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A Sobering Letter

But I have something against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

— Revelation 2:4

Recently, we received a letter addressed to you and me that said, “Your everlasting happiness and well-being depends upon your reading and heeding this letter.” Then on the over side it said, “From Him whose eyes are like a flame of fire, who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks” (Revelation 2:1 paraphrased).

Now you are saying, “Did you really get a letter like that?” Well, actually, not in the mail, but such as letter was sent to the Church at Ephesus personally by the Son of God. So, since this is applicable to every church, we did receive such a letter. It came to us right out of the Scripture. It was addressed originally to the Church at Ephesus, but it applies to us as well.

The gist of what He said to this church is that He knows their works, which are relatively sound, but they have lost their first love. Jesus is no longer first in their hearts, and He tells then to repent and do the things they did at first. If you ever find your love growing cold, there is one place where it will be rekindled and that is the foot of the Cross.

Question to ponder:
Is Jesus your first love?

The Challenge of Worldliness

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.

— 1 John 2:15-17

The average worldling, like a mole in its dark hole, walks in the darkness of this world without the slightest inkling of God’s love and mercy or of the gracious and free atonement and salvation that God offers to those who acknowledge that they are sinners.

We have seen many times that the world in its “wisdom” has flown right into the face of God’s wisdom. For decades they follow the attractions of the world, only to find that they have created yet another disaster.

There was a great preacher by the name of Bud Robinson who proclaimed the Gospel in various parts of the world. Then he visited New York City for the first time, and his friends took him on the grand tour of the city. He saw New York in all of its glory. That night he knelt to pray, and this is what he said: “Lord, I thank you that once in my life I had the opportunity of seeing the great city of New York. And Lord, I thank you even more that I didn’t see one thing that I wanted.”

Question to ponder:
Does any form of worldliness hold any temptation to you?

Conflict Over Worldviews

… For the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short.

— Revelation 12:12

There’s an age-old conflict between two world-and-life-views. A world-and-life-view is a set of assumptions or presuppositions that determine the way that we look at the world and our place in it. These largely determine how we consider everything.

One worldview sees God at the center, ruling over all things under His dominion that operate according to His laws. The other worldview sees a mechanistic universe in which there is no God, no reason, no purpose, with only man at the center operating according to the dictatorship of the latest tyrant. The worlds which issue forth from those two views are vastly different worlds.

It is important that we understand that it is ultimately a spiritual battle in which we are engaged—not a battle between mere economic outlooks or various political philosophies. It is a battle between Christ and Antichrist; between Jesus Christ and His followers and the Antichrist and his. Therefore, ultimately, it is a battle that will be won not by bullets, but by beliefs. You cannot change ideas with bombs.

It’s very reassuring to know that when we read the end of the Bible, we know Who wins.

Question to ponder:
Do you see worldviews in conflict on a daily basis?

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

— 1 John 3:17

Bad companions ruin good character. How true that is for people of all ages, perhaps especially young people. Take heed whom you select as friends. One of the wisest bits of advice that you could possibly have is: choose friends that are more godly than you are.

If you want to know how spiritual or how holy you are, take a look at your friends, because they are a very good reflection of your spiritual growth. Birds of a feather, you know, flock together. How spiritual are your friends? I can tell you this: they are probably about as spiritual as you are. Jesus went among sinners, you say. Yes, but he went to give them the Gospel, not to get fellowship and companionship from them.

In Psalm 1, David contrasts the godly with the ungodly. The godly man not only spends time meditating and reflecting on the Word of God, he shuns the corruption that comes from the company of mockers. We need to choose our friends wisely, so that we can build each other up, not bring each other down.

Question to ponder:
Are there any friendships that you may need to terminate, for the sake of your soul? Any friendships you should cultivate?

The Least of These

Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, but closes his heart of compassion from him, how can the love of God remain in him?

— 1 John 3:17

Let me tell you a story. I was a brand new Christian and I decided to read the Bible, so I just opened it up at random (not a recommended procedure), and I looked down and read a verse that said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). I thought to myself, “Good heavens, what horrible things did these people do?” I discovered they had done nothing.

Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me… . as you did it not for one of the least of these, you did it not for Me” (Matthew 25:42-43, 45).

God didn’t create us to not do something. He created us to do something. He told us to “Do this,” and “Do that,” and “Do the other.” And one of those things is to feed the hungry and visit the sick in His name. If we fail to do those things, we are guilty of sins of omission, which can be just as devastating in their consequences as the sins of commission.

Question to ponder:
Are you involved in any acts of mercy?

The Test of John the Baptist

He must increase, but I must decrease.

— John 3:30

Jesus said about John the Baptist that he was the greatest among men. What was so great about him? He had understood who Christ Jesus was. He is the one who proclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He also said, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

But it was neither his eloquence nor his theological understanding which impressed Christ. It was his humility—his humble acceptance of his own role. John the Baptist knew that Jesus was God’s Messiah, and that he himself was only the forerunner, the messenger, crying out: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

When Christ came, John’s ministry was essentially over. And John the Baptist could say these famous words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Question to ponder:
Have you ever seen a work or a ministry you helped build up taken over by another?

The Existence of God

Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him or give thanks to Him as God, but became futile in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

— Romans 1:21

Is there a God or is there not? That question eclipses all other questions that men might ask. Should you feel that this statement is merely the opinion of a theologian or minister, let me give it to you from another source. Dr. Mortimer Adler, former professor at the University of Chicago and the associate editor of that massive set of volumes entitled, The Great Books of the Western World—60 volumes of the greatest writings of the greatest minds of the Western world—says that with the exception of certain mathematicians and physicists, all the authors included in the Great Books are represented in the chapter on God.

In the Syntopicon of The Great Books, the two-volumes that deal with all of the subjects covered by all of the various authors, Dr. Adler says that the subject of God is the one that is handled by more authors than any other. “The reason is obvious,” said Dr. Adler. “More consequences for thought and action follow the affirmation or denial of God than the answering of any other basic question.”

Question to ponder:
What consequences flow from belief or unbelief in God?

Satisfying the Human Heart

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that will I seek after—for me to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to see the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.

— Psalm 27:4

Every one of us longs for something. Every one of us has something that he desires, dreams about, hungers after, and thirsts for. I don’t know what that might be in your life. Perhaps it is fame, fortune, wealth, ease, recreation. But I know this: no unbeliever pants after God. His soul does not thirst for the living God.

It is God—and nothing else—who can fill the emptiness in the human heart. This hunger for God alone is like a little child in the street who has lost her mother and is crying, “Mommy, mommy.”

You may take the child into your home, offer her some ice cream and some toys. You may try everything, but she will not be all right until she can rush into the arms and bosom of her mother. So, the soul reborn will not be satisfied with anything but the living God.

The intimate knowledge of the living God is the great purpose of our lives. If you do not have that in your life, then pray that God would grant it to you, that He would give you that panting and thirsting spirit. And if, with all your heart, you truly seek Him you shall surely find Him. That is His promise.

Question to ponder:
What does it mean to seek God, to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness?

Predestination

… He predestined us to adoption as sons to Himself through Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of His will,

— Ephesians 1:5

God sovereignly controls and ordains all things that come to pass, from the greatest star to the smallest atom. He has done this in such a way as to leave a certain natural liberty to men. They are free to do as they please, and yet they always do that which God has eternally ordained. We find that we cannot understand this, for there are some things that are beyond our feeble comprehension—e.g., man’s free will and God’s eternal purpose.

He created man with a power to do good or evil. Man chose to do evil thus plunging the world into sin and bringing him into a state of bondage, into a state of condemnation and wrath.

We find that God determined not to leave him there, but from all eternity selected out of this mass of fallen mankind a people for Himself: His elect, His chosen ones—a multitude of every tongue and kindred, nation and tribe under the sun; a multitude that no man can number—and these, God determined to save. These are His sheep. These are His chosen ones, for the Father has chosen them. He has sent His Son to die for them and procure for them eternal life.

Question to ponder:
What does it mean that He chose you before the foundation of the world?

Is God Jealous?

for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

— Exodus 34:14

What does it mean that God is a jealous God? When we use the word “jealous” in reference to other people, it almost always has a negative connotation, but not so with God. God is not jealous of us, He is not jealous of some other god, because there is no other god—merely figments of somebody’s imagination.

He is jealous for our good in the same way that every father and mother here is jealous for their children. Hopefully no one is jealous of them, but jealous for them, that they might have the best education, that they might eat the best food, that they might have the best care, that they might grow up to be the best people they possibly can be. And you are angry with anything that threatens the best for your children, anything that threatens to harm them.

That is why He commands us to “have no other gods before Me.” He knows that if we worship anything less than the true God, we will become like that which we worship and will therefore become far less than we could be.

Question to ponder:
What is the difference between jealousy and envy?