Friday, January 24, 2014

The Best "Present"


Josh Hunt offers this -- A man wanders into a small antique shop in San Francisco. Mostly it's cluttered with knickknacks and junk. On the floor, however, he notices what looks like an ancient Chinese vase. On closer inspection it turns out to be a priceless relic from the Ming dynasty whose value is beyond calculating. It is worth everything else in the store put together. The owner clearly has no idea about the value of this possession, because it's filled with milk and the cat's drinking out of it. The man sees an opportunity for the deal of a lifetime. He cleverly plans a strategy to obtain the vase for a fraction of its worth. "That's an extraordinary cat you have," he says to the owner. "How much would you sell her for?" "Oh, the cat's not really for sale," said the owner. "She keeps the store free of mice." "I really must have her," the man countered. "Tell you what--I'll give you a hundred dollars for her." "She's not really worth it," laughed the owner, "but if you want her that badly, she's yours." "I need something to feed her from as well," continued the man. "Let me throw in another ten dollars for that saucer she's drinking out of." "Oh, I could never do that. That saucer is actually an ancient Chinese vase from the Ming dynasty. It is my prized possession, whose worth is beyond calculation. Funny thing, though; since we've had it, I've sold seventeen cats."

Perspective. What we have in the message of God found in the Word of God is as priceless as the vase, but often times, it is treated more like a cat’s saucer. We have a great responsibility to truly know the message of Jesus Christ…the item of great value that is found in God’s Word…and make it our own, and yet, it is often the last thing that we want to do. This is what Paul shares with Timothy, his child in the faith – the Word of God should be our rule for life and godliness! (2 Timothy 2:14-16)

“Present yourself to God…” This is the best “present” that we could ever receive…and in this case, it is one that we give. It is a humbling challenging statement, but it is one that we must take seriously. Paul describes how this is supposed to take place. Just as a good carpenter approaches a building project by carefully laying out plans in order to do good work…so, Paul challenges God’s people to lay to plans for their spiritual lives. The Lord wants His people to carefully consider His instruction manual for life in order to do good work and find fulfillment. If a carpenter is careful and resourceful, he can make a good house that is square and on a firm foundation. If we who are in Christ stand squarely on the Word of God, seeking His will, then our lives likewise will make sense. So, it is with this in mind that we come to understand that some people in Ephesus, where Timothy is located, would appear to be struggling with these concepts. We learn from Jesus in John’s Revelation that Ephesus is a church that has its priorities out of order – they have forgotten their “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5). Some of them are arguing about words, which is a waste of time and in which there is no profit. Paul tells them (and is something that we can learn from) that quarreling leads to the ruin of hearers, particularly visitors and new believers – it is very damaging. These believers are being distracted from spending time doing those things that really mattered...honestly studying God’s Word and sharing it with others.

Respect for the authority of the Word of God is the foundation for all that we believe and do. Whether we take this seriously, or not, greatly impacts our relationship with the Lord and His people. To understand this principle, is not as easy as it might seem. Jesus, Paul and others dealt with many people in their day who would claim to know God, believe in God and be experts in the Word of God…above all else. But, it is not so much our knowledge, as it is how we learn from and apply that knowledge – this becomes wisdom for us. Paul wants Timothy to understand that Christianity is about genuinely seeking God…drawing near to Him in order for us to grow in wisdom and understanding. It is not about seeking my parents’ or friends’ ideas about God, not even being captivated by my own presuppositions or thoughts about God, but personally pursuing a relationship with Him from day to day.

We need to be willing to diligently study God’s Word regularly. This is more than a simple reading of the Word, but we must be willing to “dig in” to understand contexts, purposes and make appropriate applications. The Word is not just some dead letter or history book, it is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12). I can’t fully explain the spiritual impact of reading and studying the Word, but I know that it certainly does impact us. What I do know is that if we submit to God’s Spirit to help us in our understanding of the Word of God, we will not be puffed up or self-righteous, but we will experience Christian unity, spiritual growth (Ephesians 6:17). There is no substitute for diligence. This requires that we do some good, honest work studying the Word…being good students.

George Muller from A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings says this -- it is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. The truth is that…in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying…

Our commitment to the Word of God is directly reflected, not only in our commitment to the Lord, but also His body, the church! And this is precisely why we must be diligent, why we must commit ourselves to the Word, and to the will of God. Remember, the Word of God is “living and active”…it is a spiritual teacher and trainer. Like the priceless vase, we do not want to be ignorant of owning such a precious thing as the message of God and be paying little attention to it. We will grow stale if we are not “continually being renewed day by day!” We need to be continually transformed by the Spirit through the Word!

Writing about God's sure guidance, British pastor Frank W. Boreham recounted a time when a minister visited his home in New Zealand. Being young and inexperienced, Boreham sought the counsel of his guest. He said that one morning they were sitting, looking out over the golden plains to the purple sunlit mountains. He asked the minister, "Can a man be sure that in the hour of perplexity he will be rightly led by God? Can he feel secure against making a false step?" "I am certain of it," exclaimed the minister, "if he will but give God time! As long as you live, remember that. Give God time!" From Tim LaHaye, How to Study the Bible for Yourself, Harvest House, pp. 95-96.

Blessings, Don

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