Fundamentals Of Meditation (Part 7. Building Treasures In Heaven)
Although part of a series, this is a complete study on its own. (7 of 9 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture verses are mine *
Our meditation studies began with the article Fundamentals of Meditation (Part 1. Christian Meditation Vs. New Age Meditation) . In reviewing that article you will see that when a Christian meditates, it is so different than the popular concept of meditation that involves crossing the legs and making circles with the fingers. It is not emptying of the mind nor the focusing on one word or feeling to eliminate mental clutter. Christian meditation is almost the direct opposite in practice and in theory. Meditation is time taken to ponder the deep things of God. Its aim is to refocus and readjust thinking, to reaffirm the position of the heart in relation to God. I suggest that if you are not familiar with the Christian concept of meditation, you review the article by clicking above.
We have come to the sixth of an eight part series on things Paul mentioned in his letter to the Philippian church as things worth of mediation. Paul the apostle, after he gave a kind of synopsis of the way a Christian meditates, recommended eight types of things that would be worthy of contemplation. Already we have considered; things that are true, things that are honest, things that are just, things that are pure, and things that are lovely. That brings us up to things that are of good report.
As we have said before, these installments of our meditation series can be looked at as a complete study on its own. This study comes from the verses in Philippians where Paul was admonishing the church at Philippi to consider how a Christian can have a victorious life. It begins with the mind, what is allowed in it, and what subjects are entertained. By filling the mind with things that are of the Lord, a person serving and loving Him with their whole heart will, moment-to-moment, escape the pull of the flesh and sins. Conversely, if one allows fellowship with the world, or allows their mind to dwell on the things of the flesh; if that person puts himself on "autopilot" mentally speaking, much evil will be the result. For out of the heart of man comes much evil. The mind is a tricky thing and life is thrown at us at a blinding speed. Our sin finds a way to exert control over us unless we are faithfully diligent to quash its control. If we just slide along and put our mind on automatic, the evil that a heart contains will rise up and try to destroy the person and all those around him.
The key verse for explaining how to maintain this diligence against our own fleshly lusts is in Philippians 4, giving a formula which covers how to be watchful of our actions, how to be careful with our thoughts, and where to put emotions that cause the incredible stresses that come on our minds. Within his recommendations are contained the secret to a peace that passes understanding, the secret to stabilizing erratic thought patterns, and the cure for stress and its varied complications. Here is that passage:
"Rejoice in the Lord alway and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation [control of self] be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peaceof God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep [a military term, its root meaning a fortress; safety, sanctuary, refuge] your hearts and minds [stabilize thoughts and stabilize motivation] through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are OF GOOD REPORT; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think [meditate] on these things." (Philippians 4:4-8)
Building Treasures Of Things Of Worth In Heaven
A Bit About Rewards
I want to be perfectly clear, dear reader, that salvation from our sins cannot be earned. It is based on what Jesus did and not on our works. It is us saying we recognize our need for a Savior and yes to Jesus paying for our sin. If we reject Him, we have only one place to go, and that's hell. God pleads with every person and draws him, that is, He reasons with each individual and each has a option to receive Jesus or to refuse Him.
So please don't get confused between rewards in heaven for people who are saved and the false concept of earning one's salvation through good works, supposedly good deeds remembered by God, accumulating, and earning favor to get into heaven. This belief simply is a lie and a confusion from Satan, a doctrine of demons. When a person is presented with the Gospel, and the Gospel is received, then the Holy Spirit comes in, indwells him and he passes from death to life. He was dead in sin and now is alive in the Spirit. Rewards aren't given to the spiritually dead, only to the people who get into heaven by accepting the blood of Jesus.
We're not given too much information in regards "rewards in heaven" but the Scripture talks in general terms about "crowns" to be given as a consequence of certain actions taken by the person while serving God on earth. It's not like a saved person intrinsically knows what crown he may qualify for when the time comes. For example, we are told that there is a crown for looking with anticipation for Jesus' return in the clouds. Since all Christians keep their eyes on the skies, does that mean we all receive a crown for it? Or, is there some extra effort required, a more "sincere yearning" that God sees and rewards and just some win an extra crown. We really don't know. It is exciting to contemplate. It is motivation to meditate on this so to help us to refocus energy in serving God.
Why are we talking about rewards? Because rewards, crowns, a worshipful life, treasures in heaven, love given, love exemplified, genuineness, obedience... all of this is connected. They are part of what is called "things of Good Report." It is a large part of our excitement about eternity as a believer. It is our hope and encouragement from God to not get discouraged. There are also people that, when we consider their lives, their actions, and how they pleased God, they also can be called "things of good report." Moses, Daniel, Elijah and others in the great hall of faith (Heb.ch.11) are those to which you can look as examples of lives that display for us how to gain rewards and build treasures in heaven. These are "things and people of good report." (to learn more about crowns click here.)
Believer's Rewards For Service Rendered To Jesus
"Now behold, one came and said to Him, 'Good Teacher what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?'" (Matthew 19:16)
On the surface the statement seems to be asking, What can I do to earn eternal life? But Jesus immediately pulls his mind off of earning salvation and puts his attention onto Himself as God. Jesus said: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God." (Matt. 19:17)
Seems an odd thing to say when the young man was asking about what action he had to take to get him to heaven. But if you think about it the preamble to the first commandment contains this statement: "I AM the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me." (Exodus 20:2-3) This answer was establishing Jesus as the One God and belief in that One God is a prerequisite to getting to heaven. The statement was showing him the way and was about to reveal to him what stood in his way of following the One God, now standing before him in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.
And then Jesus said this to show him the entryway he was seeking: "But, if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (The very first commandment being to put no god before the LORD). He was saying if he kept the commandments which started with belief and loving God before all others, then he would be given heaven as consequence. But Jesus wasn't done illuminating the man's own heart to him. This young man was sincere, I believe, but he needed to see the problem in his own heart in order to get it right and come to Jesus the right way.
"He [the rich young man] said to Him, 'Which ones?' [which commands] Jesus said, 'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall bear no false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' The young man said to Him, 'All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?' Jesus said to him, 'If you want to be perfect [complete, truly saved], go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, [a "thing of good report" - something worthy of meditation] and come and follow Me.' But when that young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."
I believe this young man had heard the stories of the men of faith in the Old Testament and wanted to be like those men who were rich toward God. He wanted to have others look at him as one of the men of faith, a "man of good report." He was monetarily rich but in his heart money and its concerns crowded out God. It's impossible for an unsaved fleshly man to comprehend "things of good report" for his heart is not right toward God. He couldn't be like the men of faith. He couldn't have the approval of God for things done in his unregenerate state. He had to deal with first things first. What am I worshiping? Where is my treasure, where is my heart? This was his first consideration. After he got that straight, he could then move on to making his life blessed and become a man "of good report."
I remember when I was in school, I hated the time of written confirmation of the fact that I was a bad student. It's not that I didn't try, in fact quite the opposite is true. The problem was that I had learning disabilities of which neither I nor my parents were aware. I had a hearing disability developing in certain pitch ranges, so I missed words spoken by the teacher. I had myopia, so I couldn't see well. I had dyslexia that really effected my numbers, so math stank, as did most of my school work. After first grade, school was a constant uphill struggle. Each time I handed my parents my report card I could see the disappointment in their faces as they wished I would do better. It was possible to pass, and pass I did (by the skin of my teeth), and only because I worked very hard and never played like other kids.
In the spiritual realm, things are different. There are no such things as learning disabilities. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and God reveals all things to us in His time. The challenges we face that make our life difficult dwell in our own flesh and in our own sin. The temptations that are put before us, our flesh already wants to do. For Satan to tempt, it's just a matter of presenting what we already want, at a time that we are most vulnerable. That's the enemy's specialty. The devil loves his job and is excellent at doing it, but in all actuality it is our sin and our flesh that is our problem. The devil didn't make us do it! In fact we can be victorious over Satan by praying constantly and meditating.
God knows we face such vulnerabilities and has given us things we can do to minimize our susceptibility. One such thing is meditating on things that are "of good report." As we have seen with the other things mentioned as meditation-worthy, once we get the meaning of the wording it becomes clear why it is so vital to include this in our meditation. So with an attitude of poured-out submission to a Holy God, we ponder things that are of good report.
Actually the words "of good report" are translated from only one Greek word, euphemos (yoo'-fay-mos) which means "well spoken of" and "reputable." We can see right away how thinking on things that are reputable and victorious in the Lord would be a help. To ponder on things that fail instead of succeed, that were faulty in concept, or sinful in practice, would tend to weaken instead of inspire and strengthen.
We learn more by looking at the etomology of this Greek word, and it's root meaning. Euphemos actually comes from (2) Greek words epiteleo and pheme. Epiteleo (ep-ee-tel-eh'-o) means to "fulfill completely, finish, accomplish" and pheme (fay-mee') means "rumor or fame." Thus now we know what makes up things "of good report" so we may prayerfully consider and muse over them.
A Thing of Good Report is not just any thing that the public may hold in esteem or a fad. It's not just a good effort put in by people that may not know Christ. It is something far more important to God. These things are the people that have earned their rewards in heaven. These people and the circumstances surrounding their lives that built treasures in heaven "where moth and rust do not consume nor thieves break in and steal" are worth the time and contemplation. Meditating on the testimonies of great Bible men and women who also fought with their sin and won (even though losing from time to time) will serve to make us empathize and identify with their struggles. Victorious men and women of faith, examples of which are written in the "great hall of faith" chapter, Hebrews 11 illustrates God's idea of a life lived well, a life of good report. Consider: a weak man's found courage, a man of God's personal sacrifice, these are noble things that God considered valuable and noteworthy in heaven.
Generally the term "good testimony" gives the impression that some person or persons are making the judgment about the behavior of that Godly man or woman. You'll hear people say, "I have to preserve my testimony," or "This will effect my testimony," and what they are thinking is, "people will think badly of me" if they see certain things in their life. But it is God who judges our lives. He is the one that keeps track of all of a sinner's sin reserving it for the judgment day. He is the one that sees a person call on His Son and then forgives all of the sin in the name of Jesus. At that moment in time all the sins of the believer are wiped clean. They are erased forgotten. God chooses to forget them because they are covered by the blood. But the ones who refuse His Son, their sins are never forgotten because they died in their sin. Doesn't that make sense?
There is another thing to consider here and that is God's love for the believer. Not only does God wipe the sin debt clean but God begins to take note of the deeds of that new baby in Christ and He remembers all of them. He sees when obedience happens instead of disobedience. God then promises to grant "rewards" in heaven for a person's deeds here.
Old Time Saints Worthy Because They Were "Of Good Report"
When I was a child my mom would sit me on her lap and read stories about Bible heroes. The tales would at times be very frightening because she didn't read them like you would read a fairy tale but she read them like they happened just yesterday, like she heard it on the news and maybe even knew them. From a very early age I was absolutely convinced what I was reading was a history book full of tales about people that were just like me. They were people that made good decisions and the Lord took care of them, loved them, and then had someone write about them in the Bible. Then, as I grew older, I learned the Bible is not exactly a complete history book, but rather it's a book full of history, accurate and true. I was right, though, to think these people were just like me. I could be used of God just like the hero in those accounts.
So skillfully my mom taught me, and I learned of Samson and how he was no different than myself. He did't have giant muscles so that he was strong all he time. Rather, this was the operation of the Holy Spirit in his life when God used him as a Judge for Israel. His obedience and the control of the Holy Spirit was what made him stronger. I could see in my mind's eye the ripping apart of the lion in Samson's hand and him chasing down all those foxes. And I was captivated at the thought that this person, no stronger than I, could take the city gates away from the wall, hinges, posts and all, weighing probably 3 or 4 (maybe as much as 7) tons and run up the hill with them! My eyes would grow big as she read about the lions that didn't eat Daniel, and then my mom and I would talk about how Daniel didn't know whether the lions would eat him or not. He just obeyed God and was empowered by the Spirit and the result was a face-to-face with hungry lions in the lion's den and he did not end up being their supper. And yes, my mom told me in gruesome detail how the lions really enjoyed the meal of the bad men who did not love God, how the lions were happy crunching Babylonian bones and talking about old times in the jungle.
As you can see, the predominate theme imparted to me was obedience to God and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. All of these people got scared, they doubted, were weak and incapable on their own but once the Spirit enabled them, they were unstoppable.
"And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jepthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting the deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented- of whom the world is not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us [we have the indwelling Spirit in us] , that they should not be made perfect apart from us." (Hebrews 11:32-40)
Did you notice the very last part of that passage? Those men and women heroes did this without the indwelling Spirit as we have today. At that time, the Spirit would "come upon them" for one act or another that God commanded. These folks lived before God had visited the earth in human flesh. Jesus said that when He went away, He would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would live in the heart of the believer and never leave. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit of God that will never leave us nor forsake us. We have no excuse when it comes to ability or power. We have God with us always.
New Testament Saints That Stand Worthy And That Are "Of Good Report"
Have you heard or said any of these statements?:
"I tried out a new church on Sunday. It had a preacher that was long-winded but the sound system was great. I'll go again, but not until after football season is over - gotta support the team!"
"I don't know, I guess I should go to church but I work on Sundays. They offered me Sundays off but I would have to work Thursday evening and I love my wrestling, so I said 'no way!'"
"I know what you guys are talking about. It's like - church has to be the number one thing in a Christian's mind or something. Besides you hear the same thing each week and I get bored. So why be bored there, when I could do something that interests me? Church wastes a whole Sunday. That's my day off. After church cuts out all that time, the day is ruined!"
How does your attitude compare with these statements that are actually quite average in America?
Times have certainly changed since the New Testament was written. In those times, most had to hunt for their food (or plant and grow it), chop the wood to cook it, draw their own water to drink and bathe, and didn't have any modern conveniences to lessen any of those tasks or the time to do them. Along with those facts of life, there were no cars nor any modern transportation at all, no instant communication systems, and still, in a period of about 40 years, twelve men covered the whole globe with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"These who have turned the world upside-down have come here too!" (Acts 17:6)
How did that happen? Because of obedience and Holy Spirit power. It happened because those men loved the Lord their God and served Him.
Technology and innovation have given the average person so much time to fill, and offers so many different ways to fill it. No longer do we have to hunt for our supper, chop our wood in order to cook, or take time to run our farms or homesteads. But most people today still feel like they have no time at all for themselves. If we were to be honest, we hold to ourselves an incredible amount of time that we waste doing nothing. Out of 168 hours in a week doesn't God deserve one or two to obey and fellowship with other Christians? and what about what happens inside our minds? How much wasted time do we commit to foolishness for our own entertainment when what we should be doing is mentally connecting to our God, to tune into the indwelling Spirit.
Why do I bring this up? When Jesus left, there were only eleven chosen men dedicated to promoting the kingdom of God. If you include Matthias as one of those dedicated dozen, these men began the ministry whose fruit you are. What do you do to further that end? anything? Is God able to use you? or are you too busy with fleshly pursuits to care? Is your life ticking away second by second and you have nothing to show for the time you spent here on earth? Other than committing all of the Gilligan's Island theme song to memory, have you memorized any Scripture verses? Have you used any verses to lead any lost person to Christ? I tell you the truth, very few of us will have a report card in heaven that reads "a person of good report."
If one meditates on this aspect of Philippians 4:8, the result is that we begin to feel very foolish and will have to begin to re-prioritize our thinking. We will see the need to repent, get our hearts right and houses in order. Consider just some of the record we have to look to for inspiration and motivation.
Exactly what kinds of things earn that "good report" of Jesus? Well, we know the account of Stephen, who was one of the first deacons chosen to "serve tables" for the apostles just after the church was empowered by Jesus and given the Holy Spirit. I think looking at Stephen will give a meditating blueprint for things "of good report." His story begins in Acts 6 where Jews were only beginning to realize that the church was to be made up of Jews and Gentiles. Jesus' apostles were all Jewish, so it only made sense that they went mainly to Jewish friends and neighbors to tell them of the Savior, and that they needed to be saved. Consequently, most of the church was Jewish at this time, but the church was growing and they were forced to deal with the fact that God was "grafting in" Gentile believers as well. The Jewish believers were going to have to change age-old beliefs that Gentiles were dogs and start including them as brothers. This tradition was not going to disappear overnight. Workers serving tables to distribute food were few, and sticking legalistically to the Word, they were serving "the Jew first" and then "also to the Greek [the non-Jewish]." This had to change, so the Holy Spirit dealt with this, and Stephen is introduced to the apostles:
"Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists [Greek speaking Jewish and Gentile Christians] because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. [A literal applying of the Scripture "to the Jew first and also to the Greek," so Jews were served and there was not time nor manpower to serve the non-Jews].
Then the twelve [apostles, including Matthias that was chosen to replace Judas] summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. [The extra manpower to distribute food to these people would have to be the apostles themselves and they felt it wrong to leave their ministry because of the critical job they were doing.] Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and ministry of the word." And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit [he was saved and applying his faith]..." (Acts 6:1-5)
Notice the first thing said about Stephen? He was "of good reputation." What was it about him that made the masses know that he was the best choice? He had to be accepted by Jews and non-Jews in all the area as godly. He had a testimony that stood out among his brethren. He was full of the Spirit, Holy Spirit controlled. And he was wise, able to explain and defend his faith to all. "Of good reputation" comes from a word that is like "of good report" but is the highest end of the concept. The factions that were most vehemently persecuting the church soon found Stephen a man with which they must deal. So they disputed with him and found their own arguments failing.
"And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, 'We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.' And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council." (Acts 6:10-12)
The Holy Spirit empowered his speech and even "his face shone" with the light of God. They "saw his face as the face of an angel." The false witnesses against him accused him of speaking against the law. So in response Stephen preached a sermon that proved his integrity to the God of Abraham and Moses but also to the Savior that came to save His people Israel.
"And when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth."
What was Stephen's response when he saw his brethren biting and chewing on him and knew that his fate was sealed? "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."
"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, "Behold! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God!" Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him... And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, 'Lord Jesus receive my spirit.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7:55-59)
Traditionally kings stand before no one, except perhaps a visiting dignitary that would receive the highest of honor. For the "King of kings" to stand in tribute to Stephen is His stamp of approval on the life of the man. He lived in obedience to God and finished his life well, he was of good report.
"Precious in the eyes of the LORD are the death of His saints." (Psalm 116:15)
Stephen led a procession of martyrs that included hundreds in and around Jerusalem and that number soon climbed into the thousands, and included all the original apostles except John (and Judas who committed suicide).
Next after Stephen, James the brother of John was beheaded, his testimony so powerful that the man they used to entrap him with false accusations accepted the Savior and volunteered to join him. Both were beheaded in 36 A.D. Soon after, Mark was dragged into a fire and burned alive. Bartholomew was beaten, then crucified, then, if that was not enough, after he was dead he was beheaded.
It reminds one of the question Jesus asked the "sons of thunder" when they (James and John) asked to sit one on His right hand and one on his left in his kingdom. He asked, "Are you able to drink from the cup which I drink?" We may ask ourselves that very question, If things change in this country and persecution happens when you believe and serve God, are you able to drink from the cup He drank?
Andrew, Peter's brother, was crucified because he would not sacrifice to idols nor denounce Christ as his Savior. Jerome said the record of his final words were, "O cross, most welcome and longed for! with a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee: because I have always been thy lover, and have coveted to embrace thee." (From "Foxes Book Of Martyrs," originally printed in 1563, published again in 1981)
Do you suppose Jesus also stood for him at that moment? I do.
Levi the tax collector, also known as Matthew, worked as missionary to Ethiopia and northern Africa. He was "taken out" by a contract killer sent from King Hercanus, who ran him through with a spear. Philip, was pelted with stones, and then crucified. Peter seeing they meant to crucify him, elected to be crucified upside-down. Thomas was killed by bow and arrow having preached in India. Paul was beheaded after preaching to Europe and much of Asia. Simon, brother to Jude and Simon called Cananeus were crucified after having covered large portions of the world.
Are you feeling uncomfortable? I hope so, because if you are the message from God is doing its job. I felt very small, and lazy, and in need of a "brain tune-up," as I read of these great men and women of God that gave their lives that I may live. Why do I say that? because Christianity spread from them and down the corridors of time, so that as a result, I am some of the fruit of their labor.
Add to these, the account of James the half-brother of Jesus, who rejected His older sibling while He lived, but soon after Jesus died James took the vow of the Nazarite (like John the baptizer did). He became such a man of prayer that it was noted of him that his knees looked like "camel's knees" because of so much kneeling before the Man that was his despised half-brother but now was Savior to him. James was stoned, and then, before he was dead, his brains were bashed out with a fuller's mallet.
These are things of Good Report. Paul said to consider them worthy of meditation.
Reflecting On Things Of Good Report
So, in the light of these accounts of bravery in the face of death, how would you act in similar circumstances? Do you know? Some of us have already decided in our hearts that running as fast as possible is the way to go. Saying anything, doing anything, that preserves our life here on this earth is the only thing that makes sense. Why would anyone think that dying would ever make any sense? This is why meditating on things of good report is so revealing. Thinking about these things will reveal to you how you value yourself and your life in relation to God and eternity. How real Is your integrity to the things you say you believe? how real is your life "in Christ" to you?
In considering this, think about Christ Himself. He was God, but was also born a real man. The hypostatic union, He was all God yet He was all man. There is no doubt that Jesus experienced apprehension about what would shortly take place, but He knew that this was God's will. He was not self-destructive nor did He love pain. He knew there was no way that sin could be defeated and mankind redeemed without someone paying for that sin. So He cried "not My will but Thine!"
The Holy Spirit inspired David to write a song that contained a description of the way the cross would feel 1,000 years before he went through it, He is omniscient. He knew what it would feel like.
A few years ago I had a surgery and it was a procedure that is not commonly done or talked about. It was a relatively rare procedure and nothing much was written about it when I looked it up and tried to research it. I knew it was the only answer to the problems I was facing, so I received the surgery. The only problem I had was the doctor was not a very good communicator. He was a very good surgeon but a person that said very little in the way of what to expect. I was told that if I got a fever of over 101 degrees to call and most likely the surgery would have to be redone. What the man did not tell me was that I was supposed to have a little elevation in temperature. That would be normal, even beneficial for a short time, to have a small fever. So here I am taking my temperature every two seconds and watching it climb to 99 and then 100 and then 100.5 and I'm freaking out! So I call the doctor, I say, "Doc, my temp is climbing and is at 100.5." The doctor, in an irritated, sleepy voice said, "Is it over 101?" I said, "No, but it is rising fast." He said, "Don't be stupid, do you know how much you were cut and manipulated inside? You have fluid that was put into you and you have things that your body is adjusting to, and you will have some fever. Now call me if you have an elevation of over 101!" He hung up before I could say, "It would have been nice had you told me that I would experience some fever."
My point to telling this story is that I didn't know what I would be facing and if I had, I would have not been so afraid. If I ever do have to go through this experience again, I will know what it feels like and I will not panic so easily. Jesus knew what it would feel like on the cross and that knowledge did not lessen the fear. He knew how bad it would hurt and how His heart would literally explode within Him from the stress. He knew that He would be so thirsty that His tongue would stick to the roof of His mouth and it would make Him cry out in agony, "I thirst!" He knew that someone would try to give Him a drink with gall in it to kill some of the pain, but that would then not be taking all the pain for you and me, so he would have to refuse it, in His integrity to the letter of the redemption plan.
He knew that none of His bones would be broken, but that He would be able to look down and see them peaking out from flesh torn away and "icicling" down His body. He knew how betrayed he would feel by a person who claimed to be His friend and that no one would have any integrity to stay with Him at this time, when He, as a man, needed someone so desperately. But what was worst in Jesus' mind is that His Father had to turn His back to Him and not hear Him. His Father had to punish Him, despise Him and make Him hurt for the sin of the world, for sin, yours and mine. It is like a nightmare that someone has over and over, and then the nightmare comes true and there was no waking up from this nightmare for Jesus. It is no wonder that He said, "Let this cup pass from Me."
I have to feel that the things written in the passage of the Psalms were the very things that caused Jesus the most pain. He wanted us to see that pain so that we may not undervalue what was done for us.
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? Why are you so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning? O My God I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; and in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel, our fathers trusted in You; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to You and were delivered; they trusted in You and were not ashamed. But I am a worm and no man; a reproach of men and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; they shoot out the lip and shake the head, saying, "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!" But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me to trust while on My mother's breasts. I was cast from You from birth. From My mother's womb You have been My God. Be not far from Me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have surrounded Me; strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. They gape at Me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. I am poured out like water and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; it has melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me [Roman gentiles that crucified Him]; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I count all my bones, they look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." (Psalm 22:1-18)
"Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (John 13:1)
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Does all this that was done for you inspire you to flee or to stand with your Lord? I would say that anyone that wishes to save his own life when contemplating this love with which He loved us, should re-examine his salvation experience.
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25)
"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels." (Luke 9:24-26)
1. Go to a quiet place and confess all your sins before the Lord. Agree with Him that those actions were sin and wrong.
2. Empty yourself before Him and ask Him to show you things He wants you to see in His word and then
3. Read about things "of good report."
You will see things in yourself that you need to see; things to correct, things that need strengthening, things that need to be removed. You will see incredible strength and victory against incredible odds. You will be shown that in Christ you can accomplish anything. You will be lifted up and humbled at the same time. You will get a sense of your place at the foot of Jesus and Jesus' desire to accomplish much through you.
May the Lord bless His word and His children and you, His servant.
Perhaps you are still at the place where you thought that life as a Christian was just one of many valid belief systems. Maybe you have not accepted Christ as your Savior because you did not want anything to change in your life. Preconceived ideas may have made you feel that people that turn to Christ become strange in the eyes of family and friends.
Remember the Scripture, "What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?" The whole world individually and collectively is hurdling toward hell because they are all mired in sin with no way to individually (themselves) or collectively pay for that sin.(praying for someone's soul to get to heaven) But God loves you and wants you to know that He is the way out for any who ask.
If you realize and believe that you are a sinner that needs a Savior, Jesus loves you.
If you realize and believe that Jesus died, was buried, and three days later rose from the grave then you qualify to go to heaven.
Now all you have to do is call out for God to bestow on you His gift of salvation because God grants you the dignity to decide for yourself. He will not force you to do anything.
Your life will end at some point and your soul will long to go to heaven and not be able to enter because God is holy and you have sin just like every person born since Adam, has sin. Only the blood of Christ that was shed for you can get you in the door. Crying out to God in realization that you need a Savior because nothing you can do will get you to heaven. Nothing but believing and asking will get your name written in the Lamb's book of life.
When you die, God will ask you, "Is your name written in the book ?" and you will know whether it is or not. If you have humbled yourself before God and asked Him to save you - it is. If you have not accepted Jesus when offered, if you have pushed God away and then tried to not to think of such things, then your name is not written in the book. You will have to answer "No" and God will have no choice but to send you where Satan and his angels are condemned to go, to hell.
It is easy to call on the name of the Lord. Just pray and in honesty tell Him you believe and need Him to save you. Pray this:
Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and I will not be able to go into heaven unless You write my name in your book. Please forgive my sin because I want to be a servant of good report and I want to be your child. I believe that You died for me and were buried and rose the third day for me. I am willing to turn away from my sin and from my life, the way I have been living it and to only live for you. Thank you for all the pain you suffered for me. Thank you for thinking of me when you died and I call on you now to give me life eternal. I pray in the holy name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Other hubs in this series: