Abraham Lincoln, in one of his messages to the nation, spoke words of deep concern which have a contemporary ring to them : “We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these things were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own….Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and persevering grace, too proud to pray to the God who made us.”
I have found it amazing that of all the issues being addressed in Washington that affect our nation, the one both Republicans and Democrats agree on is this: Our nation is in serious moral and ethical decline. There was a time, not very long ago, when you couldn’t even get the subject of morals or ethics on the table for discussion, let alone have both parties in agreement on the bottom line. Such is the seriousness of the troubles that fill our streets with drive-by shootings and tax the abilities of our prison system simply to house the criminals we produce. What has gone wrong with our great “experiment in liberty”? Why has the land of the free and the home of the brave become the place of the polluted? Why are people in every city and hamlet from coast to coast afraid to go out alone at night? Mr. Lincoln had the answer to that. But it is more than a moral and ethical problem. As long as we continue to distance ourselves from any tendency toward respect, praise, obedience or commitment to the God who made our experiment in liberty possible, we will all end up becoming the slaves of our own greed, desire and arrogance. If we learn nothing else from the Old Testament, we can at least learn this: any nation that has tried to make a go without God has ended up in the trash heap of history.
We will continue to hear more about morals and ethics from our leaders in Washington. Our hope is that Christians will be welcomed to this ongoing debate. But whether we are or are not listened to we must understand and live out the fact that morals and ethics do don't stand alone. They can only proceed from the Spirit—a life of involvement with the God who made us all.
A pastor once told of being chauffeured to a speaking engagement bya cab driver who had been sent to pick him up. The cabbie gave his testimony and
waxed eloquent about Jesus Christ until the pastor asked him what church he was part of. He replied, “I have church right here in my car. I’ve got preachers on the radio and congregants in the passenger seat.” In other words, he hadn't stepped foot in a church in years. The cabbie’s situation highlights how badly we’ve misunderstood the role of the Christian community in God’s plan for our growth in Jesus Christ. The fact is, you can’t be the kind of Christian you’re meant to be without people. You can’t be the kind of Christian you’re meant to be without real relationships in a local church family.
Much of our growth in holiness comes in the context or relationships. In Ephesians 4 Paul instructs the Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Did you catch that? Paul tells us that walking in a manner worthy of our calling (that is to say, holy living) happens in relationships. God isn’t interested in your growth in patience and gentleness toward yourself! He wants to grow in you a love for others that helps you bear with them. He wants you to love yourself less and love others more.
God’s plan for your life is far bigger than your individual salvation. He has saved you into a people that are his own, people who are eager to do good (Titus 2:14). He has made you a living stone in a spiritual house (I Peter 2:5). He has given each believer gifts of grace for edification of the church body (I Corinthians 12). He has called you to love your enemies and embrace those who are different from you (Ephesians 2:11-22). None of that can happen solely in your car, your office, or your family.
God has given us the gift of other brothers and sisters in the local church, who can spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24). In turn, we have an obligation to do the same for them. We weren’t meant to simply pursue holiness alone in our room. We were meant to grow in holiness together as the body of Christ.
—Adapted from an article by Michael McKinley
Catherine Marshall, in “Touching the Heart of God,” tells about her
friend Marge who was on a plane to Cleveland waiting for takeoff. Looking through the window across the aisle, she saw a brilliant sunset. But out of the window next to her she saw only a dark threatening sky. A gentle voice spoke within her: “You see, it doesn’t matter which window you look through, this plane is still gong to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture, or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark situations to me. ln any case, the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way.”
Isn’t it great that we don’t have to operate by our feelings! God’s promises have nothing to do with feelings. Some days we awaken in a negative mood in which the whole world seems tilted the wrong way. We may even feel as though God Himself has deserted us. We need to understand that He has not recalled His blessings on our lives or cancelled His promises because we don’t happen to feel happy or blessed. The Evil One may play with our minds but he can’t cancel our salvation, cast out God’s presence or expel His Holy Spirit. We must distance ourselves from the godless thinking of this world, so dependent upon subjective impressions and emotional highs. There will always be those among us who see only the dark clouds, who refuse to be cheered by the blessings that abound to them, and will always look as if they have been drinking pickle juice. They are determined to live a life of pessimism even though God gives them every reason to hope, trust and be joyful.
It is significant that the first three fruits of the Spirit-filled life are “love, joy and peace.” Our Lord does not intend for His people to feel miserable. There is no salt or light in that, and there is no special reward in heaven for those who have spent their lives persecuting themselves. But, regardless of the attitude we choose for the journey, God hasn’t changed the destination. So relax, open up to the needs of others, be an encourager and don’t take yourself too seriously.
When Albert Einstein was a very famous man one of his neighbors found out that her ten-year-old daughter had been visiting his house. The woman asked her child about this and the child explained: “I had trouble with my homework in arithmetic. People said that at no. 112 there lived a very good mathematician. So I asked him to help me. He was very willing and explained everything very well. He said I should come whenever I have a problem too difficult.” Alarmed at the child’s boldness, the girl’s mother went to Einstein to apologize. Einstein said, “You don’t have to apologize. I have learned more from my conversation with the child than she has from me.” This story really captures my imagination. Imagine having access to one of the greatest geniuses in history and finding out that he was willing to help you with your math.
And yet there is a greater scene that captures my imagination: having access to the Creator of the universe and finding out that He is more than willing to listen to my requests. That was one of the amazing facts Jesus tried to convey to people during His ministry. He compared God to a judge to whom a woman came seeking justice for her cause. Because of her persistence, even though she had no standing in the community, she received it. He likened His Father to a friend who at midnight was approached by a neighbor seeking provisions. He got his request because of his persistence. So He insists, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” What is He saying? That your Father in heaven is more anxious to answer your prayers than you are to pray them! In case we haven’t gotten the point He concludes with this gem: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
It is incredible to think that someone could have access to assistance beyond their wildest dreams and yet never take advantage of that fact. And yet many Christians do this all the time, in spite of the plain teachings from Scripture that God wants us to come to Him with all of our needs. Don’t ever forget your friend in High Places!
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship