Author Archives: Dr. Larry Dixon
BLESSING #13: The Blessing of a Proper Fear
“I may tremble on the Rock, but the Rock never trembles under me! And that inner assurance not only relieves my fear, it allows me to carry on with much greater efficiency. And rather than causing me to be indifferent and irresponsible, it inspires me to direct all my energies toward those things that please and glorify the name of my heavenly Father . . . eternally protected because He has me in His all-powerful hand.” (Chuck Swindoll, Eternal Security)
As we continue to “count our blessings,” there is one which we seldom think about. We live in a culture which thinks that almost all fear is bad, especially a fear of God. However, as we engage with our lost friends who don’t have this particular blessing, we believers —
13. WE HAVE A PROPER FEAR!
THE BLESSING There is both proper and improper fear. Running out of a cabin in Arizona when you hear a rattling sound makes perfect sense, unless you enjoy an up-close and personal encounter with a rattlesnake! Some fears are groundless; many are life-saving.
THE BIBLE What about a fear of GOD? Many in our culture habitually use God’s name as a curse word, mock those who believe in Jesus, and think there will be no judgment day. The Bible declares such to be fools! We read that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10) and that “The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.” (Psalm 19:9). We are told, “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.” (Psalm 31:19). There is no better place in which we can find refuge than in the God who saved us by His Son’s sacrifice. We are challenged in Psalm 34 that we should “Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” (v. 9). And the above verses are from only one book of the Bible!
ACTION STEPS 1. What other verses in Scripture can you find which describe biblical fear? Write out one verse each day which shows that a biblical fear is a good thing.
2. Read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (found online) this week. Don’t allow your high school English teacher’s criticism of that sermon deter you from its primary challenge. How does Edwards use the concept of fear to reach the lost?
3. Perhaps ask your unsaved friend, “What are you most afraid of?” Seek, by God’s wisdom, why they do not fear standing before a holy God at the end of life.
PRAYER 4. How do I pray for my unsaved friend? I pray to God the Holy Spirit that my friend would think about the holiness of God and his own need of forgiveness, that somehow he would realize that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31), that the Spirit of God would bring conviction of sin to his soul.
BLESSING #12: The Blessing of a Permanent Joy
Joseph Haydn was once criticized for the gaiety of his church music. He replied: “I cannot help it. I give forth what is in me. When I think of the Divine Being, my heart is so full of joy that the notes fly off as from a spindle. And as I have a cheerful heart, He will pardon me if I serve Him cheerfully.”
“Count your blessings — Name them one by one . . . “🎶 I sang this song as a young Christian. In thinking about my unsaved friend Mike, I’m counting the blessings I have in Christ. My heart goes out to him — for he doesn’t have these blessings because he doesn’t have the Lord.
I long for my friend to have this next blessing. And I want to remind my family in Christ that —
12. WE HAVE A PERMANENT JOY !
THE BLESSING Joy is quite different from the kind of temporary happiness our world offers. Happiness, as someone has said, depends on happenings. Joy for the believer is solid and lasting and eternal, for it comes from the everlasting God! Dr. Willard S. Krabill has said that “The mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee!”
THE BIBLE Jesus had much to say about joy. He promises a complete joy in John 15:11 when He says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” He challenges His followers in John 16 by saying, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (v. 24). He promises that the disciples’ grief will turn to joy in John 16:20 and that no one can take away their joy (v. 22).
Spiritual leaders like C.S. Lewis and John Piper focused much of their ministry on the concept of pursuing joy in the Lord. “Joy is the serious business of heaven,” Lewis said.
He also wrote,
“Either the day must come when joy prevails and all the makers of misery are no longer able to infect it, or else, for ever and ever, the makers of misery can destroy in others the happiness they reject for themselves.”
Pastor John Piper so aptly wrote,
“Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.”
ACTION STEPS 1. List several joy killers that you have experienced recently. These may be circumstances — or people! What steps can you take to not allow those issues or individuals to steal your joy?
2. Unit-reading is reading an entire book of the Bible at one sitting. Unit-read the book of Philippians each day this week, and take a few notes on the topic of joy.
3. “The joyful Christian is an arresting advertisement of the gospel,” someone once said. We all have different personalities. Would your friends and associates describe you as a joyful person? Why or why not?
PRAYER 4. How do I pray for my unsaved friend? First I need to show that joy in Jesus that my friend does not yet have. Second, I need to pray that he would sense a lack of true, biblical joy in his life.
BLESSING #11: The Blessing of a Defendable Worldview
The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, has said, “This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
God’s Word is filled with blessings that belong only to the saved. My friend Mike is lost and, therefore, doesn’t enjoy any of these benefits. Do I? Am I aware of all that I have “in Christ”?
In thinking about the many blessings which our unsaved friends don’t have, we need to think about another blessing which we followers of Christ have been given and it is this —
11. WE HAVE A DEFENDABLE WORLDVIEW ! THE BLESSING
Not to get too philosophical, but any worldview other than that given by God in His Word is susceptible to attack and eventual overthrow. Wow! What a dogmatic statement! But seriously, if biblical Christianity isn’t true and the Bible isn’t God’s Word, why should we bother following Christ? There are clear and strong evidences of the Bible’s truthfulness; Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection; and the fact that the God of the Bible is real and holy and angry at sin.
THE BIBLE The Bible gives many examples of believers defending the truth of the gospel (see Acts 17 as a great illustration of a philosophically-informed Apostle Paul presenting the truth about Jesus). In fact, Jesus followers are commanded to be ready to give reasons for their faith in their Savior. We read in I Pe. 3:15, “
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . .
Please notice in this passage that the defense of our faith (1) begins in our hearts! We revere, show proper respect for the Lord, when we are prepared to stand up for the truth. Notice also that (2) we are to always be prepared to give an answer. Preparation takes effort and study and intention. Notice as well that (3) we should expect people to ask us about our faith! It’s a lot easier to witness when we are asked about our walk with the Lord. And, lastly, this passage teaches that (4) our attitude (gentleness and respect) are really important to our witness.
ACTION STEPS 1. Our society suffers from what one writer calls “truth decay.” Someone has said that “Apart from blunt truth, our lives sink decadently amid the perfume of hints and suggestions.” Study at least 10 verses on truth (perhaps two per day) that you find in the Scriptures. How might you practically stand for the truth of the gospel?
2. If you’ve been a believer for a while, become friends with someone from a different religion or even a cult. Ask them a lot of questions about their faith and graciously share with them what you know about Jesus’ identity and His being the only way to salvation.
3. Consider offering a group study on a book like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. And make sure some participants aren’t yet believers!
PRAYER 4. How do I pray for my unsaved friend? First of all, I need to understand his present worldview. Then do whatever I can to challenge it in light of the gospel. And, third, I need to pray for God the Holy Spirit to open my friend’s eyes to how he ought to view life and eternity and . . . Jesus.
BLESSING #10: A Healthy Perspective on Getting Old
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” (George Burns)
My friend Mike is helping me become more aware of what I have as a believer and what he doesn’t yet have. I’m certainly not gloating, but he inspires me to take stock of what I have in Christ. And what I long for him to have!
Let’s think about a tenth benefit of the believer as we recognize a truth about our unbelieving friends. And it is that —
10. The Blessing of a HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE ON GETTING OLD!
If this is the only life one gets, then getting older has got to bring some sadness to the one outside of Christ! Sure, there are joys in seeing one’s children grow up, but if in the final analysis one only gets old and dies, that is about as depressing as life can get!
THE BIBLE: I’ve recently been going through Psalm 16 with my friend Frank and there we read:
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
That’s what growing older for a believer involves — “boundary lines” in “pleasant places.” And for the Christian there is a “delightful inheritance”! As one person put it, “Forget about aging gracefully. Focus instead on aging gratefully.”
My lovely wife recently picked out an emoji (a cartoon picture) to represent her on the internet. Cute hairstyle, fashionable glasses, adorable face. And she asked me what I thought of her emoji. I said, “She’s very cute — but don’t you think you need to add some wrinkles?” I really don’t remember much after that. We need to have a biblical view of aging, don’t we? I appreciate C.S. Lewis’ statement when he said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
ACTION STEPS 1. Have you thanked the Lord lately for His presence in your getting older? Express to someone today your gratitude for God’s sustaining grace in your life.
2. Have a conversation with someone much older than you in your church one day this week about getting older. What lessons has the Lord taught them over the years about aging?
3. Psalm 37 has the very famous verse: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” Read over this Psalm every day this week and ask what lessons there are in this Psalm about being “old” in the Lord.
PRAYER 4. How do I pray for my unsaved friend? I can pray that he would see his days and months and years as a gift from God and that he would turn to the Lord for salvation! Eternity — not nothingness — awaits. And we can use our time here for honoring Him!
BLESSING #9: The Blessing of the Help of the Spirit
“You will find a certain type of preacher and evangelist who claims that he is entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit. It is a blasphemous thing to saddle the Holy Spirit with the blame for rambling, wearisome, and unprepared effusions.” (William Barclay).
My unsaved friend Mike is helping me become more aware of what I have as a believer and what he doesn’t yet have. This list is not given in any sense of gloating, for I grieve for what my friend doesn’t have.
One of the greatest blessings for the believer is that —