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Devotional - There Are No Regrets In Jesus – Part Two

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Feb 21, 2013.

  1. As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. – 2Timothy 4: 6-8 (NLT)

    Today we continue in this short series about living a life without regrets. In yesterday’s devotional we reviewed the top five regrets people expressed when they knew their time was coming to an end on this earth. We contrasted this with what the Bible teaches us to show that a life lived for Christ leads to a life without regret. That is a powerful advantage for those of us who believe. The devil loves to use regrets to tie us to our past so that we can never move into the future God has called us to. Too many Christians lead completely bound lives. In bondage over the very things Christ went to the cross to free us from.

    Now we come to the exposition of the key verses. We find the Apostle Paul fully aware that his death was imminent. As he sits in a Roman prison and pens his second letter to his protégé, Timothy, he knows these are probably his last words. Within the key verses we find wisdom from God for us today about how to live our lives so that at the end we too can have no regrets. The first lesson is we need to pour out our lives as an offering to God. In poker parlance we need to be “all in.” There are far too many casual Christians these days. An hour and a half on Sunday, maybe a prayer meeting here or there, serve in a ministry, and that’s it. What else is there? How about the totality of our lives? Do we want a part time God in our lives? Is God in the decision making business in our lives or is He just an advisor? Is God with us at the business meeting? What about in the supermarket or on the highway when we get cut off?

    What does the imagery of a life being poured out say to us today? When something is poured out there is nothing left remaining. There was nothing held back. Everything was given. When you pour your life out for God there will be nothing left for you to possibly be regretful of. That is the point. What is it poured out as? An offering unto the Lord. A sacrifice to God. The Old Testament tells the story of Saul, the first King of Israel. Saul started out as a humble servant of God but somewhere along the way he began to believe his own press. He began to think more of himself and thus, less of God. He is given orders by God to completely wipe out the wicked Amalekites but instead he keeps the choicest animals and spares their king. This exchange follows between Saul and the Prophet of God, Samuel:

    “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul insisted. “I carried out the mission he gave me. I brought back King Agag, but I destroyed everyone else. Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. – 1Samuel 15: 20-22 (NLT)

    Not only is obedience better than sacrifice but it is sacrifice to God! It is a sacrifice of our self to obey God rather than our own desires. What is worse here is that Saul uses religiosity to excuse his disobedience! It is fairly obvious that he was not really thinking about God when he spared the best. If he was, why then did he also spare the king? No, Saul was thinking about Saul and he got caught. When caught he did what so many of us do reflexively – he lied. Compounding this though is he uses God as his lie! Before we go and get all outraged we need to realize how often we do the exact same thing. We use our religion to defend rude behavior, unloving behavior, sinful behavior, and everything in between. God is not interested in our religion or our excuses – He cares about our obedience. When He says we are to turn the other cheek to people who hate us – He actually means it. When He says we are to love one another – He actually means it. When He says we are to be salt and light – He actually means it. That is how you pour out your life for the Lord as an offering. It is only fair actually since He first poured out His life on Calvary for us.

    Secondly, Paul states that he has fought the good fight. There are many causes we can put our lives behind in this world. We see people devote their entire lives to missions work, saving the whales, ending world hunger and so many more crusades. In a world that has deteriorated so badly, it is no wonder there are so many causes. I must be honest though; I sometimes do not get the pro-animal causes. It is not that I do not like animals but can we first deal with the humans? I would be all for saving the whales after the humans are saved. I guess I wouldn’t mind seeing a poodle in a sweater if I didn’t have to watch it walk by a homeless man. Do you ever wonder sometimes if God is just shaking His head in disbelief at us?

    What Paul is saying here is that there is a fight that is worth having. When David was criticized by his brothers about his inquiry into the Goliath matter he asked is there not a cause? Yes beloved there is a cause and that fight that is good and worth having is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ without alteration or compromise to a lost and dying world. Remember, how much Paul had suffered in his fight:

    Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes.Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not.I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. – 2Corinthians 11: 23-27 (NLT)

    We can get upset if someone is sitting in our pew. Or if we are asked to help out in a ministry. There is a good fight beloved that is worth having. When you pour your life out in the pursuit of winning this fight you cannot possibly have any cause for regret. The fight is righteous and results in the saving of souls for the kingdom of God. Yes, there is a cause!

    Next, Paul says that he has finished the race. The Christian walk is a marathon – not a sprint. Too many times we have seen people enter the faith on fire for God and flame out as quickly as they entered. The deeper point here however is that it is just as important how we finish as it is how we started. Our later years are no time to give the devil any ground, stop fighting the good fight, or give in to compromise. I have seen it happen too many times. Remember, Paul did not have to go to Rome. In fact his friends did not want him to go because they all knew it would be the death of him. Paul could have rested on his religiosity and say that he had done enough. Evangelizing the entire known world through three harrowing missionary journeys! That would be enough for a lot of us, no? Paul knew however that he was supposed to go to Rome, even if it meant his death because while we all must die eventually – not all of us ever learn how to truly live for God. Paul did figure it out. The will of God should be more important than anything else in our lives.

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12: 1-3 (NIV)

    Far too many of us are crawling into heaven, let alone running the race! We fix our eyes too easily on the things of this world and pour our lives out over things that have no eternal value. We pour ourselves out over our career only to watch them outsource our jobs. We pour ourselves out over a spouse only to watch everything fall apart when they disappoint us. God does not want us growing weary or losing heart but the only way to that finish line is by fixing our eyes on Jesus. That is how we walk on the water. That is how we finish the race.

    Next we see that Paul states that he has remained faithful. Let’s be fair, Paul had plenty of opportunities to abandon his faith. Chained with Silas in the inner dungeon after being beaten with rods, he could have given up on his God. Instead he sang hymns to Him until He delivered them. Doubted by the Apostles, hated by the religious leaders, beaten, bloodied, and shipwrecked – yet nothing would shake his faith. That is the faith we are called to develop inside of ourselves:
    Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. – James 1: 2-8 (NIV)

    Trials test our faith because it is in those dungeon moments where we find out what our faith is made of. Do we turn away from God or towards Him? Do we bemoan our situation or sings hymns to the one we have entrusted our lives to? We are called to believe and not doubt. Unfortunately, there are too many mountaintop Christians quick to sing His praises when things are well but running away when the valley sets in. There are only four choices when we find ourselves in the valley. We can turn back and lose faith. We can sit down and stagnate. We can try to scale the walls and rely on our own strength. Or we can walk through with God. Our human nature always seeks the way out but God wants us to find His way through. Then when we pass the test of our faith we see that perseverance is developed inside of us and it is through the finishing work of perseverance that we mature and grow in Christ. That is how we can be assured when we are near our end that we too like Paul, can say that we have remained faithful. When we have remained faithful to God – He will complete the good work that He started in us. When that happens we know there will be nothing left for us to regret.

    Next in the key verses is a subject that is not preached on enough – rewards in heaven. Too often in modern Pentecostalism we treat salvation as the end product. We are saved therefore not going to hell so let’s just sit down and wait until Jesus comes. The Bible however says that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There is a process we are supposed to be going through. Works cannot get us into heaven but it can determine what level of reward awaits us in heaven. Here we see Paul eagerly looking forward to his crown of righteousness – the prize he is to receive for pouring his life out as a sacrifice to God. And look who bestows it unto Paul! Jesus Christ Himself upon His return to this world. Can you imagine hearing those words from our Lord and Savior – “well done…” as He bestows a crown of righteousness upon us. There is so much more for us than merely crawling into heaven. Most of us will not start as many churches as Paul did, or undertake as many missionary journeys but there is so much to do before Jesus comes back. Like the servant given talents by his Master, we are to do the most with what we have been entrusted with and not bury it in the ground.

    Because the last great truth in the key verses is that this great prize is not just for the super-apostles but it is for you and me! The truth is there are no super-apostles. We all have our part to play in the story God is writing. Some have been written in for bigger parts than others but the responsibility remains the same. God may have ten talents waiting for you but He is waiting to see what you do with the three He has already entrusted to you. Beloved, this life can drag us down and beat us up. The world system reinforces misery and regret. We looked at the five greatest regrets people have expressed as they were dying and saw that Jesus delivers us from all of them. But we need to re-examine our relationship with God. The church sells a casual Christianity that is stripped bare of the power of God. We need to pour our lives out to Christ because while Paul knew when his end was near – we might not be so informed. There is a cause beloved. We need to finish strong and remain faithful. There is a crown of righteousness awaiting us and a life lived without regret.

    Reverend Anthony Wade – February 21, 2013
     

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