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A Painful Toothache

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Today’s Bible Reading: Jeremiah 19-21:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-28; Psalm 82:1-8; Proverbs 25:9-10


Old Testament

The pagan nations around Israel and Judah had a practice whereby they burned their children alive as sacrifices to their false gods. Over time the Jews came to forsake the real God and began worshipping these false gods, including adopting the abominable practice of child sacrifice (Jeremiah 19:4).

I think the worst tragedy is when believers begin to act like non-believers as this sends the message that sinful behavior is not sinful. God intended Israel to be light that would turn the world to Him. Instead the world turned Israel away from Him. In New Testament times (in which we live) Christians are to play this same role. Our lifestyle and values should not be like those around us. We should be different so the world will take notice.

In just the past few years the United States has quickly become intolerant to any teaching from the Bible. Despite the freedom of speech allowed in our Constitution, laws are being passed that make it illegal to mention, for example, that homosexuality is a sin. Jeremiah faced the same situation. He tried to teach people about God’s love for them and how their sin was hurting them. In response he was arrested and beaten (Jeremiah 20:1-2). Things aren’t quite this bad in the United States… yet.

I think its interesting that the only way for the residents of Jerusalem to survive the Babylonian invasion was to surrender (Jeremiah 21:9). Trying to hold onto their lives would only bring death. The same is true eternally speaking. If we try to hold onto our lives we will die (end up in hell). But if we surrender our lives to Jesus, we will live (go to heaven). Jesus Himself told us this in Luke 17:33.


New Testament

It is not God’s goal to heap punishment upon people. It is His goal to save everyone through Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:9). It is one of Satan’s many lies that God is just waiting for us to screw up so He can lay into us. This is not true at all. The proof of God’s love is that He Himself came to earth, as Jesus, and died by being nailed to a cross so that we can live with Him forever (1 Thessalonians 5:10). If God simply wanted to punish us He would have stayed in heaven.

The goal of our pastors is to give us spiritual guidance (1 Thessalonians 5:12). Their job is to study God’s word and teach us how to apply it to our daily lives. They are spiritual doctors.

We are all sick with a disease called sin. The cure is God’s word. Just like a medical procedure the teachings of God can hurt and be unpleasant. But if we want to get better – either emotionally, physically or spiritually – we need to go through some pain. The phrase “no pain, no gain” certainly applies to our spiritual lives.

If you have a painful toothache you go to the dentist. To fix the problem the dentist may give you a shot and drill into your tooth. The dentist hurts you. But he doesn’t harm you. By hurting you he heals you. The same is true with God.

This letter was written to Christians in Thessalonika so the commands in it (and the promises) are for those of us who are God’s adopted children through Jesus (although it would not be wrong for everyone to follow them). God will hold Christians accountable for how we behaved after we joined His family. This accounting does not determine whether we enter heaven or not – as born-again believers we will. This accounting will determine what eternal rewards we receive once we get there.

To that end, Christians are to take care of others and to be patient (1 Thessalonians 5:14). We are not to take revenge but we should try to do good to all people (1 Thessalonians 5:15).

I think it is interesting that God put the word “try” into this verse. As sinners we cannot always do good. But we should want to and we should try to. Just like Paul wrote in Romans 7, just because we want to do the right thing doesn’t mean we will. Once we are born-again God begins to transform our minds (Romans 12:1) but we still live in bodies that are inherently sinful. The rest of our life is a struggle between what we want to do versus what we should do. God knows this. He doesn’t hold us to an impossible standard of perfection. Instead He wants to see us “try”.

One more thing that God commands of His children is to always be joyful (1 Thessalonians 5:16). This one is very hard for me. I see all the people who are going to die without having their sins forgiven because they have been taught lies by their parents, teachers, and governments. Therefore they do not believe in Jesus and will be separated from Him forever (we call that hell). Its hard for me to be joyful when so many people are facing such an eternity.


Psalms

It is right to desire justice. That is one reason why we are such a disputatious and litigious society. But it is not reasonable to expect perfect justice on this earth. Human beings are flawed. Our judgement is not always right. Nor are our intentions or motivations. Rather than seeking justice in man-made courts of law, we should turn to God who is the perfect judge and who will administer perfect eternal justice (Psalm 82).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.

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