Monday, March 9, 2015

Walking with God

Enoch and Noah are said to have walked with God. What does it mean to walk with God? Can we do good things and not walk with God? Can we be religious and not walk with God? Can we walk with God and still sin? What did Jesus mean when he said that he came for the sick, not the well? The truth is, I would rather pastor ten sinners struggling with habits and sin patterns who yearn to walk with God over one hundred seasoned believers whose greatest sin struggle in life is to make sure they get their thirty minutes of Bible reading in every day, and not just fifteen or twenty. What if I missed a day of reading, but spent the day reflecting on what I had read the day before? For the sinner yearning to walk with God that would be an incredible victory. For the seasoned believer there would be guilt because they hadn't met their quota. They would believe that they somehow failed God. If they are told that they don't need to read their Bible every day they believe that is just making excuses for sin. For the seasoned believer this discussion just diverted into a discussion over whether or not believers need to read their Bible every day and how long is long enough. Or, they just quit reading, writing me off as soft on sin. My illustration just caused them to miss the very point I was trying to make, which just goes to prove my point. My only consolation is that I am in good company. It was Jesus who said to his unclean disciples, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand."

            Is it any wonder that new believers get frustrated when they hear the kinds of "sins" seasoned believers agonize over? Did the wine Jesus made and drank really contain alcohol? Is watching the evening news a moral responsibility or a moral failure for the believer? Is Rock and Roll evil? Is it wrong for a Christian to take drugs for mental illness? Is mental illness a sin issue? Is it compromising our faith to cancel Sunday evening services in favor of home groups? How long is too long for men's hair? How short is too short for women's skirts? Is it a sin for a woman to wear pants? Does a woman have to have her head covered when she comes to church? If so, what constitutes a covering? Is it a sin for a man to wear a hat in church? I'm just getting started. Over the past forty years of ministry I have heard every one of these debates and myriad more just like them. To the new believer they don't even make sense. To the mature believer they are silly. To the seasoned believer they are crucial to the question of what pleases God, but they totally miss the point as to what it means to walk with God

            Jesus sat in the homes of Pharisees, but he never became a Pharisee. Modern day Pharisees like to hear preaching against sin. They like to feel a little sting of guilt once in a while. The modern Pharisee is like the church member who told the pastor every Sunday, "You really gave it to them today preacher." Modern Pharisees justify their own judgmental attitude as commitment to the Word. They clearly see the sins and failures of others. Or to use Jesus words, they are, "blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!" The little sting of guilt every once in a while convinces them that they are not Pharisees. The inane debates they have over what qualifies as sin convinces me that they are. And so I say again that I would rather pastor ten sinners struggling with habits and sin patterns who yearn to walk with God over one hundred seasoned believers who have failed to understand what it means to walk with God.

 

By His grace

Rick Weinert

 



Monday, February 9, 2015

Hebrews 6


Hebrews 6:13-15 (ESV)

 [13] For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, [14] saying, "Surely I will bless you and multiply you." [15] And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.

 

In Hebrews 6:12 the readers are challenged to be "imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." He is talking about Abraham who, according to verse 15, "having patiently waited, obtained the promise." But did he? Abraham was promised land, descendants and blessing. When he died all he had seen was the birth of Isaac. Yet in Isaac, through eyes of faith, he saw the fulfillment. The readers of Hebrews knows the rest of the story. They know that Abraham's descendants became a great nation. They know the stories of Moses, and Joshua, and David, and Jesus. They are aware that in Isaac Abraham received the promise.

 

 

Ken Davis told a story on the radio this morning about a man shipwrecked on an island. He prayed for rescue, but eventually built a hut and settled into life on the island. One day he came back to find his hut engulfed in flames. He was discouraged. Where was God in all this? The next morning a ship came to rescue him. They had seen his "smoke signal." Like Abraham, and like the Hebrew believers to whom this letter was written, sometimes we don't see God in the darkness, but he is there. With Job we can say, "Though he slay me yet will I trust in him (Job 13:15)." By the unchangeable character of his purpose, and the impossibility of God telling a lie, we can know that his promises will be kept. We can trust him in the darkness.

 

 

Father, my faith is weak, but you are strong. Today I choose to trust you.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hebrews 5 part 2

There are several words in the New Testament that are translated "obey." One word simply means to obey. One word means to submit to those in authority. One word means to "listen to" or "listen under." It is used of the winds and waves in Matthew 8:27 and Mark 4:41. When Jesus speaks the wind and waves listen. In Mark 1:27 the unclean spirits listen when Jesus speaks. In Ephesians 6:1 children are to listen to their parents, and in Colossians 3:22 slaves are to listen to their masters. In 2 Thessalonians 3:14 the Thessalonians are to listen to these words penned by Paul. In 2 Thessalonians 1:5 they are to listen to the gospel.

 

In Hebrews 5 we find this last use of the word. It literally means to "listen under." It is the idea of placing yourself under what you are hearing. In Hebrews 5:8 Jesus "learned obedience through what he suffered." The word learned carries the idea of learning by experiencing. By experiencing suffering Jesus learned to bring himself under what he was hearing from the Father. Having learned by experience to listen to the Father he becomes the source of eternal salvation to those who listen to him.

 

This raises a significant question: What does it mean to listen to or obey him in this verse? This passage cannot be separated from the priesthood of Jesus nor from the discussion of Sabbath Rest in the previous chapter. We can draw near to the throne of grace and find mercy and grace because Jesus is our high priest. It is in mercy and grace that we find rest. Jesus was appointed as our high priest. He suffered all the way to the cross even though he could have been delivered. To obey then does not carry the idea of keeping God's rules. Rather it is about bringing ourselves under what he has told us. What he told us was that the disobedience of the Jews in the wilderness resulted from unbelief. What he told us was to fear lest we fail to enter his rest. What he told us was to strive to enter his rest. What he told us was to come confidently before the throne of grace to find mercy and grace. What does it mean in this passage to obey? It means to come confidently to the throne of grace believing that we will receive mercy and grace. It means to trust Jesus just as he trusted the Father in the midst of suffering.

 

Jesus' Gethsemane prayer, "Not my will, but yours be done," demonstrated that he trusted the Father. Similarly we are sometimes called to suffer. We are sometimes faced with uncomfortable situations. We are sometimes called to experiences we would rather run from. We are even tempted to ask the questions: Where is God? Has he abandoned me? Is he not real? But we can trust him. In our darkest hours we remember that Jesus chose and was appointed to go through the "valley of the shadow of death" for us. Because of that he understands our weaknesses. He identifies with our pain. He is nearest to us when we have the most difficulty sensing his presence. He offers grace and mercy in time of need. We can trust him.

 

Father, forgive me for my unbelief. Forgive me for constantly defaulting to the idea that a relationship with you is somehow dependent on me. Today may I rest in your grace and trust you in the darkness.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Hebrews 5 part 1


Hebrews 5:11 (ESV)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.

The last four verses of Hebrews 5 list four contrasts. The Hebrew believers:

  • Are dull of hearing (vs 11) rather than able to distinguish good from evil (vs 14)

  • Ought to be teachers, but need to be taught (vs 12)

  • Need milk, not solid food (vs 12)

  • Are unskilled, not trained in powers of discernment (vss 13-14)

 

This raises several questions: Why are they unskilled? What contributed to their immaturity? What needs to change? How does one move from being unskilled to skilled, dull of hearing to discerning, milk drinkers to meat eaters? None of these questions are directly answered. In fact, the author of Hebrews simply says, "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." (Hebrews 6:1) He is essentially saying, "I'm going to feed you meat anyway, whether you are ready for it or not.

 

The bigger question behind this passage is: What does it have to do with the High Priesthood of Jesus? Chapter 5 flows out of the end of chapter 4, "We have a great High Priest … Jesus, the Son of God." It is followed in chapter 7 by a discussion of the Melchizedekian priesthood to which Jesus belongs. These verses at the end of chapter 5 and into chapter 6 become a parenthetical statement of warning. They should challenge us to ask two questions of ourselves:

  1. Am I dull of hearing when it comes to these things?

  2. Do I really understand the significance of having Jesus as my High Priest?

These are questions for us to humbly and prayerfully consider as we move into Hebrews 5.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More thoughts on Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:14 (ESV)

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Hebrews 3 and 4 are a single unit of thought. Chapter 3 begins with a challenge to "consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession." Chapter 4 ends with the challenge to hold fast our confession because Jesus is our "great high priest." This raises the question: How do we hold fast our confession? The answer is tied right back to Jesus.

 

Faithfulness in holding fast our confession is not about working harder. In fact, Hebrews 4:10 reminds us that, "whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his." The challenge in these two chapters takes the form of a warning, but they are not a challenge to double down on our commitment and give it all we've got. Rather, they are a challenge to let go and trust. "Strive to enter that rest," Hebrews 4:11 tells us. The word "strive" means to hurry toward or fervently act. We are told then to move quickly to enter God's rest. Don't hesitate. Don't wait. But, again we come back to the question: How?

 

Chapter 4 ends with these reminders which may help us answer the "how" questions:

  1. God's word judges, decides or discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. (Heb 4:12)

Notice that it does not say, "God's word reveals the commands we must obey. They may be true, but that is not the point here. The point is that rest has to do with thoughts and intentions, not external submission and obedience. Perhaps that is why Romans 12 reminds us that transformation begins with renewing the mind, not with hard work and deep commitment. All real, substantive change must begin with our fundamental beliefs. Lies are at the root of sin, truth is the foundation for holiness.

  1. God sees everything and everyone will ultimately answer to him. (Heb 4:13)

Remember Jesus warning to the Pharisees in Matthew 7:22 (ESV)

On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

How could they be "workers of lawlessness" if they were casting out demons in his name and doing mighty works in his name? The answer lies in understanding that God is not primarily interested in actions, but in hearts. How and why we do something is more important to God than what we do. Do an "act of love" out of coercion, fear, envy or resentment and it is not an act of love in the eyes of God. When Hebrews says that everything is exposed to God's eyes it is reminding us that God sees not only what we do, but how and why we do it. God sees the heart.

  1. We have a high priest who understands our weaknesses. Therefore, we can confidently "draw near to the throne of grace. (Heb 4:14-16)

Rest begins at the foot of God's "throne of grace." It begins with recognizing our own weaknesses, accepting the reality that Jesus already knows and understands those weaknesses, and falling on our faces at the foot of his throne fully expecting grace, not condemnation.

 

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God (Hebrews 4:9) May we fervently run to the throne of grace and find rest.

 

By His grace,

Rick Weinert


Hebrews 4

Hebrews 4:1 (ESV)

[1] Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.

 

 Hebrews 4 is an application chapter. It begins with the word "therefore," necessarily connecting it to the argument preceding it. Chapters 1-3 build up to chapter 4. Notice the significant application words throughout this chapter:

  • "therefore" – verse 1

  • "for" – verses 2, 3, 4

  • "since therefore" – verse 6

  • "for" – verse 8

  • "since then" – verse 9

  • "for" – verse 10

  • "let us therefore" – verse 11

  • "for" – verse 12

  • "since then" – verse 14

  • "for" – verse 15

  • "let us then" – verse 16

 This is clearly a chapter of action, but what action is being called for?

 

 As we wrestle with this chapter we need to think through four questions:

  1. What does it mean to enter God's rest?

  2. What is the connection between entering God's rest and the power of God's word?

  3. What is the connection between entering God's rest, the power of God's word and the priesthood of Jesus?

  4. What is the connection between entering God's rest and drawing near to the throne of grace with confidence?

 

 Father, teach us what it means to enter your rest.

 

 By His grace,

 Rick Weinert


Isaiah 50

Isaiah 50:4-7 (ESV) The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him w...