26. Wholesome Thinking

Meditations in 2 Peter : 26 :  Wholesome Thinking 

2 Pet  3:1,2    Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.  

In the previous meditation we reflected on the fact that this was Peter’s second reminder letter. Now we need to think some more on why he wrote it. This has come through clearly a number of times, especially in the early part of it, but the fact that he repeats it means he wants us to think about it even more. He didn’t write just because he thought it was a good idea; he wrote because he was aware that his time was limited and he had a burden to ensure that he had done everything possible to ensure that he left the early church with good foundations that would stand in the face of the various forms of opposition that was coming from the enemy. It was a time of great battle for the truth. Satan had failed in his attempts to halt or distract Jesus and the Great Work had been accomplished; there was no taking that back.  But he could try to lead the church astray so that they forgot the basic truths of what had happened and what it meant, and distort the way they saw it,  so they lived lives of struggle just like the rest of the world. Peter is going to do all he can to counter these things.

And so he says now that he has written both these letters first as reminder, and then as prompts to help us to have wholesome thinking. We’ve covered in an earlier meditation our need to be regularly reminded but now he says he wants to stimulate or prompt or stir us to have wholesome thinking. Whatever ‘wholesome thinking’ is, it doesn’t come automatically; we need to be stirred up to reach it. But isn’t this true of all learning – and the Christian faith, as we’ve noted previously, is one big learning curve – that we need stimulating to think. That’s what good teachers are doing constantly, trying to get their students to think for themselves – to think, to reason and to work things out. One of the enemy’s strategies is to get us to focus on the problems and stresses of life from a purely human and godless viewpoint.

So Peter says, I want to stir you to ‘wholesome thinking’. Now those two words are, of course, the words of translators trying to record best what the original meant. The Message version ducks the issue with, “to hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention,” which would suggest that distractions prevent wholesome thinking. J.B.Phillips did, we believe, a slightly better job with “minds uncontaminated by error”.  The NKJV simple speaks of “I stir up your pure minds”.

So ‘wholesome’ thinking is good thinking, healthy thinking, sound thinking, complete or full thinking. But then, thankfully, Peter gives us some help: I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.”   In other words, the sort of thinking that he has in mind is that which focuses on the very basics or foundational truths that he has already in this letter referred to – the revelation of Jesus Christ brought throughout the Old Testament by God’s prophets, spurred on by Him, the revelation of what had happened and who Jesus was, seen in the fulfilment of those prophecies, and attested to by the many witnesses who saw and heard Jesus and so who were also able to pass on his words.

It is the same flow, the same unity, that we have observed previously  but being reiterated by Peter to ensure we take it in – God’s will declared by His prophets, God’s will fulfilled through His Son, God’s will attested to by the apostles and God’s will now passed down to us through His written word.

When we focus on and hold on to, and meditate on these truths and live them out in daily practice, then we may be described as having a ‘wholesome mind’. It is a mind that holds the truths conveyed by God, and it is a mind committed to those truths. It is also a mind that is sufficiently clear about those truths and understands the importance of those truths, that it will also be committed to passing them on to the next generation.

We may also add this sort of mind filters everything in the world through the truth thus received that we have been describing. When we hold the Bible up and let it shine on modern life, it will reveal the failures and foolishness of much modern life. It will also show us the way ahead, the way to live out our lives in accord with God’s design. When we allow it to do that, it will transform us and the world around us as we act as salt and light. THAT is why Peter keeps on repeating these same things in different ways; it is because he knows the potential of the truth to change the world, as long as we hang on to it and live it out! May it be so!

21. Obedience

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 21 :  Blessings of Obedience

(Focus: Deut 7:12-16)

Deut 7:12,13 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers.

Remember the context. Drive out the inhabitants of the Land and their religion (7:1-6) for you are a holy, unique people. God chose you to be this because He loves you (7:7-11) so hold on to His laws. Note the inter-linking of Moses’ argument: you are a specially chosen, holy people, so have nothing to do with the people in the Land, but instead live the lives that God lays out for you in the Law. Remember we also said that everything Moses says here is to encourage Israel to follow that Law in the centuries to come. Now he gives them an additional motivation – the good that will come if they do follow the Law that God has given them.

He starts with this general call that we have noticed before: If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them.” (v.12a) Paying attention means making sure they hold a central place in your life as a nation, and that means more than merely paying lip service to them; it means carefully following them. Now that is the condition for what follows and we need to remind ourselves that it IS a condition and without it the following will NOT happen!

The blessing of obedience is first simply stated generally: “then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers.” (v.12b) i.e. you do your side of the covenant and the Lord will do His. Note again it is described as a covenant of love. It is God’s way of being able to express His heart of love to this people. Now when God speaks about His love these aren’t just words, for God will DO specific things to bless Israel. This is so obvious when we read it, that we need to slow down and take it in.

First, “He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers.” (v.13a) Humanly speaking there is no reason why they should flourish but God is going to decree blessing for this people and its outworking is going to be clearly visible. It is NOT merely a natural thing for it could so easily be the opposite. But this ‘increasing in numbers’ is going to happen in specific ways: “He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land–your grain, new wine and oil–the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young.” (v.13b,14) God’s blessing, His decree of good, is going to affect the way women conceive, the harvest, and their herds and flocks, i.e. all life is going to be blessed.

Now we need to realise that this is God’s enabling, it won’t happen without Him. It doesn’t take a very clever person to look at the way our world works to realise that infertility, cattle disease and poor crops are not unusual. In a Fallen World, as we so often say, things go wrong, but for Israel, if they hold fast to the Lord, things will not go wrong. To the contrary, things will go very right because God has decreed that it will be like that and when He speaks, it is done. Now we have just said that all Israel need to do is hold fast to the Lord, and the way that they do this is by holding on to and keeping all the laws and instructions that God has given them.

These laws will enable to them to live in peace and harmony within the nation and in so doing, they will be demonstrating their love for God. Keeping close to Him means that His life can be imparted to them and that is then seen in the ways we have just read. The laws in themselves will not bring about those things, but the blessing of God will come when they do live like that, demonstrating His wisdom to the rest of the world, and then revealing His blessing on them to the rest of the world. Possibly the best example of this working out is the Queen of Sheba coming to view the blessing that God has bestowed on Solomon and Israel, and we read when she saw it, “she was overwhelmed.” (1 Kings 10:5) and went on to declare, “Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:9) She understood the source of Solomon’s blessing!

Those are the positive sides of God’s blessing, but it also comes in another way: “The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.” (v.15) Not only will they be fruitful but the Lord will also keep them healthy and they will not suffer the diseases that come in this Fallen World that others suffer. Those who hate and oppose them will suffer those things, but not Israel!

So, Moses returns to his original theme of obedience and especially in respect of dealing with the inhabitants of the Land: “You must destroy all the peoples the LORD your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.” (v.16).  This is the command and failure to keep it will mean loss of the blessing that we have just considered.

It maybe that we who are Christians today need to realise afresh the blessings that are promised us in the word of God in return for our obedience. As you read the New Testament, look for it.

 

Walk of Potential

WALKING WITH GOD. No.33

1 Kings 11:38 “If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.”

They do say that some people have a better start in life than others. I suppose this is so when you consider a child born to a wealthy, healthy, united family compared to a child born to a poor single mother in a ghetto. The potential for each child is the same in that they are a human being capable of much if they reach for it, but the truth so often is that the child from the slum is rarely able to overcome all the awfulness of that environment and what it means, and climb to great heights. The child from the wealthy neighbourhood, we might say, has it all going for them.

Yes, a good start in life is a real help and Jeroboam certainly had that, and that is who our verse is about today. Jeroboam had been an official for Solomon (v.26), a young man of standing (v.28) who had been appointed a manager. Now Jeroboam was minding his own business going out of Jerusalem, presumably on business, when he was joined by a man named Ahijah, who happens to be a prophet. Once they have walked some distance from Jerusalem, Ahijah takes off his new cloak and tears it into twelve strips and gives ten of them to Jeroboam saying, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes.(v.31). In other words God is appointing him the new king over Israel although He is going to leave Solomon’s family two tribes, for the sake of David (v.32), and He goes on to explain, “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.” (v.33). Now it is important to see this because the Lord is giving Jeroboam clear insight into why Solomon’s family is being removed from office – because they had false worship. That is important to bear in mind in all that follows. By way of contrast, the Lord goes on to promise him a lasting dynasty if he doesn’t go that way.

From this point on Jeroboam has potentially a great future. He and his family will be the future kings of Israel . All they have to do is stick with the Lord and avoid the foolish ways that Solomon had gone, into foreign idol worship. As Jeroboam looks to the future, his walk with God is a walk of potential. He has everything going for him. He has God on his side and he has seen clearly the cause of Solomon’s downfall, so he knows what to avoid. The future looks good. If only!

To cut a long story short, Jeroboam was made king of the ten tribes (12:20) and God even told Rehoboam in the south not to go to war against Jeroboam. In this manner the Lord protects him, and the word of this must surely have reached Jeroboam. He is at a place of peace and he has the Lord on his side. Potentially everything is great, and then this man shows his true colours. Does he refer to the Lord when he has a concern? No! He starts worrying, thinking about the Temple in Jerusalem, and thinks that the people of the north under his reign might drift back south to go and worship the Lord in Jerusalem . So what does he do? He sets up a substitute religion with an idol at either end of the country, and high places with shrines for worship all over the place, making sacrifices and creating festivals. It is truly a substitute religion with all the trappings of the old – except the Lord! For this he was rebuked by a word from God. Jeroboam squandered all the potential that had been his and disregarded the Lord.

What is the lesson here for us? When we come to Christ we have tremendous potential. We know what we have been saved from and gradually we come to see what we have been saved for.  In Christ we have the potential to become the people we were designed to be. As we receive all of our inheritance in Christ we become whole people, who have every aspect of their lives touched by God. The path ahead is a path of blessing. All that is required of us is that we remain true to the Lord. The potential is enormous! However, there is that awful thing called free will to consider. Yes, the terrible thing is that the Lord still gives is free will and we can choose to follow the Lord, or not! The blessing of God is not on the ‘or not’! God has wonderful things He yet wants to do in and through you. The potential for your life in His hands is enormous. Will we fulfil it or squander it? The choice is ours! You can be a child of the slums but yet with Christ rise to great things. You can be a child of the affluent West, yet squander all the potential you have. Consider these things carefully.