Look Forward

I like to look forward. 

I look forward to the day when the Eastern sky splits wide open and the Savior Jesus Christ is there to take us home to heaven with Him.  I look forward to reigning with Him in the Millennial Kingdom.  I look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, one where there will no longer be tears, nor sorrow or heartache.

I like to look forward.

I look forward to things here on earth as well.  I look forward to my children’s birthdays.  I can celebrate them getting another year older, and they can laugh and play with their friends.  I look forward to seeing their faces when they open their presents, or when they blow out their candles.

I look forward to my anniversary, because it is a reminder that I have spent another year with the love of my life.  We can celebrate the bonds that hold us together, and the fact that without her, I would be pretty pitiful.

I look forward to church events.  I looked forward to the revival we recently had, and I look forward to the singing that we will have soon.  I look forward to church every Sunday, actually, and Bible study on Wednesday nights.

Why do we look forward to things?  Someone once said that wanting a thing is infinitely better than having that thing.  Basically, the anticipation is better than the acquisition.  Why?  Because in that limited view, it is thought that the expectation far outstrips the reality of having or of experiencing it.

While that may be true of physical objects, such as toys and parties while we are young, and bigger toys and events once we get older, I don’t think that it’s always the case.  In fact, I am rarely disappointed when I leave church.  Sure, it may not go as I had planned all the time, but a bad day around God’s people is better than a good day without them.  A bad day worshipping God is better than a good day not hearing from Him.

I would much rather be around the people of God than go to work on a daily basis.  Do I dislike the people I work around?  Not all of them.  Well, not even most of them.  They’re some pretty good people, at the end of the day.  However, our purpose when we get together is to make the bank money.  When I am with the people of God, sitting in a church or at any church event, our purpose is a bit different.  And that is why I look forward to it.

One thing I know that we won’t be disappointed in, that the having of will far outstrip the yearning for, is when our Lord comes back in the clouds to take His bride home.  That day, being in His presence, will be the most glorious day we can imagine.  But Paul said it best when he said that there was no way we could imagine it.

Because it will be extraordinary beyond belief.

I look forward to it.

The Whole Armour of God

10- 13 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Now, in these verses, Paul is talking to the Ephesians about who the real enemy is. Sure, people may come at you, the government may come at you, and situations in life may suck, but if you are a Christian and you are standing up for God in this world, the enemy is always going to be Satan. You think those principalities and powers went away after the Apostles died? No, they are still here, and they haven’t even been hiding. They’ve been doing the job of the devil since he caused man to fall in the garden of Eden. We will be wrestling with them. It isn’t a choice. If we are going to stand for Christ, we will have to go through the same things Christians have been going through for 2000 years; the same things godly people have been going through for all time.

Look what happened to Job. God allowed Job to go through tough times. God didn’t cause the heartaches and loss that Job endured; Satan did. But he had God’s permission. Spiritually speaking, he wrestled with the demons. But, because God is awesome, and He doesn’t leave us without help, He gave us the how when He told us what we were going to go through.  He didn’t say, “Fend for yourself.”  He gave an instruction book to those of us who cared to look.

Verse 14 “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;”

The first thing we need is truth, which is sorely missing in a lot of churches today. If your church forgoes the preaching of sin, then you should leave. A pastor’s job, according to 2 Timothy 4:2 (“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”) is to tell his people what the Bible says about sin, that they need to stop it, and then encourage them to live right. If a pastor is not doing that, then he isn’t doing his job. We have to have truth. The truth is found in the Word. And once we have the truth, we can get righteousness. (We cannot be righteous without the truth.)

Living righteous in today’s world will earn you a lot of enemies, by the way. Even among others that call themselves Christians. Today, righteous living is hampered by everyone’s need to be politically correct and not offend anyone. Jesus tells us in Luke 17:1 “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” Christians will be offended at what the world does. And in I Peter 2:8, “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” What we do will be an offence to some. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. The gospel will upset people, even those that profess to be Christian, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t spread it.  Giving the gospel is our job!

Taking that into account, look at the next verses. Verse 15-16 “And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

We should be prepared to give the gospel. People don’t want to hear it? Too bad. That wasn’t the option Jesus gave us. He told us to preach it. Paul tells Timothy to “preach the word…in season, out of season.” 1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” If anyone asks you why you’re a Christian, you’d better be ready to give them an answer. That’s another problem today; people have no idea why they go to church, much less why they call themselves a Christian. There’s too many feel-good, you’re okay, I’m okay, and that’s okay messages, and not enough study about who we are, why we’re here, and what God expects us to do. II Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” That’s an order. We are supposed to study the Word of God.

But knowing the gospel and sharing the gospel are two different things. We should be prepared to share, but we should also have faith that God’s Word is true. That shield of faith keeps us safe when the wicked fire back at us. How many Christians have you known that have withered under the pressure from different interest groups, whether it be Planned Parenthood, LGBT groups, or others? It’s because their faith in God is lacking.

(Mock horror!)  “You can’t say that, preacher.  You don’t know how much faith they have!”

Really?  I can tell how much Bible study they’ve done.  I can tell that they would rather shut their mouths than get raked over the coals for their beliefs.  I can tell that they don’t have the faith to stand up to the fiery darts of the wicked.

They haven’t prepared, and they aren’t shielding themselves with faith. “God said it and that settles it.” That’s your faith, right there. I was talking to my kids the other day about having faith when you pray, because if you don’t believe that God can or will answer your prayer, He just might not. Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”

Verse 17 “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:”

Our personal relationship with Christ is something we can fall back on when everything else fails.

And here is where many Christian’s get everything backwards. The last thing (not the first, as is usually the case) we are supposed to do, is to go on the offensive. A sword is an offensive weapon, and we need to use it as such. But first, we have to be prepared with the armour. Attack, parry, lunge. If we’re on the attack and we haven’t protected ourselves, we are just begging to be injured before the attack even has a chance of success. “Abortion is wrong, and God says so!!” “Oh, yeah, where does it say that?” “Uh, uh, uh…in the Bible!”  That person is unprepared.  “God is against gay marriage!”  “Do you have scripture for that?”  “Let me go ask my preacher.”  Unprepared.

The same goes for alcohol consumption, premarital sexual relations, or homosexual relations, or even divorce. If you don’t know what the Bible says about it, you cannot intelligently articulate your argument against it.  But you have to “study to shew thyself approved…” Not all issues are black and white, and not everything that people attribute to the Bible is actually in the Bible.

That is precisely why Paul tells us to prepare first.  All of that armour is for our protection.  A soldier doesn’t go into battle with a gun only.  He first prepares himself with body armor, a uniform, boots, a helmet, and extra ammunition.  Then he grabs his gun, making certain that he is ready for battle.  As soldiers of the cross, we have to be the same way.  Be prepared in this life.  Don’t go into battle unready.