FEBRUARY 28 – Close is not Good Enough
1Samuel 15:3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.
How close do you follow instructions? My dad had a saying that he used often. “Go back and lick your calf over.” I don’t know where that saying came from but my mind tells me it is probably a reference to a calf that has been birthed. Dad used this expression when he felt that one of us kids had not done the best job on something we were told to do. I hated that I had to “lick my calf over.” It meant doing something I would prefer not to be doing, to begin with.
That was the problem with Saul. He explicit instructions as to what He should do. Whatever the reason, he did not follow instruction. He came back to Samuel and lied to Samuel. The reply of Samuel, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear.” Notice: Close is not good enough. God lays out His instructions for us. Saul did not get an opportunity to “lick his calf over.” Did you see that? He did not get another chance.
Let us pay attention to what God has to say. Let us follow every instruction He gives us. People go astray when they look for a more convenient way. Jesus says bury them under the water and convenience says sprinkling is good enough. The Bible says that salvation is “by grace through faith,” a man says good works will get you there. May pursue the study of God’s Word so we get it right the first time.
Follow the instructions.
William Andrew Dillard
Hyper-evangelism and the great debates of a couple of generations ago have produced in some an all encompassing point of spiritual completion in the experience of the spiritual new birth. For this reason, a host of scriptures that speak to the salvation of the mind-life are simply written off as applicable to the spiritual new birth which is thought to be the sum and substance of New Testament Christianity. Little thought is attributed to spiritual salvation by grace being 4,000 years old when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Such a mindset produces error in rightly dividing and interpreting scriptures. For example, it is assumed that 3000 people were spiritually saved on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2. The Bible says no such thing! What it says is that 3,000 were added to them (the church). Of course some may have been saved on that day, but doubtless most of them were of old, saved Jews, and others under the ministries of John and those in the limited commission. At one time there was some controversy about that. John 4:1 records, When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,). It is evident that a great number of people were saved and baptized who did not have the privilege of accompanying Jesus and the apostles during His earthly ministry. Referencing those, Jesus said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:16.
Inasmuch as Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was adamant in several expressions that His church body be one, even as He and the Father were one, it is reasonable to believe His statement in John 10:16 was referencing the many disciples who were to be coalesced into the one fold prior to the great, initial outreach. Pentecost and the days following, as in Acts 4:4, then would be. in a manner of thinking, a roundup of the sheep into one fold under one shepherd.
While this reasoning alone is not proof of the state of those added to the church on Pentecost, when coupled with the fact that the Bible pointedly does not say those 3000 did not all experience spiritual salvation on that day lends heavy credence to that being the case of their being already saved disciples, rejoicing over the New Testament message, and being brought into the one fold.
It is not good to build theology on an “assumed, thus add to the Word” mentality. It is better to coalesce reasonable, bible support, than to change what is said to fit an accepted line of theology. Either way, what difference does it make? Not much except one way is right and another is wrong, just the difference between right and wrong!
LOWING CATTLE AND BLEATING SHEEP
How blessed and marvelous is a dedicated church whose members are on fire for God! Their motive and purpose is to please God, and to influence others toward Him. They understand that Christ is the head of the church, the Savior of the body, and that His Word is sweet, even so highly desired as the very bread of life. In my mind, this was the status of the early churches of Paul’s ministry. I think of Ephesus in particular having had the privilege of visiting that ancient city. Ephesus fell into decay and is no more. The zealous church that the apostle planted there is also gone, having suffered marginalization, persecution, and pressures from a godless, but religious society. It is interesting to note that only a few decades after its birth, the church received stern warning from Jesus in the words, “I have somewhat against thee…” Though commended for some spiritual assets, the charge must have been stinging to their hearts. They had busied themselves with religious activity instead of the necessary, personal, one-on-one relationship with Christ Jesus; hence, they were told “. . . thou hast left thy first love.” Rev. 2:4. Simply put, they were engaged in religion, but their motives were misdirected. Could they turn a deaf ear to the Lord? Could they continue as a church that way? The answer is “yes” but they would not be a church belonging to the Lord Jesus. They must remember from where they had fallen, repent or else they would lose their candlestick (be severed from Christ as His body). This problem did not end with the Ephesians. It goes on in wholesale manner today. All of God’s people need to re-think Samuel’s confrontation with Saul when the king declared he had done the will of God. Samuel asked, “What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” I Sam. 15:14. The prophet then replied: “. . . Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” I Sam. 15:22 Church activities may involve a lot of misdirected motives! But, God is pleased when His people return to their first love: a personal relationship with God and His Holy Word. Forget the fat cattle and sheep, and the “sacrifices” to the Lord that cost you nothing! Let the Creator’s Word reign supreme in practical obedience to its meaning!
“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep,” John 21:17.
Pastors, at times, need the same admonishment that Jesus gave to Peter. As a whole, pastors strive to feed the flock every time they teach or preach. But, are they guilty of viewing the flock as merely church members instead of the lambs and sheep of Jesus and themselves as the undershepherd of Jesus? From time to time we need a reminder of the importance of teaching and preaching relevant, Holy Spirit inspired messages to Jesus’ sheep.
Most pastors, like Peter, love Jesus but do they really LOVE Jesus. There is a difference. Pastors like other believers can become cold and indifferent. Their love of Jesus can wane and become stagnant. And, like Peter, they need occasional reminding that they are prone to sin and failure and that the path to rekindling is always open.
Early in the morning, still damp from his swim to shore, Peter must truthfully answer Jesus’ question, “Lovest thou me?” His answer was in his actions. It was after that encounter with Jesus that Peter became one of the strongest, most steadfast and influential of all the disciples.
Pastors, do not be discouraged, see the importance of your position and then feed His sheep and His lambs!
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isaiah 53:6.
Description of the sacrifice (Isa. 53): despised, rejected, sorrows, grief, esteemed not. Does this sound like a sacrifice that would please a holy, perfect God?
He carried our griefs and sorrows. Did we appreciate it? No, we turned our backs on Him. He came unto His own and His own rejected Him. Did that deter Him? It did not. He opened His arms of mercy and called us from the cliffs of hell. We turned our backs on Him and ran off like spoiled, rebellious children. He called us friend, and we kissed the holy cheek of God’s Lamb of sacrifice and turned Him over to the enemy for a handful of coins. We beat the thorns of our sins down upon His head, and He offered us a crown of life. He laid down on our tree of death, and we drove the nails through His hands that held Him there, and He prayed for us. Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing. That is love that man’s finite mind cannot begin to fathom.
Think about it. Oh, how He loved Him, “My beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17). Oh, how He loved us, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isa. 1:18). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
God said it six thousand years ago; God did it two thousand years ago. The proof is in the pudding “that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:3).
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100:3-5
In the context of many Bible verses, mankind, and especially those who know and worship God, are admonished to be thankful. In a world of sinners in which Satan is god, and humanism is the religion of choice of the disobedient and wayward, evidence of thankfulness can be scarce at times. Think with me about it!
Next Thursday is a day set aside by presidential proclamation as Thanksgiving Day. It is a federal holiday that sadly will host more reveling than the giving of thanks. America has its problems and they are huge, but of all people on earth, we are blessed, and we should be the most thankful for the bounty of blessings heaped upon us by the Almighty.
One cranky, selfish, ne’er-do-well scowled, “Thankful? Thankful? What reason do I have to be thankful? Another of quick wit retorted, “My friend you just identified it. You should be thankful for reason.” Certainly, it is God Who gives us mental faculties, and the abilities to labor, to go, to do, to enjoy, and yes, the capacity to endure hardships and pain. And this is driving hard at the main point of this article. You see, being thankful is not a ritual to indulge in once a year, or once a month or even once a week. Thankfulness is a way of life, a 24/7/365 lifestyle that acknowledges “it is He that hath made us and not we ourselves.” It acknowledges the value of human life, not only of our own, but that of our neighbor as well. It worships and praises our Creator in the realization that every good and perfect gift comes to us from the Father of Lights with Whom there is no variableness neither shadow of turning. James 1:17.
So, perhaps the focus of attention to thankfulness brought to so many of us on this annual holiday is a special blessing. It emphasizing how we should live, and in most cases, underscores how far, and in what ways we have fallen from it. Such realization is priceless. It does not call for resolutions, but of revival; of turning back to a better way of life that acknowledges who we are and why we are here. Such discoveries do not lie in religious leaders, the nostalgia of early America, philosophers, or self determination. Thankfulness, like faith, comes through the knowledge and acceptance of the teachings of God’s Holy Word. Thankful people are well versed in it.
Dare we to pause on this special American holiday to reason why we should be thankful as a manner of life? There may have never been a time in history when the need to experience true thankfulness was greater!
Posted: 03 Nov 2013 01:11 AM PST
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep,” John 10:11.
When David tried to persuade King Saul to allow him to fight Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, the argument that finally convinced the king to allow David to fight the giant was this: “Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (1 Sam. 17:34, 35). David was a good shepherd because he risked his life to protect his sheep, but he was just a foretaste of the Good Shepherd to come.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He has a cherished bond with His sheep. He knows them intimately and was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their eternal security. Any other person who may express interest in caring for us or leading us is not worthy of our devotion because no one else has earned the right to shepherd us. Nobody but Jesus is worth our love, devotion and praise—worth following—so we should be careful that we are following the right Shepherd. We can be sure that wherever Jesus leads us will be precisely where God wants us to go, exactly where He can provide whatever is necessary for our good and His glory.
JUST A THOUGHT
Will you follow where Jesus leads you today?