Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 28, 2012
A good source of practical guidance for daily living
The major religions of the world have “holy” books that offer believers guidance for living. For Christians that book is the Bible or as it is usually titled, the Holy Bible.
Learning how to live successfully is one of the great challenges of life. Some succeed; many fail. So it is possible to live a lifetime without discovering a workable plan for living.
A man loved his Cadillac so much that he arranged to be buried in it. Another man, observing the dead man behind the steering wheel as the car was being lowered into a huge grave, remarked, “Man, that’s really living!”
Turn to the Bible and you soon realize that Jesus had a different quality of life in mind when he said, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Abundant living for Jesus had nothing to do with possessions. It had everything to do with knowing and loving God and offering love to other people.
But wait a minute. The Bible is an old book. Jesus lived on earth two thousand years ago. Is the guidance of Jesus relevant today? That is a good question because times change.
Throughout the ages change has been constant. Everything about us is constantly changing. The Native Americans whose weapons were arrowheads never dreamed of the automatic weapons of our time. The pioneers who went west in covered wagons could hardly imagine spaceships flying to the moon.
Butterflies are here today and gone tomorrow. Humming birds drop by for a season and fly on. Few people drank “green tea” when I was a boy. Now millions of bottles of green tea are consumed daily. A few years back our family had a crank telephone on a “party line,” sharing the privilege with other people. Now even small children have a personal cell phone.
Yet one thing remains unchanged: Jesus Christ. The Bible says Jesus “is the same yesterday and today and forever.” If you believe that then the changeless Christ is the one reality, the only reality, in a world characterized by constant change.
That is what Christians believe. Christ is our Rock. He is Life, and thus our Source of life. He is Truth and his truth is not affected by the changing tides of pagan culture. He is the Way, not just today but always. He is Love and thus the Source of the agape (self-giving) love God calls on us to practice.
Jesus, we say, is everything. Without Him life simply does not work right. With Him all things are possible. He is the Wind that propels us to do God’s will. His presence within us helps us, despite our shortcomings, to live fully a life that honors Him. Because he is “God with us,” he empowers us to live so that people can see “Christ in us.” If they do not then we have missed the mark.
With Christ as our Rock we can turn to the Bible and find practical guidance for living. For example Chapter 13 of the Book of Hebrews is filled with practical guidance about “really living.” There is no mention of being buried in a Cadillac. Instead we find practical counsel that instructs us to:
1) Love one another. Because of our sinful nature only Christ can create “mutual love” within the church. Christ makes it possible for us to love people we would otherwise despise.
2) Show hospitality to strangers. Our culture has become strangely impersonal. We often fear strangers, supposing one might be the Boston Strangler or a serial rapist. Christ helps us discern the persons to whom we should offer kindness and assistance. Now and then we entertain an angel God sent our way.
3) Reach out to those in prison. Our church assists women inmates as they are released from prison. Christ helps us to identity with people who are suffering, share their suffering and help them find healing.
4) Honor the sacred bond of marriage. Marriage is the sacred union of a man and a woman. God’s plan is that sex be reserved for the marriage bed. Two become one basically through their sexual union. People suffer when God’s plan is ignored or replaced by the pagan customs of a hedonistic society.
5) Be content with what you have and refuse to let the love of money ruin your life. Money is a terrible taskmaster. Only Christ can help us resist and overcome greed. Selfish greed is destroying people all around us. Christ teaches us to be satisfied with what we have.
6) Give thanks for your spiritual leaders and imitate their faith. True spiritual leaders teach us to trust Christ and follow his teachings. False leaders mislead us with “strange teachings.” True leaders inspire us to worship, serve and follow Christ. The faith of such teachers is worth imitating. No other sacrifice than the blood of Jesus can save us from our sins. No other sacrifice is necessary.
7) Continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God. God no longer asks for the sacrifice of the blood of animals. There are other sacrifices he delights in our giving. One is the sacrifice of praise with our lips. We learn to complain less and praise more. When our energy is devoted to criticism we are unable to offer praise to God. In our church we sometimes sing the lovely song, “Give thanks.” The song invites us give thanks to God “with a grateful heart” because “He’s given us Jesus Christ His Son.”
8) Remember to do good and share what we have. God wants us to do more than praise him with our lips. He wants us to praise him with good deeds that benefit people in need. The people in whom I “see Christ” are constantly “doing good.” They visit people incarcerated in our jails and prisons and become advocates for the powerless. They comfort the dying. They share food and clothes with the needy, visit the sick and encourage those who are hurting. Sharing what we have with the poor honors the Christ who abides in our hearts.
The world is constantly changing so that nothing in the world is stable and dependable. The eternal Christ is the only lasting reality. He alone is real. So real, authentic living flows from the abiding presence of the Rock of Ages. We need not fear. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Hallelujah! + + +