here are some things we can learn from this story as it relates to swearing and oaths, First, oaths can bind upon us unnecessary hardships God never intended. God had given a great victory to Israel and He never intended that the victory would come at the expense of their health or well-being. The greater the promise often the greater the harshness of the oath. God has set us free, why then do we seek to bind ourselves again by oaths? If we are people of our word then we don't need harshness of oaths as surety to our promises.

Secondly, swearing oaths often leads to dishonoring God. Often, when we swear, we often swear things that are hard or disagreeable; things we never want to do or things we never intend to do. We say, "Lord, if you get me out of this alive, then I will go to church every Sunday!" However, when God does preserve us alive, we forget our promise or only keep it a short while. In the end, our failure to keep our sworn oaths brings dishonor to God and harms our reputation as well. Saul has sworn an oath to God, yet he failed to follow through on it. King Solomon said, "It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay." (Ecclesiastes 5:5)

Finally, when we swear and break our oaths, then people stop listening to us and stop following us. When we break our oaths we loose our authority and our word becomes nothing. Israel was pursuing well, they were fighting well, they were winning the battle, yet when Saul let his oath fall to the ground unfulfilled and the people quit and they all returned to their homes. I have seen this often in families with children. Parents threaten with a promise, "If you do that then I will..." yet they never follow through. Their children learn that their word means nothing and they loose all authority in the home. They rant and rage and no one listens because they know their words are just wind. Far better not to sear or threaten than to do so and not follow through.

David Robison

Monday, January 12, 2015

Don't grumble against another - James 5:9-11

"Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." (James 5:9-11)
James is still speaking in the context of being patient while we wait for both the early and later rains. When our lives are full, we have little time for grumbling, but during the doldrums of summer, our idleness can get us into trouble. We often have great focus and purpose in the flurry of activity that surrounds the beginning and ending of any venture, but the long period of waiting that come in between and the monotony of everyday activity can easily lead us to grumble. This leads to one of my maxims of life: busy people have little time for complaining and grumbling. Unfortunately, many of our churches, at least the ones I have been a part of, are full of idle people... there is no wondering why there is so much grumbling and complaining going on.

Jesus similarly warned us saying,
"Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,' and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 24:45-51)
Monotony and boredom are not our friends and can lead us to behave as we would otherwise not do so. Unfortunately, we can never completely escape from their inevitability. Life is not one big party, nor is our work always interesting and exciting. Sometimes we must simply slug it out as we are waiting for the later rains and the promised harvest of our labors. In the times of seeming unfruitfulness, we must guard our hearts against complaining and grumbling and we must be careful not to to take out our frustration on others.

The key to winning over the doldrums of live is endurance. This Greek word means to "stay under." None of us wants to "stay under" boring times, but that is where we need to be and where the grace of God waits for us to teach us, train us, and mature us in our walk with the Lord. If we keep trying to escape, we will find grumbling and complaining waiting for us, to fill our lives where the work of God ought to have been. Endurance is never easy, that is why they call it endurance, but its fruit is always sweet. "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:10-11)

David Robison

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The patience of farmers - James 5:7-8

"Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near." (James 5:7-8)
We live in an instant society where our every wants and needs can be immediately supplied. We can warm a meal in a microwave in minutes, get drive through service without ever leaving the car, and, in some places, online retailers are offering two hour delivery so we can want, order, and receive all before we ever leave our computers. We have become a society that no longer knows how to wait. We want something and we want it now! The same is true with our need to be active. We have so many things to fill up our time. Few of us can go the day without our iPod, DVD player, or some video game to spend our time on. Being bored and being OK with it is a long lost art. We are the active now generation and we expect our Christianity to be the same.

Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, God is not like us. He is not so much concerned with time as we are. He is not opposed to making us wait when waiting is in our own best interest. The writer of Hebrews spoke of those who went before us saying that we should, "not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6:12) Often, faith is not enough, we must mix patience with our faith.

Many of those to whom James wrote were agrarian in nature. They worked the land and lived off the land and they understood the rhythm and cycles of plating and harvest. The same process and cycles happen in our lives. Jesus spoke a parable of the sowing of seed and the reaping of a harvest. "And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." (Mark 4:20) Many of us have received the word of God into our lives but not all of us bring that word to fruition and bear the fruit of it unto harvest. The problem is not the sowing nor the reaping but the waiting in between.

In many places the scriptures refer to the early and later rains. "Let us now fear the Lord our God, Who gives rain in its season, both the autumn rain and the spring rain, Who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest." (Jeremiah 5:24) The growing cycle, in that part of the world, included planting, the spring rains, the doldrums of summer, the autumn rains, and harvest. It starts out with a flourish and ends with a flourish but there is much time of waiting in between.

The same is true in our live. May times the working of God in our life is the same as that of the farmers in James' day. We start out all excited and we see God moving in every place and at every time. We believe in a bountiful harvest in the end, but when the excitement of it all wears off, we grow weary in waiting, Many people start off well, but when they fail to see immediate fruit from their new belief or their new commitment to God's word and their obedience to it, they give up and fail to wait for the later rains. They sow seeds and expect immediately to pluck fruit, but life is not this way. Often, while sowing good seed, we must still pull up weeds we have sown in the past until the harvest of our new seeds takes hold. Change takes time and the Word of God takes time to bring forth its fruit. In the in between times, between the spring and autumn rains, we must continue in our good works, waiting patiently for the later rains and the promised harvest to come. We must remember and put into practice the words of Paul. "For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6:8-9)

David Robison

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sins of the rich - James 5:4-6

"Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you." (James 5:4-6)
James enumerates three specific sins which the rich commit because of their love of wealth. These sins are not limited to the wealthy, but to all who treasure worldly things in their hearts. When we care more for the things of this life than we do for people and God, then it hardens our heart and changes the way we relate to others. Paul said, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV) It's not money that is the root of all evil, but the love of money and even the poorest of poor can be bound in its snare. James lists three specific sins that are common to those who are in this wise "rich".

First is corruption. I once worked for a man who was a conniver. He thought himself so shrewd with money, He was "cleaver" in the way he out smarted others and tricked them in his dealings with them. He would buy new equipment for them and keep it and then send them our old used equipment. He thought himself a wise businessman, yet, as King Solomon said, "The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding sees through him." (Proverbs 28:11) Such shrewdness is not wisdom but sin! Such corruption in regards to money, turns our heart cold against needs of others. It matters little to us what happens to them, but God hears their cries. We must not defraud each other in the area of money.

Second is luxury. Clement of Alexandria once said, "For it is good for the eyes not to continue always wanton, but to weep and smart sometimes, for greater health. So also nothing is more pernicious to the soul than uninterrupted pleasure." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich Man, Chapter 41) Uninterrupted pleasures subtlety, and steadily, destroys the soul and the rich are more able to secure uninterrupted pleasures than the poor. When we live in luxury, we deprive our soul of the discipline it needs to grow strong and steadfast. The result is that we abound in the work of the flesh rather than in the fruit of the Spirit. Our lives become fattened, but not for glory, rather for destruction. We must remember the words of Paul, "I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified." (1 Corinthians 9:27)

Thirdly is pride. The writer of Hebrews writes of those men and women of faith saying, "They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground." (Hebrews 11:37-38) Our money can make us proud, as if we are the worthy ones; worthy of praise, worthy to be feared, and worthy to command. We expect everyone to bow to our every want and desire while we care nothing for the interests and needs of others. We see ourselves on "top" and everyone else below us. From this position, it is easy to condemn and oppress those who have not risen to the same lofty heights as we have. However, the truth is, that it is not we who are worthy but rather those who are righteous and those whom God has made holy that are worthy. We need a change in our way of thinking and in the measure by which we evaluate the quality and standing of others. Money does not make us great. It is the working of the Holy Spirit that works greatness in us.

David Robison

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Let the rich howl - James 5:1-3

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!" (James 5:1-3)
The rich whom James is talking about here are not those who possesses many possessions but rather those whose many possessions possess them. They are those whose heart is bound to the things of this world and whose life is dedicated to their pursuit. They are those whose treasure is earthly and temporal rather than being heavenly and eternal. They are rich in their possession of worldly wealth yet poor in their possession of God. They are those whom Jesus chided saying, "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37)

The possession of great riches is no sin, but our attitude towards them and our use of them can be. Two men can have equal riches and one sin in regard to his riches while the other honors God with his wealth. Even a poor person may display themselves as being rich in regard to their meager possessions; hoarding what they have and ever lusting after more. The issue is not how much we own, but where our treasure is. Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Our treasures are the things that fill our hearts and bring us delight and joy. They are the objects of our affection and the goal of our pursuits. Our treasures may be physical things, like gold, houses, and cars, but they may also be ethereal things such as power, prestige, and status. Our treasures may be of honorable stock, such as relationships with God and man, or they may be of ignoble birth, such as the love of self and the lusts of the flesh. The truth is that our heart goes after our treasure. Where our treasure is, there will be our heart. Clement of Alexandria once wrote:
"But he who carries his riches in his soul, and instead of God’s Spirit bears in his heart gold or land, and is always acquiring possessions without end, and is perpetually on the outlook for more, bending downwards and fettered in the toils of the world, being earth and destined to depart to earth,—whence can he be able to desire and to mind the kingdom of heaven,—a man who carries not a heart, but land or metal, who must perforce be found in the midst of the objects he has chosen? For where the mind of man is, there is also his treasure." (Clement of Alexandria, Salvation of the Rich, Chapter 17)
The great fear of the rich is the loss of their treasure. If our heart is bent on the things of this world then we will most certainly suffer their loss. We are two thousand years later into the "last days," how much more certain must the end of all things be upon us and the destruction of the world around us? Those whose treasure lie here are destine to howl and morn their loss for the things of this creation are not eternal but rather temporal and passing away. However, those whose treasures are in eternal things shall enjoy them with God for all eternity.  James is not saying that the rich must sell all their possessions and give away all there wealth, rather that they must liberate themselves from their bondage to wealth and possessions. They must empty their hearts of their worldly treasures that they may fill them with heavenly treasures so that, in that day, they may not morn the destruction of this world but rather rejoice with the rest of the saints in their inheritance of eternity.

David Robison

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Do the good we know - James 4:17

"Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17)
Darby translates the beginning of this verse as "To him therefore who knows how to do good..." (James 4:17 Darby) It could also be translated, "To him who sees good to be done..." However, whatever the translation, the exhortation of this scripture is that, if we see or know of good that ought to be done, then we should do it. To fail to do good that is within our grasp to do is sin. Solomon further warns us, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,' when you have it with you." (Proverbs 3:27-28) When we have the power to do good, we should do it readily and promptly.

Sometimes we view right and wrong as a strict system of behaviors, some behaviors being right and others being wrong. However, right and wrong are more often better defined in terms of good and bad. Here, the word translated as "right" literally means "beautiful" as being excellent, pure, praiseworthy, honorable, and good. Sometimes we fret over what is the "right" thing to do when yet the "good" thing to do is instinctively known by us. One may not know the "right" way to treat his wife, but he most probably knows how to be "good" to her (whether he does so or not). To determine what is "right" we must consult some external set of rules to judge our behavior. However, to determine what is "good" we need only to look at the effect of our behaviors in the lives of others. What is "right" can be abstract, but "good" is always practical and tangible.

The "good" thing is not always the "convenient" thing. What is "good" often conflicts with our own personal goals and plans. Doing "good" sometimes conflicts with what we had planned and what we want to do. However, for those who choose "good" over "self", God has promised a blessing. "There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it." (Proverbs 11:24-26) Being generous opens up to us the generosity of God and doing good invites the goodness of God into our lives. Pleasing ourselves may satisfy us in the moment, but pleasing others can reap for us eternal rewards both now and in the future. Jesus said, "make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings." (Luke 16:9)

Let us not so much worry about doing right or wrong and commit ourselves to doing good whenever the opportunity arises. In doing such we will be a blessing to others and will reap the blessing of God in our lives as well.

David Robison

Thursday, January 01, 2015

What is your life? - James 4:13-16

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." (James 4:13-16)
At times I naively believe that it should be straight forward to translate from Greek to English, yet, when I look closer at the Greek, I understand that it is not so. The New King James version translates then ending of verse 14 as, "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14 NKJV) Here is the question, What is your life? When we misjudge this question or equivocate at its answer, then we often run our lives towards vanity and miss the mark God has set for our lives. We can make our plans, but we must make them with full knowledge of who we are and what our life here on Earth really represents, especially when compared with eternity.

The truth is that our lives are fleeting. They may seem unending and, especially in our youth, we may seem invincible, but time is relentless and will quickly consumes our life. We are on this earth for such a short time. David says, "Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; surely they make an uproar for nothing; he amasses riches and does not know who will gather them." (Psalm 39:4-6)

Most of us live life as if it will never end, but it will. We squander time and opportunities, not realizing that many of them will never return and we often don't get a second chance at opportunities that come our way, We must learn to live life on purpose, to recognize the opportunities and to take full advantage of them. Paul counsels us to "See therefore how ye walk carefully, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 Darby) Life is too short to be lived aimless, but in purposing our lives we must remember the Lord and purpose within His will. To live our lives outside His will is to completely waist our lives. We must always remember what He says, "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9) Our plans must always include the Lord.

Our lives are not only brief, but they are also unpredictable. It is man's nature to spend today what should be saved for the uncertainties of tomorrow. None of us know what will happen tomorrow and whether tomorrow will be kind or grievous. Some men hoard what should be given and others spend what should be saved, but both sin by supposing tomorrow to be just as they imagined it.

Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer who built bigger and bigger barns for his record crop that he might achieve financial security for himself. However, "God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:20-21) Jesus also tells the story of ten virgins, five of which spent what they had and didn't make provisions for the future. However, after the bridegroom had delayed in coming, "Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'" (Matthew 25:7-8) One man horded what he never got to enjoy and another enjoyed what he latter wish he had left to use, and both presumed upon the future. We must make our plans and we must prepare for the future, but we must always remember that our future is only secure if we learn to be rich towards God first. Let us learn to give first place to what really matters and to those things that retain eternal value.

David Robison