Investing in the New Year

It’s time for a mental year end inventory of our assets…bank accounts, investments, 401(k), house, cars, boats, furniture, phones, electronics, clothes, collections, books, coins, stamps, sports memorabilia, video games, guns, you name it.

Are you satisfied with what you have and the most recent gifts you received? Are you concerned it’s not enough? Perhaps you’re concerned that you’ll lose it.

First of all, it’s not wrong or a sin to have any of the above, but it could be if it defines who we are. Investing wisely and saving for the future are sound Biblical principles. However, let’s consider Matthew 6:20: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. And let’s check our hearts…is it possible that we’re more concerned about earthly treasure than we are heavenly treasure? Are we more concerned about our mini-kingdom’s than we are about the people around us?

The truth is every one of our things will be taken away. We can’t buy our way into heaven and we can’t take anything with us. In fact, the only things we can take with us to the next life aren’t things at all. It’s people.

Therefore, let’s focus on laying up treasures in heaven and setting our minds on things that are above, not on things on this earth. For we have died and our lives are hidden through Christ in God (See Colossians 3:1-4).

So, what can we do differently to invest more wisely in God’s Kingdom and the lives of other people? The greatest investment we can make is not one that we buy shares in, it’s a Treasure that we give away. It’s the good news of Jesus Christ and the hope and forgiveness of sin He provides.  

In the new year, may we steward our lives and resources to become better disciplemakers to be used toward His Kingdom gain, while we learn to count all else as loss. 

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. ~Philippians 3:8

Fishers of Men

“And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Mark 1:16-18).

This phrase, “fishers of men,” occurs only here and in Matthew 4:19. A similar statement is found in Luke 5:10, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.'”  These are the only references in the New Testament about “fishing” for men, and we note that here Simon is assured, “You will catch men.”

Those who once were real “fishermen” were met by the Master, and He effectually said to them, “Follow me.” Isn’t it extremely noteworthy that our Lord did not go to the halls of learning or to the seats of government to get His disciples, but to the seashore? Does this not tell us that Christ’s mission was different? He even prayed to His Father, saying, “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). How glorious! Christ had come to do “the will” of His Father (John 6:38), and true believers have as their mission to proclaim the Son of God in His glory, just as the Son was “sent” by the Father to “glorify” Himself (John 17:1-4).

The task of evangelism is to point sinners away from dead, fleshly religion, including all self-righteousness, to Christ the Lord. Using the metaphor of fishing, the heaven-sent Servant teaches His learners to become “fishers of men.” This does not mean that we can actually “save” people from sin or hell, or “save” them for heaven. The way we are “fishers of men” is to do as Paul did at Antioch, saying, “And we declare to you glad tidings, that promise which was made to the fathers; God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.” Yes, we proclaim the crucified but risen Lord! Then Paul quotes Isaiah’s prophecy as fulfilled in Christ: “I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:32-34). This is true evangelism, when we tell sinners that the “mercies” of God are “sure” to an elect people!

The apostle Paul taught God’s electing grace and His absolute sovereignty (Romans 8:28-35), the Father accomplishing salvation for all of His people through the Savior’s intercession: “Christ Jesuscame into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15); “For Christ also suffered once for us, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ Jesus does bring us to God, as Him being substituted in our place is totally effectual. “Fishers of men” means that we are following Christ, telling His story, saying with John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The “world” of “God’s elect” is thus redeemed, justified, called, and kept because of the manifold grace of God shown to poor, unworthy sinners in Christ Jesus. Our being “fishers of men” is always successful, the Lord powerfully “drawing” all of His elect into the great net of His sovereign, distinguishing grace!

Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Thy bosom fly….
Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on Thee.
~Charles Wesley

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A Scripture Meditation by W. F. Bell (1948-2018)

Prison, Providence, And The Lesson Of John The Baptist

Our understanding of God’s Providence, His divine guidance and care to fulfill His purposes, often comes into question when we find ourselves in a dilemma where we can’t understand our circumstances. Said another way, there may be times where we find ourselves in senseless situations that are completely out of our control. Our need is dire, and we have no choice, but to throw ourselves at the mercy of a Sovereign God. (Which is where we all must get to eventually, some get there sooner than others.)

We often think of providence in a lighthearted, purely positive sense, where God’s supernatural care gets us out of jams. For instance, we’re late for work, but every redlight turns green, or in terms of near misses, such as the lightning strike was eight feet from my house, or that out of control car missed my bumper by inches. 

Looking at scripture, one recurring theme where we see God’s providence, turns out to be far from lighthearted. It’s found repeatedly in prison stories where His people are unjustly thrown, facing death, enduring awful conditions, and their faith is stretched in ways we can’t imagine. It’s exactly where God wants them, they’re in His hands. The outcome uncertain, but God… It’s through the furnace of affliction where we must learn to trust Him, and where He receives the most glory. 

By the way, prison can take many forms. We don’t have to be behind bars or facing execution to be trapped in a desperate place. Whatever form prison may take in our lives, it’s precisely where God’s people must learn to trust, wait, and depend on Him. It’s where we cast our burdens upon Him for He cares for us. And we have an Advocate interceding, the Man of Sorrows, who has been there. 

When we think of the many prison situations in the Bible, we often remember the positive outcomes. For example, Joseph (falsely accused and jailed, but God…), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (framed to a fiery furnace, but God…), Daniel (in the lion’s den, but God…), Paul in chains…

But what about the negative outcomes? What about all those martyred for their faith, like Stephen? What about John the Baptist – losing his head? 

God’s plans and purposes are not always positive from the standpoint of our desired outcome. God ultimately provides deliverance for His people through Christ and the cross, where the ultimate injustice, the ultimate mishandling of a trial, the ultimate wrongful death, brings total forgiveness and healing to prisoners of sin. Through his death and resurrection, Christ our Substitute, saves us from the eternal punishment and death we all deserve (mercy), while at the same time providing eternal life that we don’t deserve (grace). 

We may live through difficult and senseless times, we may be rescued from whatever prison we’re in, or we may die like John the Baptist, but God…through Christ, has provided eternal life to those who put their faith and trust in Him. Though we may die, yet shall we live in eternal joy. Life in the presence of the One we can worship and enjoy forever. That, my friends, is the ultimate providential care and guidance that He uses to accomplish His purpose. Christ is worth dying for. And on our journey to the Celestial City, we too must learn, to live is Christ, but all praise be to God, to die is gain. 

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