Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What gives life meaning to you?

Right now I am reading through Ecclesiastes, and it’s riveting! The author examines the utter futility and folly of living for oneself and hoarding riches. What’s the point in chasing after that which is but for a short time? Naked we came into the world and naked we will leave.
The key word in Ecclesiastes is vanity, which is defined as “the futile emptiness of trying to be happy apart from God.” The author looks at life “under the sun,” and from the human perspective declares it to be empty. Power, popularity, prestige, pleasure—nothing can fill the God-shaped void in human life except God himself, the author of all life!
A word of caution here: you absolutely must read this book in light of the future judgment and eternal life in Christ, and you should read it in one sitting. To read this short book in bits or apart from our assurance in Christ may leave you in despair, for it contains passages written solely from a human point of view, such as, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless” (3:19).
You need to keep reading to find out that once God enters a believer’s life, everything you do “under the sun” takes on meaning and purpose, from work, to relationships to play to worship. And when that happens, skepticism and despair melt away.
Listen to the author’s conclusion: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Why Must We Participate in Church?

To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.
-Martin Luther

Will you show up for an Easter worship service this year out of guilt, childhood habit, or is it your weekly routine? I am often asked on the Bible Answer Man broadcast, “Why should I attend church services?” More to the point: “Why join a church?” Today, I want to explain the importance of committing to and joining with a local church.

Let me clarify: joining a church should not be approached as an obligation or duty, such as registering to vote, supporting the public library, or taking the trash out. No, joining a local church should be considered a great joy and sacred privilege.

Let’s consider why.

First, throughout the Bible, we see that the believer’s life is to be lived within the context of a family of faith (Ephesians 3:4–15; Acts 2). Indeed the Bible knows nothing about lone-ranger or “closet” Christians! Far from being born again as rugged individuals, we are born into a body of believers of which Christ is the head. A friend of mine aptly remarked, “When we are born again, we are born into a ‘forever family.’”

Furthermore, spiritual growth is impossible apart from membership and participation in a healthy, well-balanced church. It is in the church that we weekly receive the Word and sacraments as means of grace. Recall the early Christians who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Moreover, belonging to a body of believers also allows for accountability. The Bible requires that believers respectfully call attention to patterns of persistent, sinful behavior on the part of a member (Matthew 18:15–17).

Finally, while it is in the church that we enter into worship, experience the fellowship of believers, and become equipped to witness, church membership itself does not save us. No, we are rescued from God’s wrath, forgiven of all our sins, and declared positionally righteous before God solely by grace, through faith, on account of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:17; 3:21–4:8; Ephesians 2:8–9).

Monday, March 1, 2010

Triumph out of Tragedy

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth!—Job 19:25

Are you with me in the Legacy Reading Plan? We wrap up the “Winter” Season by reading three books in March: Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. We’ll return to Joshua at the edge of the Promised Land in April!

Read this familiar verse again with me: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth!” In the midst of great personal pain and suffering, Job cried out with astonishing words of hope. Would you or I be able to do the same?

In brief, the book of Job tells the story of a man who loses everything—his precious family, his great wealth, and even his health are compromised. Through these many trials, Job wrestles with the question, “Why?” Or more accurately, “Why me?”

Job’s story opens with a heavenly debate between God and Satan, in which God grants Satan limited access to affect Job’s life and then moves through three cycles of earthly debates between Job and his friends. While Job’s friends and comforters actually accuse him of sin, and though Job himself finds himself doubting God, he maintains his faith through his ordeals. And at the conclusion of the story, Job humbly acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all of life.

The lesson here for us is profound, for the solution to our disappointments in this life is not found in asking the question, “Why?” It is found in trusting God in the midst of our whys. In other words, God does not protect us from difficulties, but He promises to see us through them, providing the needed strength as we rest and trust in Him.