September 30, 2011

Dead lions and Living dogs

Today’s devotional reading begins by saying that life is a precious thing. In its humblest form, life is always superior to death. The author then adds that this truth is even more important when speaking about spiritual life. 
But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes 9:4)
Spurgeon says that it is better to be the least in the kingdom of heaven than the greatest out of it. I agree. The most lowly saint is far better off than the most esteemed statesman who knows not eternal life. Knowing Jesus Christ is far more precious than a plethora of doctorates, credentials and achievements. Not only is this life but a small blip compared to eternity, the best of what unregenerate people can do in this life has no bearing at all in God’s eternal realm.

As Spurgeon says, the thief on the cross excels Caesar on his throne. Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators. The life of Jesus Christ in us is our badge of nobility and those without it are lifeless to God and dead in trespasses and sins.

For those of us who believe, God also says we must walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. That means that a gospel sermon preached in the power of Christ, however lean in content and unrefined in style, is better than the finest discourse without the anointing of Holy Spirit power. 

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)
This word corrupting simply means rotten, worthless, dead stuff from the deadness of the old life. It could be coarse and evil speech . . . 
Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:4)
It could also be less obvious, like flattery, boasting, and anything that is less than gracious and unsuitable for the occasion. This means that the person who is alive in Christ watches their mouth.

Of course a living dog keeps better watch than a dead lion. This live animal is of more service to his master, just as the poorest spiritual preacher is infinitely more useful to God than the exquisite orator. Some speakers sound fantastic, but their only wisdom is that of words, and their only energy that of sound. The power of God is not in them.

This is true of all our Christian activities also. When my life is empowered by the Holy Spirit, then whatever I do is acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. This is true no matter how I evaluate what I am doing. To me, something God can use might go unnoticed , or I might think that my actions were worthless. However, the working of God in and through His people is not necessarily for His people to be aware of or feel. It is for those who are receiving it. I can be strong when I feel weak. Paul wrote. . . .

But (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9–10)
If what I do seems like a grand performance and I am proud of it, likely this action was mere flesh and Christ is not in it. It falls into that dead lion category and is only carrion in the sight of the living God. How important to do all that I do in faith, in His power, under His leading — even if my experience seems more like that of a small and whimpering puppy. Better a living dog than anything from the deadness of the flesh that is a waste of time and energy, without His life, and even grieves His heart.
Father, walking by faith rather than by sight and by what “seems like power” is so contrary to how the sinful human mind evaluates the actions of life. After years of being in Your kingdom, I sometimes feel like a child who is still learning the most basic principles of Christian living. Thank You for Your great patience and perseverance with me. Thank You also that by this truth, there is no way that I can do anything for You and take any credit for it. I am not allowed to boast in anything but Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, the most marvelous and alive Lion of Judah.

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