Christianity 201

July 30, 2021

His Word; Our Light

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Our quest to highlight and support people writing quality devotional/study material took us today to the site of Jonathan Richard Wright. He serves as Youth and Family Pastor at a church in Florida and is working on a PhD. As always, you are strongly encouraged to read C201 posts at their source; this is a great encouragement to the writers and you may find other articles on their blogs you would enjoy.

God’s Light

Have you ever tried to get somewhere while in the pitch-black dark? When you can’t even see a hand in front of your face, the darkness isn’t just an inconvenience, it’s frightening. In those moments, we crave rescue by the light. A simple flashlight makes the darkest places better.

Our need for light is a deep spiritual metaphor used in the pages of Scripture. Light shines in the first few sentences of the Bible as God’s good creation (Genesis 1:3–4). Instead of the celestial sources of light being gods who need to be appeased (like the Egyptian god “Re” or the Semitic god “Shamash”), light is created by Yahweh the God who is above every power on heaven and earth. Yahweh is the source of light as the creator of all things.

But the light of God’s presence didn’t stay with humanity. Seeking to define good and evil on their own terms, Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden, and their descendants continued to live out the resulting darkness (Genesis 6:5). Eventually God’s people ended up in the darkness of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 10:23). And how does Yahweh lead his people out of this bondage? Israel is led by a pillar of illuminating fire by night (Exodus 13:21). That light God provided continually stood as a reminder of his rescue through the never-extinguished lamps of the tabernacle (Leviticus 24:2).

Light is connected to something else in Jewish Scripture, too. God’s word is called a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). In Proverbs, a similar statement appears: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23). Much like in Genesis 1–2, God’s word is connected to light; it functions to reveal exactly what we need.

In these ways, light is understood from the Bible as a good and needed gift that comes from God in order to rescue people who are in their own created darkness.

That foundation adds to the impact of the words of John 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1–5).

Jesus, the “light of the world” (John 8:12), comes to a dark world and brings light. Since light reveals and guides, Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s light (1 John 1:5). Truly, in his light, “do we see light” (Psalm 36:9). By following Jesus, believers have all the light we need to “shine before others” so that the world can see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). And as people who were once blind, Christians are entrusted with a mission of light to lead others who can’t see to Jesus (Romans 2:19). That’s our calling until Jesus comes again and fully restores the world into a place where we won’t need the sun—that “city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (Revelation 21:2–24).

In this life, we’ve only experienced tastes of God’s light. But in the new heavens and new earth, God will forever be our light, unhidden from our eyes (Revelation 22:5). Until then, “let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5).

Second Helping: Did you wake up this morning saying, “I’m a temple?” Check out a second article from Jonathan, Jesus, The Temple and You.

October 22, 2013

Chase Inning

Job 5:17  Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty (KJV)

Proverbs 3:11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline,
and don’t be upset when he corrects you. (NLT)

Chase Inning would be a great name for a baseball player.

Now that we’ve got you curious with our title play on “Chastening,” it’s time to return to a writer we introduced you to in February, Tim Whitehead, who blogs at The Expositor, and wrote this under the title, He Let Me Live. (I’ve added some bold face type to highlight key points.)

The Lord chastens. Most people know this is true. However, the Lord’s chastening is one of those subjects that folk would rather not talk about, and certainly one that they want to hear about even less. We all love to hear about God loving, forgiving, healing, prospering, providing, protecting, etc. Yes, we love to hear about God’s many blessings, but the less we talk about chastening the better. Admittedly, it’s not popular but is pertinent. No one can have a relationship with the Lord without experiencing His chastening at some point.  It’s all a part of relationship. If you say that you have a relationship with the Lord and never experience relationship, I question the genuineness of your relationship.

There are those who have no interest in a relationship with the Lord. All they’re interested in is want what they can get from Him, what He can give to them and what He can do for them. They don’t want Him; they want what He has and what He can do. These are the ones who seek the Lord’s hand and not His face.

For those who are saved, those who have been born again, God is our Father. Not if, but when, He chastens us He is acting out that role of Father in our lives. The Father chastening us is also a sign of His love for us and that we have been received as his children. The Bible makes this clear to us in Proverbs 3 verse 11 and 12, where the Lord says, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”

Growing up, I didn’t like being chastened. I don’t know of anyone who did. As an adult, looking back over my life, all of the chastening, whether physical or verbal, was only for my good in the end. As our Father the Lord isn’t requiring, or even unrealistically expecting us, to enjoy when He chastens us. He does want us to have a correct attitude toward His chastening.  He does command us to receive it the right way, which is to not resent or despise it.

The word chastened in Psalm 118:18 is from a Hebrew word meaning, “to chastise, to instruct”. Chastening can occur in a couple ways. It can be literal, in the form of an actual physical beating, or, it can be figuratively, as in the case of a verbal chastening, using words. Sometimes a verbal chastening can do just as much good, and be equally as painful as a physical one.

David’s chastening from the Lord was not unwarranted, and I’m sure that it was well deserved. The Father never chastens His children without a reason. He doesn’t chasten us because of some twisted pleasure which He derives from it. Chastening is never for the Father’s benefit, but always ours. It is for our growth, maturity and godly character development.

In my mind I would imagine David saying, “It’s true, the Lord has chastened me, and you know what, I deserved every bit of it, and then some! Although I deserved it, and the Lord pulled no punches with me, He was merciful enough to not leave me to die. He loved me enough to chasten me, but He was merciful enough to let me live in spite of my wrong.”

I believe that the chastening which David received from the Lord was physical because in verse 14 he speaks to his enemy and he says, “You pushed me violently so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.” The Lord did not come down from heaven, take off His belt and gave David an actual beating, but it seems as though He did allow David’s adversaries to temporarily have an advantage over him. But He did not turn David over completely to his enemies. While chastening David the Lord still helped Him.

There are times when the Lord has to chasten us. If we’re honest we’ll admit that those times are frequent, even though we’re saved, and we’re daily, by the grace of God, striving to obey God’s Word. Unfortunately, the reality is, while we are in this physical body and living on this planet, sin is going to always be a constant which had to be dealt with in our lives (See Romans 3:10, 23). The Father has to chasten us in order to move us from rebellion and disobedience to obedience. At times that chastening is stern. It can be uncomfortable and quite difficult. But even in those times when He is chastening, the Lord does not totally abandon us. He does not give up on us and He doesn’t give us over to the enemy. If we’ll but come to our senses, if we will repent of our sin, we will discover that He is right there to help us.

Before I go on, let me pause here and make it abundantly clear that I’m not saying that its okay for us to go around intentionally practicing sin daily. God forbid! In fact, no one who is truly saved, who is truly born again continues to live in sin. If you say that you are saved, that you are born again, but you are continuing to live a sinful lifestyle, still doing the same things, living the same way, with little to no change in your desires or manner of living, you are not saved! (See 1 John 3:1-10)

Chastening is instruction. We are supposed to learn from it. When because of our obstinacy we refuse to learn we soon discover that it takes a lot longer than it need be. Sometimes we even go through the same things repeatedly. The longer it takes for us to learn, the longer we will remain in some situations and experiences.

We can be a lot like Israel of old and we can learn a lot from them. The Israelites would somehow disobey the Lord. He would then speak to one, or more of the prophets, giving them a message of warning and repentance for the people. When they stubbornly refused to take heed, which was most times, the Lord would chasten them; sometimes that chastening could be quite drastic and dramatic. For instance, the Lord would allow Israel’s enemies to invade their land, take their property, and enslave them for a time. After a time, they would come to their senses, call on the Lord and repent. In His mercy He would deliver them. This scenario occurred repeatedly throughout the Old Testament.

Can you see the Lord’s pattern in dealing with His people? First, He chastens us through His written Word and by His Spirit within us. If we refuse to hear, then He may use a fellow believer to correct and warn us. If we still choose not to listen, then as a final attempt He may allow, and expose us to, certain experiences. Usually this last option is not fun.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you don’t want to hear then you’ll feel!” In other words, when you refuse to listen, when you choose to not pay attention when someone is trying to tell you something for your own good, then the only thing left is for you to have to learn the hard way and experience it for yourself.

Whoever came up with the idea that experience is the best teacher obviously did not have a relationship with the Lord. The Greatest Teacher is the Spirit of God.

I don’t know about you, but there are some things that I do not want to have to personally experience in order to learn. Some experiences are too painful and some situations are too difficult. The wise ones hear and learn. They watch what happens in the lives of others who disobey and refuse to repent. They learn from the experiences of others. Learn doesn’t always require you to have to personally go through and experiences things.

It is important that we do not confuse the Lord’s chastening with the natural consequences which can occur as a direct result from our sin. Some things are not God chastening you; it’s just the natural consequence of your sin. All sin has both pleasure and a consequence. Oft times the consequence of sin lasts far longer than any pleasure derived from sin. Let me give you an example. In the scriptures, the Lord commands us to not have sex before marriage or with anyone other than our spouse. If someone chooses to go out and have premarital sex, or have an adulterous relationship, ending up with a sexually transmitted disease, the disease isn’t God chastening you. It is the natural result of your sin.

Even though an individual may confess their sin to the Lord and repent, they may still have to deal with the consequences for their sin. Having to deal with the consequences doesn’t mean that we were not forgiven. When we repent and confess our sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). But, forgiveness and cleansing does not mean that we will not have to face, and sometimes even live with, the consequences of our sin. If a person does something that not only violates God’s law but man’s law as well, it may mean that very well might have to deal with the consequence of it, which could be something as simple as a a fine or community service, to serving lengthy jail time.

What does the Father desire to accomplish in chastening us? First, as already stated earlier, the Father chastens us for the purpose of instructing us. Times of chastening are teaching moments. They are opportunities to learn. As a result of chastisement we are able to learn more about the Lord, as well as, become more acquainted with His will and what He desires for our lives.

Second, through chastening the Father’s ultimate goal is accomplished. The Father desires for all of His children to be inwardly conformed to the image of Christ, that is, that we become Christ-like in character. We are to display that Christ-like character to the world. Consider this; the only Christ the world will see is in and through us. The world needs to see this, but without chastening there will be no Conformity to Christ’s image.

Thirdly, chastening makes us aware of our sin that we can confess it, repent of it, receiving forgiveness and cleansing.

Fourth, and finally, the Father wants us to live exhibit holy lives to the world around us. He desires for our lives to show outwardly, to those around us who are not saved, that we have been given a new nature and a new heart within as a result of having been saved. The world needs to see Christians living and conducting themselves differently than they do. By doing so, we honor the Lord and bring glory to Him.