Thursday, March 21, 2013

Bridges to Burn and Bridges not to Burn.

Have you ever heard the saying, "don't burn all of your bridges behind you?" It has never been my intent to burn all my bridges behind me. I am reminded of the scripture found in Romans 14:4 where the Apostle Paul said, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand."  (See the entire discussion in Romans 14:1-13) I have not only believed that all my Christian walk but have preached it. I still believe it and still preach it. 

However there are judgments that we as Christians have to make. The Bible says in 2nd Corinthians 13:5, "
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" There, you say, we are to examine ouselves, not be examined by others! True! But examining ourselves takes some judgement. 
We are to examine ouselves, not by what we think but by what God thinks. "There is a way," the Bible says in Proverbs 16:25, that seems right to us "but the end thereof are the ways of death." How does God think? His word tells us all we need to know about how we should live. The Bible says in 2nd Peter 1:3 that God "
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue..." So when you examine yourself in the light of God's word, do you measure up? If not, then the message is clear, repent!

Have you ever heard someone quote the scripture that says, "don't look on the outward appearance for God sees the heart," (actually that is a paraphrase), then they proceed to justify themselves in their actions. I am reminded of what a minister once told me about a woman he pastored whom he had to reprove for gossiping. (I can't remember for sure which story I'm trying to relate. In one instance, a woman was reported to have replied, "but pastor, it's not gossip, it's the truth!" I think that was just a story to make me laugh.) Anyway, the woman's response (in a whiny voice) was, "well the Lord knows my heart." The minister replied, "yes God does know your heart!" But lets examine where the scripture is found about God seeing the heart.

King Saul had been rejected by God and God had chosen one of the sons of Jesse to be king of Israel in Saul's place. The Lord sent Samuel to anoint one of Jesse's sons (Jesse had 8 sons, see 1st Samuel 17:12). When Samuel saw the stature of Jesse's sons, Samuel thought surely he was looking on one of them as the future king. But each one in his turn was refused by the LORD. David had either not been called to the family meeting because of his youth or perhaps had stayed with the flock because of need. The Bible says in 1st Samuel 16:7,  that God, speaking to Samuel about  which son of Jesse it was who God would choose as king of Israel, "...said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." Then, when David was called, God said to Samuel in 1st Samuel 16:12, "Arise, anoint him: for this is he." So indeed, the Bible clearly states that God sees the heart. You can't fool Him by your outward appearance.

But wait a second, neither you nor I are God. We can't see the heart. We can only see the outward appearance. So there seems to be a problem when one justifies one's self with the statement, God sees the heart. There is another Bible passage in the New Testament that comes into play here. That is found in 1st Thessalonians 5:22. Here the Apostle Paul is telling the church at Thessalonica to "Abstain from all appearance of evil." (See 1st Thessalonians 5:15-22 for all that Paul said.) Are we to be careful how we appear to men? Why? If God sees the heart, what difference could it possibly make how we appear? I guess that it goes back to the statement that neither you nor I are God, we can only see the outward appearance. Oh I know that the Bible says in 1st Corinthians 12:10 that to some God has given the gift of discernment. (I have met some people that looked OK but when I shook their hand the Holy Ghost in me told me that they weren't right with God). The difference it makes then is exactly because men can only see the outward appearance.

Now the Apostle Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians 10:12, "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." No, we shouldn't compare ourselves among ouselves. That isn't wise. But neither is it wise for a preacher to ignore the New Testament command found in 2nd Timothy 4:2 to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." How is a man, who is not God and cannot see the heart, able to reprove or rebuke another without making some sort of judgment? We need to do what Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 4:5 to, "preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." We need to preach "all the counsel of God." (See Acts 20:27)

There are bridges we should not burn behind us. There are some I have burned that I wish now I had left intact. But then again, there are some that I am glad I have burned. There is a song that my wife Shirley and I have sung in the past. It is called, "I Will Never Turn Back." The words of the chorus go something like this;
"I will never turn back, He's my light every day.
I will never turn back for my Saviour is leading the way."
I have burned all the bridges back to the old life I once lived. Now I can say with the Apostle Paul, "...forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:13-14 

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