The Bible makes Abram’s faith the model for us all. (See, for example, Ro 4; Gal 3; Heb 11; Jas 2.) The surprising thing is that Abram never saw a Bible, had no church, possessed no creed, took no sacrament, heard not even one of the Ten Commandments and perhaps knew little about life after death.
Yet Abram’s faith shows us what really matters. He heard the voice of God and dared to simply believe he could trust him when he spoke. He risked his life, his security, his reputation, his future and even his son on the word that came from the God whom he could not see but in whom he believed. Can there be anything better to demonstrate that it is by faith, and faith alone, that we are saved?
We now have the Bible, the church, the creeds, the sacraments and the Ten Commandments. But God still looks for the basics—God still looks for hearts that will risk all to trust in him.
Every Christian should have a strong desire to be with Christ, but also a desire to build his church. If the Lord told me, “You have five minutes to choose between being in heaven or staying on earth,” it would be difficult for me to make that decision. And I would like to be sure that I am deciding for the right reasons. I would have to ask myself: can I glorify Christ more in heaven or on earth?
Pablo considered it a difficult decision. However, most people would choose to stay on land. When asked why, almost all of them would give some selfish reason, such as “We are buying a new house” or “I don’t want to leave my children.” Nothing was more important to Paul than glorifying Christ. When faced with the most essential issues in life, whether it was better to live or die, his response was: “I want to glorify Christ in heaven or on earth. If I am given a choice, I cannot choose.” Since glorifying Christ was Paul’s motivation, the problem was not where he glorified Christ. That should be so for you too.
When Jesus walked this earth, a vast multitude followed Him. They came for all sorts of reasons—some noble, some selfish. The same is true today. It’s important that we understand what motivates people to come to Christ, because not all who seek Him are really His followers. In fact, we each need to analyze our own walk with the Lord: What do we want from Him? How committed are we to being His disciples?
Many of the people who followed Jesus did so because they had urgent needs that He alone could meet. Everywhere He went, the sick and demon-possessed were brought to Him—this is one of the ways that God draws us to Himself. Those who can solve all their own problems never need a Savior.
Other folks came for sensationalism. They wanted to see the signs and miracles and feel a thrill of excitement. Today some people come to church or conferences to get pumped up, but mountaintop experiences are always followed by valleys. When hardships or challenges come, such people are quick to abandon the Lord.
But Jesus’ disciples followed Him because they genuinely believed He was the Messiah, the very Son of God (Matt. 16:16). Their commitment went beyond emotions or needs. They wanted to know Christ and walk closely with Him.
Are you more interested in what Jesus can do for you than in just being with Him? Do you find it hard to stay committed without an emotional experience to sustain you? Our physical and emotional needs can draw us to the Lord, but they should never be the foundation for our walk with Him.
For more biblical teaching and resources from Dr. Charles Stanley, please visit www.intouch.org.
Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
God’s goodness is experienced by all creation, and everyone who has ever lived has personally benefited from the grace of God in numerous ways. In Psalm 33:5b the psalmist wrote, “The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.”
Matthew 5:45 tells us that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Theologians refer to this as God’scommongrace. One author described it this way: “He gives both the righteous and the unrighteous food to eat, a fire to keep warm, water to quench thirst. He gives us all blue sky, a warm sun, green grass, and beautiful mountains.”
If you were God, things would be very different, wouldn’t they? If your neighbor ridiculed you for going to church, you would cause rain to fall on every lawn except his. In fact, you might even strike his yard with lightning and destroy his lawn altogether! But God doesn’t do that. Your neighbor’s lawn might look better than yours, or his kids seem healthier than yours, or his promotions come faster than yours, and his appliances last longer than yours!
God allows unbelievers to experience relationships that bring love and happiness. He gives them the thrill of excitement over the birth of a child, or the accomplishment of a life-long project. He gives them a sense of personal worth and an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong. Unbelievers can paint, sing, create, innovate; write symphonies, build skyscrapers, invent medical cures, design computer programs.
Sadly, David lamented in Psalm 107:8, “Oh, that men would praise the LORD for His lovingkindness.” But they don’t do that, do they?
They ignore His goodness and take it for granted. As Romans 1:21 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Yet God continues to pour out his lovingkindness even on those who will not acknowledge Him, nor give thanks to Him.
Did you know that we are to do the same? As Christ’s ambassadors in this world, we are to show the same love and goodness to our enemies as God shows to us. Romans 5:7-8 declares, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, we are not to wish for the destruction of unbelievers, but rather to pray for their salvation. We are not to think hateful thoughts of them and condemn them in our minds, but rather forgive them for any grievance against us, and show them the love of Christ.
Loving our enemies is not an easy task, but it is what God did for us. If we are to be Christ’s representatives in the world, we must learn to show “common grace” as He does . . . to all men.
Prayer Point: Pray that God will give you a merciful and gracious spirit toward unbelievers, rather than a prideful and domineering spirit which constantly says, “Look, I’m better than you.” Thank God for loving you while you were still an enemy and a sinner, giving you an example of how you are to love others.