Discouraged or Encouraged?

Discouraged or Encouraged?

There is a lot that can discourage us while we are isolated because of the coronavirus. We can’t do a lot of the things we are accustomed to doing, especially gathering together as members of the Lord’s body to worship and study together. It has been a little over a week and I can feel the difference. I miss each and every one of you. You all are in my thoughts and prayers daily. In addition, every day that we turn on the news, we are bombarded with doom and gloom (I will give a little credit here – some news outlets are trying to find a silver lining and give some positive reports as well). It can be very easy to be discouraged!

Make no mistake that our adversary, the devil, is using this time to weaken your faith, erode your will, and convince you to give in to temptations to doubt and sin. This is one of those occasions, like Jesus after fasting in the wilderness, when Satan thinks it is the perfect opportunity to tempt you. Heed the words of Peter:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6–11)

We need to recognize several important points Peter is making:

  1. If you will humble yourselves before God (which includes submitting to His will), you will find comfort. You will be able to cast your anxieties on Him. He does not get tired of hearing our troubles. He cares for us and wants us to rely on Him.
  2. We need to recognize that Satan is always watching. He is looking for an opening in your spiritual armor so he can attack you (Ephesians 6:16). If you are not equipping yourself with the help from God that He offers, then you are opening yourself up to attack. Without the full armor of God equipped, that attack will get through.
  3. We must be on our guard, fully equipped with that armor of God, but we must also provide resistance. No soldier puts on their equipment for battle and then sits down on the battlefield to do nothing or merely to watch! A soldier is expected to resist the enemy and follow the lead of their generals. Fight back! We are at war every single day, coronavirus or not!
  4. If you will resist, Satan will flee (James 4:7). Satan is patient. When he encounters resistance, then he will retreat and wait for another opportunity to present itself. This emphasizes that we need to always be on guard, but also that we cannot rest (spiritually) just because the current battle is over. If we do this, then we merely hasten the next attack.
  5. You aren’t the only person experiencing these issues, whether it be the isolation or it is some temptation or situation that you endure. Every one of us is in a battle for their souls. That means there is strength we can gain from each other but it also means that it is extremely likely that whatever you face today, one of your brethren has already faced in their past. Seek wise counsel (Proverbs 11:14).
  6. God’s grace is all we need. He will take care of us. The goal of every Christian is to go home.

It is your choice how you react to the present distress. You can be discouraged or you can find encouragement through the scriptures and the promises God has made to us. He cannot lie, and He has proven Himself faithful. Let us choose to be encouraged!

God’s Spiritual House

God’s Spiritual House

Psalm 118:22 prophesies, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” A cornerstone of a large building gives it a reliable and firm foundation, leading to the cohesion and stability of the whole building. It was an essential part of the building process. Before such a stone was used, it would be inspected to determine if it was suitable for the project. It was then either accepted or rejected. The Psalmist prophesies that Jesus would be rejected, yet He is still the cornerstone of the most important building project ever — a spiritual house accepted by God.

In 2 Peter 2, Peter builds on this same theme in describing the Christian’s place in this spiritual house. The Christians are the living stones of that house! He points out in verse 7 that those who reject this cornerstone see Him as a stone of stumbling, a rock of offense. Where this illustration stops paralleling reality is that rejection of the cornerstone does not mean that you choose a different one to build the house. It means that you reject being a part of God’s house altogether! If you want to be part of this spiritual building project, accepted by God, you have to allow yourself to be built up on the cornerstone that is Jesus the Christ!

Peter draws a contrast there in chapter 2 between those who believe and accept this cornerstone and those who do not. The conclusion is that if you believe, you become part of that royal priesthood and are a living stone in the house of God. If you do not, for any reason, accept this cornerstone as He is, then you are not part of that house at all. In other words, even if you “like” the idea of Jesus but don’t want to accept all of His teachings, you aren’t really accepting Him. You do not inspect the cornerstone and decide you like the look or the color of the stone, but you don’t like the shape. No, if you don’t like the stone in its entirety, then you are rejecting it. If you reject it or try to change it, then it isn’t the same stone any longer. Building on that cornerstone in its new form results in a different building. A different spiritual building is no longer God’s house – it is something else.

In Acts 4, Peter is standing before the council, who were rejectors of Jesus and trying to stop the apostles from teaching the gospel. He told them in verses 11-12, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Any other foundation than Christ is not a saving foundation!

The religious world is full of division today. The numbers are astounding, listing over 40,000 denominations of Christianity. That is 40,000 houses that are not really what they seem to be. They have many similarities, but any house built on a different foundation is a different house. Which house would you rather be a part of? Do you want the fake imitation or the real thing? Do you want salvation in the house of God or a comforting imitation that is part of the wide path leading to destruction (Matthew 7:13)?

God is not an author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He is not the source of all those imitations. He has revealed Christ, the cornerstone, through His word. It is available for us to inspect and to accept or reject. Accept Christ and be a part of God’s spiritual house!

Up From the Grave, He Arose!

Up From the Grave, He Arose!

One of my favorite hymns is “Christ Arose”. I am thankful for those who have so wonderfully put into words the awe that we feel when we understand the truth God has revealed to us. With this particular song, the music and the words capture the emotion and joy at the knowledge of having a savior that died for us, but that He gained victory over death through that resurrection.

While Jesus was on the cross, many mocked Him. They thought that if Jesus was going to triumph over His enemies, it would be before death – that triumph would mean He wouldn’t have to die! In Mark 15:29-30 it says, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” This was not the triumph that was planned. That would come in 3 days. When Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome came to the tomb to finish the burial process with spices, they were told, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples.” (Mark 16:6–7). Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Without His resurrection, we cannot have hope of being raised in the end!

The chorus of the song says, “Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o’er HIs foes.” The resurrection was the true triumph, but it was a different triumph than those mocking Him at the cross were thinking of. His triumph was over death itself. He brought victory for all that are His! 1 Corinthians 15:57 states, “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” My response? Amen!