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Monday, November 23, 2009

Integrity

There are some who have a romanticized view of the past who contend that men absent of integrity have only started sprouting up like mushrooms after a spring rain within the past few decades. The truth of the matter however, is that there have always been men lacking in integrity, or otherwise completely absent of integrity, and even men such as Apostle Paul had to contend with them from time to time.
Now when I speak of integrity, I do not speak of it in broad terms such as business dealings, or dealing with the world at large, but in the more focused arena of rightly handling and dividing the Word of God. Men who would pervert, or otherwise twist the word of God for personal gain have always existed, and Paul did his best to both disassociate himself from such men, and rebuke their conduct.
2 Corinthians 2:17, “For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.”
Most theologians and learned men agree that the second epistle to the Corinthians was written some time during the latter end of 56 A.D. It had not been long since Jesus had walked among them, it had not been long since the death and resurrection of Christ, yet as Paul pens these words, he feels the need to point out that he along with Titus and the other man with whom he entrusted this epistle, were not as so many, peddling the word of God.
A handful of years had passed, yet already there were many who were peddling the word of God, many who adulterated and twisted it for gain. It is not a new phenomenon, but one that the word warns us will only grow in intensity. The Word speaks of a future time, when false teachers will abound and secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
What the Word once spoke of in future tense has now become the present, and as the Word forewarned, many are following these destructive heresies, and because of these men who have brought them in, the way of truth is being blasphemed.
2 Peter 2:3, “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”
What we are seeing in this present age, is that men who call themselves preachers, pastors, and evangelists, are actively denying the divinity of Christ, and also exploiting the sheep of God’s house by promoting an envious eagerness to possess something. In short, these men are using greed, to manipulate the innocents of God’s house.
So the question that we must ask ourselves as individuals, is are we part of the many who are peddling the word of God, or part of the few who out of sincerity speak as from God, and in the sight of God in Christ?
When it comes to handling and rightly dividing the word of God, we must have absolute and unwavering integrity. We cannot choose to have integrity only when it suits us, we cannot choose to employ integrity only when it is profitable to us, but in perpetuity, regardless of the aftereffects we might be confronted with.
The written word of God has a single purpose on this earth, that of bringing the wayward man into the heavenly Father’s house, to remake him in the image and likeness of God after these were lost due to man’s fall. The written word of God reveals the Christ to us, the one by which man might be saved. In the Word we see the Son of God in all His glory, and all His humility. We behold Him as he pays the ultimate price for our redemption and as he ascends into heaven to take His rightful place.
John 20:30-31, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
A believer in possession of integrity will always bring Christ to the forefront, and present Him to those who are willing to hear. It is not difficult to identify those who are peddling the word, if you know what to look for. When someone speaks more about themselves, their possessions, their exploits or their recent acquisitions of high end items than they do about Jesus, chances are they are counted among the many that do nothing more than peddling the word of God for personal gain. When someone omits certain scriptural and fundamental truths for fear of offending or being deemed an extremist or a zealot, they are doing nothing more than peddling the word of God.
It would seem many today are struggling not to lift high the name of Christ, or to preach Jesus, but to distance themselves as far as humanly possible from certain affirmations that Jesus Himself made.
It was Jesus who said that He is the way, the truth and the life. It was Jesus who said that no man comes to the Father but by Him, but some are taking it upon themselves to question the veracity of Christ’s affirmations, or denying this truth altogether. Those who are questioning or outright denying these words of Jesus, are neither atheists nor worldly men, but the selfsame men that stand behind pulpits and call themselves the mouthpieces of God.
This is just one of many examples, one of many issues that need to be confronted and dealt with within the house of God. There is simplicity in integrity, but there is also power and conviction.
2 Corinthians 1:12, “For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.”
In the life of every believer, the most steadfast and consistent watchman, second only to the Word of God, is the conscience that has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit. When our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world by the grace of God, in simplicity and godly sincerity, it gives us boldness and courage in our confession. It is also when we walk in simplicity and godly sincerity that we learn not to trust in our own wisdom, our own intellect or our own abilities. We learn that earthly wisdom can do nothing when it comes to reaching the hearts of men, and drawing them toward truth and light. We lean on the wisdom of God, we trust in the power of God, and we walk in the grace of God. When we speak with sincerity, as from God, and in His sight, we have the unshakable trust that God will be faithful in watering the seed that is planted by the simple words we utter, and the good news of the gospel that we present.
Walk in integrity, and you will walk in wisdom. Walk in integrity and you will walk in victory. Walk in integrity, and you will walk in the knowledge that God will fight on your behalf, and touch the hearts of those with which you share. Yes, there are many who peddle the word of God, but there are still those faithful few who will not compromise the truth, who will stand on the word of God, and who will boldly proclaim the name of Christ. Pray for such individuals, and aspire to be such individuals. As an old adage so aptly puts it the greater the darkness the greater the need for light; and the greater the deception, the greater the need for truth.

With love in Christ,

Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Matters Most

I realize it has been some time since my last post, but there is a perfectly good explanation. First, my little brother Daniel got married, so I had to fly to Romania and attend his wedding, and I've been living with my parents in law ever since then. It has been some time since I've lived in a group setting, and if you throw in the barking dogs and other distractions, it is not at all an environment conducive to deep thought and reflection.
As a sidebar, please keep the children at the hand of help orphanage in your prayers, as well as the staff, and their families. As yet  we have been spared any malady, such as the swine flu, or what is being leaked out of the Ukraine as something akin to the plague of the early 1900's. Botosani, the area where we live, has had the most confirmed cases of the swine flu in the entire country in the past few days. Thank you for your understanding, and your prayers.
We are all, from the moment of our birth until the day our aged flesh goes into the earth, subjected to our own dreams and flights of fancy. It would seem we are all born with aspirations, our dreams taking on wings of their own, and soaring high above our current circumstances. Although we peer into an uncertain and unknown future, as far as we as individuals are concerned, most of us daydream about the best possible outcome, looking down the tunnel of future time and seeing our teeth straighter absent the use of braces, and the weight having melted off absent the facilitation of neither diet nor exercise.
As adolescents, we dream of bicycles and slingshots, as teenagers of fast cars and cool clothes, then as the march of time matures us, perhaps of a wife or a husband, of our children moving into their own homes, and eventually of retirement, and not having achy joints or rheumatoid arthritis in the twilights of our lives.
We all dream to a greater or lesser degree and the dreams of some are more realistic and attainable than of others. In the gospel according to John, there was a man whose dreams had been reduced to nothing more than receiving enough change from those passing by, to buy himself a loaf of bread. For thirty eight years this man had been suffering the same malady, and as we all know there is nothing more certain than an infirmity to bring us back to the real world, to replant our feet firmly upon the ground, and cause us to stop dreaming dreams. This man’s dream was to be normal, to be healthy, to have some vitality in his body, to stop depending on others for his daily care, something we all take for granted on a daily basis. He lay by the pool at Bethesda, waiting for the angel to come and stir the waters, hoping against hope that someone would have the heart to help him into the water. The chances of this happening were very slim, because multitudes gathered at this pool, some less frail and sickly than this man, others who had family and friends to help them, and all desiring to be the first one in, because only the first one into the pool after the angel stirred the waters would be made well of whatever disease they had.
It would have taken the kind of selflessness that only one Man throughout history has shown, to help another into the pool knowing they would be made well instead of you, or your loved one. Yes, the man was lame, yes the man was pitiable, yes the man was there alone, watching as others leapt out of the pool, exuberant and ecstatic, having been made whole, dreaming what for him was most likely an impossible dream, that of being made whole himself, that of someone sacrificing their own wellbeing, their own comfort, their own healing, for his own.
As it so happened, one day Jesus was passing by Bethesda, and as He beholds the multitude of sick, suffering from an array of incurable infirmities such as blindness, paralysis, and lameness, this one man catches His eye. This one man stands out in the crowd.
Their interaction was by no means long or laborious, and there was no drawn out conversation. In fact, Jesus spoke a total of fourteen words to the man, but they were words that changed his life, and allowed him to dream again.
John 5:5-6, “Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’”
John 5:8, “Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.”
Within the span of these fourteen words there are three fundamental truths that Jesus imparts, three necessary realizations that we as individuals must come to, that are as relevant and impacting for us today, as they were for the lame man two thousand years ago. In fact we will be focusing on seven words that Jesus spoke, three of which were action verbs that demanded an action and a reaction from the lame man. These three truths are the essence of the message of the gospel, and what matters most when it comes to having a right heart, and a right spirit that we might receive the truth, and be transformed by it.
The first of three truths or realizations that we must come to terms with is the present circumstance or situation that we currently find ourselves in.
This man knew that he was lame; this man knew that he was helpless; this man knew that he needed help. So often our pride will not allow us to admit our shortcomings, or the fact that we need help, we need prayer, and we need encouragement. This man had come to terms with the reality of his present circumstance, and when Jesus told him to rise, he didn’t say that he was perfectly fine where he was at, or that he didn’t really need any help, but was broken enough and humble enough to know he needed to be saved and restored.
If you happen to be reading these words, and are not saved, you too have certain truths with which you must come to terms with.
The first is that you are a sinner. You are weak, you are blind, you are proud, and you are lame. Your sin has rendered you helpless and you lay on the ground as this man did, unable to save yourself.
The second truth you must come to terms with, is that you are living in an exceedingly sinful and evil world. No matter what country you hail from, in your country, and at this very moment babies are being murdered in their mother’s wombs, the bars are overflowing with patrons desiring to drown their hopelessness and despair, the courts are full of divorce cases waiting to be tried, and sin is marching on largely unopposed by those calling themselves Christians. This is just the reality of the world we are living in.
The third truth that you must acknowledge is that you desperately need a change. Many today believe that change will come about by way of educating the masses, yet there is not a single day without war in a world full of universities and edifices dedicated to higher learning.
Another popular theory is that we are all products of our environment, and if we can change people’s environment we will surely transform their character. This theory is largely nullified when taking into account the countless exceptional parents, who provided a loving and positive environment, yet are largely forgotten and left to wither away into nothingness in hospices and senior care facilities, sent there by their own blood and offspring.
Not even religion is able to bring about the change we need, since much blood has been shed in the name of God, and putting two men of different denominational affiliation in the same room is likely to result in a heated argument if not outright violence.
Another reality that you cannot circumvent or otherwise ignore is that a price was paid for you. Whoever you are, however irrelevant you might consider yourself to be, know that the greatest ransom in the history of the universe was paid for you. The Word tells us that we were not bought with anything perishable, or with easily attainable things such as silver or gold, but with the blood of the only begotten Son of God. During the reign of Pontius Pilate, on a fateful day that will forever be remembered, Jesus Christ paid the price in full for you and for me. God gave the best He had, and what was most precious to Him, that we might have life in Him and through Him.
The last thing you must come to terms with, and acknowledge if as yet you have not received Christ in your heart, and made Him Lord of all, is that there is a future judgment. I realize no one wants to hear the word judgment; it has become as unwelcome even in Christian circles as the word plague, but future judgment is as tangible a reality as the sun rising every morning.
Romans 2:5-6, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds.’”
Why am I so certain of future judgment? I am certain of this truth because the Bible speaks of it often, and because judgment is the essence of God’s righteousness and holiness, as well as the manifestation of His justice.
After commanding the lame man to rise, Jesus commanded him to pick up his bed. Spiritually speaking, this is a command to renounce and turn our back on our old life, and everything it entailed. Everything that could have reminded the lame man of his previous hopeless existence had to be removed and done away with. True repentance and a true Christian walk is not changing the congregation you attend, but changing your life. It is replacing your old life, with the new life you’ve been given in Jesus.
Too many today have come to believe that repentance is the adaptation of divine faith to the old life. The popularity of teachings that insist that one can have the best of both worlds, that one can live in sin and yet infuse faith into their lives is more popular today than ever before. Such teachings however, are as wrong today as they have ever been. True repentance, is the cross, true repentance is the yoke of Christ, and these things presuppose a separation from our old lives, and from the world itself.
The old thoughts, the old desires, the old vocabulary, the old conduct, and the old lifestyle must all be done away with, and never again revisited. Once you take up the cross of Christ, once you take upon you the yoke of Christ, you are forever changed and transformed. Peter never did return to his fishing business, Matthew never did resume his work as a tax collector, and Luke never again opened a clinic. They were men transformed, men renewed, men that had received a new purpose and desire for their lives.
The last command that Jesus gave the lame man, was to walk. From a spiritual perspective, this means to begin living a new life. The danger of becoming a static Christian is ever present in our lives. God has no use for, nor does He desire us to be some fragile thing, placed upon a mantle, only to be dusted once in awhile, like some Faberge egg that no one can touch or handle. God desires us to be a new creation in Him, that is as visible in a sinful world as a light is in the midst of darkness. As living testimonies of the power and presence of God in our lives, we must possess a new mind, a new heart, new priorities and a new hope, that all would see Christ in us and working through us.
Rise, take up your bed and walk! These words are as powerful and life changing for us as individuals today, as they were for the lame man some two thousand years ago. The only questions that remain to be answered, are do we have ears to hear, and will we obey Christ’s command?

With love in Christ,
 
Michael Boldea Jr.