Humans Are Not Nor Will Ever Be Angels

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Humans Are Not Nor Will Ever Be Angels

Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings”. A six year old Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu Bailey, said these words in that classic 1946 film, “It’s A Wonderful Life”. The film was cute. Over the past many years as a Pastor, I have read obituaries written by well meaning people who sought to honor a deceased loved one. One of the phrases I often read are either:

Heaven gained another angel today”
or
“___ earned his wings, and is in the Presence of the Lord”

I am sure the writer of the obituary means well, and is sincere. But does the Bible teach the deceased Christian becomes another “Angel”? No, it doesn’t.

In the Book of Hebrews we are told that believers in Christ are not brought to Mount Sinai, but by the Blood of Christ are brought to Mount Zion.

Heaven is our home, Christian, if you have received Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior. As God describes Heaven through the writer of Hebrews, He says:

Hebrews 12:22-24 ye {Christians} are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men {Greek δίκαιος dikaios, literally “of the Justified”} made perfect, 24 and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

As we read about Heaven, we see that there is an innumerable company of angels, but there is also the spirits of THE JUSTIFIED made perfect. There are three types of beings in Heaven. There are ANGELS, which are created by God, there are those who have been JUSTIFIED or made right with God BY FAITH IN JESUS, and there is Creator God Himself, uncreated and eternal.

Romans 5:1-2 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

When the Christian gets to Heaven, we will be given some of the attributes that angels now possess. Jesus told us in Matthew 22:30 that in the resurrection there will be no marriage as we know it today, but we will be “like” the angels of God in this perspective. Angels never were given the power to reproduce. Humans, however, are given the ability to reproduce NOW, because it was the will of God for us to “be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). This earth was to be populated by humans who, loving one another, made more humans.

The earth is populated by physical birth.
Heaven, however, is populated by spiritual birth.

Those who are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23) are the ones who will populate Heaven. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Humans are created in the image of God, and are given the ability to reproduce. Angels have NEVER had the ability to reproduce.

Humans Are “A Little Lower Than The Angels”

The Bible says in Psalm 8:3-8, When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8 the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

Though humanity is made “a little lower than the angels”, both angels as well as humans were made perfect.

Genesis tells us “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Humanity fell from perfection through the failure of Adam. Angels fell from perfection through the failure of the Archangel Lucifer, also known as “Red Dragon”, “The Old Serpent”, “Satan (or Accuser)”, and “The Devil”. Lucifer’s fall is partially chronicled in:

Revelation 12:3-4, 9 … there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. 4 And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth…. 9 the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

The reason Lucifer, a Chief Arch Angel, a General of the Angels in Heaven, revolted against God is PRIDE.

What both Adam and Lucifer had, they received from God. Pride caused them to create the false narrative that they somehow deserved more. Adam chose a forbidden fruit. Lucifer chose a more direct approach. He wanted the Throne of God. The Prophet said:

Isaiah 14:12-14 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

When Lucifer could not get the throne of God by direct revolt, he entered the Garden of Eden to try and steal God’s glory through Adam. This is why he is called “that old serpent”. It was Lucifer, the Devil, the Serpent who tempted Adam, defying what God said.

Genesis 3:4-5 … Ye shall not surely die: 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

You know the rest. Adam ate that which was forbidden, following Lucifer rather than the God Who loved him. Here we come to a key difference between humans and angels.

God sent His Son Jesus to give His life a ransom and an atonement for humanities sins. God did NOT send Jesus to die for the Angels. Fallen angels cannot be saved.

Since mankind is made “a little lower than the angels”(Hebrews 2:5-8) , our

Hebrews 2:9-11 … Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor.; that he by the grace of God should taste death for {Greek πᾶς pas, for every one [lower than the angels]}. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren

Jesus, by the grace of God {tasted} death for every EVERY ONE. Not for the Angels, but for every one of us who are “lower than the angels”. Jesus did not come to pay for the sins of Angels, but for the sins of humanity. When Jesus spoke of the Final Judgment, the time that God separates His people from the evil, the evil went into everlasting fire. Jesus said:

Matthew 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels

Eternal damnation, that place we call “The Lake of Fire” or “Hell”, was designed with the devil and his angels in mind. Jesus was made lower than the Angels so that He might redeem believing humanity. The Apostle spoke of …

1 Peter 1:7-12 … Jesus Christ: 8 whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: … 12 … which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

The Angels do not understand the salvation we are offered through Christ. When Satan walked away from God with 1/3 of the Angels in Heaven, God made no effort to offer them Grace. Yet God did offer us Grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Why did God offer to save us, but not to save Angels? The Bible does not say. And yet, God did. The Bible says that Angels watch humans – and rejoice when a human repents and believes of Jesus. Our Lord said:

Luke 15:10 … I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

As the Apostles went about – under the power and authority of Christ – establishing Churches, Angels watched their progress (1 Corinthians 4:9). The Bible calls Angels “Principalities and powers in Heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10), and these superior beings watch the Church of Christ on the earth. Angels watch how saved humanity obeys the will of God in the creation and maintenance of the family (1 Corinthians 11:9-12). Bible Teacher Don Stewart writes:

Though there are some things that angels and humans have in common, there are many things that separate them. Humans have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). They are able to bear children and have family relationships. Though sin entered into both the angelic and human sphere, only the sin of humans can be forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:21). Christ came to die for the sins of humanity, not of angels. Those humans who have trusted Christ as their Savior will eventually judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3). Because of these things, the humans who have believed in Jesus will have a superior position to the angels in the ages to come (Ephesians 2:6). ”

Angels Are Not Humans, But Often Look Like
Or Interact With Humans

Angels can assume the appearance of a human. Scripture says:

Hebrews 13:1-2 … Let brotherly love continue. 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Angels walk among us, and watch us. Throughout the Bible God used Angels to carry messages to and to interact with humans.

  • Angels met Jacob (Genesis 32:1) in the wilderness.
  • When Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den, he was not eaten. Why? Because, he said, “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me” (Daniel 6:22)
  • An Angel brought “Israel out of Egypt” (Numbers 20:16).
  • In the birth of Christ into this world, Angels were very active (Mathew 1; Luke 1,2).
  • An Angel sent Philip to share the Gospel with an Ethiopian Eunuch of great authority (Acts 8:26-28).
  • It was an Angel that rolled back the stone of Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 28:2).
  • When Jesus returns to this earth to rule and reign, our Lord said, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matthew 25:31).

There Are Many Different Types Of Angels In The Bible

Among the Angels, the Archangels are the highest rank. The Bible reveals three Archangels: Lucifer who has fallen away from God, Michael, and Gabriel.

The Archangels rule all the other angels under the authority of God. Michael is a warrior Archangel, who will – with the other warrior angels – cast Satan out of Heaven just prior to the Tribulation:

Revelation 12:7-9 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Michael often fought for Israel (Daniel 12:1). Gabriel is an Archangel, but he is more of a Messenger than a warrior. Gabriel and the other messenger angels …

  • announced the coming birth of Christ to Mary and Joseph (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-27)
  • prophesied the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias his father (Luke 1:19)
  • heralded the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem to the Shepherds (Luke 2:9ff)
  • warned Joseph to flee to Egypt with the baby Jesus and Mary (Matthew 2:13)
  • rolled the stone from the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:2)
  • and was very active in the early Church guiding and protecting God’s people (Acts 5:19; 10:3; 12:7).

Among the Angels, there are Cherubim and Seraphim.

  • The Cherubim had four faces: a man’s face, a lion’s face, an ox face, an eagle face. They had four wings, with a human hand protruding from underneath the wing. They had cloven calves feet that were shiny like brass (Ezekiel 1:4-28; 10:1-22). Lucifer the fallen Archangel was “the anointed cherub that covereth” (Ezekiel 28:14).
  • The Seraphim or “The Burning Ones” have six wings. Two covered their face and two covered their feet, while two wings were used to fly. The Seraphim are in charge of leading the worship of God in Heaven. (Isaiah 6:1-7)
  • The Four Elder Angels, also called “Beasts”, are around the Throne of God in Heaven. Revelation 4:6-9 tells us “round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind. And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honor. and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.” Their focus is to worship God (see also Revelation 5:8; 6:1, 3, 5, 7).
  • The Guardian Angels watch over believers in Christ (Matthew 18:10). The Bible says that they are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation”. Those who have trusted in God, “making the Lord their refuge”, have been assigned Guardian Angels by God Himself. The Psalmist said, “he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)
  • A Water Angel is mentioned in Revelation 16:5. This angel controls the flow of the seas and the tides.
  • A Abyss (Deep Pit) Angel guards the prison where some fallen angels are bound. (Revelation 9:1).
  • Revelation 14:18 speaks of “another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire”, a Fire Angel.
  • God uses Angels to dispense judgments on the earth during the latter half of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 8:1; 15:1).

Angels are not like us humans. Peter said “angels are greater in power and might” (2 Peter 2:11). Angels are not composed of the dust of the ground of this earth, but are beings of light. Zondervan Academic notes, “The author of Hebrews suggests that all angels are “spirits” (Hebrews 1:13-14). When Jesus appears to the disciples, he asserts that “spirits” don’t have bodies like he does (Luke 24:39). In the Bible, angels can’t usually be seen by humans unless God reveals them (see Numbers 22:31, 2 Kings 6:17, Luke 2:13).” Angels are immensely powerful.

  • It was two angels that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah: “we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it” (Genesis 19:13).
  • God sent one angel to destroy the Assyrian Army, as it was encamped against Israel. 2 Kings 19:35 tells us that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.
  • When Peter was imprisoned by King Herod, sleeping chained to two soldiers (Acts 12:6), with guards on the locked prison door, “the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9 And he went out, and followed him” (Acts 12:7-9). The Angel caused the guards all to sleep on, even while freeing Peter to return to ministry.

In his book, Angels: God’s Secret Agents, Billy Graham wrote:

““We may not always be aware of the presence of angels. We can’t always predict how they will appear. But angels have been said to be our neighbors. Often they may be our companions without our being aware of their presence. We know little of their constant ministry. The Bible assures us, however, that one day our eyes will be unscaled to see and know the full extent of the attention angels have given us (1 Corinthians 13:11, 12).”

Christians Will One Day Be Greater Than The Angels

Dear one, if you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you will not one day leave this life to be an Angel. When you get to Heaven – if you are a believer – the Bible says:

1 Corinthians 6:3 … we shall judge angels

While we are on this earth we are “a little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7). But in Heaven, we will be a little higher than the angels. Why? Because of Jesus. Because we have received salvation by faith in Him. Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior we are made “Sons, or Children of God”. We who have received Christ have this promise:

John 1:12-13 … as many as received {Jesus Christ}, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Upon your outward profession and confession of Jesus (for no child of God is ashamed of Jesus), God brought you into His Family. You are born again – not of blood nor of the will of man, but by the will of God! The Bible says of us, dear Christian, that:

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit {Himself} beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

We are no longer sons of Adam, but sons of God because of what the Son of God did for us. We who are Christians are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14). We are not perfect by any means, for we are yet in our human frail but broken flesh. But we are, according to the Apostle:

Philippians 2:15 … blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world

When we get to Heaven, praise God, “we shall be like Jesus; for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2). This is not because we have either earned nor deserved it. This is because we, broken as we are, received the Grace of God by “calling on the name of the Lord Jesus”.

Do you know my Jesus? If not, I beg you, call upon Him today. The Bible promises:

Romans 10:9-13 …. if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

May God the Holy Spirit move His Word into your hearts this very day! Amen and Amen. For the glory of Christ I preach this! Hallelujah! Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Maranatha!

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Judas Must Leave The Table!

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Mark 14:16-26 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the Passover.

17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve. 18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. 19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? 20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. 21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.

22 And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. 25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

What Is The “Feast Of The Passover?”

The Feast of the Passover was an annual celebration held in Israel, a celebration commanded by God. It commemorated the night that God “passed over” Egypt, looking for the Blood of the Lamb. The Israelis were to take, “on the tenth day of the month, a lamb without blemish, a male of the first year. The lamb was to be kept until the 14th day of the month, when it was then killed. The Blood of the Lamb was to be put on the sidepost and upper door post of the home. The lamb was to be roasted with fire, eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs” (see Exodus 12:1-10). God told Israel:

Exodus 12:12-14 I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. 14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.

God did exactly as He promised He would do. He “passed over” Egypt, looking for the Blood of the Lamb.

Where God found the Blood of the Lamb, God did not execute judgment, but mercy.

The Passover commemorated the judgment of God on sin. The Passover celebrated the mercy of God to sinners. The Passover was also a foreshadowing of what God would one day do in Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he saw the Passover. He said:

John 1:29 … Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (also vvs 36)

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 … Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

The Passover lamb was pierced, and it’s blood drained.
Jesus was pierced on the Cross, His Blood shed.
The Blood of the Passover was put on the doorway of the home.
The Blood of Christ is applied to the heart of the person.
The Passover Lamb was mounted on a stick, roasted on fire.
Jesus was mounted on the Cross, roasted by God’s judgment on sin.
The Passover lamb was eaten fully – (Exodus 12:10)
.
Jesus Christ is to be received fully, both Lord & Savior.

Jesus said:

John 6:53-58 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

There are many who want Jesus as Savior, but not as Lord. They say, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it” (John 6:60). They walk away from Jesus.

John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

Jesus as the Lamb of God, “suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). But Jesus is also Lord of His people. “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13; 6:16; 7:10). See His Throne! “For the Lamb which is IN THE MIDST OF THE THRONE shall feed them; and lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). Jesus is both Lamb and Lord. He must be received AS HE IS, or not at all.

The Lord Prepares To Become The Lamb,
While Judas Prepares To Betray The Lamb

Every one of the Gospels tell us more about Jesus’ final preparations to fulfill His duty as the Lamb of God. For instance, John tells us:

John 13:1-5 …. before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. 2 And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him; 3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; 4 he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. 5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

Jesus wanted His disciples to remember that Love is the mark of His Kingdom. Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, a job that only a servant would do. Jesus modeled the love that He wants us to have. We are a people SAVED TO SERVE. We are to GO OUTSIDE OUR COMFORT ZONE, and love. Jesus said:

John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

You must HAVE love. Not RECEIVE love, but HAVE love. Jesus modeled how to HAVE love. Jesus also began to expose what FALSE LOVE LOOKS LIKE.

Six days before the Feast of the Passover

Mary took “a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair” (John 12:3). This is Christlike love. This is what God through Christ saves us to do. Not to be served, but to serve one another, just as Christ serves us. The King in the Kingdom of God is not ME, but Christ. When John F. Kennedy was inaugurated to be our 35th President (January 20th, 1961 … I was 3 years old!), part of his speech had the famous line,

Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”

Selfishness and a “me first” attitude has, in the last 20 or so years, taken over our country. God the Son is calling a people to HIS Kingdom, not to OUR kingdom.

In stark contrast to what Mary did to Jesus, Judas Iscariot stood on the outside looking in, complaining …

John 12:5-6 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

Jesus gently rebuked Judas for his murmuring and selfishness. What was his response? The Bible says:

Matthew 26:14-16 … Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

Jesus knew the state of Judas’ heart. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, – Judas included – our Lord said:

John 13:10 … ye are clean, but not all. 11 For {Jesus} knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

Jesus told His disciples:

John 13:15-18 I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. 18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, {Jesus now quotes Psalm 41:9} He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me”.

Happiness is what our Savior and Lord wants for us. We will only have this when we emulate Jesus, not Judas.

Jesus “being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of NO REPUTATION, and TOOK UPON HIMSELF the form of a SERVANT, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). Judas, on the other hand, chose to serve not God but money. In Luke 16:13 Jesus said Ye cannot serve God and mammon”. Jesus knew who Judas was. He knew from the beginning. He said:

John 6:70-71 … Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

In Grace, Jesus calls Judas. Will he repent? Will he turn to God? No, Judas had a god. He had himself.

Jesus goes to the Cross, He once more wants to show us what love is. He wants to show us His love for us.

Judas Iscariot Must Leave The Room

I have not forgotten our focal text, but had to go to the other Gospels to give you the background. Now we return to our focal text. Jesus and the disciples – all twelve – are celebrating the Passover meal. Then Jesus drops a bombshell on the little group. Jesus exposes evil at the table. We read:

Mark 14:18-21 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me. 19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I? 20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish. 21 The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.

When Jesus declared that one of those at the table with Him would betray Him, several disciples started to ask, “Is it I?” We at the Table should “examine ourselves, whether we are walking by faith or not” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Am I in Jesus, or am I in Judas? The Gospel of John gives us another view of the Table. When the eleven asked “Is it I, Lord?”, Jesus tells them:

John 13:26-30 He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.

It was normally a great honor – like a modern “toast” – to be given the sop. It is not an honor today. It is a sign, a trigger.

Judas must leave the Table. Jesus is going to give us another example of love, a perpetual Feast that will replace the Feast of the Passover.

Beloved, Judas Must Leave The Table

In a moment we will celebrate “the Lord’s Table” (1 Corinthians 10:21), also called “Communion” (1 Corinthians 10:16), and “The Lord’s Supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20). Before we celebrate, Judas must leave the Table. I tell you, dear ones, a lost person who partakes of the Bread and the Cup will eat a cracker and drink an unsatisfying amount of grape juice. If you come to the Table lost, you will leave the Table lost. You who do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior are welcomed to partake, but it will mean nothing to you. “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?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). I am not your judge, nor am I called to be. But Judas must leave the Table. Judas will not understand nor enjoy the Table. Come to Jesus if you do not know Him as Lord and Savior. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus said,

John 10:10 … I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

If you but confess with your heart that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. You need to leave Judas and come to Jesus. Judas must leave the Table.

And CHRISTIAN. If you have examined yourselves, if you are in the faith, have you active sin in your life. Jesus said to us who believe:

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

Do you have sin in your life? JUDAS MUST LEAVE THE TABLE. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 11:28-32 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

Confess your sins unto God. Not to a Priest, for YOU are Priests, YOU are Kings and Priests unto God because of Christ (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). Jesus Christ is your HIGH PRIEST (Hebrews 2:17). Confess your sins unto God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Judas must leave the Table. He must. Now, will our servers come forward as we celebrate the Lord’s Table.

Mark 14:22-26 And as they {the eleven} did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. 23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. 24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. 25 Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.

26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

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Abiding In Christ IS Christianity

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Tonight I want to talk about “abiding in Christ”. Turn with me in your Bibles to John 15.

The Bible makes it clear that the Christian is called to abide in Christ. When Jesus spoke of our abiding in Him, He used the illustration of the grape vine, something all Jews were familiar with. Jesus said:

John 15:4-8 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

The Normal Or Natural State Of The Christian
Is To ABIDE In Christ

Jesus uses the word “ABIDE” seven times in this short text. The Lord God RESTED on the 7th day, the first time 7 is used in Scripture. God RESTED because creation was complete. We find our completion in Christ!

When we come to Jesus in faith, surrendering our lives to Him, we begin to “ABIDE”. But “ABIDE” refers to more than just resting. The Greek Lexicon tells us the word translated “ABIDE” is the Greek μένω ménō, {pronounced men’-o}, which means:

  • To REMAIN
  • To REST on or in
  • To DWELL in or on
  • To WAIT for
  • To ENDURE or CONTINUE with

The branch, the Christian, is spiritually attached to the Vine, Who is Jesus. The branch does not attach itself, but grows out of attachment to the Vine. Before salvation, we were not branches from Jesus – we were detached from Jesus, and under condemnation of sin. The Scripture says:

John 3:18 … He that believeth on {Jesus} is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Before you received Christ as Lord and Savior, you were not attached to Jesus Christ. Once saved by faith, God the Father “qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). The Bible says:

Galatians 5:1 Christ has MADE US free
Ephesians 1:6 God has MADE US accepted in the Beloved (in Jesus)
Ephesians 2:6 God has raised us up, and MADE US sit with Him
Revelation 1:6 God has MADE US kings and priests unto the Father

The Christian is not self made, but God made. When we call on Jesus, we are “brought into union with Christ”. Transformed, we are branches, and are attached to the Vine. When Jesus commanded:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you.

This “ABIDING” is mutual. The Christian ABIDES in Christ, and Jesus ABIDES in us. His life essence flows through us. When a person is saved by repenting of their idolatry, and by receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9-13), the Holy Spirit of God acts to cause us to be “born again” (John 3:3, 7). The Apostle said:

1 Peter 1:18-23 forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. 22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

You cannot make yourself “born again” no more than you made yourself physically born. You call upon the Lord Jesus, believing and receiving Him, and God causes your new birth. When you are born again, God brings you into union with Christ. The saved person is “in Christ”:

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The Christian is not as they were before. “In Christ”, we are new creatures. If you are IN CHRIST, attached to Jesus, you are guaranteed eternal life.

John 10:28-29 … I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

The believer is spiritually bound to Christ. He becomes part of us, and we become part of Him. It is the natural state of the branch to abide in the Vine. The Apostle John further clarifies “abiding” this way:

1 John 2:1-6 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: 2 and he is the propitiation {the covering that satisfies God the Father} for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6 He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

If we are “abiding” in Christ, then we are keeping Christ’s commandments. If we are “abiding” in Christ, we are to walk as Jesus walked.

Those IN CHRIST Follow The Same Law Jesus Followed: The Royal Law

Jesus gave His Church – those believers gathered together in His name – a Royal Law that we are to follow. The Royal Law has three parts. We studied this last week when we started our study in James. The first two parts were given by Jesus when He was asked, “Master, what is the GREAT COMMANDMENT in the Law?” Jesus answered:

Matthew 22:37-40 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The first part of the Royal Law (Christ our King’s Law) is that we love God with our ALL. God is not a leftover, but we are fully dedicated to live for His smile. The second part of the Royal Law is that we love those near us as WE want to be loved. Jesus said that these two commandments are the PRIMARY PRINCIPLE of the whole of Scripture (called “the Law and the Prophets” by the Jews).

As Jesus prepared to go to the Cross, He gave His disciples a “new commandment”, the third part of the Royal Law:

John 13:34 A new Commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Jesus restated this in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”. This is a sacrificial love, a love toward even our enemies. This is how Jesus loved. So the Royal Law is:

  1. Love God with your all
  2. Love others the way you want to be loved
  3. Love sacrificially the way Jesus loved

Abiding in Christ is the normal state
all true believers seek.

What We Learn From Judas Iscariot: Those who do not “abide” in Christ are, according to the Apostle John, NOT saved. Pretenders to the faith act as if they are attached to the Vine. But in time, trials and tests will come, and they will fall away. They are like Judas Iscariot. Judas was called by Jesus to be an Apostle. Judas followed Jesus. Judas was loved by Jesus. Judas fellow-shipped regularly with other believers. Judas outwardly kissed Jesus, but deceptively denied Jesus. Jesus was not in his heart. Though Peter and the other disciples also denied Jesus, those who were in Christ, attached to the Vine, returned to Jesus after He resurrected. Judas did not. Judas killed himself! The Bible says:

1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

The saved person who has indeed been saved will return to walk with Christ, even when sorely tried.

God will COMPLETE His Work in the saved one. He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Acts 6, where we will see …

Iscariot Teaches Us False Faith,
Stephen Shows Us Abiding Faith

There are a lot of men and women that we can refer to when we talk about ABIDING in Christ. There are Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Deborah, David, Jeremiah, Daniel …. I can name many names. But one of the great ABIDERS was a man called Stephen. Turn in your Bibles to Acts chapter 6.

The early Church took care of “widows” by feeding these poor women daily. The early Church did not sit, soak, and sour – but it SERVED. The Apostles were busy sharing the Word of God and preaching as the Lord led, so they encouraged the Church to find and find from ….

Acts 6:3 … among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy {Spirit} and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

Full of the Spirit, not full of OURSELVES. Iscariot was full of himself. Stephen was full of God!

To Jesus Christ was given the Holy Spirit without measure” (John 3:34), and if you are abiding in Christ the same Spirit is in you. Those who are filled with the Spirit will also have wisdom, the wisdom to learn from Scripture (James 1:5). Stephen was FULL!

Acts 6:5 … they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy {Spirit} …

There is no glamour in tending to widows. The mega Church Pastor loves the crowds, not the widow. But God is glorified when the least and the lesser are loved. Stephen abided in Christ. He loved the widows, and loved the Lord!

If you will serve God in the small things first, you will be blessed with the greater gifts later! Stephen …

Acts 6:8 … full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.

When you are living for and in Christ, you will often go against the powers the be. Those who were enemies of the Cross “were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). Stephen stood up for Jesus, even when it went against the thought process of the world he was in. Jesus told us who love Him:

John 15:18-20 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;

A Christian who is spiritually lazy or passive, turning a blind eye and giving a mute testimony to the darkness, will never be persecuted by the world. It saddens me when “Christian artists” come into the spotlight during a worldly interview, and will not stand up for Christ. Beloved, there is a cost to paid in pleasing God. When Jesus came, the Bible says “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8). Those who are abiding in Christ, attached to Him as a branch is to a Vine, will “love the Lord, and yet hate evil” (Psalm 97:10a). We are to remember that “the Lord loves the souls of His saints; He delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked” (Psalm 97:10b). Jesus loved and forgave, but Jesus NEVER justified sin.

Biblical Illustrations: To the woman taken in adultery Jesus said in John 8:11 … “Neither do I condemn thee: GO and SIN NO MORE”.

To the man Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda, our Lord told him in John 5:14 .. “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. ”

When asked about the Galileans who Pilate killed, if they died because of their great sins, Jesus said in Luke 13:3 … “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”.

Beloved, neither God the Father, God the Son, nor God the Holy Spirit has ever justified sin. Jesus Christ died to make payment for sin – but sinners must REPENT!

Stephen abided in Christ. This world was not his home – he lived his life for Jesus. Back to Stephen’s story. As he stood for Christ, the Bible says:

Acts 6:11-15 … they suborned {literally, bribed} men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. 12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 and set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. 15 And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Those poor, lost souls SUBORNED or bribed liars, willing to violate God’s 9th Commandment (Exodus 20:16). They STIRRED UP the people, for “hatred stirs up strife; but love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12). The dark troops SEIZED Stephen, and SET UP false witnesses to SLANDER dear Stephen. The hiss of the serpent was in what they did that day. But as they looked at Stephen, they SAW as it was the face of an angel. Stephen is in union with Christ. God is with Stephen as He is with all His children.

Jeremiah 1:8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

Stephen saw this moment in front of the Jewish court not as a trial, but as an opportunity to share the Gospel of Christ. Stephen, on trial for his life, did not even attempt to defend himself. In the power of God the Holy Spirit, Stephen preached perhaps one of the finest sermons ever recorded from the early Church. In Acts chapter 17 Stephen recounts the history of Israel. Stephen started with God calling Abraham from Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2), and spoke of Israel’s history as Joseph was sold into Egypt (Acts 7:9), and how God used the great famine and Joseph to bring Jacob and his twelve sons to Egypt. If you do not understand the history of Israel, the founding of that great nation, I highly recommend you read Stephen’s sermon. Oh, what a God honoring text it is! He told of Moses, his calling from the wilderness of mount Sinai, and how God used Moses to redeem Israel from Egypt. Stephen spoke of Israel’s wandering for 40 years, the Tabernacle of God in the wilderness, of the calling of King David, and Solomon building the Temple.

Oh, how I wish you would read all of Stephen’s sermon! It is a perfect Word from God. After Stephen reminded the court – occupied by Pharisees, Sadducees, and Chief Priests who should have known the history of their nation – of Israel’s blessings and failures, Stephen spoke harshly and clearly. Beloved, if a sermon has never REBUKED you, then you are either perfect (which you aren’t), or you have REFUSED to listen. Stephen preached:

Acts 7:51-53 Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy {Spirit}: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.

Stephen did not mince words. I inherited high blood pressure and diabetes from my father. Stephen told the court that THEY inherited stiff necks, uncircumcised hearts, a desire to resist God. Stephen called them prophet killers and betrayers. This court should know the Law of God, but instead has conspired against the truth, entertained false witnesses, and is guilty of destroying the nation of Israel. When the leadership of a people begins to compromise the truths of God, it is not long until the nation falls. This court was corrupt. “The Law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth”. Stephen stood up for Jesus. Stephen was abiding in Jesus.

When the court heard these things, it did as the darkness always does. “They were cut to the HEART, and they GNASHED on Stephen with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). Stephen was surrounded by wild dogs. They literally bit at him, like a rabid dog will bite. But Stephen was abiding in Christ.

Acts 7:55-56 … But {Stephen}, being full of the Holy {Spirit}, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Jesus told the High Priest at his own trial, “ye shall see the Son of Man SITTING on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of Heaven” (Matthew 26:64). The Bible pictures Jesus “SEATED” on the right hand of God, interceding for us (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1). Jesus is “SEATED” at God’s right hand as both Judge and Intercessor. Jesus said:

John 5:22 … the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

When You See Jesus, Will He Be
SEATED Or STANDING?

The High Priest would one day see Jesus “SEATED” as a Judge is “SEATED”. The Judge never judges while he is standing. Even in our courts, when the Judge walks in, you hear “All rise”. This is to honor justice. Then when the Judge is seated, you hear “Be seated”. Judgment has begun. The Judge is ALWAYS SEATED when he sets the sentence.

For the Christian at present, Christ is SEATED at the right hand of God, making intercession for us. He is not our Judge insofar as salvation is concerned. But the unrepentant sinner will see Jesus SEATED one day, and that will not be a wonderful day.

As Stephen prepared to die, he saw JESUS STANDING at the right hand of God. Jesus STOOD as the only True Witness for Stephen on that dark day. Jesus STOOD because Stephen was abiding in Him. Jesus “is the Faithful Witness” (Revelation 1:5), and “the faithful and true Witness” (Revelation 3:14). He stood up for Stephen. As this dark court:

Acts 7:57-58 cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 and cast him out of the city, and stoned him …

Stephen died … but his legacy lived on. Someone other than Jesus was standing while Stephen was being killed. Saul, who would become the Apostle Paul, stood watching Stephen die. And as Stephen died, branch that he was, connected to the Vine, prayed simply:

Acts 7:59-60 Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

What a blessing to abide in Christ! Oh Beloved, look up. Do not be a Laodicean Christian, passive in your faith. Abide in Christ! Jesus expects this of you. Abide! Abide! Abide every day, until the day you head homeward toward yonder Heaven. Abide, and see Jesus standing, ready to receive you into His glory! May God the Holy Spirit write His Word upon your hearts this very day. Amen and Amen!

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There Came A Lion And A Bear

Photo by Adam King on Unsplash

1 Samuel 17:32-37 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. 33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. 34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 35 and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. 37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee.

Life Is A Gift From God

Life is a gift from God. The Lord does not want us to waste the life He has given us, but to live it fully WITH Him. This Sunday night I’ll be talking about abiding in Christ, and how the is the normal state the Christian is supposed to be in. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 90:12 {Lord}, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Illustrate A believer died, and entered Heaven’s Gate, there meeting Jesus. Jesus said to him, “I gave you Grace, and called you into my family. Your sins are forgiven you. Your life was a stewardship, and as I told you through Paul, “every one of {you} shall give account of {themselves} to God” (Romans 14:12). What noble things have you done in My Name while on this earth?” The man replied, “I heard a woman in distress, and found a biker gang attacking her. I jumped in, and allowed her to get away.” Jesus said, “When did you do this?”. The man replied, “About a minute ago”.

I commend that fictional man for intervening – but I hope he, and every believer listening to me, do more than just ONE THING for Jesus. You were saved by the Grace of God in Christ to be light in the midst of a dark world. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

You, along with other believers in Christ, are to be the “light of the world”. You are not darkness. You walk before God the Son. Jesus said:

John 8:12 … I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

If you’re walking BEFORE THE LORD, and the LORD IS LIGHT, then you are light. Light is only light when it shines. When light does not shine, it is no longer light, but darkness. We are to live before God the Son daily. DAILY. Are we living for Jesus daily? Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Life lived in the presence of God is amazing, and every day an adventure.

So many Christians live as if they are not Christians at all. Dear ones, to do so is to rob yourselves of joy. We are to live our lives in the Presence of God. God told Abraham:

Genesis 17:1 … I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect

God said, “Abraham, you walk before Me – not ahead of Me, but BEFORE Me, in My Presence – and you will be {and here God uses the Hebrew תָּמִים tâmîym, (pronounced taw-meem’) COMPLETE or WHOLE”. The late C.H. Spurgeon wrote in his devotional Morning and Evening:

No promise is of private interpretation. Whatever God has said to any one saint, He has said to all. When He opens a well for one, it is that all may drink … Whether He gave the word to Abraham or Moses, matters not, O believer, He has given it to thee as one of the covenanted seed …”

We are to walk BEFORE God – in His Presence, under His gaze. We are to build this habit into our lives. God has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you are saved. You are in the family of God. You are no longer a part of the darkness, but you belong to the Kingdom of light.

Ephesians 5:8 … but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

Walk With God, Even If You Walk Alone

Very few people live what my daddy called “The Life Of Riley”, or my mama called “in high cotton”. There have been times when you, like I, have been devalued, treated as “less than”, or abused.

David was often devalued and demeaned. A young David tells King Saul

1 Samuel 17:34 … Thy servant kept his father’s sheep…

David was devalued and treated as “less than” his whole life. David was the youngest son of a man named Jesse. As the youngest son, David was given the job of tending the sheep. Now, tending the sheep is a lot like cutting the grass with a push mower. When I was a kid, I took turns with my other siblings cutting the grass. I always admired other kids whose parents had riding mowers. To mow the grass with a riding mover would not be bad, but a treat, as I wanted to drive a car. But no, I had to push a mower about.

David was the lawn mower.
He was the least of Jesse’s sons.

He was devalued and treated as “less than”. Unlike King Saul, who was movie star handsome and at least a head taller than anyone else, David was young, short, and a cast off.

But David walked before God. He loved the Lord.

King Saul had disobeyed God more than once, and God decided it was time to replace him with a better person. He told Samuel:

1 Samuel 15:11 It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments.

Saul is not walking BEFORE the Lord. He is walking WITHOUT the Lord. So God sent Samuel to Bethlehem “to sacrifice a heifer to the Lord” (1 Samuel 16). God told Samuel:

1 Samuel 16:3 … call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.

When Jesse was called to the sacrifice, Jesse brought his sons (1 Samuel 16:5). Now, he did not bring ALL his sons. Jesse brought the sons he thought a lot of. Jesse had some wonderful, handsome sons. He had some strong sons. One by one Jesse trotted his seven “good” sons before Samuel. As each son passed, Samuel thought, “surely this is the one!” God told Samuel,

1 Samuel 16:7 … 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.

The seven sons were not necessarily evil – but their hearts did not belong to God. Beloved, if you will be blessed of God, you must walk before the Lord. The Lord must have preeminence in your life. One by one God rejected these seven, strong, handsome men. Then there were none. So Samuel asks Jesse:

1 Samuel 16:11 … Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.

Word Study There was one son that Jesse described as “the youngest”. This is the Hebrewקָטָן qâṭân, {pronounced kaw-tawn’}, which means “the lesser, the least, the insignificant, the unimportant”. David was the forgotten child. He was the youngest, and had not proved himself to his earthly father. But David had proved himself to his Heavenly Father. Samuel says Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.

Jesse sends for David. Now David was a handsome young boy – and his heart was with God. The Lord said, “Arise, anoint him: for this is he”. David was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). David knew the primary spiritual law that all believers are to follow. Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment.

David loved God with his ALL. God saw his heart. Though David was the least important of all his sons, David was most important to God. “Arise, anoint David: this is the next King of Israel” (1 Samuel 16:12). David was anointed, and “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).

William Cowper wrote the hymn, “God Moves In A Mysterious Way”. The lines I love best are:

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

David, undervalued David, was anointed to be the next King. He no longer belonged in a field watching sheep. So God put him … in the palace, playing the harp for the outgoing King!

King Saul from the day that David was anointed was plagued with an “evil spirit from the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:14). King Saul’s doctors thought that music would calm Saul’s suffering. So the doctors said:

1 Samuel 16:16-18 … Let our {King} now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well. 17 And Saul said unto his servants, Provide me now a man that can play well, and bring him to me. 18 Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Beth-lehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the Lord is with him.

Now David had never been tested in battle. Perhaps these words are exaggerations, or perhaps they are prophetic – but in reality David was not known as “a mighty valiant man” not “a man of war”. David had been keeping the sheep of his father. David played a harp, and David loved the Lord. So Saul sent for David, and David came to play the harp for King Saul.

  • When David was devalued and made to stay with the sheep, he could have done a sloppy or half hearted job. David live his life before the Lord. If you are in a bad place, or are devalued, know that God values you. Bide your time. Wait upon the Lord. Remember the Scripture admonition:

Colossians 3:23-24 … whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

David could have chafed at being a lowly servant to an outgoing King. David did not. God put him in the palace, playing harp for the king. David honored God where he was.

Beloved, the grass is NEVER greener somewhere else. Honor God where God has placed you. Serve Him with all your might. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time! (1 Peter 5:6)

Walk With God In The Valleys Of Life

1 Samuel 17:34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:

David was not only the least among his brothers, doing a job that no one really wanted to do, but trials and tests came his way. David says: there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock. Think about this for a moment. David is watching his father’s sheep, while his brothers are off doing whatever the favorites do. And sudden there came a lion AND a bear. Both of these creatures are carnivores, top level carnivores, and David is in a miserable job. He is by himself with nothing but a sling and a few stones. The lion AND a bear. Took a lamb out of the flock. Do you get that? A lamb. This may have been a newborn lamb. It wasn’t a full grown sheep, valuable for it’s wool. It, like David, was the least of the flock. David could have turned a blind eye to it. David could have reasoned it out, like many of us would do:

It’s just a lamb – who will miss it?”
“There’s
both a lion and a bear – and I am by myself.”
“Who will know? I hate this job anyway.”
“Just let them have it.”

Let’s think about the lion and the bear for a moment. I believe David fought real creatures here, but I think something else. I believe the Lord sent the lion and the bear to test and strengthen David’s faith. David loved the Lord. But God had future plans for David’s life. God has future plans for YOUR life. So God sent the lion and the bear.

God sends trials to His children, not to break us, but to GROW us into what He will one day use us for.

The stepbrother of Jesus writes in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”. Trials grows the believer’s faith. The Bible tells us over and over:

Romans 8:28 … all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

If you are a Christian, saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are called for a purpose. And everything – ALL THINGS – work together for good if you love God. All things are not good, but all things work together for good. The Bible says:

Ephesians 2:10 We are {God’s} workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them

We are told in Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, Thou art our Father; we are the clay, and Thou {O Lord} our Potter; and we are the work of thy hand”. Trials come to shape us, to make us into what God will one day use us for. Consider this: if David had run from the bear and the lion, would God ever called him to be King of Israel? I don’t think so.

David was confronted with a bear and a lion which took an insignificant part of the flock. It was David’s duty to guard the flock as a son, not of Jesse, but of God.

1 Samuel 17:34 And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: 35 and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear

David did not run from his trial. He ran WITH GOD toward the trial. David slew both the lion and the bear. Now, is David bragging on himself? No! He tells Saul:

1 Samuel 17:37 David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

David was devalued by his father. He was devalued by his brothers. He was even devalued by King Saul, who previously said “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33).

I was reading my devotions for Tuesday, February 23rd, and read from “Streams In The Desert” (by L.B. Cowman). I read this wonderful quote:

Through faith in God {David} conquered a lion and a bear, and afterwards overthrew the mighty Goliath. When that lion came to despoil that flock, it came as a wondrous opportunity to David. If he had failed or faltered he would have missed God’s opportunity for him, and probably would never have come to be God’s chosen king of Israel.

Walk with God daily, especially in the trials that will come. Trust Him and Him alone. He will see you through.

Do Not Let Others Rob You Of Your Faith

As we read this account in the life of David, it is easy to see the lion is emphasized over the bear. David said,

1 Samuel 17:35 I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. 36 Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear

Now only a LION has a beard. A bear doesn’t have a beard. But David killed BOTH lion and bear. Why did David emphasize the lion? I believe it is because the Scripture tells us:

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

God sends trials, but there are other times when God sends US to the trial, and the trial is the devil, a roaring lion. The Bible tells us that:

Matthew 4:1 … Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Trials sometimes come to us. Sometimes, as we follow God, trials come our way. Yet we are to keep our eyes on Jesus. Beloved, the devil will often “try and help you out”. He will whisper a “common sense” solution to you which, if you take it, you will regret it. Right after Saul told David, “Go ahead and fight Goliath”, we read:

1 Samuel 17:38-39 … Saul armed David with his armor, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. 39 And David girded his sword upon his armor, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it.

Now Saul is a head taller than anyone else in Israel – and is certainly a lot taller than David. David politely tried on the armor Saul gave him. But David said, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” (1 Samuel 17:39). David had proved the Lord, but he had not proved this equipment. I believe the devil, that old roaring lion, whispered in Saul’s ear,

Don’t you think it would be a good idea (and look good for your PR) if David wore your fine armor into battle?”

That battle armor looked fantastic! It was the best in the land. It was high tech for that day. But the armor David wore when he killed the lion and the bear was the armor of God, not of Saul. While David did a rough job in a tough place, the armor he put on daily was the armor of God. You know that armor?

Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The armor of God is the truth, God’s truth, the breastplate of His righteousness. Your feet are shod with the glorious Gospel that saves even the lowest person. There is the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:14-16). As you go to battle, all eyes are “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of out faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

David put to the side what he had not proved. The Bible says he instead went out to battle simply:

1 Samuel 17:40 And {David} took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, {“even in a scrip” is the Hebrew יַלְקוּט yalqûwṭ, {pronounced yal-koot’} a traveling pouch}; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

David took what he killed the lion and the bear with, and went out to meet Goliath. He had his shepherd’s staff, five smooth stones, a traveling pouch, and a leather sling. Oh, and he went with God. The battle was won before he even spoke a word. The Bible tells us:

Jeremiah 17:7-8 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

David ran toward Goliath and killed Goliath – but the battle was the Lord’s. What Goliath are you facing today? Take the Lord with you into battle. Trust Him. Serve Him with all your heart. He will defeat the roaring lion. He will defeat the bear. Let Him have all of your life, in Jesus name I pray. Amen and amen!

Posted in 1 Samuel, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Royal Law

Photo by Henrique Malaguti on Unsplash

James 2:1-13 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: 9 but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

To Understand And Apply The Bible,
You Must Consider Your CONTEXT

Today we are looking at the writings of James, the stepbrother of our Lord Jesus. People often get confused when they compare Jame’s writing to Paul’s writings. You need to understand that, though both Paul and James are Holy Spirit inspired writings, each Bible writer addressed different situations that was hindering the Church.

Strong Emphasis Here! The Apostle Paul wrote to Gentile Churches being attacked by Pharisees in his absence. The Pharisees were telling the Gentiles that we needed to be circumcised, to follow the Jewish Feasts, and the Jewish dietary restrictions. We are NOT under the Mosaic Codes that were shadows of the Coming Christ. We are NOT under the RITUALS of the Mosaic Law. Our Priests do not come from the Line of Aaron, but from the Order of Melchizedek (Melchisedec in KJV NT). Our High Priest is not from the Tribe of Levi, but from the Tribe of Judah. Our High Priest is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:15-17, 21). We who are Christians are NOT under the Levitical Priesthood. We are under the Order of Melchizedek, and are ourselves are made kings and priests unto God (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). This is why the Apostle Paul declared:

Romans 6:14-15 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

and, Galatians 3:23-26 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s point was that the Christian is no longer under the Mosaic Law insofar as the rituals, feasts, sacrifices, and priesthood are concerned. But the Christian is still under the moral codes of God’s Law.

Jesus often referred to the Ten Commandments when speaking. For instance, when Satan tried to get Jesus to worship him, Jesus quoted the Old Testament Moral Commandments:

Matthew 4:10 Get thee hence, Satan: for IT IS WRITTEN, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

A quotation from both Exodus 20:3 and Deuteronomy 5:7. When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, he quoted numerous parts of the moral code in the Law.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

The Apostle declared that those who violate the 7th commandment of “thou shalt not commit adultery/ sexual sin” {Exodus 20:14}Paul specifically addresses those involved in single heterosexual sin (fornicators), married heterosexual sin (adulterers),transsexuals (effeminate),and homosexuality (abusers of themselves with mankind). The Apostle also addresses violators of these commandments:

2nd Commandment (Exodus 20:4-5) (idolatry)
8th Commandment (Exodus 20:15) (thieves)
10th Commandment (Exodus 20:17) (covetousness or greed)

It is clear that the Apostle meant we are still under a moral Law of God. Though drunkenness and wild revelry, as well as extortion are not covered in the Ten Commandments, they are found within the framework of the Law of God. Believers in Christ are freed from all ritualistic or dietary portions of the Law. We do not sacrifice animals for sins. We do not have to be circumcised to be entered into God’s family. Jesus Christ, dying on the Cross, fulfilled all of the ceremonial and ritualistic parts of the Law. We are Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). However, as Children of God we do righteousness. The Apostle John stated:

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever DOETH NOT RIGHTEOUSNESS IS NOT OF GOD, neither he that loveth not his brother.

Christians “do righteousness”. When the Apostle Paul spoke to the Church telling us “you are not under the Law”, what he was saying (as God led him) that we do not have to be circumcised. We are free to eat all meats. We do not have to keep the ceremonial feasts. We do not participate in animal sacrifices. But the moral codes, we still uphold them.

James’ Context Is Different: He Deals With Prejudice

James pastored the the Church at Jerusalem as it transitioned from a wholly Jewish population and began to receive Gentiles like us. James conveyed God’s message to “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (1:1). Paul’s Churches were dealing with Pharisees trying to push Old Covenant Law on New Covenant Believers. James was dealing with Jewish believers who were trying to be sectarian, prejudice, and in turn were not living up to God’s standard for love.

When Jesus Christ came, He changed not only how the Christian treats the Law, but also how believers should should treat others around them.

James addresses prejudice and preferential treatment of others. James tells his Jewish audience (and us):

James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

The Jews had, over time, developed prejudices, just as we all have prejudices. This is a part of the sin nature we inherited from Adam. The Jews often discriminated against non-Jewish peoples. James reminds them – and us – that “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ” does not allow for “respect of persons”. The Apostle Paul said:

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Word Study James speaks of “respect of persons”. This is the Greek προσωποληψία prosōpolēpsía, pronounced pros-o-pol-ape-see’-ah), which means “favoritism or partiality”. It is to look at someone and judge them based on their skin color, clothing, or outward appearances. People give what the King James calls “respect of persons” by making judgments about people and their station in life without getting to know that person. This is a horrendous sin in the eyes of God. The Bible says that:

Acts 17:26 {God} hath made of ONE BLOOD ALL NATIONS OF {people} for to dwell on the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation ..

God our Father does not judge people based on their outward appearance, nor on the basis of their melanin. We all bleed red. Every person has value. Every person is made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27).

The believer in Christ is not to show bias based on COLOR, CULTURE, or CASTE. A Jew died for our sins.

Prejudice has NEVER been acceptable with God, in neither Old nor New Testaments. God despises prejudice! God told His nation Israel (and us):

Leviticus 19:15 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but IN RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALT THOU JUDGE THY NEIGHBOR.

Deuteronomy 1:17 Ye shall NOT RESPECT PERSONS IN JUDGMENT; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

Deuteronomy 16:19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a {שַׁחַד shachad, [pronounced shakh’-ad] = bribe}: for a {bribe} doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

The Lord tells us “to have respect of persons is not good” (Proverbs 24:23; 28:21). People are called to Christ to love as Christ loves. What James saw among believers was CASTE bias – and he called it out.

James 2:2-4 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 and ye have RESPECT to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

Illustrate The word RESPECT this time is not what was in verse 1, but the Greek ἐπιβλέπω epiblépō, (pronounced ep-ee-blep’-o), which means “to stare at and have admiration for, to look up to”. This is actually a form of idolatry, and is wide spread throughout America today. In my lifetime I have seen Christian Celebrities raised up to be almost idols – only to come crashing down. From Jim & Tammy Faye (Messner) Baker to Jimmy Swaggert, and most recently the late Ravi Zacharias, we endanger ourselves and put too much faith in broken humans when we elevate the messenger above the message. The fallen Mega Church Pastor today is no worse that, truly, each and every one of us are. As the old saying goes, “There but for the Grace of God go I”.

Illustrate No person should ever be regarded by themselves or others as better thanbecause of their COLOR, CASTE, or CULTURE. I remember an episode of M*A*S*H (a very old TV show. The episode was called Strange Bedfellows) where Major Charles Winchester was snoring. He refused to admit that he snored, though the whole camp could hear him snoring at night. Finally Winchester goes to the camp Chaplain, and tells him he is concerned about snoring “because then I’ll be as common as the rest of the camp” (my paraphrase). Charles, you ARE just as common as the rest of us! COLOR, CASTE, or CULTURE does not make someone better than someone else. The Bible paints us all with the same brush. We are all born into this world fallen creatures. Listen to God’s Word:

Romans 3:23 for ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God …

We all fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES, that they are ALL under SIN.

and, Romans 11:32 God hath concluded them ALL in UNBELIEF, that He might have mercy upon all.

As the Bible says in Galatians 3:22, “the Scripture hath concluded ALL under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. None of us are better than the other. We all need the salvation that God offers in Jesus.

Sometimes the least among us are the blessed. James says:

James 2:5-7 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

What did our Lord Jesus say about the poor? Do you remember when He spoke of His ministry:

Matthew 11:5 the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

In this world there will always be poor people (Matthew 26:11), but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Affluence often blinds people to the glorious Gospel of salvation. Do you remember Jesus telling the rich man:

Matthew 19:21 … go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

That man walked away from Jesus that day, for he had great wealth, and loved it more than God. “What is a person profited, if they gain the whole world, but lose their own soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Riches often diverts a person away from the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, and leads the wealthy to a sham faith that will not save. Remember this:

God never knew the name of the rich man, but He loved the impoverished Lazarus. The poor, the Lazarus’ of this world, are often quicker to find and be found of Christ than the rich are.

The Christian Is Called To Fulfill The Royal Law

James 2:8 If ye fulfill THE ROYAL LAW according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:

The Christian is under what James calls “The Royal Law”. Why is it “The Royal Law”? Because it is the Law as defined by Jesus Christ.

Word Study A “Lawyer” came to Jesus one day and asked, “Master, which is the Great Commandment in the Law?” The word “GREAT” is the Greek μέγας mégas, {pronounced meg’-as}, which means “the most important, the key, the overwhelming principle”. This “Lawyer” studied, not human laws, but the Law of God. He was testing Jesus to see if Jesus, known as a Great Teacher, understood the primary principle or the driving force behind the Law. Jesus did not hesitate. He said:

Matthew 22:37-38 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the FIRST and GREAT commandment …

Word Study Jesus said that this commandment is not only the MEGAS commandment, it is also the πρῶτος PRŌTOS or “first in time or place, first in rank”. The commandments of God are built on this one principle – we are to love God with our ALL. Not of HALF, but our ALL. When you look at the Ten Commandments, the FIRST FOUR deal with love for God. If you do not love God primarily, then you will not love others – the other 6 commandments. Then Jesus continued:

Matthew 22:39 And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The GREAT commandment is the basis of the Law. The SECOND GREAT commandment follows the first. These two principles are called “The Royal Law” because they are given to us by God our King in both Old and New Testaments. Jesus said:

Matthew 22:40 On these TWO COMMANDMENTS hang all the Law and the Prophets

The entirety of God’s Law hangs on these two nails. They hold up the Law.

James 2:9 but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are CONVINCED of the law as transgressors.

If you are prejudiced toward people, then the Royal Law rebukes {ἐλέγχω elénchō, pronounced el-eng’-kho} you. It admonishes you. You are supposed to treat others the way you want to be treated. You would not want to be pulled over and stopped just because you are black. You would not want to be shunned because you are brown. You would want others to treat you with respect, even if your clothing shows evidence of poverty. You would want to be treated like Jesus treated you. Now this next set of Scripture are often taken out of context, and misapplied. We read:

James 2:10-11 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

James is NOT telling us that we do not need to keep the Law. He is telling us we NEED, as believers, to follow the Royal Law. It is Jesus Christ Who gave us these Laws. We honor Him when we follow them. We dishonor Him when we treat others with prejudice, regardless as to it’s flavor.

If you do not commit adultery (which would be a violation of the second great Law), but you murder someone (a violation of the second great Law), then you have broken God’s Law. And yes, we are under these two great Laws. We as believers are to love God our Savior, Father, and Lord, with our ALL. We as believers are also to cherish our neighbor, and treat our neighbor as we would be treated.

“But”, you might ask, “what about those who have done wrong to me”? Jesus gave us a third Royal Law. Jesus said:

John 13:34-5 A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

The believer in Christ is under three Royal Commandments. We are to love God with all that we have. We are to love and so treat others as we want to be loved and treated. But the New Commandment, this is a doozy! We are to love one another as Jesus loved us. This is a sacrificial type of love.

Let’s suppose someone has hurt you. Are you free to hurt them back? Well, what did Jesus do?

1 Peter 2:22-23 {Jesus} did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously …

This is what Jesus told us to do. We are to have a sacrificial love toward others. When we are treated badly – and it happens to me weekly – we are to obey the Third Great Commandment:

Matthew 5:44-48 I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

We who are Christians are not under the Yoke of the Law as the Old Covenant believers were. We do not have to sacrifice animals. We do not have a priesthood we kowtow to. We do not have to keep the Feasts, the moons, and the special days that the Israeli had to do. We do not have travel to Jerusalem once a year, nor to Mecca. We are under a Royal Law – a Law of Liberty. We are freed from sin so that we can serve the Lord. We are priests together, and Christ our High Priest – blessed be the name of the Lord. We will be judged one day on how we fulfilled these three great laws.

James 2:12-13 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Love God with your all. Treat others the way you want to be treated. And love even those who mistreat you. Do good to them who hurt you. Pray for those who treat you badly. Jesus prayed from the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Let love accompany us as we move toward Heaven. May God the Holy Spirit and His Holy Word touch our hearts and minds, honor Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen and Amen!

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We Walk By Faith

Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 5:7. As you turn there I want to make a universal application.

As humans, we all can be terribly obtuse.

Did everyone understand what I just said? Probably not, because I used a word you may not have all recognized – “obtuse”. When I say “as humans, we can be obtuse”, you may not understand what I’m saying. But if I speak the plain language, I would say “as humans, can be DENSE” or “DOPEY” or “DUMB” or even “SLOW ON THE UPTAKE”, you now understand my words. Words should be used simply, so that all can understand them. Someone once said, “If you can explain it to a six year old, you can explain it to everybody”.

The Apostle Paul, though highly educated (for he studied under the Rabbi Gamaliel – see Acts 22:3), used language simply so as to be understood. The Apostle tells us in our focal text today …

(for we WALK by faith, not by sight:)

These are very clear and simple words. Some other versions of the Bible that are out there manipulate the text, translating this as “For we LIVE by faith, not by sight”. That’s not a good translation. The word “WALK” is the Greek περιπατέω peripatéō, {pronounced per-ee-pat-eh’-o}, meaning “to walk, to move about”. The word peripatéō is found in verses like:

Matthew 4:18 … Jesus, WALKING by the sea of Galilee …
Matthew 9:5 … {Jesus said} Arise, and WALK.
Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, the lame WALK …
Matthew 14:25 … Jesus went to them, WALKING on the sea.
Matthew 14:29 … {Peter} WALKED on the water …

Why did the Apostle use the word WALK to describe the Christian way of life? It is because GOD uses the word WALK to describe how believers are to live.

Walking Itself Is An Act Of Faith

How many of you “walked” today? I suspect most of you walked, and were not carried or wheeled into the congregation. Have you ever thought about walking?

Most humans are born with the ability to see, to breathe, to vocalize, to feel pain. We are born with emotions. We are NOT born walking, talking, or reading. We have the POTENTIAL to do so, but these things must be learned. From our earliest stage of development we have had parents or guardians who taught us how to walk and talk. Walking is an act of faith. The baby holds onto the elder’s hands, and trembling, falteringly, makes one step, then another. The baby can’t stand, doesn’t have the strength nor the balance to stand. But as it grows, it begins to partially walk by holding onto furniture or an elder’s hand. In time the child is released, and it makes a few faltering steps in faith. The child may not know it’s called FAITH, but it is FAITH. It takes faith to walk.

Walking is scientifically complex. If you ask a doctor or a medical scientist to explain the act of walking, they would explain how all the muscles in the feet and legs are precisely adjusted and corrected in order to keep us upright. It doesn’t make sense that such a small base as a human foot can hold up such a large, vertical frame as the human body is. The inner ear, the nerve endings, the bones, the impulses that come from our minds, the whole of the human body is elegantly designed by our Creator God. Most of us are able to learn to walk, but it starts with faith, and with practice.

Walking is something we learn to do – and something we do every single day that we are not stopped by infirmity.

Walking is a normal part of the human experience. It is something we should do. Walking moves us from one place to another. It was by walking you got to Church today. It is something you do not want to be without.

God designed us all with the potential to walk. Not just to walk, but to walk with Him. God created Adam and Eve, and ordered Adam against eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17). When Adam sinned and ate of that which was forbidden, what happened?

Romans 5:12 … by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned

Adam’s sin not only caused sin to enter his life, but it caused “death”. Adam killed himself – and us – in two ways. Adam first died to the Presence of God. When the Lord God came into the Garden of Eden, how did He come?

God came WALKING!

Genesis 3:8 {Adam and Eve} heard the voice of the Lord God WALKING in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.

Our God made Adam and Eve to WALK with them every day. The Creator came WALKING in the Garden. He came to talk to those whom He made in love. But where were they? They hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God. This is abnormal, wrong. God made humanity to walk with Him. Adam allowed another love to supplant his love of God. We are to love God with all our hearts, to WALK with Him daily. This is how we were designed, how things were meant to be.

God was not meant to be an afterthought or a leftover, nor even an accessory we tack onto our lives to give us “Our Best Lives Now”. The best life is the one in step with the Creator. The best life is the One that daily walks with Him, regardless as to our situations. God called out to Adam,

Genesis 3:9 … Where art thou?

Adam did not admit his sin. He blamed his sin on the woman Eve. Then he blamed his sin on God. “The WOMAN whom THOU gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). Don’t we use the same excuses today? “God made me this way – so I’m not to blame!” As Greg Morse wrote in his article Forsake Your Favorite Excuse,

“What {Adam and Eve} had never seen practiced became natural. The first man and woman, our parents, discovered in the forbidden fruit the idea to cover up their evil. And this knowledge was passed down to their children … Humanity’s mind became well stocked with fig leaves to cover our sin’s nakedness. All of us have become tailors and seamstresses, dressing up our failures in fine clothing.”

We were made to walk by faith with God daily. No matter where we go, or what we do, God is to be in it. This is how we were designed.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight:)

We were designed to walk by faith in God, trusting that what He said was true. When we are told in …

Genesis 3:6 … when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

The first sin has been reproduced many times. God says one thing, but we think another. We look and experiment, and inevitably fall into a horrible situation. We are to daily walk by faith in God – not by what we think or see!The human mind is corrupted by the fall of Adam, immersed in sin. We as humans seeks to be our own gods and goddesses, to set our laws of right and wrong. That is not what a Christian is to be.

Before you can walk, you must be born.

Before a baby walks, it must be born. Beloved, in order to walk with God, you must be born again. You must be changed from a child of Adam to a child of God. God must come into your heart. You must stop holding onto the fruit of the forbidden, and release it. You must grab the hands of the Master, Jesus Christ our Lord. Our Lord Jesus came preaching,

Matthew 4:17 … Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

There is a life beyond the life that walks by faith in the gods and goddesses of this world. We are to repent of the idols, and turn to Jesus. God calls all to come to Him by faith. “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus Christ came to this earth to save sinners, broken people like you and I. I along with the Apostle say with joy:

1 Timothy 1:15 …. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief

I speak not to just the faithful tonight, but to the seeker as well. If you are a sinner, Jesus Christ came to save you. He will save you, just as He saved – and keeps on – saving me. You must be born before you can walk. You cannot make yourself be born. Birth is a thing that comes from God. But when you hear His Word – Oh how I pray that God would open your eyes as He did with Elisha’s servant – when you hear His Word, and run into His arms, God will take care of the rest. The Law trumpets:

Isaiah 1:28 … the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.

Destruction does not need to be yours. Oh, how He loves you and me! When Jesus walked this earth, “many publicans and sinners came and sat down with Him” (Matthew 9:10). The religious Pharisees asked Jesus, just as the self righteous do today. They ask, “Why, Jesus, do you eat with these sinners, these broken people?” And Jesus, with love in His voice and joy in His eyes says, “I am not come to call the righteous, the well, those who think they have it all together. I have come to call sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:13). Do you labor? Is life hard for you? Do the things, the terrors of life, bear you down? Come to Me. I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Beloved, you must be born before you can walk. You must repent of your idols. Lay down that god who looks at you from the mirror. Put away that self and selfishness. Cry out to Jesus, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

When you turn from yourself, from the nature of Adam so natural in all of us, and turn to Jesus, He promises to save.

Repent.
Receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Rest in Him.
God will cause you to be born again (John 3:3,7; 1 Peter 1:23)
Then you can begin to walk with God.

The Normal Christian Walks With God

Just as Adam walked daily with God, the Normal Christian is to walk daily with God. Walking with God is not a chore, but a pleasure. Walking with God is what the believer is designed to do. One of the first believers to walk with God was a man by the name of Enoch. The Bible tells us that:

Genesis 5:24 … Enoch walked with God: and he was not, for God took him.

Enoch walked with God daily. Let me ask you. How many of you walked today? Walking is a normal part of your day, isn’t it. Well, walking with God is to be a normal part of your day. Enoch walked with God for 365 years until one day God told Enoch, “Come on. Let’s just walk into Heaven”. And Enoch did. The Bible tells us that:

Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that HE PLEASED GOD.

The reason we are given the twin gifts of physical life and eternal life is so that we can walk with God every day.

Enoch walked with God, having none of the blessings that we have today. Thank God for the walkers! Thank God for those who walk with God every day. These people may be unknown in their age, but God uses them to save the world.

  • If NOAH had not “WALKED with God” (Genesis 6:9), the flood would have destroyed us all.
  • If ABRAHAM had not walked with God, there would have been no Israel, no Messiah, no salvation for any of us. God told Abraham, just as He tells us, dear Christian,

Genesis 17:1 … I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect {תָּמִים tâmîym, [pronounced taw-meem’ means COMPLETE or WHOLE]}

Walking with God completes us. It repairs our brokenness daily. Walking with God, we are available to the Potter’s hand:

Isaiah 64:8 … we are the clay, and Thou art our Potter (O Lord), and we are all the work of Thy hand

When you walk with God, He completes our brokenness. He repairs us. He makes us into what we should have been but for sin. When you give your life to God, walking with Him daily we become:

Ephesians 2:10 … His WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before {ordered} that we should walk in them.

Those who have met & received Jesus
are no longer spiritual cripples.

When you meet Jesus “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up” (Matthew 11:5). Without Jesus, you are “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14). Without Jesus, you cannot walk with God. But with Jesus, you are given the ability to walk with God everyday. The Master bids us, “Rise, take up thy bed, and WALK” (John 5:8). Jesus tells us, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worst thing come upon thee” (John 5:14). Walk with God. Christians, we MUST walk with God daily.

I have known professing Christians who refuse the ordinance of water baptism. If you are saved, if you “walk by faith, and not by sight”, then you should honor Jesus and do as His Word commands. We are not rebellious like Adam. We are Children of God, Christ Children. We walk honoring Jesus.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so WE ALSO SHOULD WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.

We no longer walk after the ways of the world. We, like Abraham, walk before God and are complete. We do not follow the ways of the world. We do not cherish the ways of flesh as the children of Adam do. We are God’s Children, born to walk with Him daily.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who WALK not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The “righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us, who WALK NOT after the FLESH, but AFTER THE SPIRIT” (Romans 8:4). Christ is our completion, our Savior, our Lord. We walk with and in Him daily. The Apostle tells the Christian:

Romans 13:13 Let us WALK honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

God walks with us – every day. We are to consciously walk with Him. Has He not said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5)? He is always by our side. Let us walk before Him, knowing He is there always. Let us please God, as Enoch, Noah, and Abraham did. If you are a Christian, then:

2 Corinthians 6:16 … ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I WILL DWELL IN THEM, AND WALK IN THEM; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

WALK in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16). If we live in the Spirit, LET US WALK IN THE SPIRIT (Galatians 5:25).

The Christian Walk Is Far Different
From Adam’s Walk

2 Corinthians 5:7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight:)

There was a time when every person “WALKED according to the ways of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the devil” (Ephesians 2:2). Christians, we are not that way anymore. We WALK worthy of the vocation we have been called to (Ephesians 4:1). We do not WALK as other Gentiles WALK, in the emptiness of their minds (Ephesians 4:17). We walk before God. Christians, we are strangers and foreigners in this world.

We are Children of Love.
We are to love our God Who saved us.
We are to love others as Jesus loved us.

Ephesians 5:2 WALK IN LOVE, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor.

We are Children of love, Children of God. We are to WALK in love. To WALK in the Light of God. We are to …

Colossians 1:10-11 … WALK WORTHY of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God 11 strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;

If you are walking with God daily – DAILY – then your life will not fall apart when your life falls apart!

I have often talked with dear Christians who have lapsed in their faith. Sickness has caused them to lose their former strength. Perhaps they are unable to physically walk now. I had one lady ask me if God hated her. I had another gentleman ask me if God was punishing him for an indiscretion in the past. No, I do not believe this. When God forgives, He forgives completely. We are told that when we repent,

Micah 7:19 …{God} will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities, and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Billy Graham wrote in his book Peace With God:

“Your sins have been forgiven. God has buried them in the depths of the sea and placed them behind His back of forgetfulness. Every sin is completely wiped out. You stand before God as a debtor, and you have received your discharge, you have become reconciled to God. You were actually an enemy of God before. The Bible says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

But more than all of that, you have been adopted into the family of God. You are now a child of God. “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5). You are now a member of the royal family of heaven. You have royal blood in your veins. You are a child of the King.”

Christian, you are not what you were before Christ. You are changed by God, indwelt by God, and destined to live with God forever. This world is not your home. This body is not your eternal body. It was designed by sin to be temporal – but there is another body coming. This world is marred by sin, but there is another world coming. If we groan, let us not groan faithlessly, doubting the love of God. Let us groan as the Apostle groaned. Let’s end with the words that God gave Paul before this blessed focal text we have studied today:

2 Corinthians 5:1-6 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: 3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. 4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. 5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7 (for we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8 we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

While we Christians are in this body, we are not home. Oh, God is with us. His Spirit indwells us. But our Jesus is in yonder, on the right hand of God the Father. Daily I groan. I am a son of God. I am a soldier of the Lord on temporary assignment.

I am not home.
I will not be home until the day I see my Jesus face to face.
Until I kneel before Him, and cling to Him as Mary did at the Tomb.
Until I see Him on Heaven’s shore, and I cast myself
naked into eternity’s sea.

We who are Christians walk by faith, not by sight. We walk toward our Jesus. One day we will walk from this place, to another place, blessed and prepared for us by our Jesus. Let us be faithful to Him until that day comes. If you cannot physically walk, you can still “walk by faith”. You can read the Word of God daily. You can be a witness to those around your sick bed. You can “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “in everything – even your infirmity – give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Walk by faith. Walk as Job walked, honoring the Lord though you have lost all. For beloved, when you have Jesus, you can never lose all.

May God touch your hearts, and open your eyes, through His blessed Spirit and His Word. Amen and Amen!

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Then Everyone Ran Away

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Matthew 26:46-56 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? 55 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

This coming Sunday morning we will once more celebrate the Lord’s Supper at our Church. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ for us on Calvary. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Jesus said:

Luke 19:10 For the Son of man IS COME to seek and to save that which was lost.

Mark 10:45 … the Son of man CAME NOT to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mankind was lost because of Adam’s sin. Jesus Christ came to redeem us, to bring us from the Kingdom of darkness, and into God’s marvelous Light (1 Peter 2:9). There was only one way for Jesus to save us and bring us into God’s Kingdom. Jesus had to take our place. He had to stand in the dock, being judged for our sins, the perfect for the imperfect, that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

God the Father sent His Son on a mission to come to lost souls, and to invite the lost into the Kingdom of God. But this invitation came with a great price. Jesus would have to die a horrid death on Calvary.

Jesus Is Betrayed So We Can Be Blessed

Adam betrayed his Creator in the Garden of Eden. Now a son of Adam will betray Jesus in another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane. Was Jesus surprised at Judas’ betrayal? Let’s see. Our Lord said:

Matthew 26:46-48 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. 47 And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast.

  • JESUS KNEW WHAT WAS IN THE HEART OF PEOPLE. When Jesus washed the feet of His disciples Peter initially refused to be ministered to. Jesus said,

“If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me”

The child of God is the one who has received Jesus as BOTH Lord and Savior. The child of God does not reject the Master, but obeys Him, whether we fully understand His Word or not. Peter replied, “Lord, don’t just wash my feet, but my head and hands, too!”. Jesus told him, You are clean, BUT NOT ALL. The Bible said:

John 13:11 For {Jesus} knew who should betray Him; therefore He said, Ye are not all clean.

Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him. Jesus knew, because He knows the heart of man. As God, Jesus looks not on just the outward. God sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus knows what was in man (John 2:25). When Jesus chose Judas Iscariot to be one of His core disciples, He would later say:

John 6:70 … Have not I chosen you twelve, and ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL?

Jesus knew that Judas was “a devil”, a man who was lost. Judas Iscariot “was a robber and a thief” (John 12:6). Why in the world did Jesus choose him, knowing that he would betray Him? It was because of Christ’s HIGH VIEW of the Bible.

  • JESUS KNEW SCRIPTURE MUST BE FULFILLED. Judas Iscariot was prophesied by Zechariah over 600 years before Jesus was incarnate as perfect Man. Let’s take a moment to look at this amazing prophesy.

Zechariah 11:12-13 And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.

God knew and foretold the betrayal of Judas over 600 years before the acts occurred. What is fascinating is how precise the Word of our Lord is. The Prophecy tells us that Judas would haggle over the price to betray Jesus. If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear is perfectly fulfilled in

Matthew 26:14-15 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, 15 and said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? …

The Gospel of Luke tells us:

Luke 22:3-6 … Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. 4 And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray {Jesus} unto them. 5 And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money. 6 And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.

The devil entered into Judas – though this was not an actual “possession”. Judas was well aware of what he did.

The Bible tells us that “your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Judas had been with Jesus – among the Master’s inner 12 – for over three years. At any time he could have given his heart to the Lord. But he hardened his heart, rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior. When the time was right Satan – watching Judas – moved to indwell his heart. And Judas went and made a covenant with other evil men to betray Jesus our Lord.

Though this was prophesied, this does not remove responsibility from Judas. Jesus made this clear when He sent Judas out from the Lord’s Table:

Matthew 26:23-24 … He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.

It would have been good for that man {Judas} if he had not been born. Judas is being held accountable for his actions, as he should be. But all this is happening as the Scripture foretold. Jesus said, “The Son of man goeth AS IT IS WRITTEN of him. Jesus was operating according to the Script that God the Father foreordained, as did Judas. But Judas served Satan, whereas Jesus served the Father.

Zechariah also prophesied they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (11:12). The exact amount of money, in the exact TYPE of currency, was prophesied. Jesus was betrayed (again, 11:12) for thirty pieces of silver. Not gold, not copper, but silver. In our context we read:

Matthew 26:15 … they covenanted with {Judas} for THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER.

Why did God foreordain that Jesus be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver? This goes back to the Law of God. As God laid out the Law for Israel, His Old Testament people, God established rules by which His people should live. God told Israel in:

Exodus 21:28-29, 32 If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be {acquitted}. 29 But if the ox {was known to gore people}, and it hath been testified to his owner, and {the owner did not keep the ox from people, which lead to the ox killing}… a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death. … 32 If the ox shall {gore a male or female servant}; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

The Israeli was responsible for even the behavior their oxen. If an ox killed a person, but had never done so before, the ox was to be killed, and it’s meat not eaten. God considers human life to be very valuable! From the earliest time in humanity God said “the blood of your lives will I require, at the hand of every beast will I require it … whoever sheds the blood of a human, then his blood shall be shed – for humans are made in the image of God” (Genesis 9:5-6). Life is precious to God, because He made us in His image. You were held accountable for what your ox did. But once the ox was killed, you were acquired – your payment for the death was the death of the ox. UNLESS the OX was KNOWN to gore people! If an ox gored and killed a person in that case, BOTH the ox and his owner was stoned to death. Life is precious.

If an ox gored and harmed (but did not kill) one of your servants, then there was a fine of THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER paid to the master of the house. This ties in to what Jesus did for us. The Bible tells us that:

Philippians 2:7-8 {Jesus} made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him{self} the form of a SERVANT, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross …

Jesus Christ came to minister, not to be ministered unto (Matthew 20:28). Jesus Christ lowered Himself from the throne of Heaven, to come to this earth for us. He became the Servant of God, and willingly lays down His life for our lives. Jesus was not gored by an ox, but He was gored by the Cross.

Isaiah 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Just as 30 pieces of silver was given to the master of the house when a servant was gored, 30 pieces of silver were given for the goring of Jesus Christ. Our Jesus was “disallowed of men, but Chosen of God, and Precious”. To us who believe in Him, He is much more precious than 30 pieces of silver. But to Judas, who had no love for Jesus, this was his contract price.

Zechariah also tells us I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (11:13). Judas Iscariot would take the 30 pieces of silver, then betray Jesus. Matthew tells us:

Matthew 27:3-10 Then Judas, which had betrayed {Jesus}, when he saw that {Jesus} was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. 5 And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood. 7 And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.

The Prophet foretold that Judas would get buyer’s remorse over what he did, and that he would take the 30 pieces of silver back to the house of the Lord (the Temple). It was exactly as Scripture said. Judas threw the money to the potter – God calls Himself the Potter, and we the clay (Isaiah 64:8). Judas did not repent before God. The Scripture says “he repented HIMSELF”. He was upset with himself. Going into the Temple, he tried giving the money back to the priests that gave it to him. When they would not receive it back (they “washed their hands of Judas”), Judas threw the money toward the Potter. One commentary I read said that he threw the money toward the Holy of Holies, trying to make restitution toward God without genuinely repenting. The priests took up the money and purchased a piece of land, a “Potter’s Field”, a type of “Boot Hill” where “strangers” or unknown and unJewish people could be buried. It was not considered hallowed ground, as it was purchased with blood money. When Peter later spoke of Judas and his horrible death, he said:

Acts 1:17-20 .. {Judas} was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

Judas “hung” himself. His death was, by his own hand, very violent. He burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. What a horrible way to die! No wonder it was called a “field of blood”. The Bible warns us,

Hebrews 10:31 It is a FEARFUL THING to fall into the hands of the living God!

Just as Jesus said, it would have been better that Judas had never been born. But all that happened, happened that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

Matthew 26:48-50 Now he that betrayed {Jesus} gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. 49 And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. 50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.

Jesus is betrayed with a kiss. This is not a romantic kiss, but a kiss of respect given to teachers and friends. We today shake hands (or because of the Coronavirus, bump fists). In Jesus’ day believers “greeted one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 6:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26). David kissed Jonathan his friend (1 Samuel 20:41).Judas used this act of love to betray our Lord. Again, this is all in accordance with the prophecy of Scripture.

Jesus Said The Scripture MUST Be Fulfilled

As Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter showed the opposite extreme. He drew his sword and struck the ear off of one of the soldiers who grabbed Jesus. We read:

Matthew 26:51-54 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

Jesus had earlier told His disciples:

Luke 22:36-38 But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. 37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. 38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

Jesus told His disciples to buy a sword. I believe He was telling them to get ready, that persecution was coming. The swords were perhaps for defensive use, but NOT for offensive use. Perhaps Peter remembered Jesus’ words. Misunderstanding, he drew one of two swords, and cut the ear off of Malchus, a servant of the High Priest (see also John 18:10; Luke 22:50-51). Jesus told Peter:

Matthew 26:52 Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Jesus did not want His disciples to offensively attack the enemy. I believe that it is appropriate for a believer to defend his or her home from intruders. But as saints of God, we are called to be patient, and not aggressive toward evil. The Bible says:

Romans 12:19-21 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jesus always put the Bible first. He cherished the Word, for I believe He wrote the Word. Our Jesus Christ is the Living Word who was in the beginning with God – and was God (John 1:1-3). Jesus had a HIGH view of Scripture, of our Bible. Jesus told His disciples:

Matthew 26:53-54 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

Our Jesus “laid His life down for His friends, for those who would believe in Him” (John 10:15, 17). Peter had promised to lay his life down for Jesus (John 13:37-38), but failed. Jesus did not fail. Jesus never fails! Jesus also laid down His life for the Scriptures, for the Bible that God has given us. The Bible said it had to be done, so Jesus did it. Beloved, should not we do the same? We will close with this:

Matthew 26:55-56 In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. 56 But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

When Jesus went to the Cross, it was exactly the right time, fully in accordance with God’s will and God’s Word. The Bible says,

Galatians 4:4-5 when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Jesus came at the right time, in perfect sync with the Bible, the Word of God. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the disciples running away from Jesus, everything that happened, happened in accordance with God’s Will and God’s Word. Let us cherish and hold on to God’s Word. It was accurate, though written hundreds of years before Christ, and it is accurate today.

May God through His Spirit and His Word touch your hearts and grow your faith today. Amen and Amen!

Posted in Matthew, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Speaking The Truth In Love

Ephesians 4:15 … but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ …

Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

We live in a day where the truth is very scarce – even rare. The big thing we hear today is “Follow the Science”. Mike Huckabee recently stated on his February 7, 2021 show:

..when I’m told that a biological boy can declare himself to be a girl, and even participate in girl’s sports, I’m wondering what the science is that says that makes sense. … How is a woman’s health protected by conducting an unnatural, irreversible, surgical procedure that results in the death of a baby? Especially when the baby is a girl … a future woman?”

That is a very truthful statement. What does the Science say? But here’s a better question. What does the Bible say? What does Jesus say? When Jesus was questioned about marriage, His response was:

Matthew 19:4-6 … Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

In today’s world we are being told to go along with the crowd. We are being told as God’s Church to use gender neutral pronouns, and to recognize that biological men are women because to do otherwise will be to offend them, and hurt their feelings. We are being told to redefine marriage as Jesus and our Father has said it should be, to toss away Biblical definitions, and go with what others feel. Truth today is relative, variable, based upon what the crowd says.

When Jesus prayed for His Church, He prayed that we would be “sanctified through God’s Truth – God’s Word is truth” (John 17:17). Throughout the Bible one of the most used phrases is “It is written”. God’s Word is TRUTH. When Jesus Christ left Heaven to come to this earth, He did so to reveal the TRUTH to us all. Jesus said:

John 18:37 … To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Jesus bears witness to the TRUTH. God’s people, heeding Jesus, HEARS His truthful voice. Though the world, just like the Governor Pilate in John 18:38, asks the question:

What is TRUTH?”

Truth is not fluid, changeable based upon what we feel!

Illustrate I remember an old Andy Griffith show called Mr. McBeevee. It first aired on October 1, 1962 when I was but 3 ¾ years old! Opie Taylor begins to tell his dad about a man named Mr. McBeevee that he met in the woods. Opie did meet such a man, a fellow that was a lineman, someone who climbed trees to reach power lines that were near the woods the child played in. His dad Andy, good natured, goes along with Opie’s stories of Mr McBeevee – that is, until Opie starts coming home with gifts from what Andy believes is an imaginary friend. Andy tells Opie if he doesn’t start telling the truth, he will be spanked – but Opie, though tempted, refuses to change his story. Mr McBeevee “walks around in the trees”. He “jingles as he walks” (this is his tool belt making noise). He “wears a shiny hat on his head” (this is his helmet). The man is real, though Andy has never met him. At the end of the episode Andy decides not to punish Opie, but in frustration goes out to the woods where his son often plays. As he, frustrated, cries out “Mr McBeevee!”, above him in the trees a man hollers, “Hello!” He comes down from the lines via the trees, much to Andy’s surprise and relief, proving Opie was telling the truth all along.

Beloved, God’s people are to “speak the truth IN LOVE”. There is a truth, a truth that transcends all others, a truth taught in this glorious old Book we call the Bible. We are to – like Opie – speak the truth in love, even if it means getting a whipping from others who – like Andy – misunderstand us. It is only by speaking God’s truth – His Bible – that others are led to Christ. It is only by speaking the truth that other believers in Jesus near us may grow up into {Christ} in all things, which is the head, even Christ. God saved us, and wants us to be like Jesus. God wants others to come to know Jesus. We MUST speak the truth IN LOVE.

We Are To Be Like Jesus, Not The Devil
Speak THE TRUTH in LOVE

God despises lies. It was a lie spoken by the serpent Satan that led Adam to eat that which was forbidden. The devil said in Eden:

Genesis 3:4-5 … Ye shall not surely die: 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Lies and liars pull people away from God! When you lie, and do not speak the truth of God’s Word, you imitate the Devil!

The Psalmist declared:

Psalm 5:4, 6 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. 5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak LEASING {leasing is the Hebrew כָּזָב kâzâb, pronounced kaw-zawb’ which meansdeceitfully or dishonestly”}: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

We are to speak the truth in love. Not harshly. Not vindictively, nor pridefully. But in LOVE. We are to be kind in our speaking. We are to remember that we “once were lost, but now are found, were blind, but now we see”. Love should be in our hearts and our voices when we reject the world’s lies. Yet we ARE to SPEAK THE TRUTH. We are not to lie to either saved or lost people. If you are saved, you are commanded to “put off” that old way of life Jesus saved you from.

Colossians 3:8-9 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

Fear may tempt us to lie. Look to the Lord!

Abram, who is also Abraham the father of faith, allowed fear to lead him to lie. As Abram went where the Lord told him to go, he and his family had to pass through Egypt. Abram told his wife Sarai:

Genesis 12:11-13 …. Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: 12 therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

What Abram did at this point was NOT a noble, faithful thing. He had Sarai lie in order to protect his own life. Fear rather than faith was driving him. I have heard some excuse Abram’s behavior by saying, Well, Sarai was Abram’s half sister, so he really wasn’t lying. He was just hiding part of the truth out of fear for his life”. Beloved, Abram was lying. A half truth is a half lie. God never justified Abram’s action in Egypt, neither does He justify Abraham when he does the same thing with Abimelech king of Gerar. God has to intervene, and warn Abimelech that Sarah is Abraham’s wife. Abimelech chastises Abraham, saying:

Genesis 20:9-10 …. What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. 10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?

Abraham justifies his action by saying “I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake. 12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife” (Genesis 20:11-12). Abraham bore false witness to Sarah, and by his actions nearly led an innocent but lost man into sinning against God. Beloved, lies are dangerous. To give a half truth is to give a half lie.

The Worst Of All Lies Is The False Witness

When people think about the Ten Commandments, they think that one of those ten is “Thou shalt not lie”. That’s not true. The Ninth Commandment states:

Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

To bear FALSE WITNESS is to make a statement about another person’s person that is not true. This was done to Jesus at His trial.

Matthew 26:59-63 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61 and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. 62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 63 But Jesus held his peace.

God despises the false witness, the person who speaks lies about another’s person. God tells His people:

Exodus 23:1 Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

God’s people are to be salt and light. We are not to bear false witness against anyone. The Bible does not restrict this just for fellow believers, but speaks of your neighbor. Your neighbor is whoever is near you at any time. “Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor (Deuteronomy 5:20). The Bible tells us a shocking thing about God – God does HATE. What does He hate?

God HATES The False Witness!

Proverbs 6:16-19 says,These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 a proud look, a LYING tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A FALSE WITNESS THAT SPEAKS LIES, and he that sows discord among the brethren …

Two of the six things that God hates is LIES. The LYING tongue, and the false witness speaking LIES.

Have you ever heard that often quoted Scripture text, Deuteronomy 19:21? How many have ever heard someone say,

Deuteronomy 19:21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

This verse is usually quoted out of context. The context has to do with FALSE WITNESSES. The whole of the text is:

Deuteronomy 19:16-21 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; 17 then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18 and the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19 then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. 20 And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. 21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

That “eye for an eye” thing is tied to the FALSE WITNESS. Whatever judgment would have been made against the accused would instead be made against the FALSE WITNESS. God said that by doing this, “you would put away this evil from among you”. God despises the false witness, the one who tells lies about another person’s character.

Why Doesn’t The Ten Commandments Say
“Thou Shalt Not Lie?”

Let’s look at the 9th commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor”, through Jesus’ eyes. Jesus said that “the GREAT COMMANDMENT in the Law” is…

Matthew 22:37-40 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus made these two commandments the core of the Law of God. Every part of the Law must be interpreted through the lens of these two commandments.

When Abram, and later Abraham bore false witness about his wife in order to save his own life, he was violating the Ninth Commandment as well as the general principle, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. Sarai was Abram’s neighbor, as was the Pharaoh who chastised Abram, saying:

Genesis 12:18-19 … What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

Abraham would later also be in the wrong when he did the same thing to Sarah and Abimelech (Genesis 20). The son born to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, would follow in his father’s footsteps when he went through Gerar.

Genesis 26:6-10 Isaac dwelt in Gerar: 7 and the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon. 8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. 9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.

First Abraham, now Isaac! Though Abraham had the excuse “Well, she IS my HALF sister”, Isaac had no such excuse. Abimelech chewed out Isaac, saying …

Genesis 26:10 … What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.

Isaac and Abraham hiding the identity of their wives in order to protect their own lives shows us all that FEAR can rule us. It shouldn’t, but it can. Later on after these events their wives would make demands of them, or misuse them, because they had not been treated with love. What a horrible thing it is to bear false witness against another! The Bible tells us that in Heaven there will be NO ONE who “loveth and maketh a lie” (Revelation 22:15). Love does not bear false witness. God’s people are to “speak the truth in LOVE”.

So why doesn’t the Ninth Commandment say “Thou shalt not lie”? It is because there are times when love will demand we carefully use deception for a greater good.

A good example of this is in the Book of Joshua. Before Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land, we read:

Joshua 2:1-6 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there. 2 And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country. 3 And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house: for they be come to search out all the country. 4 And the woman took the two men, and hid them, and said thus, There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were: 5 and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark, that the men went out: whither the men went I wot not: pursue after them quickly; for ye shall overtake them. 6 But she had brought them up to the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof.

Somehow the King of Jericho heard of these spies, and knew they went to Rahab’s home. The King told Rahab to “bring those men forth”. Rahab hid the spies on the roof of the house, and hid them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order upon the roof. Rahab said (and I’m going to put this in modern English so you can understand it):

Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. It came about, when it was time to shut the gate at dark, that the men went out; I do not know where the men went. Pursue them quickly, for you will overtake them.”

Rahab lied. She used deception for a greater good. So what does the Bible say about Rahab?

  • First, Rahab is in the lineage of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5). Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. She and Salmon bore a child, Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, is a direct descendant of Rahab.
  • Second, Rahab hid the spies out of faith in our God. The Bible commends her action of hiding the spies in Hebrews 11:31, which says “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Rahab had faith in God, saving faith, and her actions in hiding the spies and yes, lying, were acts of faith. Rahab told the two spies, “the Lord your God is God in Heaven above and on earth below” (Joshua 2:11). Rahab agreed to save the spies if her family was protected (Joshua 2:12-14). Rahab “bound a line of scarlet thread in her window” (Joshua 2:18, 21) as the spies asked, and she and her family were saved.
  • Third, the stepbrother of Jesus, James, commended Rahab for receiving and hiding the spies. “In the same way, was Rahab the prostitute not justified by works also when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:25-26).

Illustrate 1: We can see from the story of Rahab that there are times in life when deception must be used to save life. Suppose you were a Christian in Germany during World War II hiding Jews. In a recent Breakpoint Daily article John Stonestreet wrote: “Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village in south-central France. Back in 1940, the total population of this area, including the surrounding villages, was only about 5,000. Sill, under the leadership of their Protestant Pastor André Trocmé and his wife, Magda, the residents of these villages were responsible for saving up to 5,000 Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II”. The only way these Christians could do this was by deception. The Pastor and his Church created an underground network to help Jews travel safely across the Swiss border. When the local officials found out what Pastor André was doing, they demanded he stop helping the Jews. The Pastor said, “These people came here for help and shelter. I am their shepherd. A shepherd does not forsake his flock. I do not know what a Jew is. I only know human beings”.

The Lord Jesus told us in Matthew 22:39 … Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…

Would you be “loving your neighbor” if you aided the Nazis in putting the Jews on the cattle cars to Auschwitz? No, you wouldn’t. Love would dictate I hide that innocent from the concentration camps and nearly sure death.

Illustrate 2: In 2 Kings 6 there is another interesting Biblical account where deception is used, this time by the Prophet Elisha. The King of Syria was upset with Elisha because each time the King planned the capture of the king of Israel, Elisha would reveal the plan to the King of Israel, and the King of Israel would be protected. The King of Syria decided to capture Elisha. He sent a mighty force down to Dothan to take that precious old Prophet. When Elisha’s servant woke up, he saw that Dothan was surrounded by the Syrian Army. “What shall we do?”, he cried out to Elisha. Elisha simply said:

2 Kings 6:16-18 … Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. 18 And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.

After Elisha had God blind his enemies, he used deception, and led them to Samaria where the Army of Israel was. We read:

2 Kings 6:19-20 … This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. 20 And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria …

Elisha did not tell the truth. He told them that he would lead them to Elisha, and led them to Samaria and certain capture. Elisha deceived, but did so for a higher good. When the King of Israel had the Syrians surrounded he asked Elisha:

2 Kings 6:21-23My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? 22 {Elisha} answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. 23 And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.

Elisha used deception. But his deception saved his and his servant’s life. His deception also caused a bloodless battle, and life was saved all about. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”!

Conclusion Of The Matter

It is tough being a Christian in a lost world. Jesus told us that we would be hated – and even tried – for our faith in Christ. Jesus told us to remember:

Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

The Christian has been “chosen out of the world” to follow Jesus, and “the world will hate us” (John 15:19; 1 John 3:13). Let us speak the truth in love to our neighbors. Let us not compromise the integrity of God’s Word, nor of the truth found in His Scripture. Let us stay the course, no matter how hard it might be. But also let us remember, we are to never bear false witness against anyone. We are to love God with our all, remembering that our God is the Lord God of TRUTH (Psalm 31:5). We are to love our neighbor as we would be loved. But if we must deceive, let us do so not to harm others, but to help others. Let us live wholeheartedly for Jesus in this lost and dying world.

May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

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There Are friends And There Are Friends

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

We Were Designed To Have Friends

Humans were designed by Gods to be relational, to care for someone besides ourselves. When God created Adam it was never with the intent that Adam be alone. God declared his intention, however, before He did it. The Lord said:

Genesis 2:18 … It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Though God said this, He did not immediately create a companion for Adam. God wanted man to know that singular solitude was not what we are created for. Our God “formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them” (Genesis 2:19). God did not do this because He Himself couldn’t think up names for His creation. Our God,

Psalm 147:4 … telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names

God brought the animals to Adam so that Adam would see every creature had a counterpart, a mate. After Adam named all the creatures the Bible says “for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (Genesis 2:20). Adam had to recognize he needed a companion, someone to relate to. It was then that God formed Eve out of Adam’s rib (Genesis 2:21-22). The Bible says that:

Genesis 1:27-28 God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it …

In our current chapter, just above our focal text, we see these words:

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

The first “friend” God created for man was woman, and for woman was man. Men, if you are married, you are to cherish your wives. The Bible says:

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

As Jesus loved us – and died for us – the man is to love and give his life for his wife. Brothers, you are to DIE for your wives. This is a command of God. The Apostle tells us in:

1 Peter 3:7 … ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.

Pastor John Piper said that “When we have HORIZONTAL problems we have a VERTICAL breakdown”. God will not hear our prayers when we mistreat our wives. And wives are commanded,

1 Peter 3:1-4 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the {way of life} of the wives; 2 while they behold your chaste {way of life} coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

God did not create humans to be solitary creatures. We are created in the “image of God”. God Himself is One, but He is Three. The Bible says that our God – which the Scripture names in Genesis 1:26 as אֱלֹהִים ‘ĕlōhîm – is an “US”. “God said ‘Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness’”. God is a compound unity.

God is ONE in essence, but THREE in Person.

The Father is God. Galatians 1:1 speaks of “God the Father”. The Son, Jesus Christ, is God. In John 20:28 Thomas called Jesus “My Lord and My God” – and Jesus did not correct him! The Holy Spirit is God. In Acts 5:3-4 the Apostle Peter asked Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? … You have not lied to men, but to GOD”. Our God is relational, not solitary. He made us relational, and not solitary.

I genuinely believe that Satan is doing all he can to make us solitary creatures, shunning friendship and embracing technology. Beloved, everyone needs a friend. Everyone needs a companion to speak to, relate to, share you heart with.

We Should CAREFULLY Pursue Friendship

Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:

Just as it is good to find a wife, it is a great thing to find a friend. We find friends by being friendly. Believers in Christ should be friendly and kind to others – but we should be careful in the friends we actually make. The Apostle Paul warns the Corinthian Christians:

1 Corinthians 15:33-34 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. 34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

When you read this in the King James the archaic language may cause you to miss the point. “Evil communications corrupts good manners” is the Greek

kakos homilia phtheirō chrēstos ēthos”, which is better translated as:

Wicked or evil COMPANIONSHIP destroys good CHARACTER”

Who you choose to make a friend or a wife will effect your walk with God. It will effect your very life. I know of a young man now who was in a great position. He had a grandfather that was going to leave him substantial properties and quite a bit of money in his will. The young man, ignoring the advise of his pastor and of his family, began to hang around with other men who were abusing drugs and generally were godless. The young man – once so full of promise – is today disinherited, and in a perpetually drugged up state. “Wicked companionship destroys good character”. The Bible tells us that, in choosing friends, we are to remember:

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

The Christian is to be friendly toward all. We are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), and are to “be kind one to another” (Ephesians 4:32). Like the Quakers of old, we should be friendly toward all. The Apostle said,

I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23). We are to be friendly. But Beloved, we are never to be FRIENDS to the WORLDLY. The stepbrother of Christ, the Blessed James wrote:

James 4:4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

Friends are people who help one another with their burdens. Friendship is a YOKE, a bond. If you choose the wrong friends, when you are in a bind and in need of help, these wrong friends can hurt you. The Apostle Paul spoke of two “fair weather” friends who abandoned him – but one good friend who stood by his side:

2 Timothy 1:15-18 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: 17 but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. 18 The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

While Paul was writing his second letter to Timothy, he was in a Roman prison cell. Phygellus and Hermogenes were “fair weather friends” who turned away from Paul when he needed them the most. But there was one good friend named Onesiphorus who stood by Paul’s side. The name “Onesiphorus” literally means “one who brings profit to another”. We don’t know much about Onesiphorus, as he is only mentioned in 2 Timothy. We do know this, though. As a good friend, Onesiphorus:

  • Often refreshed Paul (vs 16). The word for REFRESHED is the Greek ἀναψύχω anapsýchō, {pronounced an-aps-oo’-kho}, which means “to recover one’s breath, to cool off or revive a sagging spirit”. When David was but a shepherd, and an evil spirit was upon King Saul (1 Samuel 16:23), “David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him”. Being imprisoned, and hindered from preaching the Gospel, had to be a heavy burden on the Apostle Paul’s spirit. Onesiphorus did not add to Paul’s burden, but obeyed the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Comfort yourselves TOGETHER, and BUILD UP one another” (my paraphrase).
  • Onesiphorus was not ashamed of Paul’s chain” (vs 16). When Onesiphorus was in Rome, Paul said he sought me out very diligently, and found me. It was not SAFE to be a Christian in Rome at this time, but Onesiphorus did not hide from Paul. He sought Paul out. Why? Because Onesiphorus loved Jesus. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed” (Mark 8:38). Onesiphorus loved Jesus, and as a good friend loved Paul. A good friend is not ashamed of your infirmities or needs. Paul was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel of salvation. Rather than run away from Paul, Onesiphorus ran toward Paul. He acted as Christ unto his friend.
  • Onesiphorus was not stingy with his love. The Apostle said, many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus” (vs 18). The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity”. Fair weather friends only want you when they can use you. Good friends will stay by your side, through thick or thin. B
  • Because Onesiphorus loved Jesus and loved Paul, for he modeled Christ, his entire family was saved. As Paul closes this letter he writes, “Salute Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus” (2 Timothy 4:19).

There is nothing better in this life than a good and godly friend. A friend will tell you the truth, though may hurt:

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Several years ago I approached a cross road in my ministry, and was uncertain as to the path I should take. I had several other active pastors that I prayed with every week, men I thought were my friends. The Bible says, “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14). I shared my dilemma with my friends, they agreed together with me that I should take a certain path. Later, when that path turned out to be disastrous (though God meant it for good – Genesis 50:20), one of my friends wrote to me, saying, “I thought it was a bad idea – but I didn’t say anything”.

Choose your friends wisely, dear friends. Be friendly to all, but choose your friends wisely!

There Is One Friend Who Is Always Faithful

Proverbs 18:24 … there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.

It is good to have a good friend. Not a fair weather friend. Not a worldly friend. But a friend sent from God. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Friends help one another out of trouble. They help one another with burdens. Our Lord Jesus is “A Friend that sticketh closer than a brother”.

When we choose good friends, do not forget that the BEST friend you can have is God Almighty. When you believe God, and prove your belief by listening to and doing His Word, He becomes our Friend. When God told Abraham to “offer up Isaac on the altar” (Genesis 22), that old man did not hesitate. He immediately set out with his son and all that he needed to sacrifice Isaac upon that altar. The Bible tells us that God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac – it was but a test of his character. The Scripture tells us:

James 2:23 … the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

The best Friend you can have is a friendship with God. What was the most amazing miracle that happened in the lifetime of Moses? Was it:

– the pillar of fire and of cloud that led Israel (Exodus 13:21)
– the water parted at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21)
– the manna that God fed Israel from Heaven (Exodus 16:4 ff)
– the water that God gave Israel from the Rock (Exodus 17)

No, the most amazing and miraculous thing was when …

Exodus 33:9-11 … the Lord talked with Moses. 10 And all the people saw the cloudy pillar stand at the tabernacle door: and all the people rose up and worshiped, every man in his tent door. 11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.

Our God is looking for people who will receive Him as Friend. Jesus Christ left the glory of Heaven and came to this earth to save sinners, and to call people to friendship with God. Jesus told His disciples:

John 15:9-15 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

True friends lay down their lives for one another. Jesus laid down His life for us. He died on Calvary “to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). As Jesus laid down His life for us, we who believe in Him lay down our lives for Him. We heed and do His commandments. We are Christ’s friends if we abide in His love.

  • Jesus is our Friend Who will always give us good counsel. The Prophet Isaiah said “His name shall be called WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus never gives us bad advise, or poor recommendations. As eternal God in the flesh (John 1:1-3, 14) He has the perspective of our Creator. He knows what is best for us. We are wise to heed His direction.
  • Jesus is our Friend Who will never forsake us. He is no fair weather friend. Jesus has promised “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). He has said, “fear not, for I am with thee” (Genesis 26:24). “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee” (Jeremiah 1:8). “And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20).

The genuine Church that represents Jesus is filled with friends of Jesus, working together, honoring Him Who is our Friend. Where “two or more are gathered together in Jesus’ Name, there Jesus is in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Galatians 6:1-2 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Friends lift one another up when hurt comes, and rejoice together when blessings come:

1 Corinthians 12:24-27 … God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25 that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

As friends we are to lift one another up to Jesus, our Best Friend. If you do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, may I introduce you to my Friend? He is the Best Friend you can have. He gave His life for you, and rose again so that He can represent us before God the Father. I close with those wonderful words of that grand old song:

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

May God touch your hearts and minds with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

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Remember Lot’s Wife

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Last week we talked about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Gospel that saves you from sin is also the Gospel that brings you into the Kingdom of God.

Luke 17:20-21 … The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Is your heart submitted to Jesus Christ and his Word? Then you are in His Kingdom. God has always had a people in His Kingdom on this earth. God calls out a people to live for Him, to shine as …

1 Peter 1:14-16 … obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: (15) But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; (16) Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

What has God said of those in His Kingdom, His children saved by faith in Christ?

2 Corinthians 6:16 …. ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

God’s people are called to follow God in love. We are to be ready, and help others to be ready. Jesus is coming again. In our text today Jesus tells us that He will come and the judgment of God will fall. Jesus compares this future judgment to Noah and Lot.

Luke 17:26-30 And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; 29 but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. 30 Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.

I believe the latter days are upon us. I believe Jesus could come at any time. When He does, it will be QUICK. Like in the days of Noah, God has allowed the world to hear the Gospel. Much time has passed since Christ ascended to Heaven. There will come a day – maybe today – when the Father says, “Son, go get my children!” When that happens it will be quick. Noah was preaching, then he and his family got on the Ark, and GOD CLOSED THE DOORS. Judgment had come. The rains fell. God’s grace was locked on board the Ark, and if you were on it you were saved.

Do you have Jesus in your lives?

As we are reading about Jesus’ return, our Lord gives us a short command.

Luke 17:32 Remember Lot’s wife.

Word Study What a tiny verse this is! We might consider it so small, that we should skip it, and go read those larger texts. But our God often conveys great truths in short texts. They are no less important. Our Jesus tells us “Remember Lot’s wife”. The verb “REMEMBER” is the Greek μνημονεύω mnēmoneúō, {pronounced mnay-mon-yoo’-o}, which means “to say over and over mentally, to fill your mind with, to dwell on as a child might dwell on a primer, to hold it in your memory”. Jesus did not often tell us to REMEMBER other people. Jesus said of the woman who washed His feet with her tears, and anointed His head and feet with ointment from a precious Alabaster box:

Mark 14:9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

The glorious faith of this unnamed woman with an Alabaster box so impressed our Lord that her wanted her remembered. This is a standard we are to follow. But now Jesus says “REMEMBER Lot’s wife”. This is unnamed woman sets a standard that we are NOT to keep.

Who In The World Is “Lot”?

Go with me to Genesis 12. It does no good to tell you about Lot’s wife, if you don’t know who Lot is. Lot’s story begins with ABRAM, who would later be renamed ABRAHAM. To avoid confusion, I’ll use ABRAHAM as I speak of this great old man of faith. God came to Abraham, telling him:

Genesis 12:1-2 …. Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee …

Jesus said of Abraham, “Father Abraham rejoiced to SEE MY DAY, and was GLAD!” (John 8:56). I believe that Abraham was saved by faith in Christ. That the pre-incarnate Jesus presented Himself to Abraham, and called him to the Kingdom of God. Abraham was given a free choice. “Leave all you hold dear and follow Me, and I will bless you, or NOT”. Abraham did not hesitate. He heard the call to salvation, and moved. Jesus prayed for His followers:

John 17:16-17 They {who follow Me} are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

The Lord told Abraham “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred” (Genesis 12:1), and we read Abraham …

Genesis 12:4-5 … departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: … 5 … Lot his brother’s son …

Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Abraham was not supposed to take his kindred with him, but he took Lot. Beloved, no believer is perfect, not even Abraham. We are flawed. We grow. At this moment, Abraham is only Abram, a young believer. Why did Abraham take Lot with him? I think that – and this is my opinion, and not Scripture (though it seems to fit the context) – Abraham witnessed to Lot, and Lot was saved by faith in Christ also. Haran was a pagan land, as in this area was ancient Babylon. I suspect that Uncle Abraham did not want to leave his nephew, a believer in Christ, in that place. We know that Lot was saved because of what the Apostle wrote in:

2 Peter 2:6-8 … {God turned} the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes {, He} condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 7 {God} delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: 8 (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds😉

Word Study The Apostle calls Lot “JUST” and “RIGHTEOUS”, signifying he was saved. The Bible says:

1 Peter 3:18 … Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just {díkaios} for the unjust, that he might bring us to God

If a person is JUST or JUSTIFIED, it is because God has done it to us. “The JUST shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11).

Romans 3:24-26 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Lot was JUST and RIGHTEOUS, and he traveled with a JUST and RIGHTEOUS Abraham. But there’s one problem. When you disobey God, it will not be long before trouble comes.

If You Try Living Without God & His Kingdom
Trouble
Will Come

It wasn’t long before there was strife between Abraham’s herdsmen, and Lot’s herdsmen. God had blessed both Abraham and Lot for following him, so much that their herds were too much for the land they were on. Abraham told Lot:

Genesis 13:8-10 … Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we be brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. 10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.

Genesis 13:12 … Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.

Word Study The name “Lot” means “a searcher”. Lot was saved by faith, blessed by God, but as “a searcher” he began to believe “the grass is greener over on the other side”. Lot’s eyes wandered, then he wandered, and strayed from God. Lot is like the compromising Christian who drifts away, little by little, from God.

Beloved, if you wander from God, you will fall!

Lot wandered to Sodom, married a wife, and set up a nice home in that area. But God wasn’t in it. If God isn’t in it, you are at risk! Enemy armies from five nations, led by Chedorlaomer, the King of Elamraided Sodom and Gomorrah. The destruction was overwhelming. We read:

Genesis 14:11-12 they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way. 12 And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Had Lot been following God and not on bivouac in Sodom, he would not have become a casualty of war. But Abraham got word that lot was captured. Without hesitation, this grand old man of faith …

Genesis 14:14-16 … {Abraham} armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. 15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.

Bear in mind that Abraham – with God’s blessing and just 318 men – defeated a five nation army. Oh, what a blessing it is to live in God’s Kingdom, heeding His Word!

Did not Jesus tells us to seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”.

When we live in God’s Kingdom, we will be blessed as Abraham. When our hearts depart from God, we enjoy the curse of Lot. Oh, it is so much better to live in God’s Kingdom, heeding His Word.

There is power in walking with God, obeying His rule over your life, in “imitating God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1). The Psalmist cried:

Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the {one} that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

You would think that Lot, being rescued by Abraham, would leave Sodom to follow God. But no, he went back to that foul place. Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom”, and conformed to the world around him. He has placed himself and his family in the pathway of destruction. But Abraham has once more interceded for him, begging God for his salvation. So God sends a delegation to Sodom to rescue foolish Lot.

Genesis 19:1-2 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; 2 and he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways.

Sexual sin had taken over Sodom, so much so that an angel could not even walk down the street without being accosted. Men of the city saw Lot take these angelic beings (who looked like men) into his home. The men of Sodom stormed Lot’s home, demanding that these “visitors” come out to them so they could be sexually molested. Lot refused to do this, and the angels confused the men at the door so they could not get in the house. The Angels tell Lot:

Genesis 19:12-14 … Hast thou here any besides? son in law, and thy sons, and thy daughters, and whatsoever thou hast in the city, bring them out of this place: 13 for we will destroy this place, because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord; and the Lord hath sent us to destroy it. 14 And Lot went out, and spake unto his sons in law, which married his daughters, and said, Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city. But he seemed as one that mocked unto his sons in law.

Now We Meet Lot’s Wife

Genesis 19:15-16 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city. 16 And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city.

This is the first mention of Lot’s wife. The Angels told Lot to move, but Lot dragged his feet – HE LINGERED. So the Angels grab hold of Lot, his wife, and his daughters. They literally drag them out of the city. The Angels then give them the COMMAND OF GOD:

Genesis 19:17-22 Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. 18 And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: 19 behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: 20 behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. 21 And he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also, that I will not overthrow this city, for the which thou hast spoken. 22 Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither. Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

God told Lot (through the angels) to escape to the mountains. But Lot still drags his feet, resisting God. Lot wants to go to Zoar. Zoar was one of the cities that God had planned to destroy, along with Sodom and Gomorrah. God in His grace spared Zoar for Lot’s sake. As Lot and his family entered Zoar:

Genesis 19:23-25 The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; 25 and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

God’s destruction on those cities was complete. Now God had told Lot and his family:

Genesis 19:17 Escape for thy life; look not behind thee…

What did Lot’s wife do? The Bible says:

Genesis 19:26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

The Bible warns us that “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Lot resisted God. He lingered. Now his wife, following his example, lingers. She crept along, and got far behind the Angels, and far from God. She toyed with sin.

So many professing believers are like this. They creep along slowly, getting farther and farther from God. “Look not behind you”, the Lord warns. Jesus said:

Luke 9:62 … No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Lot’s wife looked back. Certainly she had a poor example in Lot, but Lot kept his eyes on the Angels as he ran. Lot’s wife looked back. She did just as the first generation of Israel did when they left Egypt – they kept looking back. “The children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full” (Exodus 16:3). We are not to look backward to Egypt. We are not to look backward to Sodom. We are to look forward.

Hebrews 12:1-2 let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith

Faith looks to Jesus – it does not look backward to the old way and the old life. God would not allow Israel to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. Lot’s wife was not able to enter Zoar because of unbelief. She looked back.

Lot’s Wife Brought A Terrible Doom On Herself

Genesis 19:26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

Sin in the life, even in the life of the Christian, destroys the joy of living. It can lead to a horrific loss of life.

Ananias and Sapphira “lied unto God” (Acts 5:4), and they both died.

Wicked Queen Jezebel was thrown from the palace, and dogs ate her
(2 Kings 9:33-37)
.

Corinthian Christians “are sickly, and many sleep in death”
(1 Corinthians 11:30)

As I dwelt on Lot’s wife as my Master commanded, I asked my God: “Why was Lot’s wife turned into salt? What is the significance of this?” It is because

The Christ Follower Is To Be Salt And Light

  • Salt was one of the most valuable minerals in the ancient world. Soldiers were paid in salt. Salt was also very valuable in the Old Testament Kingdom of God.

Leviticus 2:13 states “with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt”.

The Prophet Ezekiel said of the sacrifices made to God, “thou shalt offer them before the Lord, and the priests shall cast salt upon them, and they shall offer them up for a burnt offering unto the Lord.” (Ezekiel 43:24). Salt was part of the sacrifices made unto God.

  • In the New Testament Kingdom of God our Lord Jesus made His people out to be salt. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Beloved Christians, we are to be salt for God while on this earth. Lot’s wife should have been salt. Salt flavors. Salt blesses. Salt preserves. Salt was given in sacrifice. We are to live as “living sacrifices unto God”.

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

If you are a child of God by faith in Christ, you are called to be salt. You are God’s salt. You live for Him. You live in Him. Our hearts belong to God. Our bodies belong to God. We are God’s people, children of His Kingdom. We are not to look back, to the world, to give our hearts to Sodom or anywhere else. God owns our hearts. Look unto Jesus! Live for Jesus!

If you are not a Christ follower, today is a wonderful day to come to Him. Jesus is coming soon. The Judgment of God hangs over the world. Will you escape like Lot, or will you be judged like Lot’s wife? The choice is yours. Receive Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior, and begin visibly living in His Kingdom this very day. Oh the blessings you will have when you have Jesus! May God the Holy Spirit drive this message into the hearts of both saved and lost. Maranatha! Come quickly Lord Jesus! Amen and Amen!

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The Faces Of Genuine Faith

Luke 18:8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Do you have faith in Jesus?
If you do, you are in Christ’s Kingdom.

In Luke chapters 17 and 18 Jesus has been talking about the Kingdom of God. Jesus told the Pharisees:

Luke 17:20-21 … The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU.

The Kingdom of God comes within you, within your heart, when you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This Kingdom spans the earth, as

every believer that follows Jesus by faith is in
the Kingdom of God.

After talking about the PRESENT Kingdom of God, Jesus began to speak on the FUTURE Kingdom of God. Beloved, Jesus is coming soon! We do not know when, but we know He is. Today Jesus asks us a question:

Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth?

When the “Son of Man” – that’s a title of Jesus as Messiah – “when the Son of man cometh, will He find faith on the earth?”. I believe Jesus will find some faith on the earth, but I also believe Jesus will find false faith.

There is a true faith that saves, and a false faith that damns.
There is a true faith from the Savior, and a false faith from th
eSatan.
There is a true faith given by God, and a false faith manufactured by man.
What does genuine, saving faith look like?

Genuine Faith Is An OVERCOMING Faith

The Bible tells us that those in the Kingdom of God, those justified by faith in Christ, must “live by faith”. This principle is revealed in both the Old and New Testaments:

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Hebrews 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

This principle is repeated in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11.

The Bible declares “no one is justified by the law”, and {it is} not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which {God} shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Jesus Christ is the One Sent from God the Father
Who is the Key to Heaven!

When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, He sends the Spirit (John 15:26)

The Holy Spirit causes us to be “born again” (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23).
We are reborn as children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).
We are “transferred from the darkness into God’s marvelous light”
(1 Peter 2:9)
.
We are not what we were, but are now “new creatures in Christ”
(2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15)
,
“predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son” (Romans 8:29)

Illustrate Our lives are radically changed by God when we surrender to His Son. A man came eagerly but very late to a revival meeting. He found the workmen tearing down the tent in which the meetings had been held. Frantic at missing the Evangelist, he asked one of the workers,What can I do to be saved?” The workman, also a Christian, said, “You can’t do anything to be saved. It’s too late.” Horrified, the man said, “What do you mean? How can it be too late?” The believer told him, “The work has already been done. Jesus Christ died on Calvary for your sins. He rose again, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. You just need to believe and receive this. JESUS is THE ONE SENT from the Father, the Key to Heaven.

Because Genuine, saving faith is GOD MADE, it is PERSISTENT. Jesus illustrates this.

Luke 18:1-8 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 2 saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: 3 and there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. 4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 5 yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. 6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily….

This is a beautiful picture that compares a lost judge to the Holy and ever faithful Judge of all creation. The lost judge cared nothing for the widow. What had happened to the widow? Perhaps she had been robbed, as people stalk and rob senior citizens today by telephone scams, or shoddy workmanship. This widow had been done wrong. She went to the judge, and demanded that her adversary be punished. The lost and uncaring judge at first would not hear her. But as she came day by day, eventually he was wearied to the point where he decided to do his job, and punish her adversary. would do his job. Jesus asked:

Luke 18-7-8 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily…

God’s Chosen – the Saved – cry DAY AND NIGHT to Him. Genuine faith OVERCOMES. It looks to Jesus.

This is a concept that we see carried forward from the Old Testament. In the Old Testament God told Israel:

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7 The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers

God calls all to salvation. He doesn’t call us because we are worthy. He calls us because WE NEED HIM. God chooses to save us, though we are broken. I love what the Apostle wrote, because it is so much like our Deuteronomy passage:

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 … God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: 29 that no flesh should glory in his presence.

God chose to love us.
God chooses to call us.
Once we are saved, we REST IN HIM.
God indelibly marks us by inhabiting Us.
We look to Him NO MATTER WHAT.

This widow kept on calling on the unjust judge. She persisted, though there was no indication that the judge would ever do anything for her. Beloved, the faith that saves is persistent.

  • When we are tried by the adversary the devil (1 Peter 5:8), cry out to the Father.
  • When we are tried by the adversary of sickness or disability, cry out to the Father.
  • When attacked by the world, we cry out to God in Jesus’ name. God loves us. He shed the blood of His Son on Calvary for us. God will hear us. God loves to hear us, and will avenge us. God fights for me!

Time may pass, but let us rest in Jesus’ work. We are now God’s for Christ’s sake. Be persistent in prayer. If you are the elect, the chosen of God, then you are to cry out to Him DAY AND NIGHT. Neither prayer nor God is not a spare tire, but is a daily way of life for the Christ follower.

Genuine Faith Not Only OVERCOMES,
But It RESTS In Jesus, The One Sent

Luke 18:9-14 And {Jesus} spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Two men went to the Temple to pray. One man had a proud focus on himself. Let’s break down the Pharisee’s position and prayer. First we read,

Luke 18:11 … The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself

The Pharisee did not kneel, but stood up. He made himself equal to God. He was too good to bend the knee – after all, he was a great and godly guy! He “prayed with himself”. His prayers went no farther than his own ears. God was not listening to Him. The Pharisee was not relying of God as he prayed. Notice how many times he uses the word “I”:

I thank Thee,
I am not as other men are,
I fast twice in the week,
I give tithes of all that
I possess.

The Pharisee started his prayer right. He said “I thank Thee”. But even his thanks was defiled. He was thanking God for making him better than those around him. As a Pharisee, he looked good on the outside. Jesus said of the Pharisees, the self righteous:

Matthew 23:27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

If you’ll notice, the Pharisee uses the pronoun “I” FIVE TIMES. In the Bible FIVE is the number of GRACE. The Pharisee traded his works for the Grace of God. He was not relying on Jesus, the One Sent.

God does not judge us based on how others around us are. God judges us based on how we compare to HIM. This is why salvation MUST be by Grace. We are to rest in Christ, trusting Him and Him alone for salvation.

Hebrews 4:9-11 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Why does the text say “LABOR to enter into THAT REST”. Because our own worst enemy is ourselves, our pride, our self sufficiency. We have to battle that BAD ME, and force ourselves to rest in Him. God told Israel:

The LORD God of Israel has given rest unto His people” (1 Chronicles 23:25 See also Exodus 33:14). Jesus Christ is the One Sent to give us rest.

Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Compare the PUBLICAN to the Pharisee. The Publican humbled himself. We read:

Luke 18:13 … the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner

The publican (someone who collected taxes for the Roman Empire), was totally focused on his inabilities and sinfulness. He was NOT presumptuous with God, but prayed God be merciful to me a sinner. He was relying on the One Sent to save us. Jesus says:

Luke 18:14 … this man {the Publican} went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Justified) shall live by faith! You cannot be made right before God by your own works. You must Rest on the Lord Jesus. As the late Andrew Murray said:

Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”

Genuine Faith Not Only Overcomes and Rests,
But It Is Obedient To the One Sent From God.

Luke 18:16-17 Jesus called them unto him, and said, {Allow the} little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for OF such is the kingdom of God. 17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

Many churches today have internal problems because they are not representative of the Kingdom of God. The Pastor is the king, the deacons are the kings, or certain well placed families are the kings, or the flock itself is the king. Beloved, the Kingdom of God has only ONE King, and that is God. It is not a democracy, but a monarchy. We are to become like little children. What God has said, we receive. What God has rejected, we reject. We base our beliefs on the Bible, not on what our opinions are. This is certainly not popular in our current politically correct, cancel culture – but it wasn’t popular in Jesus’ day, either. What does the faith of a child practically look like?

Almost before Jesus finishes speaking “a certain ruler” asks Jesus:

Luke 18:18 Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Jesus tells the man:

Luke 18:19-20 … Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother.

When Jesus quotes the commandments to this man, He quotes the second part of the ten commandments. The first part of the ten commandments relate to loving God, i.e.

  1. God will be first in your life (Exodus 20:2-3)
  2. You will not worship anyone but God (Exodus 20:4-6)
  3. You will not take the Name of God in vain (Exodus 20:7)
  4. You will dedicate one day in seven to worship God (Exodus 20:8-11)

You can sum up these first four commandments as “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). This man was not doing these things. He was following an idol. So Jesus starts out with the second part of the ten commandments, which is to “love others the way you want to be loved” (Matthew 22:39). Of course, the man easily passed that part of the text. The man honored his parents (5th commandment), had murdered no one (6th commandment), had committed no sexual sins (7th commandment), had not stolen property from others (8th commandment), nor had he slandered anyone (9th commandment). The man replied, “I’ve done all these things from my youth up”.

But the man had committed idolatry. He put THINGS in front of God.

Luke 18:22-25 … when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

This man had made an idol out of his stuff. He was not following God as a little child, but had surrounded himself with stuff that he loved more than God. Genuine Faith rejects the golden calf, and looks to the One Sent from God.

Jesus told him “sell it all – give it away – and come follow Me”. We, as God’s children, are to love our Heavenly Father more than anything else we have.

Back in 1852 Pastor John Angell James preached a message entitled “What is the Idol of our Day”. In that message he noted three things as the idol of our day: Love of pleasure, Excessive worldliness, and Wealth. Truthfully, this has always been our problem. We place our trust in the wrong things – often to our damnation.

We called to put away our idols, and trust in the One Sent. The Apostle Paul tells us:

Philippians 3:49Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

Do you have the faith, saving faith, the only faith that comes from God? Have you believed on the One Sent, Jesus Christ our Lord? Oh, what a blessing it is to have Him in your life, to be a part of His Kingdom. Come, and give yourselves to Him this very day. For the glory of God, for your earthly peace of mind, and your heavenly destination. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen and Amen!

Illustration Prior to the message I passed out Cross Pennies from the Cross Penny Ministries. Jesus Christ is the ONE SENT from God. You can order 500 stamped Cross Pennies by sending a check to Steve Petty/ Cross Penny Ministries. Details are at https://www.crosspennyministries.com/

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Harden Not Your Hearts

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

Hebrews 3:7-11 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. 10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

I want to talk today about hardening of the heart. I’m not talking about

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a hardening of the physical heart. We have had people in our Church afflicted with congestive heart failure. I myself take statins to keep my cholesterol levels down and so protect my physical heart. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it builds up in the walls of your arteries (this is called atherosclerosis), which hurts that muscle in your chest that they call “the heart”. The “heart” I’m talking about today is not the pump in your chest that causes your blood to flow, but the spiritual center of your soul.

The Bible Considers The Spiritual Heart To Be The Driving Force Of Our Lives With God

What is in the heart, the spiritual heart, determines what type of person you are. Solomon said:

Proverbs 23:7 for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:

God looks at the heart of a person to determine whether they are His, or whether they are lost. God told Samuel when He rejected Saul as King of Israel:

1 Samuel 16:7 … Look not on {Saul’s face}, 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.

When God chose David to be King over Israel, the Scripture says “the LORD sought a man after His own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after mine Own heart, which shall fulfill all my will” (Acts 13:22). God has a heart, a spiritual heart, and He looks at our spiritual hearts.

The Bible tells us that the source of all sinfulness is the wayward heart. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote:

Proverbs 14:10 … the heart knoweth his own bitterness …

BITTERNESS comes from the heart, as does PRIDE:

Proverbs 21:4 An high look, and a PROUD HEART … is Sin

WORRY and SORROW come from the restless heart:

Ecclesiastes 2:23 For all his days are SORROWS, and his travail GRIEF, yea, his HEART taketh not rest in the night …

REBELLION against God comes from the heart:

Jeremiah 5:23 … But this people hath a REVOLTING and a REBELLIOUS HEART …

Our Lord Jesus told us that what defiles people is what comes out of the mouth:

Matthew 15:18-20 … those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

The Spiritual Heart of a person is very important. A person without Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will have a lost heart, filled with sin. But praise God, Jesus came to save sinners. The Bible says:

Romans 10:9-10 that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It is the HEART that must repent and believe on Christ. The HEART must be surrendered to God for salvation to occur. What are the two greatest commandments? Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

We are to love God with ALL OUR HEART. Our hearts are to be devoted to Him. When God has ALL of our HEART, and ALL of our SOULS (the life essence of humanity), and ALL our MINDS (our intellect), then we are where He wants us to be. When we love God with our ALL, then we will love the others around us as we want to be loved.

A person who treats those around him like furniture has a heart problem.

Illustrate I hate to text! I do, if I must, but I hate to text. Just yesterday someone texted my little flip phone, “This is Susan”. I texted back, “Who R U?” The text returned, “Don’t you know Susan?” My reply was, “If you don’t tell me who u r, I will block your number”. The message that returned stunned me. “I’m Susan’s husband, and I found your name and number in HER phone.” I still don’t know who this is, so I texted again, “Who R U?” He started texting more gibberish, and so I blocked his number. When I got home I told Sherry my wife about it, and she said “Don’t you remember you helped someone named “Susan” with groceries and gas money?” Well, then I remembered. Listen, I help a lot of people, and I can’t remember everyone who comes by needing help. But I digress. My question is this: WHY wasn’t this man asking his WIFE about my name and number? And WHY is he snooping in his wife’s phone? He obviously has a HEART problem, as well as a marital problem. If he loved and trusted his wife with his heart, he wouldn’t be snooping and irritating me with needless texts!

The heart needs to be given to Jesus.
The heart needs to be focused on serving the Father.
The heart needs to heed God’s Word, to be conformed to God’s heart.

God said “Let thine heart retain MY WORDS: keep MY COMMANDMENTS, and live!” (Proverbs 4:4). The Psalmist said:

Psalm 28:6-7 Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. 7 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

When the heart trusts in God and His Word, there is joy in the heart. When the heart is focused Christ-ward,
there are songs on our lips!

The Heart Can Be Hardened To God

What you pursue is what you will become. You become a Christian by surrendering your heart to Jesus. You grow as a Christian by reading and studying God’s Word, by feeding your heart the Scripture. God said “Let thine heart retain My Words” (Proverbs 4:4). Jesus prayed for His Church.

John 17:5-6, 8, 14 … O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. 6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. … 8 .. I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. … 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. … 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

When the Word of God is heard and received into the heart by faith, then the heart drives the hand of the believer to do what God has said do. The healthy heart is open to God’s Word and His guidance.

The hardened heart rejects the Word and
the leadership of God.

Hebrews 3:7-8 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness …

The Holy Spirit saith. This is a word and a warning from God, and a quotation from

Psalm 95:7-8 … For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

What caused the hardening of the hearts of Israel? There were several things.

  • To day if ye will hear his voice”. They hardened their hearts because they would not listen to what God was saying. God was talking, but no one was paying attention. God showed them grace, but no one was looking.

Israel’s FIRST failure was at Marah:

Exodus 15:23-25 … when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. 24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? 25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

The people complained instead of going to God in prayer. They grumbled, and murmured. God showed Moses a tree to drop in the bitter waters, and they became sweet. After this God told Israel:

Exodus 15:26 … If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.

God told Israel, “Do what I tell you to do. Hear what I command you to do. I am the YAHWEH Who will heal you – UNLESS”. God is to be honored by His people. We are to trust Him, and trust that He knows what is best for us.

Israel’s SECOND failure was at Rephidim:

Exodus 17:1-2 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?

When Israel got to Rephidim there was no water there. Rather than pray, and seek God’s face, they murmured at Moses. Now Moses was God’s spokesman. As soon as they murmured (complained), Moses warned them: “Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the Lord?”. Moses has no power to give Israel water – Moses is not God. They need to be seeking God in prayer. God took Israel through the Red Sea – surely He can provide water.

When Moses asks “why do you TEMPT Yahweh?”, the word “TEMPT” is the Hebrew נָסָה nâçâh, (pronounced naw-saw), meaning “to put God to the test, to provoke Him”. The warning should have sufficed. But Israel ignored the great miracle at the Red Sea, and ignored the pillar of cloud that guided them by day and the pillar of fire that guided them by night. Israel ignored the lessons learned at Marah. They allowed their thirst and their opinions to drive their demand.

Moses went to the Lord in prayer, and the Lord told him:

Exodus 17:5-7 … Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah (means temptation), and Meribah (means strife), because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?

God had the elders – the leaders – stand up front while Moses struck the rock. The Bible tells us “that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). Israel saw Moses pray. They saw God’s provision. They were to watch and learn from this, to draw this lesson into their hearts. Yet they would not learn.

Hebrews 3:10-11 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. 11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Israel refused to cross over the Jordan and enter into the Promised Land. They sinned repeatedly against God, but never really repented. God told the first generation of Israel that:

Deuteronomy 1:35 Surely there shall not one of these men of this evil generation see that good land, which I sware to give unto your fathers

God did not punish all of Israel. He allowed Joshua and Caleb to enter the land 40 years later. God also said:

Deuteronomy 1:39 Moreover your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, and your children, which in that day had no knowledge between good and evil, they shall go in thither, and unto them will I give it, and they shall possess it.

Unconfessed and unrepented of sin causes the heart to harden, so much so that God cannot bless you. Taking advantage of the grace of God can also harden your heart. God punishes the hardened heart!

How Do I Avoid The Hardened Heart?

Hebrews 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

How do I avoid a hardened heart? First of all, I need to examine myself daily. Take heed, brethren. Look at my own life. Examine myself. Am I living in the Kingdom of God. Is God my Father. Am I a brethren? Many Christians are like Pharisees, comfortable with their status in life, and always looking for fault in others. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote {speck of dust} that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam {the 2×4} that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote {speck of dust} out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam {the 2×4} is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam {the 2×4} out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote {speck of dust} out of thy brother’s eye.

Jesus is NOT saying that we are not to tell others that they are in sin when they indeed in sin. No, for later in our text we will see that we are to:

Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

The word exhort is the Greek παρακαλέω parakaléō, (pronounced par-ak-al-eh’-o), which means “to call to the side so as to encourage, admonish, console, or beseech, to teach”. In the Church we are to encourage one another to put away sin. However, we are not to be like the Pharisees, who judged everyone else, but never themselves. The Bible tells us:

Philippians 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Examine yourself daily. Ask the hard questions. “Am I in the faith? Is God the Father in my life? Is my daily goal to exalt Jesus, and to honor my Father? Am I devoting enough time daily to read and heed God’s Word?”

There is no such thing as a part time Christian. You are either dedicated to God and His Kingdom, or you are not. The Scripture says:

Hebrews 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end

Those who continue to look to God daily, trusting in Him, are those who are partnered with Christ. God will not bless a part time, spare tire sort of faith. As God wrote to the Churches in the Book of Revelation, one word stands out. See if you can find it:

Revelation 2:7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Revelation 2:11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

Revelation 2:17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

Revelation 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: (see also Revelation 3:5; 3:12; 3:21; 21:7)

Do you see a pattern here? What does it mean “he that overcometh”? It refers to the person genuinely saved by God. The Apostle John said it clearly:

1 John 5:4-5 For {whosoever} is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior look to Him one day at a time, one step at a time. We live as Christ’s Kingdom people. We live by faith in Him. We are to look unto Jesus. We who are saved are of the House of Christ. The faith that saves is the faith that endures. I’ll end with these words:

Hebrews 3:6 but Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

My hope is built on nothing less,
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

May God the Holy Spirit fasten His Word into your hearts this very day. God bless you all. Amen and Amen.

Posted in Hebrews, Sermons Preached | Tagged | 1 Comment

Christians Are To Be Vessels Of Grace

Photo by Balaji Malliswamy on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Ephesians 4:29.

Last week we studied the miracle of the Christian. We were in Ephesians 2:8-10, which tells us:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The Christian is saved by grace, not by works. Before being a Christian we were all dead in trespasses and sins. We were alienated from the life of God. We were followers of the world, and of the darkness. We were in a spiritual condition where we were lost, and could not save ourselves. Then God in Grace stepped in. He called us to salvation. He opened our eyes by His Spirit, and beckoned us to Him. We, like Lazarus, stumbled out of the tomb of our lives at Jesus’ call. We were saved by Grace.

Then by Grace God begins to work on us. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works”. God did not save us to abandon us. He saved us to shape us. To make us. To work on us. You are God’s Masterpiece. You are not done, but God is working in you.

It is by Grace the Word of the Lord came to you.
It is by Grace that God called you.
God now calls you, as His people, into the ministry of Grace.

Christians Are To Be Vessels Of Grace

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister Grace unto the hearers.

The Bible says that Christians are earthen or clay vessels, called by and inhabited by God (2 Corinthians 4:5-7). We are jars of clay filled with Grace!

God calls us by Grace to minister with Him, sharing the Grace of God with others. We who are His people are to be focused on “ministering Grace unto the hearers”.

Who Are The “Hearers”?

God hears us. God indwells the Christian. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9). God indwells us. He is inside us. “The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:17). “God is in you” (1 Corinthians 14:25). God is not in some distant place, far from His children. He has promised …

Hebrews 13:5 I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

The Author of Eternity – the eternal and Great I AM – has said “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee”. Our Lord has said in:

Matthew 28:20 … I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

God is with us. He is ever with us. He listens to the words we say every day. He listens for us to speak Grace to others. God hears every word you speak. God hears the kind words, and the unkind words. God hears everything. But God is not the only One Who hears. Our other “hearers” are those in proximity to us.

Our wives,
Our husbands,
Our children,
Our fellow believers,
Our enemies,
Our friends,
Our employers,
and every stranger we meet.

Whoever is close enough to hear our voice, as vessels of Grace we should be speaking Grace. We are God’s Workmanship, not the devil’s dupes. We speak Grace, not corruption.

Ephesians 4:29 Let NO corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister Grace unto the hearers.

Word Study This is not a command given to the lost, but to the saved. The plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs 21:4). If even the most mundane act of the wicked is sin, their every godless word is sin. No, this command is not to the lost, but to those “saved by Grace” (Ephesians 2:5; 2:8). What is this corrupt communication we are to avoid?

  • The word translated “CORRUPT” is the Greek σαπρός saprós, {pronounced sap-ros’}, which means “rotten, putrefied, poor quality, worthless, unfit for use”. Jesus uses the word saprós in

Luke 6:43-45 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt {saprós} fruit; neither doth a corrupt {saprós} tree bring forth good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

“Good” trees – those saved by the Grace of God – are made alive from the inside out. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The lost person speaks without grace, speaks rotten words. The believer in Christ – the workmanship of God – is called to speak Grace, to speak Life, to speak Love.

One day Jesus’ disciples were following our Lord, and at that moment happened to pass a corn field. The disciples reached out, and in accordance with the Law of God, took an ear of corn to feed themselves. The Pharisees saw this, and asked Jesus, Why don’t your disciples wash their hands when they eat? This is the tradition of the elders!” (Matthew 15:2, my paraphrase). Jesus told them:

Matthew 15:10-11 … Hear, and understand: 11 not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Graceless or rotted words defile a person. Graceless talk hurts others, drives people away. Graceless talk labels others. It is in the Congresswoman who calls another a “White Supremacist”. It is in the media talking heads that slaps labels on people, like “Homophobic”, “Transphobic”, or “Racist”. An old saying is:

What’s down in the well, comes up in the bucket!

Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-20 … those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: 20 these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashed hands defileth not a man.

If you have been born again, you have been born of Grace. The lost know nothing of Grace. But we are not to be like the lost.

Ephesians 4:17-24 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The world walks “in the vanity (the emptiness) of their mind”. They follow nothingness. Their “understanding is darkened” because they are “alienated or separated from the life of God”. God is not in them. They are yet in darkness. They are afflicted with “blindness of the heart”. They need Jesus. They need to be saved. They speak as they speak because they are bad trees – but God would make them good. We are to put off that old way, and put on the new man – put on Christ. We are to remember that we are vessels of Grace. Praise God!

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation

We have the “ministry of reconciliation”. We are to speak Grace, to share Grace, to be Grace oriented in act and speech.

Corrupt Communication Always Departs
From The Written Word Of God

The reason that we come together as a Church is to grow to be more like Jesus. We are to be like God’s Kingdom on this earth. When God established His Church, He gave the Church His Word through certain offices.

Ephesians 4:11-12 {God} gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

And God set in the Church Apostles and Prophets” (1 Corinthians 12:28). The Apostles and Prophets were used by God to write the Scripture, this Holy Bible, that we cherish. When you enter this Church, the first thing you see is the Communion Table, and on it, elevated, the Bible. This is the Prophets and the Apostles. The Bible says that the Church is …

Ephesians 2:20 … built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone ..

It is the Bible that is true. When Jesus prayed for His Church, our Lord said:

John 17:17 Sanctify them through Thy truth {o God}: Thy Word is truth

The Bible is true. God gave the Scripture to us, His Children by faith,

Ephesians 4:12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

  • This Bible “perfects the saints”. Beloved, if you are saved by faith in Christ, you are a saint. You are set apart for God’s use. But you are – as we studied last week – God’s Workmanship, God’s Masterpiece. The Bible was given to shape you, and make you more like Jesus. WE MUST UNFLINCHINGLY SPEAK HIS WORD AND LIVE HIS WORD IF WE WILL GROW, being what God wants us to be.
  • This Bible is also “for the work of the ministry”. How is a person saved? By being good? No! By being saved by faith in Christ. By repenting of sin, and seizing the Savior in love.

Romans 10:9-13 if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

I have seen famous “Christian” music artists and actors, famous “Christian” preachers interviewed who were asked, “Do you believe that faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only way to be saved?” Several years ago Larry King (now deceased and standing before the righteous Judge of all) asked a famous preacher questions. King said:

We’ve had ministers on who said, your record don’t count. You either believe in Christ or you don’t. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don’t no matter what you’ve done in your life, you ain’t.”

King asked this preacher if someone who rejected Christ as Savior would go to Heaven. The preacher choked. He spoke corrupt communication. He said,

You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …”.

This is contrary to what Jesus said. He said:

John 14:6 … I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

To be fair, this same preacher later posted on his web site an open apology for that interview. I commend him for his retraction, and his apology. There but for the Grace of God go we. But corrupt communication kept Larry King from hearing the Gospel message before he died, and kept millions of Americans from hearing about the Grace of God only available through Christ. How many people will leave this life without Jesus because of corrupt communication?

Ephesians 4:12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

  • The Bible also edifies or builds up the Body of Christ. When God’s Church departs from the Bible, or begins deleting sections of the Scripture, then the Church is no longer the Church but the world. It is the devil that twists the Word of God. He did this in the Garden of Eden, and does it today.

Genesis 3:1 … Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? … {you may eat of that forbidden tree} … 4-5 Ye shall not surely die: 5 for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Just as the self righteous Pharisees and the corrupt Politicians struck at Jesus, they will strike at us. We will be tempted and pressured to go the way of the world, to get off the path of righteousness. Jesus said,

John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

The Church is not to be like the world. The Christian is not to be like the lost. The standard that God has for His Church is that …

Ephesians 4:13-15 we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14 that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

The Church is the Kingdom of Christ. The believer is to be like Christ. We are not to be like the world, tossed about, confused and frightened. Corrupt communication leads to this type of instability. We have the Word of God. We Cherish the Word of God. We live the Word of God.

We Are Called To Speak The Truth In Love
Not Hatefully, Nor Vengefully, But Lovingly

Ephesians 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.

You tell a lie when you do not say that marriage is what God says it is. You tell a lie when you condone aberrations from the Divine Design of human sexuality. Beloved, speak the truth, speak the Scripture … for it is true! Jesus declared God’s Word is truth” (John 17:17).

Psalms 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

Psalms 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

Beloved, the truth is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21). We are to let the Word of God be in us, and flow from us. We are to affirm what God affirms, and reject what God rejects. Corrupt communication will never bless others. It always tears down. “We are members one of another”. If our nation keeps drifting from the Word of God, our nation will collapse. Christians, we must speak His truth in love.

Ephesians 4:28 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 neither give place to the devil.

Guard your tongue when you are angry. When you are angry you are often going to say something that you will later regret. Before you say it, ask “Does this build up or does this tear down? Is this true to God’s Word, or is it my emotion talking”. Be like Jesus in your anger.

Ephesians 4:29 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Quit living your lives to satisfy yourselves. Live so as to satisfy the Lord Who saved you. Live so as to lead others to Christ. Live so as to lift others up to the Grace of God.

Ephesians 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Remember, God is listening. God the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian. We are to love God with all our hearts, so live and speak so as to please the Lord Who saved. To sum it up, Christian,

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

John Piper put it this way:

…it is not Christian just to stop stealing. It is not Christian just to work honestly in order to have things. It is Christian to work to have in order to give {to those in need} – to meet needs. All our work is to be a display of Grace. It is Christian to ask the deeper, internal question: am I speaking now to edify? … It is out of hopeless hearts of discouragement and frustration and anger and bitterness and resentment that all rotten and hurtful language comes … Is your mouth a means of Grace? … all our speech is to be a display of Grace.”

When we speak without Grace, we do not lead to Christ, nor do we build up the Kingdom of God. We must speak the truth in love. We must love God, and love our neighbor for the glory of God. Beloved, let us shine for Jesus in these Pandemic addled days. Let us grow in His Grace, and speak life to those around us. America needs Jesus. Let us lead others to Jesus.

May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen.

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The Kingdom Is Where The Eagles Are Gathered

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Luke 17:20-21 And when {Jesus} was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

WHEN Will The Kingdom Of God Come In?

The Pharisees – constantly at war with the Lord Jesus – wanted to know WHEN the Kingdom of God would come. Why did they ask Jesus this question with such force? Because Jesus had previously presented Himself as the Messiah. Jesus called Himself “Son of Man”. Our Lord told people:

Matthew 8:20 The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

In Matthew chapter 9 Jesus told a crippled man,

Matthew 9:2 … Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

The Scribes on hearing this said “this man blasphemes God, for only God can forgive sins” (also Mark 2:6-7). Jesus told them:

Matthew 9:6-7 … that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house.

The phrase “son of man” was used in prophecy to describe the Messiah’s earthly Kingdom. The Prophet Daniel – of whom the Pharisees were well acquainted – wrote of the Messiah:

Daniel 7:13-14 … I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Jesus repeatedly, in His ministry, referred to Himself as “the Son of man”. When the Pharisees were upset that Jesus’ disciples picked corn to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus told them:

Matthew 12:6, 8 …. in this place is one greater than the temple. … 8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.

If Jesus is the Messiah then WHEN is He going to bring in his kingdom? They DEMANDED Jesus answer this. Jesus replies:

Luke 17:20-21 … The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

The kingdom of God is within you”. God will one day send Jesus back to this earth. He is coming again. He may come tonight. Oh, how I wish He would. But the Kingdom of God is NOT just when Jesus returns. The “kingdom of God is within you”. When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you become a part of His Kingdom. After John the Baptist was imprisoned, our Lord …

Mark 1:14-15 … Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

The kingdom of God is at hand”. To enter His Kingdom you must repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:4; 19:16). He is the King of His Church, the King of the Christian, the King of our hearts. His Kingdom at this time does not “come by observation”. The Scribes and Pharisees carefully watched Jesus, observing Him, waiting for Him to stumble, finding fault. They would not see His Kingdom because they would not believe. Those who will not believe Jesus, those who will not “keep His commandments”, will never be a part of His Kingdom.

Oh Beloved, there are so many “pretend Christians”, much like these Pharisees, in the world today. They hear His Word, but never DO it. Did not Jesus say:

John 14:15-17 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

If you will not love Jesus, the King of the Kingdom, then you will not receive God’s Spirit. But if you love Jesus, the Kingdom of God is within you. The Pharisees cannot know nor understand this. If Jesus is not King of your heart, you are not in His Kingdom. Religion does not make you a part of His Kingdom. Jesus said:

John 15:9-11 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

Where Jesus is, the Kingdom of God is. If Jesus is in your heart, you are in His Kingdom RIGHT NOW. Just prior to this query by the Pharisees we read:

Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as {Jesus} went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

Jesus went through the middle of Samaria and Galilee. As Jesus was moving southward, the text should say “Jesus went through the middle of Galilee and Samaria”. But it doesn’t. It lists Samaria first. Now Galilee was an area that was thoroughly Jewish, but Samaria, oh, that was a different story! Samaritans were despised by Orthodox Jews. Samaria was an area that had been occupied by Assyria many years before. Many of the Jews that lived in Samaria intermingled with the Assyrians. Why would God give Samaria first billing in the text? It is because faith was found in a Samaritan. Read with me:

Luke 17:12-14 And as {Jesus} entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

The ten men, lepers, stand far off. God told Moses “Command the children of Israel to put out of the camp every leper” (Numbers 5:1-2). Those who were lepers in the Old Testament were often afflicted with the disease as a punishment from God (see 2 Chronicles 26:16-23; 2 Kings 15:5; 2 Kings 5:25-27). This group of ten men were Jews as well as Samaritans, all bound together by one common affliction. They cry out to Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. The word Master is the Greek word ἐπιστάτης epistátēs, (pronounced ep-is-tat’-ace), which means “overseer, boss, the One in charge”. Jesus’ disciples often called Him “Master” (see Luke 5:5; Luke 8:24, 45; Luke 9:33, 49), recognizing that He was in charge. These men recognize Jesus – at least outwardly – as the Lord. He is our Master. He is our King. Jesus is our Messiah.

The lepers asked the Master for mercy.
Mercy is
to we receive that which we do not deserve.

Jesus does not hesitate. He tells them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests”. When Jesus came, He did not come to eradicate the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:18). The Law of God said that when a person was healed of leprosy, they were to go to the priests to diagnose their healing, as well as to make a sacrifice in thanksgiving to God (see Leviticus 13:1-46; 14:2-32). Jesus came to fulfill the Law. “Go, show yourselves to the priests”. They were healed at that very moment, but needed to be diagnosed healed, and to make sacrifice to God.

Luke 17:15-16 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

The ten men were healed. The priests diagnosed their healing. They made their sacrifices before God as the Law commanded. Then the nine went home. But one, the Samaritan, the hated Samaritan, the half breed Samaritan, he came back to the Master. This man did not just give Jesus lip-service – he honored Jesus with his life. He fell down at Jesus’ feet – Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus says:

Luke 17:17-18 … Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

Where are the nine? Jesus knows where they are, but He speaks so we can know this truth. Ten lepers went to the priests to be diagnosed, according to the Law. Ten lepers offered sacrifice to God at the Temple, according to the Law. But only one leper gave glory to God. Only one leper came and bowed down to Jesus, worshiping at His feet. Only one leper came to the King of the Kingdom of God, and honored the Son of God. Jesus told that Samaritan:

Luke 17:19 … Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

To HEAR Jesus and not HONOR Jesus is not faith.
Saving faith receives Jesus Christ as
both Savior and Lord.

John 5:22-24 … the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Beloved, the faith that saves is the faith that, from the heart, honors the Son. The Kingdom of God is within you – or it is not. Do you love Jesus? Then do as Jesus said. Do you love the King? Then you are part of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God Will One Day Be Over The Earth

The Kingdom of God is within you. But there is a future Kingdom of God that will come. Jesus tells His listeners:

Luke 17:22-25 And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. 23 And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: go not after them, nor follow them. 24 For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. 25 But first must he suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.

Jesus told those listening, “There will be a day when you will want to see the Son of Man, the Messiah, but won’t be able to. I must suffer many things and be rejected by Israel.” Jesus was living under the shadow of the Cross. He was getting ready to die for your sins and mine. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). The Pharisees will not miss Jesus, but His disciples, members of His Kingdom will. “Jesus is the satisfactory payment for our sins, and not just for us, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2, my paraphrase).

But Jesus is coming again.

Luke 17:26-27 And as it was in the days of {Noah}, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

When Jesus returns for His Church, it will be just like it was in the days of Noah. People will eat, and drank, and marry wives, or be given in marriage. People will live their lives without God, and consider life normal. God’s Word will be preached. It will be available. God’s Word is available in our Church in person, or in the parking lot, or on Facebook, or by mail. In our world today you can heart the Word of God. In Noah’s day, there was only Noah preaching the coming judgment. God was going to judge the earth because of sin, because of trespasses against his person and His Law. What was true in Noah’s day? The Scripture says:

Genesis 6:2 … the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

  1. God’s people stopped caring about the Lord. It has always been God’s commandment that

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

Believers in Christ are to love unbelievers, but are not to form an intimate bond – like marriage – with an unbeliever. When light marries darkness, the light dims. The beginning of the judgment of God on the world was when the sons of God (the saved) married the daughters of Adam (unbelievers). This is what has happened in America today. Christians and Churches have made covenants with those who are lost and without Christ.

When the Light becomes dark,
the judgment of God is not far off!

2 Peter 2:5 {God} spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

  1. When God’s people ignored God’s warning, it brought rampant evil on the earth – evil so great that God decided to wash it all away.

Genesis 6:5 God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Can we not say that this is true in America today? Everywhere you look, evil abounds. The Bible says in …

Isaiah 5:20-21 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Our God is not mocked – what you sow, you shall reap (Galatians 6:7). When you dabble in sin, it isn’t long before judgment finds you.

  1. However, God did not destroy the world immediately. He made Noah a preacher of righteousness, and allowed him to preach. God said,

Genesis 6:13 … Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14 Make thee an ark

God gave mankind time to repent, and a way to escape judgment. This way was narrow and specific. There was only one way to life – and that was God’s way. In our world today, just as in Noah’s day, the lost believe there are many ways to salvation. They think they can build their own boat and escape the judgment of God. But beloved, there is but one way, and that narrow way is through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

There was no way of salvation in Noah’s time but the Ark.
There is no way of salvation in our time but the Cross of Christ.
Noah manned the Ark. Jesus died on the Cross.

The Scripture without shame declares:

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other {but Jesus}: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

It is Jesus only who suffered for our sins, one time only, on Calvary. The Righteous Jesus died for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:15). There was no other way to be saved, then our now, but by the means that God has given. Ark or Christ? Have you been saved?

  1. When judgment came, it came suddenly and unexpectedly. God told Noah:

Genesis 7:1 … Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.

Jesus warned us in:

Matthew 25:13 Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

Our Lord told us in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

Sudden destruction will come. Beloved, we do not know when Jesus is coming for His Church, but once He takes His Church from this earth the Great Tribulation will come. There will be seven terrible, frightening years on the earth as Satan’s son the AntiChrist reigns. Judgment is coming. It is certain. But we do not know when. God says over and over again “the day of the Lord will come as a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). Will you be ready? Are you on the Ark that is Christ? Oh Beloved, do not wait. You do not know when Jesus will return – but He will! You do not know when the last day of life is, when you yourself will leave this body. God knows, but you do not. It is appointed to each person a time to die, and after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? Oh Beloved, today is the day of salvation:

2 Corinthians 6:2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I {helped} thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If not, now is the accepted time – now is the day of salvation.

When we started our sermon today, I quoted two texts. They were:

Luke 17:20-21 And when {Jesus} was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:37 And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together.

In the first text we talked about WHEN the Kingdom of God would come. But we never examined the second text. The Pharisees asked Jesus “WHEN is the Kingdom coming?” The disciples asked Jesus “WHERE is the Kingdom of God?” Jesus’ response sounds cryptic, but it’s not. Jesus said, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. What is this “BODY” Jesus is speaking of? It is simple – He is still discussing the Kingdom of God. The Bible calls the believers, united together by faith in Jesus, the “Body of Christ”:

Romans 12:4-5 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

God’s people are those who have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God’s people are united, loving God with all their hearts, all their souls, and with all their minds (Matthew 22:37). God’s people are those who, loving God most, obey His commandment:

Matthew 22:39 … Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

In fact, God’s people are those who obey the new commandment Jesus gave us,

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

Where the Body gathers, the Eagles are. Eagles are often presented in the Scripture as believers who rest on the Rock of Christ. The Prophet said:

Isaiah 40:31 … they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Eagles escape those that would prey on them by making their nests high up in the rocks. That Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). If you are in Christ, you are not the devil’s prey. You are an eagle. You are to soar on wings of faith, looking to the One Who saved you. Eagles soar without flapping their wings, being lifted by the wind. The Christian soars by spreading the wings of his faith, and by resting on God’s Spirit and His Word. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6). Are you resting on Jesus? Are you obeying His Word? Oh Beloved, I pray you will. May God’s Holy Word and His Holy Spirit draw you to Him this very day. Amen and Amen.

Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear
Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake
Humbling your hearts to God saves from the chastening rod
Seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians awake

Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Amen and Amen!

Posted in Luke, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Battling Anxiety The Jesus Way

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Sometimes I will have bad nights where I toss and turn rather than rest. You probably never experience that (yeah, right), but I do. What keeps me up at night? Anxiety. I’ll get something on my mind that I can’t get off of it. What about this? What about that? I contacted my tax preparer H&R Block yesterday to set an appointment when I was told they do not do “walk ins” right now because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. The office manager sent a link to my email account that I was supposed to use to “upload” my files. I lay down last night, wondering how I was going to scan these documents into the computer. It’s not something I usually do. So anxiety and worrisome thoughts got in my head. I began to overthink what I had to do.

Worry. Anxiety. It Comes To Every Human

Even our Lord Jesus was afflicted with anxiety. As He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His betrayal and crucifixion we read:

Matthew 26:37-39 … {Jesus} took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

What Jesus was preparing to do for us is certainly a greater matter than are my taxes. But I want you to notice that our Jesus was not at peace as He entered Gethsemane. Look at the way that Matthew describes our Master.

  • Jesus was sorrowful (λυπέω lypéō, [pronounced loo-peh’-o]), which is literally “was in distress, filled with sorrow”. Jesus was going through what one preacher called “a dark night of the soul”.
  • Jesus was “very heavy” (ἀδημονέω adēmonéō, [pronounced ad-ay-mon-eh’-o]), literally “to be troubled to the point of depression”.

Jesus knew what the Cross would entail. Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him, and shared His burden with them, saying My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. He was hurting emotionally so much that He felt like He was dying. Three times Jesus prayed:

Luke 22:42 Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

As Jesus prayed, you could see the struggle on His very person. The Bible says that:

Luke 22:43-44 there appeared an angel unto {Jesus} from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

What a battle Gethsemane was for our Jesus!

Our Jesus never sinned, and never could sin. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are tempted, yet He never sinned. As our High Priest, Jesus suffered as we suffer.

Hebrews 4:14-15 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus agonized and suffered anxiety. Yet He did so without sin. Anxiety and worry are conditions that come to all humans – it is a part of our human nature. Yet anxiety and worry should not keep us from doing what God calls us to do. I want to look at anxiety tonight, and examine how our Lord and His Word tells us to continue to move forward in spite of our fears.

Jesus Did Not Hide His Anxiety From The Father

Anxiety and worry can become sins if we do not handle them correctly. One thing that people often do about anxiety is they hide it, or try to deal with it by themselves.

Too often we hold anxiety in, hiding it in shame, or trying to overcome it by spiritual pride.

Jesus told us:

Matthew 6:31-34 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Do not let worry consume you. Look up. Look to the
Father.
Submit to the Father’s Kingdom.

Jesus said, “when you are anxious, seek FIRST the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness”. That is exactly what Jesus did. He came into Gethsemane with the express purpose of telling the Father of His anxiety. But Jesus did not just demand that the Father take away the anxiety by taking away the trial. No, what Jesus repeated three times in His prayer to the Father was:

Matthew 26:39, 42 … {Jesus} fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. … 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. … 44 … And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

Jesus was focused on obedience to the Father’s will. In Mark we see Jesus praying:

Mark 14:36 … Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Jesus’ prayer was proper before God. He did not just demand that the Cross be removed from His life, but He prayed “if it were possible, that the hour might pass from Him”. Lord, is it possible? Lord, is there any other way I can secure the salvation of your Beloved?

Jesus Christ, Eternal God of Eternal God, the One Who “Was in the beginning with God, and was God. Of Whom all things were made” (John 1:1-3), this Jesus humbled Himself before the Father and the Spirit.

He did not demand, but requested. The Apostle Peter put it this way:

1 Peter 5:5-7 … God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Jesus “cast His care – His anxieties upon God – knowing that God cared for Him”. And God certainly cared for Jesus. Several times the Father said:

Matthew 3:17 … This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 17:5 … This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

The Father loved the Son, and expressed His love numerous times in front of witnesses. The Son knew and knows that He is loved of the Father. As He cries our from Gethsemane, He does not doubt the Father’s love. He asks. He seeks the face of the Father’s will. Jesus cast that anxiety on the Father, not once, but three times, resting in the love of Yahweh. Jesus humbled Himself under the will of the Father.

When God took His Israel, Whom He loved, to the Promised Land, He allowed them to send one man from each tribe of Israel into the land to do reconnaissance. God wanted His people to know how wonderful the land was that He was giving them. When the twelve spies returned, they all said:

Numbers 13:27 … We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

Had they stopped here they would have been fine. But then ten of the spies said:

Numbers 13:28-29 Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.

Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people. “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” (vs 30). But the majority “brought an evil report of the land” (vs 32), and convinced Israel to abandon the will of God. THIS IS SIN. Though Joshua and Caleb encouraged the people, the damage was done. Israel rejected the rule of God. And thus that generation wandered in the wilderness for forty years, until all died – and God’s will was done.

Beloved, we are to do as Jesus did. We are to “cast our anxieties on our Father”, but are never to rebel against His rule. As Jesus said,

Matthew 26:39 … nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou
{o Father} wilt.

Tell the Father your anxieties. Cast them upon Him – but do not doubt His love nor His plan for your life. The Apostle said:

Philippians 4:5-7 The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The “Peace of God that passes all understanding” only comes when we cast our anxieties of God. In Philippians we see the Apostle using three words:

prayer and supplication with thanksgiving”

Prayer” is our unburdening to our Father, communicating our hearts to Him. But “supplication” is a word that notes we must be surrendered to God, as Jesus was surrendered to God. “Nevertheless, not My will, but THINE be done”. Father, if You desire this of me, then strengthen my heart, and give me the courage to receive Your Word. And never forget thanksgiving. Praising God, because our Father is always near to us. If you are a Child of God, then even in the midst of trials you should be thankful. The Scripture says:

2 Peter 1:3-4 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: 4 whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

We are “partakers of the divine nature”. We are “children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). God will not abandon His children in the valley, no more than He abandoned Jesus in Gethsemane.

Jesus Did Not Hide His Anxiety From His Companions

Matthew 26:38 Then saith {Jesus} unto {Peter, James, and John}, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.

Jesus shared His anxiety with His followers. He did not hide it, but asked them to stand with Him as He went into this terrible valley. Sadly, the disciples kept going to sleep, and were no help at all for the Lord.

I had someone ask me once if “watching preaching on Facebook, or watching Charles Stanley, was a good replacement for Church attendance”. My answer is, absolutely not! When we go through trials, we need the touch of other believers, encouraging and helping us. The Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 12:24-26 … God hath tempered the body {the Church} together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25 that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.

When we go through our valleys, we need our fellow brothers and sisters helping us, encouraging us. The Scripture commands:

Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

We are to “provoke or encourage one another to love and good works”. We are to “exhort or encourage one another”. What agony it must have been for Jesus to go through Gethsemane by Himself, with only an angel of God to minister to Him! As we go through trials and tribulations, it is our Church Family that can help us.

As the Apostle Paul ended his letter to the Philippians, he writes:

Philippians 4:23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. It was written to the Philippians from Rome by Epaphroditus.

Who was this disciple Epaphroditus? He was a brother in Christ who ministered to Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. His name, Epaphroditus, means “lovely, agreeable”. As Paul was not able to come and go as an Apostle, he used Epaphroditus as his messenger and clerk. Epaphroditus wrote the letter to the Philippians as Paul dictated it, and then used him to carry the letter to the Church. We see him mentioned in:

Philippians 2:25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.

Paul uses several words to describe Epaphroditus.

  • He says “he is my brother”. Epaphroditus was a Christian, saved by faith in Jesus.
  • Paul calls him “a companion in labor”. He was willing to do whatever Paul asked him to do – nothing was beneath him.
  • Epaphroditus was a “fellow soldier”, a term that means he was willing to die for the faith.
  • Epaphroditus was also “your messenger”. He was a conduit between Paul and the Church at Philippi, working as an intercessor to bless the Apostle, though he was imprisoned. Paul wrote in:

Philippians 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.

He was comforted because of this dear Christian brother. May God encourage us to do the same one with another as we travel through this life. We cannot make it by ourselves. We need the love of Christ, and the love of our fellow believers.

When The Father Answered Christ’s Prayer,
Jesus Willingly Moved To Obey The Father

Matthew 26:44-46 And {Jesus} left {Peter, James, and John}, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.

Jesus was willing to accept the will of the Father.

Casting all His anxiety on Him, our Lord now moved confidently forward into the plan of the Father. There are times when the trials must come, and we must go into the fiery furnace of affliction. When those times come, know that God is with you. The Father numbers the very hairs of our head (Luke 12:6-7). The Father knows what we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8). The Bible tells us that:

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

God has a purpose and a plan for our lives. When the trials come, we are cast our anxiety on our Father. But we are also to rest in the calm assurance that He loves us, and has our best intentions in His heart.

The Apostle Paul recounted a time when he was afflicted by a “thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Corinthians 12:7). What did Paul do when this happened? What he did is very similar to what Jesus did in Gethsemane. He writes:

2 Corinthians 12:8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

Three times Paul asked for relief, sharing his heart with the Father. What did the Father say?

2 Corinthians 12:9 … My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. ..

Receiving this answer the Apostle did not pout or murmur against God. No, his response was “this, then, is the will of God”. He writes:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 … Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

Paul accepted the purpose of God in his life, knowing that this was ultimately the best for him. Dr. Joe Pettigrew writes:

God changed Jacob’s name, which means “deceiver”, to Israel, which means “a prince with God.” He did it through crisis. Realizing he had to go home and face the wrath of his brother Esau, whom he’d mistreated, Jacob became desperate. That night in his tent he wrestled with the angel of the Lord. And the change in his life didn’t come quickly or easily, because we’re told he wrestled until daybreak. But suddenly it dawned on Jacob that he was wrestling with God, and it was a fight he couldn’t win.

Likewise, God will let us wrestle with an issue we can’t resolve, to get our attention. He’ll bring us to the place where we must concede, “I can’t handle this situation. It’s too big for me. I need God!” If that’s where you are today, you’re on the cusp of a breakthrough. If you’re asking God to make you comfortable in the mess you’re in, forget it—it’s not going to happen.”

Sometimes God sends us through trials so that we can grow in faith. This is what He did with Paul. This is also what the Father did with the Son. We are told in:

Hebrews 5:5-9 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. 6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. 7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Jesus in Gethsemane offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. Those are powerful words. Trials teach us all the faithfulness of God. Let us not let anxiety turn into sin. When tried, let us do as Jesus did. Let us cast our anxiety on our Father. Let us call on our brothers and sisters in Christ for strength. And let us accept the eternal purpose of the Father in what we are suffering. May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

Posted in Matthew, Sermons Preached | Tagged | 1 Comment

Unprofitable Servants

Photo by Alexis Antoine on Unsplash

Last week we saw Jesus’ illustration of Heaven and Hell in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Lazarus relied upon God for life – the rich man relied on his riches. When Lazarus died the angels of God took him to Abraham’s Bosom, symbolic of paradise. But when the rich man died, in hell he lifted up his eyes. He lived a life without God on the earth, and now was confined – and in torment – in a place that he could not leave. The rich man’s heart was hardened by sin. Though in hell, the rich man still saw Lazarus as a thing to be used. Remember what he said?

Luke 16:24 … send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

This man has no love for anything or anyone but himself. Send Lazarus from the glory of Paradise, to this flame where I am, and have him wait on me.

No, rich man, this is not possible. There is a great gulf fixed (Luke 16:26) where no soul can cross. Then the rich man shows concern for his brothers.

Luke 16:27-28 {send Lazarus} to my father’s house: 28 for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

This is the first evidence of any love at all in this man. Though it is a selective love, the rich man is concerned about his brothers. He does not want them to enter the same hell he is in. Since he can’t go to them, he wants Lazarus to go, and warn them of hell. Abraham replied:

Luke 16:29-31 They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

It is the Bible that the rich man’s brothers need to heed. Lazarus cannot go to them. But I want to focus on this again: the rich man did care for his brothers. But he can no longer do anything good for these brothers. He can no longer tell them about Heaven or Hell, as he is trapped in Hell. Beloved, the time to tell others about Jesus is while we are on this earth. Abraham was not insensitive to the brothers of the rich man. He just is not able to witness from Paradise, no more than the rich man can witness from Hell. As the Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 6:2 … behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation

God Is Driven By Love – And We Should Be, Too

Luke 17:1-2 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offenses will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! 2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

Do you notice how our text starts: THEN said he unto the disciples. Even though this starts a new chapter in our Bibles, this THEN ties what Jesus is now going to say back to the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This rich man – in hell – finally cared for his brothers. Though it was a case of too little, too late,

God expects those who are His Children to care about His family. We need to care about adding to it, and lifting up one another. The Light of Christ’s Kingdom must grow.

Jesus cautions His disciples – that’s us – against offending “one of these little ones”. Who is He talking about? Jesus is talking about younger, less mature Christians. In a parallel text Jesus calls these “little ones” …

Matthew 18:6 … these little ones which believe in me ….

If you are a Christian, you were saved by the unmerited mercy of God’s Love. No one deserves salvation – we are all fallen creatures, far, far from God. The Bible says:

Romans 3:10-12 … There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Vs 1 “It is impossible but that offenses will come”

We are all sinners, but God in His infinite love reaches out to us. He touches our hearts, and calls us to salvation in Christ. The Bible says that “we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

Standing before Jesus as He speaks are two groups of people:

  1. the Pharisees who were more concerned with religion and ritual than they were about their relationship with God. Jesus often called these people “hypocrites”.
  2. the disciples of Christ who believed in Him for salvation. Jesus cherishes the souls of those whom He has saved. He cherishes them, because He shed His blood for them, as He has for us. Jesus says, “do not offend the little ones – the young Christians – who believe in Me”.

Jesus wants us to be better than the lost rich man. We are to be concerned about our brothers and sisters NOW, not LATER when we leave this life.

The rich man wanted to be responsible for his brothers after he ended up in hell. The lost person only wants what they have for themselves. The lost person defines life by what they can get out of it. The Christian is called to LOVE – to LOVE God and LOVE those around him.

Illustrate An angel came to a rich man and asked, “What can I do for you?”. The rich man, caring only for his wealth, said: “Show me the Wall Street Journal one year from today. I can use it to invest my money, and become even richer!”. The angel handed the man the Wall Street Journal, just as he asked. The man flipped to the stock exchange report, and quickly noted the best stocks to buy. He then turned one more page, and tears began to roll down his face. In the obituary section there was his picture – he had died!

The Riches Of The Christian Is Our God And
Our Family In Christ

The “Apostle of Love” wrote:

1 John 3:10-12 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

The true Christian does the works of God, and loves his brother. He does not love as the rich man loves, only when he leaves this life. He does not love as Cain loved. The Christian is called to love as Jesus commanded. The faithful believer will love! Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-40 …. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Love, as Jesus loved, is commanded to every believer in Christ. We are to care for our brothers and sisters. We are to care for the lost.

Luke 17:3-4 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Jesus tells His disciples – that’s us – Take heed to yourselves. We are to examine our lives. We are to …

Philippians 2:12-13 … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Is God working in you? Then it will show in your life when your brother or sister offends you. It will show in how you resolve conflicts. Jesus said:

Luke 17:3 … If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him

Word Study The word REBUKE is the Greek ἐπιτιμάω epitimáō, {pronounced ep-ee-tee-mah’-o}, which means “to censure or admonish”. We are to tell our brothers and sisters when they have offended us. We are not to gossip about them, but to tell the offense to the offender alone. This is where you start. You do not bear a grudge, nor allow the offense to fester, but seek reconciliation NOW. Jesus said:

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Once you tell your brother what he did, THEN …

Luke 17:3 … If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

If the offending party changes their attitude – asks forgiveness – then you are to forgive that person. How often? Jesus said:

Luke 17:4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

So often we are offended, then carry grudges. Sadly, many times people who profess Christ as Savior have arguments and breaches, then one will move to another Church without doing what Christ has commanded. Jesus said that forgiveness in non-negotiable. We are to love one another. And if one offends us, we are to seek to mend the rift. We are not to cherish a grudge. When Peter heard this teaching from Christ, he sought a loophole, saying:

Matthew 18:21-22 … Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Doesn’t God forgive us when we repent, confessing our sins? The Bible says:

1 John 1:9 … If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God does not place a limit on His forgiveness of our breeches against Him. He does not place a limit on the number of times we are to forgive. The Apostle said:

Ephesians 4:31-32 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Colossians 3:12-13 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

Don’t Make Excuses – Just DO It!

When the disciples hear what Jesus said, they reply in an almost comical way. They said:

Luke 17:5-6 And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. 6 And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

The disciples felt that what Jesus was asking was so hard, so impossible, that they asked that He increase their faith. Jesus said, “All you need is faith the size of a grain of mustard seed”. It doesn’t take much faith to forgive your brother or sister.

When you do what Jesus says, you prevent a mountain of trouble in your life, and in the life of the Church.

Just do what Jesus said do. Unity is so important in the life of the Church. It is only when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20). A disharmonious Church cannot be empowered of God. When others fail you or hurt you, remember this.

We are all UNWORTHY servants.

Jesus uses this simple illustration to make His point. He says:

Luke 17:7-9 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? 8 And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I {think} not.

Do you get the picture? The SERVANT (that’s us) has been plowing all day. Now it’s supper time. When we come in from the field, do we tell the MASTER (that’s God), “I’m going to sit down and eat. YOU feed me, then YOU feed Yourself”. Absolutely not! When the servant comes in from the field, that servant FEEDS THE MASTER FIRST, and then sits down to eat. DOES THE MASTER THANK THE SERVANT? Absolutely not!

Illustrate Every month I pay my mortgage. My bank doesn’t thank me for paying my mortgage. I owe the mortgage. I owe what I borrowed back to the bank.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, you have received the greatest of all gifts. You are of the Family of God. You owe God everything. God has given you not only life, but has given His life for you. He has prepared a place for you in Heaven, a glorious place that we neither have earned nor will ever deserve. We fail God daily, and yet, He loves us as His children for Christ’s sake. Jesus said:

Luke 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things {forgiving your fellow believers. Loving the unlovable} which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

We who are Christians have a duty we owe toward our Master. As we have been loved of God, we are to love others. We are to forgive offenses, knowing this is the will of our Master. Jesus warned us:

Matthew 6:14-15 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

We are expected to love one another as Christ has loved us.

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

The Church of Christ is called to be filled with love: love toward God, and love toward one another.

Romans 12:1-2 … present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Our love is to be like Christ’s. Not like the world’s love, but like Jesus’ love. Let us love and serve one another. Let us be the Light that Christ has called us to be. May God touch our hearts with His Word and by His Spirit. Amen and Amen.

Posted in Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

For By Grace

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Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Today we’re going to look at one of the most profound Scriptures in the Bible. I love this verse! If you can understand this verse then you can begin to appreciate the richness of God’s blessings in Christ.

Salvation Is By Grace Through Faith

For by GRACE are you saved through faith”. It is GRACE that saves the sinner. The Apostle says in another place:

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Word Study I have heard GRACE described as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. That’s a good definition, for GRACE comes to us because of what Jesus did for us – praise His holy Name! A more proper definition is found in the Greek text. GRACE is the Greek χάρις cháris, {pronounced khar’-ece}, which means “unmerited favor, unearned love”.

A beautiful picture of GRACE is found first in the Bible in Eden. Though the Law of God demanded Adam’s death “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God had warned Adam:

Genesis 2:17 in the day that thou eatest {of that forbidden fruit} thou shalt surely die.

It was the LAW that rightly said to Adam,

Genesis 3:17-19 … cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

The Law of God must fulfill what it said. “By one man sin entered the earth, and DEATH by sin, for all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Spiritual death came on Adam, and physical death became a part of life. “In Adam, all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). It was the LAW that pronounced rightful death on Adam and his children.

Genesis 3:21 Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

But it was BY GRACE that God allowed Adam another day of life. It was by GRACE that God clothed Adam and Eve by killing the innocent creature. Pastor John MacDuff said:

No sinner would have sought God – but “by grace”. The thickets of Eden would have proved Adam’s grave had not grace called him out.”

Saul would have never become Paul
had it not been by GRACE.

Saul the Pharisee would have continued killing Christians had not God by GRACE reached out on Damascus Road and said, “Saul, Saul, you persecute Me! I am the Lord Jesus!”. Had it not been for GRACE, two thieves would have died next to Christ, and would have ended up in hell forever! It was GRACE that opened the eyes of one of those thieves, GRACE that caused him to say:

Luke 23:42 Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

It was GRACE that called Abram from Ur of the Chaldees, saying:

Genesis 12:1-3 …. Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

It was GRACE that tolerated the failures of mankind year after year, until God reached out to Jacob and bestowed GRACE on him to turn him into ISRAEL. The Lord told Israel:

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

It is the Grace of God through the preaching of Christ’s Gospel that reaches out and brings the dead to life. “By Grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves”. God must reach out and open our eyes.

Before Christ We Were Spiritually Dead

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

The Christian is a person who has been “quickened” – made alive from the dead. Prior to salvation the reality of every person is “you are DEAD in trespasses and sins”. All Children of Adam are born physically alive into this world, but are spiritually dead. A person without Christ is spiritually dead. The Apostle Paul said of the lost that …

Ephesians 4:17-19 {they walk} in the VANITY or EMPTINESS of their mind, 18 having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.

The person without Christ is spiritually dead. They are separated from God. Isaiah 59:2 “your sins have made a separation between you and your God. Your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear your prayers” (my paraphrase). The lost person does not follow the God Who created them. Dead in trespasses and in sins, you follow not God. The Apostle said:

Ephesians 2:2 wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world,

Before you were saved, dear Christian, “you walked according to the course of this world”. What the world said was true, you were in step with it. You had no use for the Bible, the Word of God. You went along with the crowd. You did not choose the narrow way of salvation. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter ye in at the {narrow} gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 because {narrow} is the gate, and {tight} is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

A person without Christ is spiritually dead. You must be quickened. You must be raised from the dead. A fellow by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, flattering the Master. Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:3 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

John 3:5-8 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

God must work in a person’s life to open their eyes to their need of Jesus. Prior to Jesus, we all follow the crowd. We all follow the devil himself.

Are You Following A Prince, Or The King?

Ephesians 2:2 wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Lost people cannot save themselves. They walk – live their lives – according to the Prince of the Power of the Air. The devil has power over Adam’s children because of Adam’s sin. “The whole world lies in the power of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Satan, also known as Lucifer, leads the world into darkness. But note that he is ONLY A PRINCE. He is not KING. God is KING. Jesus Christ is …

1 Timothy 6:15 the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

Prior to meeting Jesus (blessed be His Name forever) we followed the crowd, the fallen crowd:

Ephesians 2:3 among whom {these lost people} also we all had our {conversation – WAY OF LIFE} in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

We were “by nature the children of wrath”. The Apostle puts it this way in another place:

1 Corinthians 2:9-14 as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The LOST or NATURAL MAN cannot receive the things of God. Their eyes are blinded to it. What people – dead in trespasses and sins – need is Jesus. Our Lord Jesus told His disciples while He walked this earth:

John 5:24-25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

It is by Grace that God calls us to salvation. He opens our eyes by His Spirit, calls us to repentance, and then raises us from spiritual death. The Scripture says:

Colossians 2:13-15 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14 blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15 and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

By GRACE are you saved THROUGH FAITH
and that NOT OF YOURSELVES”

Jesus reached out to us. He reaches out to sinners today. When you repent, and by faith reach out and grab that nail scarred hand, we come into a new state, a new place of life.

Quickened Together With Christ

Ephesians 2:4-6 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Because we called upon the name of Jesus to be saved we are “quickened” or “made alive together with Christ”. The Apostle goes on to say that God the Spirit made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? It does not mean that we are now LITERALLY sitting with Christ, but that we are LEGALLY seated with Christ (Pastor Jeremy Treat). We are united to Christ, not to this world. We are bound to Jesus, not to the darkness. We are “in Christ”, united to Him both now and forever. Jesus’ perspective is our perspective.

Beloved, we no longer belong to the devil. We no longer are as we were. We are now Children of the King. We have a place in Heaven. God has called us from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18).

Ephesians 2:7 that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

We are trophies of God’s Grace. “By GRACE are you saved THROUGH FAITH, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast”. It is not through the “deeds of the Law” that we are saved. The Law of God gives us knowledge that we are sinners (Romans 3:20), but it is the Grace of God that saves the sinner. The Bible declares:

2 Timothy 1:9 {God} hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

Titus 3:3-5 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Praise God for His glorious Grace!

God Works In His Children

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

If you have been saved by faith in Christ, you are God’s workmanship. God is working in us and through us. We have been brought near to God. God the Holy Spirit indwells us, and guides us, and uses us for the glory of God.

Because of Christ our spiritual position has changed. The Apostle said:

Ephesians 2:11-12 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

When we were without Christ, we were cut off from the blessings that God offered Israel. We were without promise from God. We were in a helpless and a hopeless place, “without God in the world”. But now?

Ephesians 2:13 but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

We as Christians are brought near to God, so that we can walk with God daily.

  • We are brought near to God literally, for God the Holy Spirit indwells our bodies.

Romans 8:9-11 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

  • We are brought near to God, being adopted as His sons and daughters. We are no longer sons of Adam, but are children of God.

1 John 3:1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit {Himself} beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

  • We are brought near to God in our behavior.

1 John 4:11-13 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

If you belong to God in Christ, your behavior toward God and others is now more like Christ’s. The stepbrother of Christ Jesus, James, wrote:

James 2:17-20 faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

Faith is a verb, but it is also a noun

When you “have faith” in Christ (the verb), then the “faith you profess” (a noun) will be evidenced by your works. The whole point of salvation is to bring us to God:

1 Peter 3:18 … Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God

God the Son died for our sins so that He might “bring many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). Because of Jesus, our Father is now God, not Adam. Because of Jesus we are now sons and daughters of God. The Apostle said:

2 Corinthians 5:17 … Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

You are called to be like Jesus. You are called to live close to God. Let us end with these wonderful words:

Ephesians 2:14-18 For {Jesus} is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 for through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

You are the people of God, if you are saved by faith in Christ. You are to be imitators of God, children of light, a city set on a hill that cannot be hid. You are the “children of Abraham” that the Lord foresaw in Genesis 12:1-3. Let us live for Jesus! Let us live in His Kingdom. May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit this very day. Amen and Amen!

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Giving God What God Is Owed

Photo by George Potter on Unsplash

Today our country swore in our 46th President, Joe Biden. This is following one of the most divisive and vicious campaigns for president that I have ever seen. I’m not going to talk about the campaign, or give my opinions. Tonight I want to talk about what Jesus expects of His children.

We’ll start reading in:

Matthew 22:15-21 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way.

Jesus, Not Caesar, Is Our King

In order to understand the Bible texts, you have to start with the CONTEXT, the background to what you read. You can follow the background with me. The day before Jesus’ questioning by the Pharisees and the Herodians our Lord rode into Jerusalem. Just before entering Jerusalem Jesus told His disciples:

Matthew 21:2-5 Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. 3 And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. 4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet {Zechariah 9:9-10} saying, 5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, He rode as a King, seated on a white donkey. The crowd that went before Jesus treated Him as a King. They cried out:

Matthew 20:9 … Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.

Hosanna” means “all glory to God our Savior”. The crowd calls Jesus the “Son of David”. In the Old Testament God told King David that:

2 Samuel 7:12-13 when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever.

The rightful Ruler of Israel is not Caesar nor Rome, but Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the One “born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). Jesus Christ is the “Son of David” that God sent to Israel. Jesus is the Overcoming Lamb of God:

Revelation 17:14 … for He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings …

When Jesus rides into Jerusalem the crowd cries out, “Hosanna to the Son of David”. They give Jesus the accolade that the King of Israel should have. As King Jesus rides to the Temple, and casts out the money changers,

Matthew 21:12-13 {saying unto them} It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.

Jesus Christ is not only the Son of David, He is also the Son of God. Jesus is the King of Israel, and the King of Heaven. His “House” the Temple Will Not Be Defiled.

As Jesus healed the blind and the lame in the Temple (Matthew 21:14), the children cry out:

Matthew 21:15 … Hosanna to the Son of David …

Jesus leaves Jerusalem to rest overnight in Bethany, but returns the next day to find His enemies waiting for Him. Jesus tells the Pharisees:

Matthew 21:43 … The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

The King of Israel will move His seat of government from Israel to another nation Jesus called “My Church”. The Church would be built …

Ephesians 2:20-23 … upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21 in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

The “House of Christ”, the Church, Christ’s new nation, would be focused on worshiping and serving the Lord God. We are of His House if we hold fast – to the end – our confidence and rejoicing in Christ (Hebrews 3:6). Those who are “born again” of the Spirit (John 3:3, 7),

1 Peter 1:23 … born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever

are “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). We are built by Christ. The Church is Christ’s holy nation, and we cherish Him as our King, our Savior, and our Guide (Matthew 16:18).

The King, our Jesus, is teaching in the Temple when the Pharisees and Herodians came to “entangle Him in His talk” (Matthew 22:15).

Enter The Herodians

The “Herodians” are those Jews who support King Herod as the monarch of Israel. Most of the Jews did not Herod. Herod himself was an Idumean or a descendant of the Edomites, the children of Esau, not of Jacob. Herod was not only NOT from the line of David (the ruling line of Israel), he was NOT a Jew. He was a cousin to the Jews.

The Pharisees generally did not care for the Herodians, for they did not care for Herod. Yet their hatred of Jesus led them to band together with the Herodians. Luke tells us that these men were …

Luke 20:20 … spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.

The Herodians and Pharisees hoped to entrap Jesus, to get Him openly to say or do something that would upset Herod and Pilate. Neither Herod nor Pilate wanted another “King” in Jerusalem. If they could get Jesus Jesus to stumble, then they could have the state soldiers take Him and imprison Him.

They start with flattery.

The Bible says in Proverbs 29:5, “A man that flattereth his neighbor spreadeth a net for his feet.” They want to trip up our Jesus.

Matthew 22:16-17 … Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

These men are lying. They don’t believe what they are saying about Jesus. But their words – which others are hearing – make it sound like they are on Jesus’ side. Their question is a hidden bomb. “Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not?” When they ask “is it LAWFUL”, they are not talking about Roman, but Biblical Law. What does the Torah say?

The Jews themselves despised paying “tribute” or taxes to Rome. In 6 A.D. the Romans imposed a “census tax” on Israel. If you were with me on Christmas you know that this was why Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth (see Luke 2:1-5). The Jews saw the Romans as invaders. A man by the name of Judas the Galilean led Israel in a tax revolt, with Rome retaliating by killing many Israelis. Pilate himself was the Chief Tax Collector and head of the Roman Judicial system. No, the Jews despised paying taxes to Rome.

So the Pharisees and the Herodians think they have trapped Jesus. If He answers, “Of course, we should pay taxes”, then the people who the day before welcomed Jesus as King would turn on Him. If Jesus replies, “No, we shouldn’t pay taxes to Rome”, the Herodians will carry this back to Herod and Pilate, and Jesus would be tried for insurrection.

Matthew 22:18-19 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

Jesus knows what they are doing, and calls them “hypocrites” or “people of two faces” right to their face. Jesus turns the tables on them. He says,

Shew me the tribute money

A Graven Image In The Temple

They brought to Jesus a penny. All of this is very interesting. Let’s see if we can break it down. The tribute money is a Roman coin called a denarius. The denarius was a silver coin that was roughly one day’s wages of the common laborer. The front of the denarius had an image of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, and around this image the Latin words “TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUGUSTUS”, which means “Tiberius Caesar, Worshipful Son of God, Augustus”. The coin makes Caesar out to be a god, and a son of God.

What is interesting about this is that Jesus and His detractors are in the Temple, and Jesus Himself DOES NOT have one of these coins on Himself. They brought unto Jesus the denarius. It was a violation of God’s Law to Israel for anyone to even bring such a coin into the Temple. In the Ten Commandments that God gave Moses, the Lord said:

Exodus 20:2-6 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Caesar had his image placed on the coins to teach each person who used that coin that HE HIMSELF WAS A SON OF GOD. The Jews were supposed to acknowledge but one God, the God of Scripture. The Shema, a Jewish prayer based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41, starts out with these words:

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad”
Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone

By producing this coin in the Temple the Pharisees and Herodians were showing that they had no concept of respect toward God. This is holy ground. Jesus simply asks:

Matthew 22:20-21 … Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s.

It was Caesar who ordered this coin made, not God. It was Caesar who declared himself God, not God. So Jesus replies:

Matthew 22:21 Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Does God want us to worship Caesar? Absolutely not! As Jesus told Lucifer, that old devil,

Matthew 4:10 … Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

Only God is to be worshiped. The Bible says that our first duty to God is:

Matthew 22:37 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

God Our Father Deserves Our All

Our Father God deserves ALL of our adoration, ALL of our obedience. God is to be first in our affections, first in our hearts. What Jesus is saying is the same thing that Joshua said before he retired:

Joshua 24:15 … choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Jesus was saying the same thing that Elijah said on Mount Carmel:

1 Kings 18:21 How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.

We as God’s Children are to give to God what He is owed. God deserves all of us, not just part of us. King Solomon said:

Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

We are to give to the government what is due to the government. We are to obey governmental laws insofar as they do not circumvent our allegiance to God. In the formation of the early Church Peter and the other Apostles were imprisoned by the order of the High Priest of Israel. The Scripture says:

Acts 5:17-21 Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. 19 But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, 20 Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. 21 And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught.

The next day the Apostles were once more brought before the High Priest and the Sadducees, who demanded of them:

Acts 5:28 Did not we straightly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Peter replied:

Acts 5:29 We ought to obey God rather than men …

If God Is First, The Work Will Continue

As the Jewish Council debated on whether to kill the Apostles or not, the Rabbi Gamaliel told them:

Acts 5:38-40 Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught: 39 but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. 40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

The Apostles went forward, sharing the Gospel, and obeying Jesus Christ our King and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

Our God is due all our obedience. We who are saved by faith in Christ are first and foremost citizens of Heaven. But we are also citizens of this earth. Insofar as the government requires our allegiance, we should give our allegiance as long as our allegiance does not violate the Word and Will of God. When the government steps into the place of God, then that government has gone too far.

The Apostle tells us:

Romans 13:1-3 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

The powers that be are ordained of God. As long as the “powers that be” do not exceed their authority, then as good citizens we who are Christians should be obedient to them. God establishes nations, and sets up and destroys rulers. God even controls the hearts of those ruling:

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

When our Lord Jesus would later stand in front of Pontius Pilate to be judged, Jesus would not defends Himself. Pilate told Jesus:

John 19:10 … Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?

Jesus’ reply was simple, and to the point. He said:

John 19:11 … Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above

Our God reigns! Our God is to have our first allegiance in everything. Yet we are to obey our governmental leaders insofar as they do not violate the will and the Word of our God. As we are coming into a new chapter in America, let us follow our Lord Jesus. Let us remember to pray daily for those in authority over us. The Lord commands:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Pray that God will restore peace to our land. Pray that God will use us as His Children to share His Gospel and His Word, and that this seed planted will bring a Christlike revival to our nation and His Churches. May God the Holy Spirit and His Word draw your hearts close to Him this very day. Amen and Amen!

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The Identity Of The Church

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 1. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians. As you turn, let’s review from last week.

Review And Introduction

Last week we studied in the Gospel of Matthew the words of Jesus:

Matthew 21:42-43 Jesus saith unto {the Scribes and Pharisees}, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

The “Builders” of Israel were the Scribes and Pharisees. They adhered to and taught the Law of Moses to the people. But these “Builders” disparaged Jesus Christ, God’s Sent Messiah. The Scribes and Pharisees forgot that they were supposed to stand up for God and His Word. When “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the Scribes & Pharisees did not support the Messiah, but fought against Him.

Israel lost their stewardship of the Gospel. God moved the stewardship of His Kingdom to “a nation bringing forth the fruits of His kingdom”.
This nation is the Church.

The Church is a new nation – created by God – in which believers in Christ are granted citizenship and purpose greater than any human purpose. The Church – God’s nation – is

Ephesians 2:20 built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone

The God given Constitution of every Church is the Bible. The Bible is the foundation of our identity in Christ. The Prophets wrote of the coming Jesus. The Apostles wrote and witnessed the Jesus Who had come. And Jesus Christ is our chief Corner Stone.

Let Us Avoid The Errors And Know Our Purpose

When God raised up the Church, He did not bring another brand of Judaism in. In order to develop this new Nation whose allegiance is to God Almighty, God took a Pharisee who was well known to the ruling board of Pharisees. God knocked this man down on the Damascus Road, this Chief Pharisee named Saul, saying:

Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

Saul replied, “Who are You, Lord?”

And Jesus, the One Who was founding a new Nation of people called the Church, said “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. Get up, go into the city, and I will tell you what to do” (Acts 9:4-6). From that point, the resurrected Jesus sent a believer named Ananias to Saul. The Lord told Ananias:

Acts 9:15-16 Go thy way: for {Saul} is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

God the Son gave Saul a higher purpose, and a new name. Saul – also known as Paul – began to go about telling others of Jesus. He did not just reach out to Israel as did Peter and the other Apostles, but Paul understood that God was bringing forth a new nation, a people united and focused on Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. In this nation of light, racism and misogyny has no hold. In this nation – governed by Christ – “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond or free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Paul writes to the Church – God’s nation – saying:

Ephesians 1:1-2 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul is an Apostle of Jesus Christ because God willed it. He is careful not to use his old, Jewish name as he writes the Church. Saul died on the Damascus Road, and was reborn as Paul, which is a Gentile name.

Word Study Paul uses two words to describe the citizens of God’s Kingdom, the Church. He calls them “saints” and “faithful”. The word “saints” is a spiritual word, whereas “faithful” is a practical word. The word “saints” is the Greek ἅγιος hágios, {pronounced hag’-ee-os}, which means “to be set apart or chosen out for God’s use”. If God has touched you and called you into His Church, then that which He has done on the inside will reflect on what you do outwardly. If you are a saint, saved by faith in Christ, then your fruit will reflect that salvation. If you are saved then you are no longer a bad tree. You are to bear good fruit for the One Who saved you.

Matthew 7:17-20 … Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Good Fruit Is Holy Fruit, Jesus Honoring Fruit:
We Are Planted In God’s Garden

Ephesians 1:3-6 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

The Apostle is careful not to say that the Christian will be blessed, but rather we have been blessed. Before you were saved by faith in Christ you were a Child of Adam. You walked according to what you wanted to do. You lived your life according to darkness. The Lord called you out of darkness:

Acts 26:18 … to turn {you} from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that {you} may receive forgiveness of sins

The Christian is no longer a son of Adam, but is now a son of God. The Christian no longer lives for self, but for the smile of the Savior!

1 Peter 2:9 … a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

We are a chosen people, set apart by God through Christ to be

Ephesians 1:4-5 holy and without blame before him in love: 5 having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will

The Christian is a saint – “holy”, set apart for God’s Kingdom. We as Christians are “without blame” before Almighty God. Why? Because Jesus Christ took our blame. Jesus Christ took our blame when He died on Calvary for our sins. We are told in another place:

Philippians 2:13-16 it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 holding forth the word of life

Because the Son of God died on Calvary for us,

1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

We are predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. On the day that you heard the Gospel of Salvation, and repented, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, God sent His Holy Spirit into the framework of your lives. We no longer are children of Adam because of the work of God in our lives. The Scripture says:

Romans 8:15-17 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit {Himself} beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

The Blood of Christ has paid for our sins. The Spirit of Christ has indwelt us, and marked us as Children of God. And one day we shall stand in glory with our Savior Jesus, and receive the fullness of our Adoption. It was “the good pleasure of God’s will” to do this.

I Am “Accepted” In The Beloved

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

As believers, we are “accepted in the Beloved”. What does this mean? When our Jesus walked this earth, numerous times God the Father spoke, saying of Jesus:

Matthew 3:17 This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Luke 9:35 This is my beloved Son: hear him.

In our world today, as in the ancient Roman world, it is popular to say “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam”. But this is not what the Bible teaches. God told Israel in the Ten Commandments:

Exodus 20:2 You shall have no other gods before Me …

God declared that the worship of other gods was the same as worshiping demons. God told the Israelite who worshiped false gods that “they provoke Me to jealousy with abominations: they sacrifice the devils, not to God (Deuteronomy 32:16-17; Leviticus 17:7). When Jesus was tempted to worship Satan by Satan, our Lord responded:

Matthew 4:10 … Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.

We are only made acceptable before God the Father “in the Beloved”. Because Jesus died for our sins, and His sacrifice was accepted by the Father, when we receive Him as Lord and Savior God looks at us and says, “I accept them for My Beloved’s sake”. Jesus Christ is “the Way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father but by Him” (John 14:6). The early Church preached:

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Ephesians 1:7 in {Jesus} we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Those who are saved “in the Beloved” are redeemed from condemnation from God and are purchased possessions not of Satan, but of God Himself. We are no longer slaves to this fallen world. We are members of Christ’s Kingdom, and prized possessions of God. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Corinthians 7:23 Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men.

God “bought” you with the Blood of Jesus Christ. You are His purchased possession. You do not belong to the devil any more! It’s like that old song we sing:

Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.
Redeemed, redeemed,

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child, and forever, I am.
Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,

No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

Ephesians 1:8-10 wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

Think of Christ this way: He is God’s Vessel, God’s Bucket. God is gathering together in ONE vessel, in Christ, all that believe. The Old Testament Saint and the New Testament Saint are gathered into that vessel called Christ. This is God’s purchased and precious possession! God is continually drawing people into this Kingdom, His Kingdom. The Prophet wrote:

Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

It is God the Father’s will that as many as will come into Christ’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of Christ will stand forever.

The Triune Godhead Brings The Christian
Into The Family

Ephesians 1:11-14 in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

In verse 3 we read how the Father and the Son worked together to bring the Christian into the Kingdom of God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:”. The Son accomplished our Salvation, but the Father planned it. In these next verses we see that God the Holy Spirit SEALS us. The Christian is indwelt, marked by God, and preserved by the power of God.

It is the will of the Father that all be saved.
It is the sacrifice of the Son that insures our salvation.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit that secures our salvation.

The Bible says: John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

If you believe on the Son of God, the SPIRIT of God abides on you. But if you believe not on the Son of God, the WRATH of God abides on you. A person without Christ looks at God as an enigma, perhaps as a consuming fire. But the person who has received Christ as lord and Savior sees God not as a consuming fire, but as a Pillar of Fire, a Guide, a Protector, the Father. C.H. Spurgeon said:

Another man with unforgiven sin about him stands afar off and if he thinks of God at all it is as a consuming fire. But the forgiven Christian looking up to God, when he sees the mountains and the hills, and rolling streams and the roaring flood, he says “My Father made them all;” and he clasps hands with the Almighty across the infinite expanse that sunders man from his Maker. His heart flies up to God. He dwells near to Him, and he feels that he can talk to God as a man talketh with his Friend.”

We are saved from sin, and given destinies as Children of God. We are now free to lovingly serve within the Kingdom of God. As Paul finishes the introduction to this letter, He writes:

Ephesians 1:15-18 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

God wants us to know our purpose in Him. We are not as we were before, but are Children of God, adopted of the Spirit, blood purchased possessions.

Though the Apostle was not with the believers in Ephesus, their loving nature toward one another had been spread abroad. The Apostle prayed that they would not lose their purpose, but would continue to love God and love one another as the Scripture commands.

You have an inheritance, and are an inheritance, if you belong to Jesus Christ by faith.

The reason that Jesus Christ became incarnate, entering this world through a virgin and a manger, was so He could bring…

Hebrews 2:10 .. many sons unto glory

He gave Himself for you, so that you could not only one day be brought into Heaven, but that through you God can bring Heaven to earth. The local Church fulfills the Law of God when it loves God with all its heart, and loves others as we wish to be loved. May God touch your hearts and “that you might know the hope of His calling”. God expects His people to be:

Matthew 5:14-16 the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We who are saved by faith in Christ are saved to serve God, shining for Jesus in this dark and lost world. We are to look unto and to live for Jesus.

Ephesians 1:19-23 and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.

Jesus Christ now sits at the right hand of God the Father. He is above all things, all powers. He is the Head of His Church, and we are His Body – if we are indeed saved. We need to know and claim our identity – especially in these dark days of America. May God the Holy Spirit and His Word lead each one of us to “make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10). Amen and amen!

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Final Destination

Photo by Arūnas Naujokas on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 16.

We All Have A Final Destination

Several years ago there was a series of scary movies called “Final Destination”. In that movie, death stalked – and usually got – the characters. What made the movie interesting is that it made death out to be an entity, and evil being that chased and tried to destroy people. Death is not an entity. Death is a reality of life. It is human to be born, to live your life, then to die physically. When you die physically, your soul goes to another place, another state, another home. Death is not the cessation of life, but a door by which you enter another place. The Bible says:

Hebrews 9:27-28 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many

Everyone has an appointment that we must make. That appointment is the time of our physical death. Yet this physical death is not the end of life itself, but the transfer of our souls from this container we call a “body”, to another place. Jesus Christ died, bearing our sins on His body on the tree of Calvary, so that after our physical death we can go and be with God our Father. No one ever actually ceases to be. You cease to be HERE, but if you are a Christ follower, as Jesus said,

John 12:26 … where I am, there shall also my servant be …

When you leave this life, your soul will have a final destination, a final judgment. If you are in Christ your works shall be judged by Jesus. If you are NOT in Christ, your works shall be judged by God. Out west there is a tombstone, and on it the words:

Pause, stranger, when you pass me by,
For as you are, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be,
Prepare to die, and follow me.

Next to this tombstone someone erected another sign that said:

To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went!

Luke 16:19-21 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

Does Jesus Know Your Name?

What did Jesus believe about Heaven and Hell? We’ll see that today in this message, direct from our Master’s lips. Jesus begins by telling us about two individuals. The first is “a certain rich man”, and the second a “certain beggar named Lazarus”. These two people were in two very different situations in life.

Luke 16:19 … There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day

The rich man was clothed in purple and fine linen. This was not the day of Walmart, nor of mass production. There were no Ritz Die companies. Back in these days purple was a color that could only be obtained by crushing a tiny sea snail known as Bolinus brandaris. The snail was harvested at only one place, the Phoenician city of Tyre – and it was so rare that it was worth it’s weight in gold.

Purple clothing was worn only by great dignitaries, politicians, lawyers, and kings. Fine linen was, again, exceedingly rare.

In the Old Testament Pharaoh raised up Joseph to be his right hand man, and “arrayed Joseph in vestures of fine linen” (Genesis 41:42). When God had Israel build the Tabernacle, it had “ten curtains of fine, twined linen” (Exodus 26:1). The High Priest wore a breastplate of judgment of fine, twined linen (Exodus 28:15). Fine linen is even used to describe the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We who are saved will be …

Revelation 19:8 … arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

Only the best and most influential people were clothed in Purple and fine linen. This rich man had everything. He “fared sumptuously every day”, eating only the best foods. This man had EVERYTHING,

EVERYTHING but a name. Jesus didn’t give him a name.

There are many people in our world today who are well known on television, through the news, through politics. If I mention the name “Steve Jobs” people immediately say, “Oh, the Founder of Apple”. If I say “Bill Gates”, you know he founded Microsoft. If I say “Bill Lee”, you know I’m speaking of the Governor of Tennessee. Oh, there are so many famous people, well known through television and media.

But does Jesus know them? Those famous people, perhaps famous and rich people, does Jesus know them? Jesus Christ is the Door of the Sheep. Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God that gave His life for us. He told us:

John 10:7-11 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

So many people today are like this rich man. Jesus once asked a true and faithful question:

Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

So many have sold their souls, like Esau, for a little lentil stew. So many have refused the narrow gate, choosing instead the wide and broad gate that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Don’t get me wrong. It is not a sin to be rich. It is a sin to be rich, and yet never be known of God. This rich man had the whole world as his oyster, and yet he was unknown of God. How do we know this? Read your context:

Luke 16:20-21 there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

Jesus now introduces a man named Lazarus. Lazarus” is an interesting name. It means “assistance of God”. This man leaned on God every day, trusting the Lord for what he had. In our world today, if you had a choice to be POOR or RICH, most people would choose RICH. We all think that RICHES are better than poverty. Yet this is not true. Jesus preached:

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus was asked, “Are You the Messiah, or should we look for another”, our Lord replied:

Matthew 11:5-6 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Poverty and want are often the best places to be if you want to be in the family of God. Want drives us into the arms of the Savior, whereas plenty often fogs our minds and teaches us to foolishly ignore God. Lazarus has no food, no fine clothes. In fact, our text tells us that:

Luke 16:21 … {Lazarus} desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table

Lazarus apparently stayed down with the dogs, at the foot of the rich man’s table. This man who had EVERYTHING refused to give more than the VERY LEAST to this poor, starving man. The rich man only loved himself. He devalued other humans. He treated other people as if they were objects to be used. He didn’t object to Lazarus being at the foot of his table … but he didn’t go out of his way to feed Lazarus, either. As Lazarus laid with the dogs, dogs that licked his wounds, the “certain rich man” ignored the groans from his lips and the sounds from his empty belly.

Jesus told His disciples one day:

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The rich man was a worker of iniquity, a doer of evil. How was he thus? Because he saw Lazarus suffering and starving, and did nothing to help. He could have given Lazarus a seat at the table. He could have given Lazarus a job, a place to stay, a place to get himself cleaned up. Our Lord Jesus told us that the entirety of the Law of God is this:

Matthew 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Love is the fulfillment of the Law. Not just lip service, but actual love that lifts up, and encourages, and ministers. God often puts those in need in our path so that we can be the hands and feet of Christ. As we would be treated, we are to treat others.

The Rich Man And Lazarus Both Died

Luke 16:22-23 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

Both men died. The rich man had everything. When he died, he went unaccompanied to hell. He had no one around him, not even the so called “Grim Reaper”. He just died. But Lazarus, oh, how things changed for Lazarus. Lazarus was not welcomed at the table of the rich man. But Lazarus dies, and is carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. Why did Jesus use this as an illustration?

The Bible teaches us that Abraham is not just the father of faith, but he is the pattern of the Christ follower. Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees:

John 8:39, 42 If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. … 42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

When God spoke to Abraham,

Romans 4:3 … Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

James 2:23 … Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

Jesus told them “Father Abraham saw Me, and was glad” (John 8:58). When God called Abraham, Abraham, though a rich man himself, immediately followed God. He went where God said, when God said. The Bible tells us:

Galatians 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

If you have heard the call of God, and have answered Him by faith.
If you have let God’s Spirit put the love of God in your hearts.
If you love others, as you would be loved.
If you love God with your all.

Then you are Abraham’s seed. Like Lazarus, you have a final destination, where you will rest with Father Abraham and others like him. Lazarus was “assisted by God alone” in this life. When he died, he lifted up his eyes in the embrace of faith. But the rich man, he died, and lifted up his eyes in hell.

Proverbs 22:2 The rich and poor meet together: the LORD [is] the maker of them all

If you have riches, this is a gift from God. It was not given you so that you can spend it lavishly on yourself. It was given so that you can share with others. If you have poverty, this is a gift from God. Do not despair – seek God.

Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your {way of life} be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

The Lost Never Learn

Luke 16:22-23 the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

People believe that when they die, the automatically “rest in peace”. The Bible does not teach this. The rich man died, and in hell, he was in torments. He did not cease living – he ceased living in luxury. He was IN TORMENTS. Our Lord Jesus did not see the afterlife of the lost as a great place to be. In fact, Jesus said:

Matthew 5:29-30 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. 30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Our Lord Jesus saw hell as a horrible, torturous place. The final destination of the lost, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-14), is called “the second death”. Oh, how horrible that place! “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:10-11). It is a place that Jesus said “it is outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

People say, “How can a loving God do such a thing to anyone?” Beloved, it has to do with your divine design. You are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). If you reject Christ, then you bring upon yourself the judgment of God. It is not necessary, but foolish, to reject Jesus. Doesn’t the Scripture say:

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Note what the rich man’s first words from hell were:

Luke 16:24 the rich man … cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

Did you notice the two things the rich man did? He called on Abraham, but not on God. He still doesn’t want anything to do with God. The rich man lived a life rejecting the Lord Jesus, and in eternity he continues on the same lost path. Note also he asked Abraham to command Lazarus to wait on him. Lazarus was but an object, a thing, while the rich man lived his earthly life. Nothing has changed. Lazarus is still just a piece of furniture to be used for his own comfort.

Luke 16:25-26 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

There is a separation between hell and the place where Abraham is. You may not like it, but Jesus was very clear that Hell is a place of torment from which there is no reprieve. There is a great gulf fixed between Heaven and Hell, and no one can cross this gulf to relieve the sufferers of Hell. These people are in a fixed and eternal place, for they fixed their hearts and refused the Lord Who loved them. Hell is a place of everlasting fire.

Matthew 25:41-46 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels …

It was not a place that was designed for man, but for the devil and his fallen angels. The Lord doesn’t want you in Hell, but He will not force you into Heaven. Heaven wouldn’t be Heaven if you were forced there anyway! You have a choice, just as God has a choice. You choose your final destination now, while on this earth, by either receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or rejecting God altogether. God wants all to be saved.

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

The rich man continues pleading:

Luke 16:27-29 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: 28 for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

The rich man would have Lazarus leave the glory of paradise, and return to his brothers homes, warning them of hell. Yet Abraham says, no, you had the witness of Scripture. The Bible testifies as to what is on the other side of glory. The Apostles witnessed the resurrected Jesus, and died for His testimony. The Apostle testifies:

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 …. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; (4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: (5) And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: (6) After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once;…

Abraham said “If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets (the testimony of the Scripture) they will not be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”. God has left us a witness to salvation in His Scripture. He has told us all about Heaven and Hell in this Word of God. You will either believe what God has said, or reject His Word. But there will be no second chance once you are in Hell. Hell is forever. Hell is your choice. Heaven is forever. Heaven is forever. Choose Heaven. Choose the Lord Jesus! Do not gain the whole world, but lose your own souls. Turn to Jesus. Receive Him as lord and Savior, while you yet may.

May God the Holy Spirit touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen!

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The Fear Of The Lord

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Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

What is “The Fear of the Lord?”

To hear many popular preachers and televangelists today, there is no such thing as “The Fear of the Lord”. Many have preached that we should have no fear of God, for “God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Salvation is promoted as a free gift of God (which it is). After salvation, many say that God has absolutely no standards to follow, nor any expectations of His people. To say that this is false is an understatement. It is in outright lie from the pit of hell.

Salvation is a free gift from God, but it is only received when you give God ALL of you. It is much like a surgery. You go to the surgeon to be cured by cutting. You agree that this surgeon has your trust. You lay down, surrendering to the anesthesia, trusting that he will do what is best for your life. You will only be saved if you fully cast yourself into his hands. Period.

So it is with salvation.

  • Jesus offered the “gift of God” to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:10), but commanded that she “go get her husband first” (John 4:16).
  • It is “by grace we are saved through faith, and not that of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). However, once saved “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to DO GOOD WORKS”. The gift is freely given, but those who receive the gift are commanded to work for the Giver.
  • Peter directs “as every person hath received the gift of God, minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). The gift is freely given, but once received is considered a stewardship from God.

The “cheap grace” preached in many Churches today is not the Grace that God shows in His Scripture. Thirty times in the Scripture we see the phrase “fear of the Lord”. The Prophet Job said:

Job 28:12, 23, 28 But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? … 23 God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.

And the Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 19:9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

And Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, declared:

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 10:27 The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.

To “fear the Lord” is to love Him, and to do as He says. To have respect for Him. God told Israel:

Leviticus 22:31 Therefore shall ye keep my commandments, and do them: I am the Lord.

In the New Testament, Our Lord Jesus said:

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.

To “fear the Lord” is to cherish His directives, to place Him above any other in your worship. Our Lord Jesus commanded that we fear the Lord. He said:

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Once more, our focal text states:

Psalms 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of WISDOM:

The “Fear of the Lord” is the beginning – not of KNOWLEDGE – but of WISDOM. Knowledge is raw data. Wisdom is the ability to put knowledge into action. Many people have the head knowledge as to the immensity of God. The Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day had a great deal of knowledge. However, they had no fear of God.

A person who fears God will treat God right, and treat those around them right.

A person who fears God will follow His commandments:

Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

The Apostle John put it this way:

1 John 4:20-21 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

We Fear God When We Treat Him As God

Psalm 111:1-2 Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. 2 The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

To many people God is but “the Big Man upstairs” that is acknowledged only when we have to. God is a spare tire, only pulled out when needed to get us going. Greg Morse, a pastor at Desiring God Ministries, notes:

We blaspheme God by depicting Him as a small planet orbiting us.”

God is not our Super-Servant. He is the Creator Who is worthy of all praise. He is the Bestower of Life, both eternal as well as temporal. When we fear God, we “praise Him with our whole heart”. We hold nothing back from Him, magnifying Him. We become like King David in 2 Samuel 6 when the Ark of God was returned to Jerusalem:

2 Samuel 6:14-16 David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. 15 So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. 16 And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

David loved our God more than He loved anyone else. He loved God so much that He cared little for what others thought of Him. This is the fear of the Lord. Jesus tells us:

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

God expects our all in praise. He wants all of our hearts. God does not want our left overs, our minimum, our least. He gave all of Himself for our Salvation, and expects us to give all of ourselves to Him. We are called to be like the unnamed woman at the home of Simon the Leper:

Mark 14:3 {Jesus} being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as {our Lord} sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.

Some in the group saw this intruding woman as a sinner. Others saw her as a person who wasted resources for no good reason. They murmured against her”. Yet her focus was not on the others in the room. Her focus was on her Jesus. She loved Him, and knew Him as both Savior and Lord. Jesus rebuked those who murmured against her, saying “Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on Me” (Mark 14:6).

The works of God are great. This earth, and all that is in it, is created of God. Our God created the universe in which our little planet floats.

Psalm 147:4 {God} telleth the number of the stars: He calleth them all by their names

As the Apostle Paul preached, “in God we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). God is never far from any of us. He sees what we do daily. The Prophet Job said:

Job 34:21-22 {God’s} eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings. {22} There is no darkness, nor shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves.

We Fear God By Respecting Him As He Is

Psalm 111:3-5 His work is honorable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever. 4 He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.

When you fear God, you acknowledge that His Word is ever truthful. “His righteousness endureth forever”. What God has said is true, remains true to all generations. What God has said is false, is still false, though all the world declare it good. Jesus prayed for His Church:

John 17:17 Sanctify them, {dear Father}, through thy truth: Thy Word is truth

What God has established as true and normal has never ceased to be true and normal. The Psalmist said:

Psalms 19:7-9 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Psalms 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

It is through God’s precepts that we gain understanding (Psalm 119:104). We fear God when we “lay aside all filthiness and overflowing evil, receiving with humility the Word of God, which is able to save our souls” (James 1:21). It is the Gospel of God that saves us, and the Word of God that directs us. “We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

We respect God’s Word because we know God is always faithful to His Word. We do not twist the Word of God to suit ourselves. We both HEAR and DO what God tells us.

Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Jesus demanded that we both HEAR and DO what He said. The person who HEARS the Word of God and then does not DO what is said is called by Jesus “foolish” (Matthew 7:26).Jesus did not teach us options, nor opinions, but commandments. He said:

Matthew 7:24-25 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

We who believe in God – if we fear Him – will DO what He says. God promises to bless those who do what He says, and God keeps His promises. Do you wish to have a long and blessed life? Solomon tells us:

Proverbs 10:27 The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.

Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.

Sin in the life of the believer hardens the heart and shortens the life span. Sin robs us of our heritage, the abundant life that God wants us to have. The Psalmist declared:

Psalm 34:8-10 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. {9} O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. {10} The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.

If you are a “saint” of God, saved by faith in Jesus Christ, then know that God will care for you as you Biblically fear Him. “Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because WE KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS, and DO THE THINGS THAT ARE PLEASING IN HIS SIGHT (1 John 3:22-23). We know that God is faithful, and will protect and guide us. But we must fear the Lord!

All Things Work Together For Good
For Those Who Fear God

Psalm 111:6-9 He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen. 7 The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure. 8 They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

God saved Israel for a specific reason, and gave standards by which Israel was to operate. God saves us today in the same way. We are saved to walk with God, not against God. God is immense. God has a purpose for your life. If you’re saved by faith in Christ then everything – good and bad – is working together for your good. We don’talways understand what’s going on around us, but God does. We think that the world is out of control, but God is in control. God is either causing or allowing everything that happens to you and around you to make you – if you are a believer – into the image of His dear Son. Dear believer, you are predestinated – being made by God –

Romans 8:29 … to be conformed to the image of His Son

Let us live to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), trusting Him, fearing Him as children would fear a father. He will never leave nor forsake us. Let us not do so unto Him. Now, more than ever, God is calling on His Church to stand up and stand in Him. May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen.

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The Stone The Builders Rejected

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Matthew 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

What is our purpose? What is our goal?

Our text today comes at the end of a parable that Jesus spoke to the Chief Priests and Pharisees of His day. The Chief Priests and Pharisees were considered “the builders” of Israel. They weren’t actually the builders – God is the Builder.

Psalm 127:1 Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.

God is the Builder of His Kingdom. God the Son now stands in front of the Chief Priests and the Pharisees, and as He stands there these people reject Him and plot against Him. Jesus speaks a parable to them, to show them that their focus is wrong. The Kingdom of God belongs to God, not to man. The fruit of the Kingdom of God belongs to God, not to us.

The Fruit Of The Kingdom Belongs To The Owner

Let’s talk about the parable before we discuss this text.

Matthew 21:33 Hear another parable …

Why does Jesus keep dealing with the Chief Priests and Pharisees? Why doesn’t He just tell these people to take a hike? Is Jesus just argumentative? Does Jesus just want to humiliate these people? No, I don’t believe that. I believe it is because

Jesus loves these people, and does not want
to give up on them
.

Though He will not justify their errors – He is always quick to point out their errors – Jesus keeps a dialogue going because He wants to reach their lost souls.

It is never a waste of time to share the Word of God. It is never an error to tell others the Words of Christ. “Hear another parable”, God the Son says. Jesus has time even for the most hardened. The writer of Hebrews said:

Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

God speaks to us through His Son. He is speaking to the Pharisees and Priests because God wants them to repent, to return to where they belong. They believe that they are in charge of the Kingdom of God. Let me say that again, because it bears repeating.

The Chief Priests and Pharisees believe THEY own the
Kingdom of God! They don’t. God does.

They are wrong. There are people today in Churches all across America that believe “they own the Kingdom of God”. They are wrong. God owns the Kingdom of God. God owns it – not you or I. God owns our very bodies. He owns the air we breath. But Jesus speaks this parable, planting the seed, hoping they will repent (though they will not).

Before we read the parable, let’s describe the people the parable represents.

The HOUSEHOLDER Is Our Creator God
The VINEYARD Is The Kingdom of God
The HUSBANDMEN or GARDENERS Are Kingdom Workers
The SERVANTS Are The Kingdom Prophets & Preachers
The SON Is Jesus Christ

Understanding who the characters are, let’s read the parable.

Matthew 21:33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder {this is Creator God}, which planted a vineyard {this is the Kingdom of God}, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen {these are the Gardeners or Kingdom Workers}, and went into a far country {that’s Heaven}:

It is God Who creates all things. It is God Who planted the vineyard. God started the vineyard in the Old Testament when He came to Abraham, telling that wonderful follower of God:

Genesis 12:1-3 … Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God said “I will make you … I will bless you … In YOU shall all the families of the earth be blessed because I will do this”. God called Abraham out, and saved Abraham by faith. Abraham, flawed as he was, kept looking to the Lord Jesus. Jesus said in another place to the Pharisees:

John 8:56, 58 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Abraham recognized God as the planter of the Vineyard. Abraham followed the Lord. What did God do with His Kingdom in Israel? He not only planted the Kingdom, but God

Matthew 21:33 … hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen

God hedged it. He removed the weeds from it, so that it could grow. God dug a winepress in it. It was a centerpiece of God’s Kingdom that the Messiah would come through it. The winepress was the place where the fruit of the vine was taken to be crushed.

Jesus Christ was placed in the winepress, Calvary itself, crushed by the wrath of God for our sins.

At the first Lord’s Table Jesus gave His disciples the Cup, saying:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Jesus went to the winepress for us, so that we do not have to face the wrath of God. He went to Calvary so that our sins could be forgiven, that His Kingdom could be established. The Lord also “built a tower”, or put a hedge of protection around His Kingdom. Then He “let it out to gardeners or workers” who were suppose to work for His Kingdom.

Matthew 21:34-35 … and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants {the prophets and preachers} to the husbandmen {the workers in the Kingdom}, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the {workers} took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

As the Kingdom of God grew, the Owner of the Kingdom, our Creator God, expected fruit from the vineyard.

God expects Kingdom Praise, and Honor, and Glory.

God expects Thanksgiving from His people.

God expects obedience, and fidelity to the truth.

He sent the Prophets and Preachers to His Old Testament Kingdom we call Israel. When God sent Elijah, how was he received? Elijah said:

1 Kings 19:10 the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

God’s Kingdom under Israel did not prosper, because the Pharisees and Priests believed it was THEIR Kingdom and not GOD’S Kingdom. The religious crowd took over the Kingdom. Jesus goes on to say:

Matthew 21:36-40 Again, he {God the Father} sent other servants {prophets and preachers} more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son {this is Jesus Christ}, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

God waits. He tolerates the evil, because He wants as many as possible to come forth and be saved by faith in His Beloved Son Jesus Christ. The Apostle declared:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

God wants no one to be lost, so He tarries in judgment. But He will not wait forever. Jesus Christ came unto His own people, but His own people would not receive Him (John 1:11). When He first began ministering, Jesus told the people:

Matthew 15:24 … I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

The Father sent the Son to Israel. Jesus was born a Jew, from a virgin named Mary, in order to fulfill the prophesies of the Messiah. Jesus Christ came and clearly presented Himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life: No man comes to God the Father but by Him” (John 14:6). But they caught Him, and cast the Son of the Owner of the Vineyard out, and executed Him. Jesus asked them,

Matthew 21:40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

When the Messiah is rejected, then there is no hope but the wrath of God being poured out. If we do not receive Christ as Lord and Savior, accepting Him in the Winepress of Calvary, then we ourselves will one day be in the winepress of God’s righteous judgment.

Isaiah 63:3-4 I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. 4 For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.

The Bible tells us that:

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The Pharisees and Priests refuse to believe in Christ. They refuse to believe because they have taken over the vineyard. It is no longer the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of man, of the Pharisees and Priests.

Jesus Is The Stone The Builders Rejected
And Rejected Even Today

Matthew 21:42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?

Jesus quotes:

Psalms 118:22-23 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

The “Builders” of Israel rejected the Son of God. Jesus is the God chosen Cornerstone of His Kingdom. Jesus Christ was sent of the Father to be the main pillar of His Kingdom. Gods prophesied of Jesus in …

Isaiah 28:16 therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not {be disturbed}.

Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. It was the Blood of Jesus that was being illustrated by the animal sacrifices and the offerings. Jesus Christ is in the Passover Lamb, for if He is received as Lord and Savior, then:

1 Corinthians 5:7 Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: 8 therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

When Peter and the Apostles would, following the resurrection of Christ, preach the Gospel before these same people, he would say:

Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10 be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom. He died for it’s citizens. He rose again to lead and defend us. If you reject Jesus, then you have rejected the Kingdom of God. Jesus told the Pharisees and Priests:

Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

The Kingdom of God divorced from Jesus Christ is no longer the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the main Focus of His Kingdom. When Christ is taken out of the program, it is no longer the Kingdom of God – it is something else. So God the Son tells these “Builders”,

You tried building the Kingdom without Christ the Cornerstone, So God will raise up other builders who will cherish the Son!”

Any nation, any people, any Church that has rejected Jesus Christ as the Cornerstone, it will be rejected of God. Jesus said:

Matthew 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

What can you do with a cornerstone? You can trip over it, and hurt yourself. You can let it fall on you, and hurt yourself. Or you can recognize it as the Cornerstone, and hide yourself in it’s structure.

Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom. You cannot enter God’s Kingdom without Jesus. Your name cannot be written in the Book of Life if you do not acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. Israel thought that it was their own goodness that brought them into the Kingdom of God. It wasn’t. It was Jesus. God blessed Israel because of Jesus, because Jesus would come from Israel. The Apostle Paul said:

Romans 9:30-33 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. 31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone; 33 as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of ofoffense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

The Chief Priests and Pharisees thought that entrance into the Kingdom of God was through the door of the Law. It wasn’t. Entrance into the Kingdom of God is through the door that is Christ (John 10:7). Jesus said:

John 10:9 I am the door: by Me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

Jesus was a Rock of Offense to the religious leaders in Jerusalem – but to those who believed in Him, He is the foundation of a blessed and beautiful life.

Romans 14:17-18 … the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 18 For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.

The Church that is Christ’s Church cannot be defeated. Why? Because it is:

Ephesians 2:20 … built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;

Jesus is the Chief Corner Stone. Jesus is our Master and Lord. Everything we do is for the glory of God the Father in Christ our Lord. We who are His Church celebrate Him. I close with the words of the Apostle:

1 Peter 2:4-8 To {Jesus} coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

We who are saved are “lively stones” because Jesus Christ bore the winepress of God’s wrath. Dying for our sins, He rose from the grave. He is the Chief Cornerstone of our faith. He is the Leader we look to, the Savior we follow.

So the choice, dear One, is yours. Jesus Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God. You yourselves need to decide whether you will receive Him as both Lord and Savior, or reject Him. He offers us no other alternative. Receive Him, and believe He gave Himself for your salvation. Receive Him, and follow Him daily as Savior and Lord. Or reject Him, and bear the consequences. I pray that you will come to Him fully this very day. May God the Holy Spirit and the Word of the Lord draw you this very day. Amen and Amen!

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Faith Tried But True

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Psalm 73:26-28 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. 27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. 28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

I have heard from many as to how discouraging 2020 has been. One of the things that has been most discouraging is not the virus itself, but the hypocrisy and hatred of the worldly. When it suited the talking heads on the network news channels and in Hollywood, it was perfectly fine to gather in large crowds, to sing and shout protests on bullhorns, to chant and even riot. But when it came to the gathering of the local Churches, many were shuttered by their governments, or if allowed to meet it was only with greater diminished capacity and an injunction against singing.

It is quite discouraging.
But God understands our discouragement.

Tonight we’re going to look at “A Psalm of Asaph”. Asaph was one of the Levites who directed the Choir in Israel under King David’s reign.

1 Chronicles 25:1 Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals …

When Churches are told that they cannot sing or worship God in song, this directly hinders the power of God’s Holy Spirit within the service. The Sons of Asaph “prophesied {preached} with harps, psalteries, and cymbals”. There were both stringed {harps and psalteries or zithers} as well as percussion {cymbals} instruments. When the Apostle encourages the Church to “be filled with the Spirit {of God}”, he goes on to say:

Ephesians 5:19-21 speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Music is an integral part of a Church worship service. It is by music that God softens the heart, and fires up the adoration of His people. The “Cantor” or worship leader was and is still considered just as important as the preacher of God’s Word.

Asaph, the worship leader, wrote this Psalm. The Psalm is broken into three parts.

  • In Part 1, {verses 1-12} Asaph unburdens his heart, expressing his discouragement over the ease by which the wicked live their lives.
  • In Part 2, {verses 13-20}Asaph begins to see the light, and to redirect his faith.
  • In Part 3, {verses 21-28} Asaph returns to full faith in God our Savior.

Let’s break this down, and apply it to our lives.

The Crisis Of Faith

Asaph begins with a simple truth:

Psalm 73:1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

Truly, God HAS been good to America. We are {even with the excesses that many of the governors subjected their people to} the freest and most protected peoples on the planet. Regardless as to how bad the year has been for you, we must say:

Psalm 145:9 The Lord is good to ALL: and His tender mercies are over ALL His works .

God cannot help but be good, for “Good” is in the very nature of God. The Bible says:

Psalm 100:5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

God has been good to our nation. God has been good to our communities, to our churches. Asaph said,

even to such as are of a clean heart

This is not a reference to those who are “self righteous”, but to those who have given their hearts to the Lord Jesus. King David prayed:

Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.

The Bible says “the just or righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). When we realize our brokenness and come to Jesus Christ in faith, receiving Him as both Savior and Lord, God cleanses us, and brings us into His family. What a joy it is to be a Christian! Yes, God has been good to us. But Asaph continues:

Psalm 73:2-3 But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. 3 For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Asaph acknowledges that he nearly lost his faith. “My feet were ALMOST gone”. His walk with God was threatened because he focused on the apparent ease with which the wicked lived their lives. “I was envious at the foolish”. I watched a news anchor the other day called Don Lemon as he spoke about how unfair life was to the people of color. This from a man who is a millionaire! The foolish have everything: good health, full bank accounts, great health care. And yet so often the righteous seem to have nothing. I was talking to a dear lady the other day who said she could not pay the high price of insulin because of the idiotic “doughnut hole” provision in Medicare. Yet people like this newscaster and other talking heads complain bitterly, though they have all.

It is discouraging! Asaph continues:

Psalm 73:4-5 For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. 5 They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.

The world is so very unfair! Hugh Hefner made millions off of abusing and using women as sex objects, and yet he is celebrated when he dies. The wicked do not seem to suffer as do the rest of humanity.

Psalm 73:6-7 Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. 7 Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.

They have all that they desire, and more so. They are prideful. They stand above the rest of us, mocking us, patronizing us.

Psalm 73:8-12 They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. 9 They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. 10 Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. 11 And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? 12 Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.

They are not afraid of God, and freely mock Him. Like the comedian Kathy Griffin who, upon winning an Emmy Award, said:

A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. … This award is my god now.”

When you focus on the ungodly, and watch the evil around you that is seemingly unrestrained, it strains your faith. Asaph said “my feet were almost gone”. A man made religion will not stand the test of time. A man made faith – reliant totally upon my own efforts – will in time fall apart. Yet a God made faith, a faith founded in Jesus Christ, will stand even the assault of the wicked.

Psalm 94:16-18 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? 17 Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. 18 When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.

It is natural, even normal, to have your faith challenged. But if it is challenged, it will stand the hardest knocks if God Himself is in it.

Genuine Faith, Though Tested, Will Return To God

Psalm 73:13-17 Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. 14 For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. 15 If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. 16 When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.

The Jewish Study Bible notes: “There was no atheism in ancient times, only the notion that God lacked knowledge and power”. What is meant is that there are genuinely no true atheists. It is just that people, if they believe in God, believe Him to be as flawed and limited in ability and knowledge as we are. The lost think of God – if they think of Him at all – as an emergency brake that is only called upon when absolutely necessary. As Asaph focused on the lost, the evil who seemed to prosper while the righteous suffered, he began to question his faith. That is, he questioned his faith until he went into the sanctuary of God – then he understood their end.

When a Christian turns off the technology and opens the Bible, God opens His heart to us. When we take the time to meet with other believers in a house of worship, then we begin to see the truth. The truth is, God allows the wicked a certain amount of freedom, because He wants all to be saved. Just as Asaph questioned God over the freedom of the wicked, so did the Apostle Peter. He wrote:

2 Peter 3:3-10 knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

God is not ignorant of what the wicked are doing. God knows – but tarries in judgment, waiting in graciousness that others might come to Christ. When God told Noah that he was going to flood the world, the Lord gave Noah 120 years to build an Ark. God tarried His hand of judgment – but then one day the end came. God does the same thing today. He waits, giving every person an opportunity to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. The Lord loves the Don Lemons. The Lord loves the Kathy Griffins. The Lord loves the lost, and came to this earth to seek out the lost for salvation. Jesus said:

Luke 19:10 the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

We often forget that these mockers of God, these rich Hollywood fools, that they are just as loved by God as you and I are. The lost may have their riches – but their souls are bound to the service of darkness. We who are saved were once blinded by evil. But God tarried, and in time our eyes opened, and we saw Jesus. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Ephesians 5:5-11 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10 proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

The unbeliever may mock and make fun of God now, but there is a judgment day coming. They think that they are on sure footing. They think that they can get away with the wickedness that they do. Asaph continues:

Psalm 73:18-20 Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. 19 How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors. 20 As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.

They are in “slippery places”. They believe that the fat life that they are enjoying shall continue on into eternity. As Murderer James W. Rodgers stood in front of a Utah firing squad, he was asked “Do you have a final request?” He quipped, “Bring me a bullet proof vest”. The unbeliever thinks that they are in a good place, but those without Christ will one day have to suffer the Great White Throne Judgment of God. They will one day enter a lake of fire, from which there is no reprieve, no respite. It is a place of which Jesus said:

Mark 9:43-48 … if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

When We See Life Through God’s Eyes
We Are Not Petty In Our Faith

When we look at the evil around us and believe it to be winning, even becoming discouraged by it, we are looking with the wrong eyes. We need to look at all things through the eyes of God, from His perspective. Asaph said:

Psalm 73:21-22 Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. 22 So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.

Asaph says, “I was acting like an animal”. Animals have no moral sense, though we often attribute morality to our pets. Only humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) with a sense of morality. Asaph repents of questioning God, and return to full faith in Him. Asaph begins to do what we all should do when challenged by the culture of godlessness around us:

Psalm 73:23-24 Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. 24 Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.

God is continually with His children. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture” (Psalm 100:3). Our God is ever present, ever vigilant as He watches over us. He holds us by our right hand. The picture here is of a little child who is holding the Parent’s hand as they navigate a treacherous and crowded area. God is with His people. Jesus said:

Matthew 28:20 … lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world ..

The Apostle said:

Hebrews 13:5 Let your {way of life} be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

God is with His Children. He guides us by His Counsel. We who are Christ’s by faith are indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God. We have His Promise:

John 14:16-19 I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

We as believers in Christ have the greatest Possession possible: we are possessed and are possessors of God Himself. God indwells each and every one of us. The Bible says, “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9). The day you received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the day that God’s Spirit came upon you. God is in you, and will stay with you, dear believer. Once Asaph realized that he had received the greatest Gift possible, he no longer looks with envy at the lost. No, his heart soars heavenward!

Psalm 73:25-26 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

What a wonderful thing it is to have God as your portion FOREVER! There will be times in this life that we are all afflicted. But if God is with us, then who can be against us? The Apostle Paul, being afflicted, sought God that the affliction be lifted. But then God told Paul:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 … My Grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness …

As long as God is with us, holding our right hand, guiding us, then all will be well at the end. Of the lost who reject the Lord Jesus we say:

Psalm 73:27 For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.

In the end, the wicked who will not come to God by Christ shall perish. Their way is the way of destruction. God is the inheritance of His people. Asaph ends with:

Psalm 73:28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works.

The best place to be is near God. Let us draw near to Him in prayer daily. Let us draw near to Him through the reading and study of His Word, the Holy Bible. Let us draw near to God by doing that which He tells us. Jesus said:

John 8:51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

John 14:23 If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

Has your faith drifted? It is understandable. But rather than live in the drift, heed God’s Word. Do the things He tells you to do. Cling to Him as He clings to you. Tell others about Him. And, if you do not know Him as Lord and Savior, run into His arms today! May God through His Spirit touch your hearts and minds. Amen and Amen.

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Guess Who Came To Dinner?

Photo by Nadia Valko on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 14.

Dr. Luke Tells Us About Dr. Jesus

Luke is an interesting Gospel. Luke himself was a physician who followed Jesus, our Great Physician.

Though there is some dispute, most commentaries recognize Luke as a Gentile, and not a Jew. Paul called Luke “the Beloved Physician” (Colossians 4:14), and was a “fellow laborer” (Philemon 24). Luke joined Paul in Troas, Asia Minor, during the Apostle’s second missionary journey (Acts 16:6-11). Luke was with the Apostle Paul as he neared execution in Rome. The Apostle wrote:

2 Timothy 4:11 Only Luke is with me….

Luke wrote about ¼ of the New Testament (Luke and Acts). Luke recorded events that the other Apostles shared with him.

As we come to Luke 14, we see Jesus at a meal that is mentioned nowhere else in the Scripture. What is interesting about the meal in that Jesus has been invited to the home of a chief Pharisee. The Pharisees hated Jesus. Why was Jesus at this meal? He wasn’t here because He crashed it, but because the Pharisees invited Him in order to find fault. Let’s read:

Luke 14:1-4 And it came to pass, as {Jesus} went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. …

As Jesus prepared to eat, the Bible says they watched him. Jesus has walked into a trap. The Pharisees invited Jesus to eat, but they also invited a man with dropsy to the same meal. In the earlier part of His ministry, Jesus entered the synagogue,

Mark 3:1-2 …. and thee was a man which had a withered hand. 2 And “they watched him”, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath day …

They watched Jesus. In the earlier healing on the Sabbath in the synagogue, Jesus asked the man with the withered hand to “Rise up, and stand forth in the midst {of the Pharisees}” (Luke 6:8). Jesus challenged the Pharisees, saying:

Luke 6:9 … I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

The Pharisees, though they watched Jesus, refused to answer. This is because they missed the point.

The Entirety Of The Law Is LOVE

The problem with being a Pharisee or a Lawyer (forgive me, Jerry), is that you begin to think God is impressed with how well you follow rules. How well you follow rules does not impress God. Your heart impresses God. The Lord God told the Prophet Samuel one day:

1 Samuel 16:7 … the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

God looks on the heart. Do we love God? Do we love others around us. If as the Scripture says,

1 John 4:8, 16 … God is love …

then God expects to find love in our hearts when He looks at them. Why do we do the things we do? Why did the Pharisees invite Jesus to dinner? So they could hurt Him. So they could find fault. So they could trap Him. Not because they loved Him. Our Lord Jesus said:

Matthew 22:37-40 {the Great Commandment in the Law – the Main Point – is} Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Of the 783,137 words in the King James text of Scripture, all of these verses, commands, statutes, rules, orders, and observations can be distilled down into this: “Love God with all you have, and love whoever is near you the way you want to be loved”. That’s it! The Bible calls this “the Royal Law” (see James 2:8). Why? Because it is the Law by which God lives, and the Law that He expects His people to live by. The Apostle Paul put it this way:

Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

When Jesus came to the synagogue that day, no one paid the slightest bit of attention to the man with the withered hand. Everyone was checking their dress code, and checking whether they looked good enough for service. But Jesus walks in and sees someone in distress. A man with a withered hand.

The broken man has a choice.
He can heed Jesus, or heed the crowd.

Jesus then commanded the man with the withered hand to “Stretch forth thy hand.” (Luke 6:10). The man that was disabled had to respond to Jesus, to do as Jesus commanded, if he was going to be healed. He could have refused to comply. He could have went along with the crowd. But instead the man with the withered hand listened to Jesus. He reached out to the Master – and was healed.

Now fast forward to this “special” meal that Jesus has been invited to. Here is a man with dropsy, invited to dine with Jesus and the Pharisees and Lawyers. Dr. Bob Utley notes in his Bible Commentary:

Dropsy was a retention of fluid that resulted in swelling (the term is from the root for “water”). It usually was the result of other physical problems. It is only mentioned here in the New Testament, which is appropriate for a physician (see Colossians 4:14), although it is used by non-physicians in Greek literature. The rabbis said this disease was caused by serious sin, which may add to the drama of the moment.”

This man was miserable. Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?”. If all the Law is fulfilled by “Love God with your all, and love the one near you the way you want to be loved”, then the answer is simple. YES! YES, it is fine to do good to others on the Sabbath.

But the Pharisees cannot answer. They refuse to answer. The them, God is all about rules and sacrifices and rituals. They do not remember when God chastised Israel, saying:

Matthew 15:8 … this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me (see also Isaiah 29:13)

The Bible tells us that Jesus “took the man with dropsy, and healed him, and let him go. This man’s heart, his broken heart, reached out to Jesus – and the Lord healed him. The Messiah has the right, the obligation to do good on the Sabbath day.

Matthew 12:8 the Son of man {the Messiah} is Lord even of the sabbath day. (see also Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5)

The Man that these Pharisees have invited to eat with them is not just a Rabbi, He is God the Son. God is love. God hurts when we hurt. People are more important than animals. Jesus asked them:

Luke 14:5 … Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?

The human master of an animal would not leave that creature suffering all night long in a cold, miserable pit just because it was the Sabbath. How much less would God, Who is love, leave a person with a withered hand or the dropsy in the pit of suffering, just because it was the Sabbath? Of course, the Pharisees refuse to answer. They just sat watching Jesus, gathering anger and evidence that they would later use to demand Jesus be executed. But as they sat watching Jesus, Jesus sat watching them.

Jesus Is Watching The Watchers

Imagine this. Jesus is a Guest in a Chief Pharisees home. He was invited to trap Him, to betray Him. Yet Jesus does not do the politically correct. He loves, as God must love. Yet Jesus doesn’t turn a blind eye to what they are doing. We read:

Luke 14:7 … And {Jesus} put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms …

Word Study The phrase “the chief rooms” is the Greek πρωτοκλισία prōtoklisía, {pronounced pro-tok-lis-ee’-ah}, which means “the best reclining places”. When the Jews held dinner parties, they arranged their guests according to rank and prestige. The most important people had the best “rooms” or places to recline at while eating. The least important people had the least important “rooms” or places to recline at. Jesus had been invited to this Chief Pharisee’s home, but I can guarantee you that Jesus did not have the best seat in the house. No, He was placed in the lowest seat. Jesus marked how they chose out the chief rooms, the best seats. Jesus told His hosts:

Luke 14:8-11 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 and he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

I can imagine these Pharisees and Lawyers squirming in their seats right now. Jesus loved people, all types of people. There is no one that Jesus does not love. But He loves us enough to tell us the truth. Though Jesus Himself is …

Revelation 19:13, 15 …King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Jesus Christ is the Child the Prophet Isaiah foresaw, the …

Isaiah 9:6-7 … Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace

Oh, how Jesus should have been placed in the chief seat. It is Jesus Who is …

Ephesians 1:20-21 … {seated at God the Father’s own} right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:

Jesus is not there at the Head, as He should be. He is disallowed. The Pharisees and Scribes were the builders of Israel. When they saw Jesus, they saw Him as unfit to be a part of that people. Jesus is the stone which the builders disallowed and rejected, He has become the Head of the Corner (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17). The Pharisees were more concerned about their own prestige than they were the work of God. Jesus warned them about this prideful attitude. Pride destroys the work of God. Over and over the Scripture declares:

Proverbs 29:23 A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit.

Isaiah 2:11 The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

Isaiah 2:17 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.

It is pride that locks people out of Heaven.
God will not dwell with the prideful!

Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

God dwells with the humble but broken person. He cannot work with the prideful. God cannot lift up someone who thinks they are better than others. Our actions show the intents of our hearts. We are nothing, but Christ is everything. We are but dust, but Jesus the Creator Who can bless us, if we but surrender ourselves unto Him.

Having chastised the Pharisees for their pride at this meal, He now chastises them for their choice of guests. Those who were at this dinner party were the rich and famous, the movers and the shakers. They were well off. There were two at that party – Jesus and the man now healed of Dropsy – who did not fit the mold of the rest. Those others who had received their invitations, received them because they WERE important, and WOULD reciprocate to those who invited them. The Pharisees and Lawyers thought that their knowledge of the Law and their earth prestige would impress Heaven. This is not true.

Jesus told the Pharisees and Lawyers, “If you want to impress Heaven, your guest list is all wrong!”

Luke 14:12-14 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbors; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Do good to others, regardless as to whether they do good to you or not. If you want to impress God, love like God loves. God does good to those who cannot pay Him back. Salvation is a free gift from God because it is impossible for us to repay it. Salvation comes about because God the Father sent His Son into this world to give his life for us.

There is no way to Heaven but by Jesus. The Bible declares:

Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

It is only Jesus Who saves His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). It is “only Jesus” that we must believe on if we will have everlasting life (John 3:36). It is “only Jesus” that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one comes unto the Father but by Him (John 14:6). The Bible is without debate on this point:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

1 John 5:11-12 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

Only Jesus. Only Jesus can save a soul. God offers Jesus to whosoever will. At this point, one of the Pharisees speaks up.

Won’t It Be Wonderful When We Get To Heaven!

Luke 14:15 And when one of them that sat at meat with {Jesus} heard these things, he said unto {Jesus}, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.

When the Pharisee said this, I suspect that all who were there thought they would be so blessed because they “kept the Law of God from my youth up” (Luke 18:21). They think to themselves, “I can pass the test with flying colors!” But Jesus knows their hearts – so He speaks another parable to explain HOW you get into the Kingdom of Heaven so that you can break bread there.

Luke 14:16-17 … A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: 17 and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.

In this parable the certain man is God the Father. The servant is God the Son. When it was supper time, the meal was ready, the certain man (the Father) sent His servant (the Son) out to those who should have been ready – the Pharisees and Lawyers. These people have studied the Law. They knew what the prophetic signs were for the Coming Messiah. They had seen the miracles that Jesus as Messiah did. They had heard John the Baptist, the Messiah’s Herald, declare that Jesus is indeed the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36). Our Lord Jesus came to Israel first, because He promised Israel first (Romans 1:16; 2:9; 2:10). Israel had the promise of God,

John 1:11-13 {Jesus} came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:1-9 is Jesus Christ. This Servant of God – God the Son – is sitting at the Chief Priest’s home. He invites all who will to come to the Kingdom of God.

Come; for all things are now ready”. But do they come? No. Jesus said:

Luke 14:18 … And they all with one consent began to make excuse.

They began to find reasons why they could not come to the feast.

Luke 14:18 The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.

What a weak excuse this is. Who buys land without first inspecting it? What this person is saying is, “My life is more important than YOU are, God. I hear your invitation, but I just can’t make it. My land is more important.”

Luke 14:19 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.

Again, this is a very poor excuse. As the Pastor of Riverview, I often see people come up into our parking lot, test driving a new or a new/used car. I see them out there with the hood up. When I go out they tell me, “Preacher, we’re just checking out our truck before we buy it”. That’s fine, that’s fine. People always check out a vehicle before they buy it. Do you really think this person didn’t test drive these five yoke of oxen before he purchased them? No, not at all. What a lame excuse. This person just had no love for the host.

Luke 14:20 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

Why can’t you bring your wife with you? So many people say, “Well, I can’t come and love the Lord because of my wife, or my children, or …” Just fill in the blanks. The feast is ready. The One Who has the Key to Heaven bids you come. But you have other things much more important to do!

Luke 14:21 So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

The Pharisees and the Lawyers would not come, but then Jesus reached out to the broken. He reached out to the poor, those ravaged by this world. He reached out to the maimed, the crippled, the spiritually blind. It is as the Apostle said:

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: 29 that no flesh should glory in his presence.

The Son of God reached out – not to the best and the brightest – but to the broken. The broken came to the feast. They secured Jesus Christ as Lord and savior in their hearts.

Luke 14:22-23 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. 23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

What is necessary to come to the Kingdom of God? What will cause the blessings of God to fall on you, both now and into eternity? It is your willingness to answer the call of Christ Jesus. Will you surrender your lives to Him? Will you put Him first, and Heaven first – or will you cling to the temporary pleasures of this earth.

Jesus leaves the Chief Pharisees home, and GREAT MULTITUDES FOLLOW HIM. We read:

Luke 14:25-33 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Beloved, Christ bids us all to Heaven, to the Kingdom Banquet. He has paid the price. He has secured the invitation for us. Will you come to Him? To be saved is to turn toward Jesus and lay your life down at His feet. As Dr. Bob Utley said:

The gospel is absolutely free, but it costs everything that we are and have (cf. Matthew 13:44-46).”

Dr. Thomas Constable states in his commentary:

Salvation guarantees heaven, but it also calls for complete commitment to Jesus, not to secure heaven but to express gratitude for heaven.”

God gives Himself for us when we give ourselves to Him. This is what salvation is. And this is what God calls whosoever will to. Oh Beloved, if you do not know the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior, today would be a wonderful; day to give your lives to Him. There is no life better than the life hid by God in Christ. I pray that God the Holy Spirit would lead you to Him this very day. Amen and Amen!

Posted in Luke, Sermon Series "Red Letters", Sermons Preached | Tagged | Leave a comment

Spiritual Battle Needs Committed Warriors

Photo by James Newcombe on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke 14. This morning we saw where Jesus had been invited to supper at the Chief Pharisees home. Now Jesus has left that home. He is headed to Jerusalem to give His life for our sins. Jesus is “all in” for our salvation. In the message tonight, Jesus addresses the commitment of the believer. These are words that you will rarely hear from the pulpits of America. But these are Christ’s Words, and true Words. Let’s read the section, then we’ll break it down.

Luke 14:25-33 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

As Jesus prepared to go to the Cross of Calvary, He understood the bigger picture. Jesus did not dumb down what He was saying to get more followers. Too many pastors have dumbed down the Gospel message in order to get large followings and big buildings.

The Gospel that Jesus preached never – NEVER – said that salvation was like a free sample at Sam’s Club. The Gospel that Jesus preached demanded commitment to God, commitment to His Son. The Gospel that saves demands wholehearted love to the Savior.

Several years ago I heard a preacher attempt to explain away this text. After all, if salvation is a free gift, then it expects nothing of you. So he began to say tell us that there are two levels of salvation. There is the first level where you are saved by faith in Christ – but don’t have to do anything afterwards. Then there is the second level where you go on to be a disciple of Christ. He explained that “you can be saved, but not a disciple”.

This is not what the Scripture teaches.

A “Disciple” is a student, a follower of Christ. The Apostle said in:

Ephesians 5:1 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children.

and 1 Corinthians 11:1 Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.

The First Word In Salvation Is “REPENT”
To “Repent” Is To Change Who Or What You Are Following

When Jesus started preaching following His baptism, He ALWAYS preached REPENTANCE. Here are just a few instances:

Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Matthew 9:13 … I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here.

Mark 2:17 … They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 5:32 I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

In order to be saved, the first thing that the convert to Christ must do is REPENT. To repent does not mean “to feel sorry for” yourself. I means to reorient your lifestyle – to choose to follow another. When you REPENT you stop trusting in the things and gods of this world, and cast yourselves upon Jesus.

As Jesus left the Chief Pharisees home, large crowds were following Him. We read:

Luke 14:25-26 And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

All of these people who followed Jesus, followed for different reasons.

Some believed He was Messiah, and followed Him.
Others believed He would liberate Israel, and followed Him.
Some had infirmities they wanted healed, so they followed.
Others were just curious, and wanted to see something entertaining.

Jesus is in a position that many pastors I know would want to be in. I remember reading a book a few years ago where a certain pastor “opened for Bono”, and bragged about the large crowds. Many, many pastors and Churches would be thrilled to have packed services! But Jesus turns, and rather than encouraging the crowds throws a pitcher of cold water on it.

“If you come to Me, You must love Me much more than you love your closest relatives. You must MISEO, “Hate” those closest to you. I demand your fullest love!”

When Jesus uses the word “hate” here, He does not mean that we should despise those closest to us. Our God has never promoted hatred. In the Old Testament God said:

Leviticus 19:18 …. thou shalt LOVE thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

We are to love people in proximity to ourselves. We are to be a people who do good. Jesus told us:

Matthew 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, LOVE your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

What Jesus IS saying is that our love for Him must be so much greater than the love we have for others, that in comparison it will seem that we “hate” those closest to us. God has always demanded that we love God Himself with our ALL.

Matthew 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When you come to Jesus to be saved, you are to MAKE GOD FIRST. What Jesus says must be more important to you than what your Facebook Friend says. What Jesus has commanded must be more valuable to you than what your parents think, or your siblings. In fact, salvation is only secured when Jesus Christ is the most loved and important person in your whole life. He is greater than your own life.

The genuine Christian is a person who has fallen in love with Jesus – and He is easy to love. Once we are saved by faith in Him we seek His voice, we love His presence, we adore Him for what He did for us on Calvary. We love Jesus first and foremost. We love God with our ALL. We were lost and undone, and able to bring ourselves to God. Jesus Christ died so that He might bring us to God. The Apostle said:

1 Peter 3:8-18 … Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: 9 not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. 10 For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: 11 let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

Jesus Christ died and rose again so that He might bring us to God. If you are saved, you are a child of God. This relationship means more to you than even your own life. You are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20) so that you can glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which belongs to God! As Christians “you are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19). You are a child of the King. You belong to the Kingdom of God!

The Child Of God, Saved By Faith, Bears His Cross

Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Before I was saved, the Cross was a nice piece of jewelry worn around the neck.

The Heartlight Devotional notes: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it many years ago: “When Christ calls a man, he calls him to follow him to a cross and die.” Bonhoeffer paid that cost when he died at the hands of the Nazis in WWII. Our commitment to Christ isn’t a simple thing that happens just between our ears. Jesus warns us not to pretend to follow. He cautions us that our commitment must be heartfelt and soul-deep and that there is a cost that comes with following him. Jesus calls us to count the cost and then to follow him.”

Being saved can cost your relationships.
Being saved can cost your life.
Being saved means to carry the Cross.
The disciple of Christ – the saved person – carries the Cross daily.

When you “bear His Cross”, you are occupied with it daily. The Christian makes much of the Cross of Christ because it is the only means by which we can become children of God. Jesus was quite adamant about the Cross:

Matthew 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

The Christian willingly carries the Cross of Christ daily. We are not compelled to do so. We cling to the Cross because it is by the Cross we are saved. Our sins were a barrier between us and God – our sins kept us from His presence. But Jesus Christ went to the Cross to give His life for ours. He did something for us that we could not do. No sinner can make make themselves right before God. But God can make us right before God. God did this through His Only Begotten Son.

Luke 9:23 And {Jesus} said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY, and follow me.

To the world, the Cross is no more than an ornament, a piece of jewelry. But to the Christian, the Cross is our pardon.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Count The Cost, Because Jesus Calls You To Be All In

Luke 14:28-33 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29 lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

Contrary to much of the “easy believism” preaching of today, Jesus tells that crowd – and us – to “count the cost” of following Him. There is a cost in following Jesus. Let me give you a few point:

  • When you follow Jesus, you will no longer follow the world. When you say “yes” to Jesus, He, through the Spirit of God, will change your allegiances. The Bible says:

Colossians 1:10-14 that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12 giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

When I gave my life to Jesus, I lost my old friends, my old ways, my old habits. Oh, I did not become perfect by any means. I still mess up. But my King is no longer peer pressure, but Him Who died for me on Calvary. My King is not to please others, but to please Him. The Bible chastises the Christian who lives to please the world, saying:

James 4:4-10 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Christians are to be friendLY to everyone. We are to LOVE those around us. But we are nonetheless to STAND AGAINST the ways of darkness. It was sin and darkness that caused our Savior to go to Calvary. We do not justify sin. We do not condone sin. I am often bemused when I read about some Contemporary Christian artist who is asked,

“Do you believe that only those who believe in
Jesus Christ will go to Heaven?”

I have seen it time and time against. When asked that question, they hem and haw. They try to get around it with a non-commital “Well, I don’t make judgments”. Beloved, you are either a disciple of Christ or a disciple of the world. Only the disciple of Christ will be in Heaven one day. Did not our Lord say:

John 14:6 I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: No man cometh unto the Father BUT BY ME.

Did not the early Church preach:

Acts 4:10-12 be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

The world will never like the message of Christ – yet this is the message of salvation. The only door into Heaven is through faith in Jesus. Faith in Christ demands that you make a decision: You can follow the world, or you can follow Jesus. You cannot stand between two points: Jesus will not allw you to do so.

Beloved, Christ bids us all to Heaven, to the Kingdom Banquet. He has paid the price. He has secured the invitation for us. Will you come to Him? To be saved is to turn toward Jesus and lay your life down at His feet. As Dr. Bob Utley said:

The gospel is absolutely free, but it costs everything that we are and have (cf. Matthew 13:44-46).”

Dr. Thomas Constable states in his commentary:

Salvation guarantees heaven, but it also calls for complete commitment to Jesus, not to secure heaven but to express gratitude for heaven.”

God gives Himself for us when we give ourselves to Him. This is what salvation is. And this is what God calls whosoever will to. Oh Beloved, if you do not know the Lord Jesus as your personal Savior, today would be a wonderful; day to give your lives to Him. But there is one final thing we must discuss before I close this message.

The Christian Is To Be Salt

Luke 14:33-35 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.

34 Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35 It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

The Christian is called to be salt. Food without salt is tasteless. We bless society when we do as Jesus said – we stand firmly in faith following Him. I submit that one of the reason America has so fallen into darkness is because too few Christians have been salt. Beloved, America needs us to stand up and profess the truths that Christ professed. The Christian who does not believe Jesus Christ is Lord is probably not a Christian in the first place. The Bible says:

Romans 10:8-13 the word of faith, which we preach; 9 that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Salvation does not begin until you “confess with your mouth the LORD Jesus”, or as some versions read, “Jesus is Lord”. Is He Lord of your life? If not, then you are probably not saved. Those who are saved acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.

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A New Year’s Resolution From The Grand Old Book

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

Soon we’ll be in a new year, 2021. I wondered what message I should preach on the brink of this new year. I know that, at the beginning of a new year, many make resolutions and promises as to how they will change their lives for the better. Do you wish to have a great new year? Dedicate yourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Surrender to Him Who gave Himself for you. Believe on Him for both salvation, and for a life well lived. Follow Him – for in Jesus there is power.

There are so many texts that address this wonderful resolution. One that pops the mind is that illustration Jesus gave to us:

John 15:1, 5 I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Gardener. 5 I am the Vine, and you are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing …

Resolve To Follow The Word Of God For Blessing

What a wonderful resolution it would be if each and every one of us sought out Jesus, looking to Him for salvation. What a wonderful change it would bring on us, on our communities, and on our nation. Apart from God, we can do nothing. But with Him, with that blessed Jesus, we bring forth much fruit.

Though I read in John, this is not the text we will take as a new year sermon. Instead we will turn to the Old Testament, to the Book of 1 Samuel. Samuel was a prophet of God. His mother was a godly, but broken woman. Hannah had a good husband, but was unable to bear a child to carry on his family name. So Hannah went to the Lord, and in prayer promised God that if He give her a child, then she would dedicate that child.

Life is a gift from God. When it seems that life has us down, it is better to look up, and to trust in the Lord Who loves you. Hannah looked up – and God heard her cry. Hannah was blessed with a son she named Samuel. Hannah did exactly as she promised. Once the child was old enough, she took Samuel to the Tabernacle,

1 Samuel 2:11 and the child {Samuel} did minister unto the Lord before Eli the priest.

Eli had two sons who did not know the Lord. 1 Samuel 2:12 says “the sons of Eli were the sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord”. Eli had one adopted son Samuel, who loved the Lord. But his natural born sons – heirs to the priesthood – were children of Belial, of the devil. Eli’s sons participated in the Tabernacle ceremonies, but dishonored God.

1 Samuel 2:17 … the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord: for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.

You will not honor the Lord if you do not know the Lord as Savior. Eli made excuses for his sons, and looked the other way. But God warned Eli through an unnamed Prophet:

1 Samuel 2:30 Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house {O Eli}, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

It is possible to be saved by faith in God, and yet, by your behavior, to drive God’s blessing far from you. God warned Eli:

1 Samuel 2:34-35 this shall be a sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them. 35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever.

God cast down Hophni and Phinehas because they would not love Him nor honor Him. But God raised up another faithful priest in Samuel. When …

1 Samuel 3:10 … the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

This should be the attitude of every Christian, born of God’s Spirit. “Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening”. This is the way to blessing. God told Samuel that Eli’s day was over, that God said:

1 Samuel 3:13 … I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.

When you know to do the good, but do not do it, then it is sin. There are sins of both COMMISSION and OMISSION. God expects His people to follow Him. Our Lord Jesus commands us:

Matthew 6:33 … seek ye first the kingdom of God,and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you

Trials will come your way. Make it a habit to follow the Lord. To seek Him in prayer. To discern His will through the Scripture, the Holy Bible. To hear God’s Word and not do it is to invite disaster. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:26-27 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

To be blessed of God, we must be obedient to God. We must hear His Word. Samuel is listening to the Word of the Lord. He is living His life for God. But Israel, God’s people, are not listening to God. The Scripture says:

1 Samuel 3:1 … the Word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.

Sometimes the King James text obscures the meaning of that text because of archaic language. “The Word of the Lord was precious” doesn’t mean that people treasured it, like they treasure gold, silver, or other monies. The Hebrew yâqâr, {pronounced yaw-kawr} can mean precious in that way. But it also means RARE. The Word of the Lord was RARE in those days. People were no longer focused on God’s Word. The Scripture was not quoted from the pulpits. The Word of Life was not lifted up in the public square. As a result, “there was no open vision”. The word translated “VISION” is the Hebrew châzôwn, (pronounced khaw-zone’), which means REVELATION. When you depart from heeding the Word of God, in time God quits trying to communicate with you. The people of Israel, like America today, moved farther and farther away from God.

If We Move Far Enough From God,
The Nation Will Be Cursed

1 Samuel 4:1-3 And the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Eben-ezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. 2 And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel: and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines: and they slew of the army in the field about four thousand men. 3 And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

Samuel is speaking the Word of God to Israel, but no one is listening. The Bible tells us:

Hebrews 4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

You may hear the Word of God, but if you do not respond in faith, what you heard does not good at all. Israel went out to do battle against an old enemy, the Philistines. Israel had defeated the Philistines before. Certainly they could do so once more. But Israel presumed. The strength of a nation is it’s people listening to the Word of God. The Scripture says:

Psalm 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

We too often try to fight our battles in our own strength. We must not! We must look to the Lord. God has told His people to be …

Deuteronomy 6:15 … careful not to compromise with the idolaters of this land. You are not allowed to worship their gods, you are not allowed to adopt their ways. I the Lord your God saved you, and I Am a Jealous God … I alone will be worshiped

The power of a people or of a person is that you are walking with God, heeding His direction, seeking His guidance. Israel went to battle with the Philistines. What happened? They lost! Did Israel repent? No. They wondered why God didn’t bless them, then sent for the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was a representation of God and His Grace. They said:

1 Samuel 4:3 Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

SHILOH is a very interesting name. It is first found in Genesis 49, where Jacob made his final blessing on his children. In verse 10 Jacob told Judah:

Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Shiloh means “SENT”. So when the One Who was SENT comes, the Messiah, to Him shall the gathering of the people be. Jesus Christ is the Messiah SENT from God. He was prophesied of in Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 11:1-5. The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of the righteous Branch that would rise from David, called “The Lord our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). It is the Father Who sent the Son (John 5:23, 30, 36-37; 6:39, 44) as Messiah to make payment for our sins. When Shiloh came, “to Him shall the gathering of the people be”. Praise God, there shall come a day when Jesus will reign over all the earth. What a wonderful day that will be when:

Revelation 11:15 … The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

Oh, that Shiloh would come! When Joshua led Israel through the Promised Land, it was at Shiloh, we read:

Joshua 18:1 … the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

Obedience to God brings the blessings of God. Israel lost 4000 men in battle against the Philistines because they were not following the Word of God. So now they send to Shiloh, saying,

1 Samuel 4:3 … Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.

Here we have a beautiful picture of disobedience. Shiloh is a representation, an Old Testament shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than repent, the commanders of Israel decided to separate the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh. How many Churches today do the same thing. They put their trust in the rituals and in the furniture and in the beads and in the building – but Christ is not in it. Jesus Christ must be in the midst of our Churches if we are to be blessed. Religion is not just ritual – it is a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are members of His Kingdom. We are to lovingly follow Him.

Faithless hands bringing the Ark of the Covenant to the place of battle does nothing.

1 Samuel 4:5-8 And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. 6 And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. 7 And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. 8 Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness.

Israel thought that they would be victorious now that the Ark was in the camp. The Philistines thought that they would be defeated because the Ark of the Covenant was in the camp. Both were wrong. Religion will not do it – God must be in it. False religion focuses on buildings, on rituals, on things, and not on the God of the Scripture. At the end of the day we read:

1 Samuel 4:11 … the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

The Bible says:

Psalms 84:11-12 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.{12} O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.

God is the Lord of Hosts. He controls the armies of Heaven, and controls the human heart. God is the Sun and Shield. Those who love Him shall never walk in darkness, nor shall they be unprotected. Had Israel stayed her heart on God she would never have suffered defeat at the hands of the Philistines. Her heart – her focus – was not on the Lord Who loved her, but on the things of this life. Things cannot bless you. Only God can bless you! Beloved,

Preach: You can sit in Church, and follow every ritual, hear every sermon – but if your heart is not in love with the Lord you will not be able to overcome the trials of this life.

Our God Is Not Like The Man Made Gods
– Our God LIVES!

When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, they thought, “Well, this is a God. Let’s put it in the same place we have our God!” We are told:

1 Samuel 5:2 When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon.

From that point on, God began to wreak havoc on the Philistines. The statue of their god Dagon was found, first on its face before the Ark of the Lord (1 Samuel 5:3), and then dismembered,

1 Samuel 5:4 And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him.

The false gods of this world are just that – they are false gods. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 135:15-18 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. 16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; 17 they have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. 18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.

Not only did God curse the temple of Dagon, but He cursed the Philistines.

1 Samuel 5:6 … the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with {tumors}, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof.

Having the Ark of the Covenant, a cross, a ritual, or any other thing rather than a relationship with God in Christ, will not bring blessing to you. God calls people everywhere to REPENT. Jesus said:

Luke 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

A Christian is not someone whose name is on an earthly roll. A Christian is a sinner who has repented, turning from their old gods, and committing to follow the God of the Scripture. A Christian is not better than anyone elose. A Christian has heeded the Gospel:

Acts 3:19-21 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; {20} And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: {21} Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

Oh, that every person under the sound of my voice would repent, and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior! What a blessing that will be, dear ones. You cannot blend darkness and light, Dagon with Christ. We must come to Jesus Christ ion love and faith. We must heed the Psalmist:

Psalm 2:11-12 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. {12} Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Kiss the Son”. Fall in love with Jesus. Put your trust in Him. He gave Himself for you, and calls you to His side. Come! Come, and be blessed.

The Ark Returns To Israel

Eventually God caused the Ark to return to Israel, where it belonged. Samuel told the people:

1 Samuel 7:3-4 If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. 4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only.

Our country has become so secularized, so godless. What is our hope? It is to come back to the God of the Scripture, to love the Lord Jesus, to do the things that He has commanded us to do. When God’s people are focused on the Lord Who saved them, there is nothing that we cannot do.

Once Israel was restored to a right relationship with God, the Bible says:

1 Samuel 7:12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.

Samuel set up a stone as a memorial to Israel’s commitment, calling the stone “Eben-ezer”. The name Eben-ezer is also an interesting word. The Hebrewאבן העזר, ‘eben ha‛ezer, {pronounced eh’-benhaw-e’-zer}, meaning “stone of the help”. This Rock symbolized the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in the New Testament from the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Once Israel confessed their sin before God the Bible says that Samuel took a Lamb and offered it for a burn offering whole before the Lord. Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) – is the Source of our blessing. Let us keep our eyes upon Him. Let us love Him and magnify His Holy Name. Let us keep our hearts on the Mount of God where Christ reigns. Let us sing praises to Him:

Here I raise mine Eben-ezer;
Hither by thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

God has promised that – though Israel was disobedient –that He would never utterly forsake her. That gives me great comfort. Who is able to keep me from falling? Jesus Christ. Our God …

Jude 24 is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy…

The source of our strength is not us, but in God. He is our Rock, our Savior, our Lord. We will cling to Him, trusting Him, no matter what may come. May God through His Holy Spirit and His Holy Word give you strength to commit to and follow Him this new year. Amen and Amen!

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A Life Well Lived

Photo by Keith Martin on Unsplash

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Luke Chapter 2.

Every Christmas we as Christians focus on the Baby Jesus in the manger, the Shepherds who came to see the Child, the Wise Men traveling to Bethlehem, a virgin named Mary and Joseph her betrothed. We think about the original Grinch, King Herod, who not only hated Jesus (though He was but a toddler), but was evil enough to order the assassination of all the children in Bethlehem. Yet God was faithful, is faithful, and will always be faithful.

While we focus on the various elements of the Christmas story, others focus on anything but that. Many contemplate and follow through on suicide, as the holiday season brings increased sadness to those who have lost loved ones to sickness and death. It is as Jesus warns us from His Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 6:19-23 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

The treasures we have on this earth, whether it be loved ones or things, these things die, rust, corrode, and are stolen. This is not where your focus should be. If your focus is on what you do not have, or what you have lost, then that darkness will flood your soul. It will rob you of the joy of life.

Our spiritual eyes need to be in the right place. We need to be

Hebrews 12:2 … looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith …

During Christmas, Mary and Joseph, the Angels of God, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, they are all looking at Jesus. Even Herod, that old devil, is looking at Jesus. Today we’re going to look beyond the birth of Jesus to a man and a woman – whose story is just as important as the others we spoke of.

Luke 2:25 … And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon…

The Bible speaks on many different people on many different continents. There are thousands of people mentioned in Scripture, but only, I am told, 1770 men and 93 women who are actually named. Simeon is one of the men named. The name “Simeon” is mentioned 50 times in 45 verses of Scripture. The first time Simeon is mentioned is in the book of Genesis (29:33) as one of the children of Leah and Jacob. When Leah bore Simeon, she said:

Genesis 29:33 … the LORD hath heard that I was hated

Simeon” (Hebrew שִׁמְעוֹן Shimʻôwn, shim-one’) means “has heard”. The Old Testament Simeon did not always listen to God as he should. When Israel entered the Promised Land, God had the tribe of Simeon “stand upon mount Gerizim to bless the people” (Deuteronomy 27:12) alongside the tribes of Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. When you do what God says when God says it, you will be blessed of God!

BEHOLD, there was a man in Jerusalem,
whose name was SIMEON…

The Old Testament Simeon often failed to focus on the Lord. His is not an example we should follow. God says, BEHOLD this New Testament Simeon. This “Simeon” HEARS God. He has paid attention to what the Lord has told him. Beloved, as we enter the New Year, I beg you to hear me.

If you want to be blessed of God,
BE WHERE God tells you to be!

So many people will visit the Church “here a little and there a little”. They will read God’s Word “here a little and there a little”. They will seek God’s face in prayer “here a little and there a little”. Our God is not a Christmas meal leftover. Our God calls us to Christ to follow Him day by day. Not just as an afterthought – but we are called to walk with God daily. This is why Christ became Incarnate Baby, God became Man, Eternity cloaked Himself in Mortality, the Infinite became Finite for us. The Apostle said:

1 Peter 3:18 … Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God …

We are to live daily in Christ, walking in the Light of God. Beloved, if we do not commit to follow Jesus one step at a time, one day at a time, we need not expect blessings. What does Jesus expect of us? Has He not said:

Matthew 22:37, 39 … Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. … 39 Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

God commands of His people a whole, committed heart. We are to walk with Him Who saved us. Behold, Simeon! Here is our example.

  • Simeon was in the right PLACESPIRITUALLY. We read:

Luke 2:25 … Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Three words described the place where Simeon was spiritually. First, Simeon is “JUST”. This is the Greek δίκαιος díkaios, {pronounced dik’-ah-yos}, which means “to be upright, righteous, keeping the commandments of God”. Does this mean that Simeon was flawless? No! The Apostle tells us:

Romans 1:16-17 I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

The Old Testament saint was not saved by the works of the Law, but by faith in the Coming Christ. The New Testament saint is not saved by the works of the Law, but by faith in the Christ Who has come. Simeon was saved just as our Father Abraham was: Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6).

Galatians 3:11 … no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Hebrews 10:38 … the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Though Jesus had not yet gone to the Cross, God gave Simeon scripture to know that the Messiah would come. Simeon did not doubt God, but laid his life down at the feet of the Creator. Oh glorious day! The Scripture promises that:

John 1:12 … as many as received Jesus, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Simeon believed in God. Since he believed in God, Simeon was saved. Since Simeon was saved, we also see:

  • Simeon was in the right PLACEPHYSICALLY.

Luke 2:25 … Simeon; and the same man was just and devout

There are many who profess to be saved by faith, but in their works they deny Christ. The Apostle warned his Gentile disciple Titus about these people:

Titus 1:15-16 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. 16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

If you are truly JUSTIFIED, then you will naturally be DEVOUT. This is the Greek εὐλαβής eulabḗs, {pronounced yoo-lab-ace’}, which means “to reverence or bring glory to God”. The Pharisees stoned Saint Stephen to death for speaking the truth. After he died, devout {eulabḗs, “God fearing”} men carried Stephen to his burial (Acts 8:2).

Just” or “Justified” speaks to the inward faith in Christ that saves.
“Devout” or “Devoted” speaks to the fruit from the good tree.

What did our Lord say? Matthew 7:17 … every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

If you are saved, you will DO the things that God tells you to do. Simeon is in Jerusalem in the Temple courtyard. Why? The Bible says:

Luke 2:26-27 And it was revealed unto {Simeon} by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple…

Simeon believed on the Lord, and was saved. Once saved, Simeon began to follow the Lord. Simeon did not try and live his life for himself, but for the Lord.

Romans 14:7-9 … none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. 8 For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

If you are saved by faith in Christ, you are citizens of HIS KINGDOM. We are to do as God the Son tells us to do. We are to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-26). We are called to devout lives, doing that which God has told us to do, and rejecting that which God has commanded us NOT to do.

Our faith is a “follow Jesus” proposition.

You are not saved by good works, but once saved you do good works. Jesus said:

Matthew 7:24-27 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

Simeon lived out his faith following the direction of God. He was led of the Spirit into the Temple. That’s where you find blessing: being where God Your Savior leads you!

  • Simeon was in the right PLACETEMPORALLY. Many times we lose blessings because we want God to do His work in our time. We want God to hurry up and do something, and when He doesn’t, we want to step in and contribute our own two cent’s worth. The Bible tells us:

Luke 2:25 …. Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel

Simeon was told by God to wait. I do not know how old Simeon is. The commentaries suggest that he is an old man, because the Bible says:

Luke 2:26 … it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

The Prophet Job – long before Simeon – got through the trials of life by focusing on the Messiah. Job said:

Job 19:25-27 For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Simeon did not know WHEN the Messiah would come – he just knew the promise and leadership of God. So day after day, Simeon patiently went to the Temple. As time passed many become faithless, believing that God has forgotten. But never forgets. What God promises, God will do.

Philippians 1:6 … he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Galatians 6:9 … let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Simeon did not doubt God. Much like Noah who, for 120 years, built an Ark, Simeon was patient in his faith. He went daily to the Temple, waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ. God will do as He has promised – trust Him!

Illustrate Oh Beloved, wait on the Lord. Heed His Word, and trust Him, though the clouds of the day might hide the Sun. Trust Him. Wait upon the Lord. Be where God tells you to be. How many times have we robbed ourselves of blessing because we were not busily looking for Jesus where Jesus would be. I do not look for flour in a tea bag. I do not look for sugar in the refrigerator aisle of the store. Look for Jesus in the places where Jesus must be. Jesus MUST be in the Temple. That Baby born MUST fulfill all the Law of God. We are told that Joseph and Mary were just and devout:

Luke 2:21-24 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they {Mary & Joseph} brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law of God PERFECTLY. He had to do so, else He could not be “the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36). Had Mary and Joseph not taken Jesus to Jerusalem to be circumcised, then He coulds not be Israel’s Savior. Why? Because God told Abraham:

Genesis 17:14 … the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

Simeon knew that the Christ would fulfill the Law. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4). That little Baby in Mary’s arms is God Incarnate. He must fulfill the Law.

Simeon Knew Jesus The Christ

When Mary and Joseph came to the Temple, we see through this text their economic condition. The Bible says that they came to

Luke 2:24 …. offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

The Law actually says that following birth, the parents were to offer “a lamb OR a kid of the goats, OR two turtle doves, OR two young pigeons” (see Leviticus 12:6-8) are to be offered to God. The wealthier homes offered the lamb – but the less wealthy the turtledoves or pigeons. Though there is no indication that Mary and Joseph are poor, they certainly aren’t rich. There were probably many different families coming to the Temple to have their children circumcised this day. And yet Simeon went straight to Jesus. He knew the Lord. Didn’t Jesus say:

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

Plucking Jesus from Mary’s arms, Simeon praises God, saying:

Luke 2:28-30 then took {Simeon, Jesus} up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30 for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

One of the great benefits of living your life in God’s Kingdom is that death does not frighten you. Let the world live in fear of death! The Christian is promised of God:

John 11:25-26 … I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Holding the Lamb of God in his arms, Simeon now calls out to God, ready to come home. His words are echoed by the Apostle Paul who, headed toward Caesar, knew that his death was impending. Yet Paul says:

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

If your treasure is on the earth, you will never want to go to Heaven. But if your treasure is Jesus Christ, death holds no fear for you. You are ready to go. Old time Pastor Alexander Maclaren said:

Simeon not only recognizes, but welcomes the approach of death.‘Thou lettest Thy servant depart in peace.’ Yes, there speaks a calm voice tranquilly accepting the permission. He feels no agitation, no fluster of any kind, but quietly slips away from his post. And the reason for that peaceful welcome of the end is ‘for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’ That sight is the reason, first of all, for his being sure that the curfew had rung for him, and that the day’s work was done. But it is also the reason for the peacefulness of his departure. He went ‘in peace,’ because of what?Because the weary, blurred, old eyes had seen all that any man needs to see to be satisfied and blessed. Life could yield nothing more, though its length were doubled to this old man, than the sight of God’s salvation.”

Simeon now quotes

Luke 2:31-32 … which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32 a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Simeon did not just see Jesus as the Savior of Israel only – but of ALL PEOPLE, both Jew and Gentile. He quotes the prophecy of the Messiah in

Isaiah 42:6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

This Jewish Baby named Jesus did not just come for Israel. He came for the Jew first, but also for the Gentiles (Romans 1:16; 2:9-10). After Jesus dies on the Cross of Calvary, He would tell His Jewish disciples:

Matthew 28:18-20 …. All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you

The Gospel is to go into the whole world. As Paul and Barnabas go our with the Gospel, telling the Gentiles about Jesus, the stepbrother of Jesus, James, reminds the Church of Simeon’s words:

Acts 15:14-15 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets …

The Gospel of Christ must go forth if the world is to be changed. As we come into 2021 let us resolve to share Christ with those around us. Let us, like Simeon, be born again by faith in Him. Let us be just, devoted, and waiting upon our Lord. The time is short – let us redeem the time we have left for Jesus. Let us examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith or not. Then let us live by faith, one day at a time, one step at a time, by Simeon’s example.

May God touch your hearts and minds with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen.

Posted in Luke, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

By What Authority Are You Doing This?

Photo by Adam Birkett on Unsplash

Matthew 21:23 And when {Jesus} was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?

The Lost But Religious Will Attack Jesus To The End

The Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees were very vocal opponents of Jesus’ ministry. At every point they would question Jesus. When Jesus reached out to the deplorable crowd they questioned His disciples:

Matthew 9:11 Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and other sinners? (my paraphrase=mp)

Jesus’ response (Matthew 9:12) was simply, “They that are well do not need a physician, but those that are sick”(mp). Jesus is the great Physician, God come to humanity to heal us! But this didn’t stop their questioning. In

Mark 7:5 Why don’t your disciples follow the traditions of the elders – they are eating bread with unwashed hands?(mp)

Luke 5:21 Who is this Man {Jesus}? He blasphemes God. Only God can forgive sin!(mp)

Matthew 12:2 Jesus, Why are Your disciples not following the Law of the Sabbath?(mp)

Over and over again, these enemies of the Cross verbally attacked Jesus. Earlier in the day the Priests and Scribes questioned Jesus as He rose into Jerusalem for the Passover. As the children cried out, “Hosanna to the Son of David”, these self righteous judges looked at Jesus, saying “Don’t You hear what they are saying?” (Matthew 21:16). Their implication was that Jesus – if He were truly a Prophet of God – would stop their praises. Jesus told them:

Luke 19:40 I tell you, if these people stopped their praises, the stones would cry out!(mp)

The Messiah had come. He is coming to fulfill the prophecies. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Now the Lamb is teaching, not long before He goes to the Cross for your sins and mine. As Jesus is teaching in the Temple the Priests and Pharisees once more interupt the Master.

Matthew 21:23 … By WHAT authority doest thou these things? and WHO gave thee this authority?

This is the TEMPLE. Only the Priests were supposed to be teaching in the TEMPLE. Jesus, are You a Priest? Has some Priest we do not know of given You permission to teach in the place where only the Priests are to teach?

I want to point out that Jesus never told these people that these were bad questions. These are actually very good questions.

By what authority do You do these things?
Who gave You this authority?

The questions are good, but Jesus has already answered these questions many times throughout His ministry. If you refer to Mark chapters 2 and 3 you will see that the Pharisees often questioned Jesus’ authority. They questioned Jesus’ authority:

When He healed the man sick of palsy (Mark 2:6-7)
When Jesus never required His disciples to fast (Mark 2:18)
When Jesus healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:6)
When Jesus did the miraculous (Mark 3:22)

Jesus’ authority had been well established at this point in His ministry. Even a well know leader by the name of Nicodemus came to Jesus and told Him:

John 3:1 … Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him

Jesus had authority. He proved it by His works. The Scribes and Pharisees saw Jesus perform, miracle after miracle. Our Lord Jesus “taught as One having authority” (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22). Jesus cast out demons, “for with authority commandeth He even thew unclean spirits, and they do obey Him” (Mark 1:27). The Bible even tells us that Jesus:

Luke 9:1 … called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.

Jesus not only had authority – He had authority to give away! Jesus has all power,

Matthew 28:18 … ALL POWER {ἐξουσία exousía, pronounced ex-oo-see’-ah, POWER or AUTHORITY} is given unto ME in Heaven and in earth

The Carnal Just Want To Attack Jesus

Carnal or lost people – particularly religious lost people – just want to attack the truth. “By what authority do you do this?” is not a bad question. “Who gave you this authority?” is a question worth asking. Had the Pharisees and Priests been sincere in their question, no doubt Jesus would have readily answered it. Jesus has answered their questions repeatedly- yet they would not hear. The same is true of many Americans today. God has told us things, truths that are immutable, and yet we do not want to hear. Rather than argue with an unhearing enemy, Jesus turned the tables on them. He asked:

Matthew 21:24-25 … Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?

Jesus often tripped up the hard of hearing by answering their questions with questions. This is a great technique to get people thinking. Jesus simply asked,

John’s Baptism – his ministry. Was it from God, or was it something people just dreamed up?”

If these self righteous judges truly wanted to know the source of Jesus’ authority, they would have readily answered that question. As the Apostle said, “we can do NOTHING against the truth, but FOR the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). Truth is truth.

Truth does not have to cloak itself in confusion and darkness.
Truth stands up and says “Look at Me”.
Lies eventually prove themselves to be lies.
There’s an old saying, “Truth will out”.
The facts will be made known in the end.

As soon as Jesus asks His question, the Priests and Pharisees begin to mentally stumble over themselves. Listen to their thought:

Matthew 21:25-26 … they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.

These same Pharisees questioned John the Baptist when he began ministering on the Jordan River. The Bible says:

John 1:19-23 … this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou {Elijah}? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet {Isaiah}.

John responded to the question “By what authority are you doing this?” by quoting the Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5. John is the Herald of the Messiah. He would introduce the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and kickstart His public ministry. John was very clear that he himself was not the Christ, the Messiah, but the Messiah was coming. One day John looks up and sees Jesus coming to him to be baptized in water. John cries out:

John 1:29-34 Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. 31 And I knew him not: but that {Jesus} should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. 33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

The whole reason that John was baptizing people with water was so that he could introduce Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. “John, by what authority are you baptizing in the Jordan?” John was not bashful. “My authority comes of God. My authority is found in the Scripture. By commission is from the King of Kings. I am here to introduce Jesus!”

Now the Pharisees and priests question Jesus just as they questioned John. So Jesus questions them back. “Did John’s ministry come from Heaven – or was it just something John thought up to do?” The Pharisees are in a quandary. If they say, “John’s ministry was from Heaven”, then they know full well that Jesus would say, “Why didn’t you believe John? Didn’t John say I was the Messiah? If his ministry is from God, then My ministry is from God!” So they can’t say that! But if they say, “John’s ministry was just something he thought up”, then the people will tear them up.

The Pharisees and Priests will lose their Facebook Friends.
The Pharisees and Priests will be banned from Twitter!
They will lose their Instagram accounts!
And, horror or horrors, they might get thrown out of the Temple!

I hope you can recognize sarcasm when you read it … but it is the truth. These men were not interested in the truth. John was sent from God to bear witness for the Light that is Jesus (John 1:7).

John 3:19-20 … Light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

They didn’t want to hear the truth – they just wanted to shut Jesus up so they could continue doing the wrong things they were doing. So we read:

Matthew 21:27 … And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.

Now we’re not done with this story, but I want to return to the good questions that these bad men asked.

That question is one I think we need to ask ourselves – especially in the social climate of America 2020.

By What Authority Are You Doing What You’re Doing? Who Gave You This Authority?

We who are saved by faith in Christ live in a dark world. We who are saved by faith in Christ are called of God to:

Ephesians 4:1 … walk worthy of the {calling} wherewith ye are called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Colossians 1:10 … walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God

We are not supposed to follow the crowd. We are supposed to follow Jesus. We are commanded of God to,

Isaiah 2:5 … walk in the Light of the Lord …

1 John 1:7 … walk in the Light, as {Jesus} is in the Light …

Do you not know, dear Christ follower, that

1 John 1:5 … God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all …

Called from the kingdom of darkness into Christ’s marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), we are to live our lives to the best of our abilities being like Jesus. He is the Son of God Who saved us. We are to be sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus (John 1:12; Romans 8:14; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 2:2).

  • We as sons of God are not to be racist. Racism looks at the outward skin of a person, and degrades, mocks, or devalues that person because of their color. Racism exists and is not exclusive to any color of person. But racism is incompatible with Christianity.

The Bible tells us that our God, the God Who created Heaven and earth and all that is in it, is

Deuteronomy 10:17 a God of gods and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty and a terrible, WHICH REGARDETH NOT PERSONS …

When God established Israel as a nation, He commanded that nation’s judges

Deuteronomy 16:19 … thou shalt not {twist} judgment, thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a {bribe}

Those placed in positions of authority in the land are to remember that they represent God, and God is no respecter of persons. God does not regard the rich as better than the poor (Job 34:19) – for both rich and poor are THE WORKS OF HIS HANDS. The Bible tells us over and over again that with God our Father:

Romans 2:9-11 … tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: … there is no respect or persons with God.

Our God accepts no one based on their outward person” (Galatians 2:6). God did not develop the concept of race or racism. The word “race” is only found in Scripture when it refers to competitive runners. It is the old sin nature in us that looks at another person outwardly, and makes inward judgments as to their worth. Every person is of infinite worth to God. This is why Jesus Christ was born into the world a Jew to save all who will believe on Him.

As far as God is concerned, there are only two people groups on the earth that matter. There are those who are of the family of God by faith in Christ Jesus – and those who are NOT of the family of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Our God looks at the heart. The Scripture declares:

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Your color does not matter to God – but your heart does. When we look into Heaven, what do we see? The Bible says:

Revelation 7:9-12 After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; 10 and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. 11 And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, 12 saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.

If you despise your fellow man or woman because of color, Heaven will never be your home. If you teach racism in any form, and preach it to be true, you will never see the glory of Heaven. He or she that does wrong shall receive for the wrong that they have done (Colossians 3:25) – for God has no respect of persons. As Jesus’ stepbrother rightly said:

James 2:8-9 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

By what authority do you do these things?
And who gave you this authority?

  • We as sons of God receive our authority from God’s Scripture. Throughout Jesus’ ministry when He was challenged, our Lord referred to the Scripture.

When the devil tempted Jesus to do evil, His reply was “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 6, 10). When Jesus cast the money changers out of the Temple, His reasoning was “It is written” (Matthew 21:13). When betrayed by Judas Iscariot for 30 pieces of silver, Jesus said “It is written” (Matthew 26:24). When forsaken by every follower as He was turned over to Calvary, Jesus said “it is written” (Matthew 26:31). When Jesus called the Pharisees out as hypocrites, He said “It is written” (Mark 7:6). When Jesus endorsed the ministry of John the Baptist, He said “It is written” (Luke 7:27). When a lawyer came to Jesus and asked:

Luke 10:25-28 … Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

When Jesus spoke His parables, “It is written” was often in them (Luke 20:17). In the last recorded prayer that Jesus prayed for His Church, He prayed to the Father that the Church would know the Scripture, so that we can answer the questions, “By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you this authority?”. Jesus prayed:

John 17:14-19 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

The Christian answer to “By what authority do you do these things?” is “By the authority of the Word of God”. The Christian answer to “Who gave you this authority?” is “The Triune God our Creator”. We live by the Word of God. Not by what the world says, but by what God has said – and has supplied us in His Scripture.

We Will Not Enter The Kingdom Of God
Apart From Doing God’s Word

Jesus told this religious delegation:

Matthew 21:28-32 But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29 He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. 30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. 31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

It does not matter how religious you feel that you are. Have you repented of being your own God, and have you believed in Jesus? Good works apart from following Jesus will not get you into God’s Kingdom. If you are a son of God by faith in Jesus Christ, you will work in His vineyard. If not, you will not. But Jesus was not finished. Jesus had another “it is written” for these religious people. Read it:

Matthew 21:33-44 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34 and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

The “Householder” in this parable is God the Father. He is the Owner of the Vineyard. The “Householder’s Son” is Jesus Christ our Lord. The “husbandmen” or “gardeners” were the Priests, the Pharisees, and the Scribes. The gardeners were suppose to follow the Authority of the Owner of the Vineyard. They were suppose to reach the world for Him. To expand His Kingdom. Instead, the gardeners set up their own little kingdoms, ignoring the Kingdom of God. This was the state of the Old Testament Church we call Israel.

But God was faithful. He sent His Son into Israel first, to the very Temple and the very Gardeners that should have welcomed Him. But the Priests, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, they had formed their own little kingdom. It was not the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of Religion. When the Son came, He threatened their power.

So they had Jesus killed.

Yet Jesus is the Prophesied Cornerstone of God’s Kingdom (Psalm 118:22-23; Isaiah 28:16; Luke 20:17-18). Jesus has all authority, all power, all majesty. When we stand with Him we will be invincible. But if we stand against Him, He will do as He did with that Temple crowd. Jesus foretold, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:43).

Beloved, we must get back to the Bible. We must live according to His authority, His power. We must stand with Peter, no matter how bizarre it becomes around us, and “obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). This is the only way to victory. This is the only way to save our country. Let us stand in the Word of God, and with Jesus Christ our Lord.

May God the Holy Spirit and His Scripture guide our hearts for the glory of God, and the expansion of His Kingdom. Amen and Amen!

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Keep Your Eyes On The Mission

God is awesome!
Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

Please turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13.

Every week as Riverview’s Pastor, I beg God our Father to give me a word from the Scripture for His people. And every week the Lord is faithful. Our God is faithful, by Whom we were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9). I am often faithless, sadly, but Our God abideth faithful – He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). He entered into a covenant of Grace with me at the point I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. Our God is not a man that He should lie, neither the Son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? Or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19).

Power & Authority Belong To God

As I was seeking God as to what I needed to say tonight, I opened the Baptist and Reflector for December 16, 2020. This is our Tennessee Baptist newspaper. On the inside cover – page 2 – there is an article by editor Lonnie Wilkey entitled “TBMB leader challenges ERLC over language in amicus brief”. Now, I’m a country preacher. As I read this article I suspect I read it like many of my fellow Baptists did. I understand what a “amicus brief” is, though I do not understand why we as Baptists got involved with it in the first place. I’m not going to go into detail over this article. You can hunt it up on the internet – just punch the title I gave you into a search engine.

In a nutshell the article is about
POWER and AUTHORITY.

The ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), a Southern Baptist entity, filed a court document on behalf of the NAMB (North American Mission Board), a Southern Baptist entity. The verbiage in that legal document “included language namely the use of ‘hierarchy’, that misstates and misrepresents the historic non-connectionism, autonomous polity of Baptists, and incorrectly describes the hierarchical relationship between SBC entities and churches” (quote from Randy C. Davis). Randy goes on to write:

“We codify this structure in Article IV of the SBC Constitution to prevent a denominational hierarchy: ‘While independent and sovereign in its own sphere, the Convention does not claim and will never attempt to exercise any authority over any other Baptist body, whether church, auxiliary organization, associations or conventions’ (end quote)”.

If you are a Tennessee Baptist and read these articles, then you probably just glossed over it. It looks like a bunch of technical, doctoral language. Let me put it simply.

The local Church is led by Jesus Christ.
The Christian is led by God’s Word and God’s Spirit.
As Baptists, we do not chase after power.
We follow the power of God.
We promote the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What has destroyed more churches and more people has been a desire for power and authority.

This is what caused the fall of humanity from a perfect paradise into a perfect mess. That old devil Lucifer, an Archangel of God, decided he needed more power than what God gave him. In Isaiah we are told of his fall:

Isaiah 14:12-15 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

The five I will statements that Lucifer made have been sadly reflected throughout human history. Lucifer incarnated in the Garden of Eden as a serpent (Revelation 12:9), where he encouraged Adam through Eve to rebel against God’s command. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).

The devil that enticed our forefather Adam is the same devil that entices us all today.

It is a sign of genuine Christianity to reject the devil’s power grab, and to do that which God directs: to love God, and love others. We are not to be fighting for supremacy over one another. Power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely corrupts.

The United States of America was founded by our forefathers – many of whom were Christ followers – to be a place of liberty, not of power grabs. The man often called “The Father of our country”, George Washington, was not enamored of power. Once American independence was secured, General George Washington resigned his military commission at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland, December 23rd, 1783.

Today is the 237th anniversary of that resignation.

Resigning that commission, George returned to his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, content to be a private citizen. He later participated in the 1787 Constitutional Convention (held in Philadelphia), and was unanimously elected to be the first President of the United States. George reluctantly accepted the position, and refused any position of kingship over our country. In 1797 George resigned as President, allowing others to take that place. A devout Christian, George knew the danger of power. He loved God, and loved his fellow man.

God does not want His people vying for power over one another. He wants us lovingly serving both God and others. Before going to the Cross our Lord Jesus washed His disciples feet, a job that servants would normally perform for their masters. Jesus said:

Matthew 20:25-26 … Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

He went on to say, “I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give my life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). God’s people are not to be fighting for power and dominion over one another. We are to love God, and love others – as GOD defines love.

You Are Not Impressing God If You Are Not Loving

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Do not think that your education will impress God our Father. You can be well learned. You can speak several different languages. A few years ago, I pastored a Church that had been pastored by a highly educated man. Several members made a point of telling me that he spoke 5 different languages. That is impressive! I barely speak English. Beloved, God is not impressed at your vast education, if what you have is not being used to love God and love others. You may be very talented. Yet if your talents are used selfishly, without loving those around you, God says that your talent are just so much noise.

You may have fantastic spiritual gifts. Beloved, if you have a spiritual gift, it is because God gave that to you. If you have the ability to preach, to teach, to minister, it is not because you are particularly good in yourself. It is because God has given you that gift. The Scripture tells us:

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit {with all}. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

If you can preach a great sermon, exposing many wonderful but hidden truths to your audience – but are not preaching from a love filled heart – You are NOTHING to God!

If you are a beautiful singer or song writer, a great musician, but that which is behind the music is self love and pride, it means nothing to the Creator. It is God’s command that we love.

Romans 13:10 … love is the fulfilling of the Law

The Apostle of Love, John, tells us that:

1 John 4:7, 12 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. … 12 If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

You can be a generous person. The Apostle says:

1 Corinthians 13:3 … though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

We will all stand before our Maker at a judgment day. The unbeliever will stand before a Great White Throne:

Revelation 20:12 … the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Those who stand before that terrible Great White Throne will go into the Lake of Fire, being tormented forever and ever (Revelation 20:15). Why will they go here? Because they did not love the Lord Jesus Christ, and would not receive Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus will say to them,

Matthew 7:23 … I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

If you do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, then your name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The Bible says of Heaven:

Revelation 21:27 there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

What is the mark of the lost person? This person loves only themselves. The lost person only loves others when it suits them to love others. Oh, how horrible lovelessness is! The unbeliever – damned by their works – condemned by their lovelessness toward Christ – are cast into the Lake of Fire.

But Beloved, the Christian is judged as well. We are judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The Bible is quite clear:

2 Corinthians 5:9-10 Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

We who are Christians labor for Jesus. We strive to please Him Who gave His life for us. We do this by loving others, by loving God. We honor Him in our works by doing what we do from loving hearts. We do not belong to the darkness. We are, dear Christians:

1 Peter 2:9-10 a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 10 which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

We must love. We must love as God defines love.

Love Defined

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

  • What does love look like? Love is patient – here called “longsuffering”. To be “longsuffering” is to tolerate hurts inflicted by others, without immediately gratifying yourself by “getting them back”. Longsuffering is a characteristic of God.

Exodus 34:6 the Lord passed by before {Moses}, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Numbers 14:18 The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

To be longsuffering does not mean to tolerate evil forever. God does not tolerate evil forever. But it does mean to “turn the other cheek”. Jesus said:

Matthew 5:38-41 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Christians are not to go around with a chip on their shoulder. We are to be as God is with us. He saved us, knowing full well that we would fail Him. And yet He saved us, and loves us still.

  • Love is kind. Kindness is to put yourself in another person’s shoes. If you mess up, you want the person you messed up with to be kind. The Apostle said,

Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another;

  • Love does not envy. The word translated “ENVY” is the Greek ζηλόω zēlóō, {pronounced dzay-lo’-o}, which means “to covet or desire something that someone else has”. When we begin to covet what another person has, it is not long before we hurt ourselves or that other person in order to satisfy our desires. King David coveted Uriah’s wife Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), and ended up having Uriah murdered. Though God forgave David, He told him:

2 Samuel 12:10-12 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

Covetousness – a violation of God’s Tenth Commandment (Exodus 20:17) – destroys the fabric of a family, a community, and a nation. God tells His children:

Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

The Old Testament priests were given no land when Canaan was divided up. God told Aaron and his family:

Numbers 18:20 … Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.

We who are Christians are New Testament priests – God is our portion forever. “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:26).

1 Corinthians 13:5-6 … {love} doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

  • Love doesn’t act like it is lost. Love acts like God acts. You could take our above text and take out the word “Love” and put in it’s place “Jesus”. “Jesus” did not come to this earth seeking His own. Jesus came to minister, not to be ministered to. “Jesus” was never easily provoked. “Jesus” never thought evil of others – He made it a point to love the unlovely. “Jesus” never rejoiced at the sight of evil. As Jesus neared the time of His crucifixion, knowing He would be betrayed and shamed, the Bible says:

Luke 19:41-44 {Jesus} beheld the city, and wept over it, 42 saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. 43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, 44 and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.

Love Remains Forever

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

There will come a time, dear Christian, when we will be in eternity with Jesus. All the “stuff” that we thought was important will be long gone, cast into the landfill where all temporal things go. J. J. Heller sings a beautiful song called “Only Love Remains”. Part of the lyrics are:

Scenes of you come rushing through
You are breaking me down
So break me into pieces
That will grow in the ground
I know that I deserve to die
For the murder in my heart
So be gentle with me Jesus
As you tear me apart …
Teach me to be humble
Call me from the grave
Show me how to walk with you upon the waves
Breathe into my spirit
Breathe into my veins
Until only love remains

Vindictiveness will not win the world for Christ. Hatred will not bring in the Kingdom of God. We cannot fight fire with fire. We can only bring glory to God in this world by loving as Jesus loved. We do not rejoice in evil, nor do we justify it. We believe what God has said, and love Him first. We love others the way that God expects us to love. The Apostle ends with these words:

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Faith flies only when it’s wings are love. Put away anything that is not love. Love God with all that you have – and love others the way that God in Christ has loved you. May God the holy Spirit and His Word connect you to the Kingdom of God both now, and into eternity. Amen and Amen!

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And It Came To Pass

Photo by Cedric Froehlich on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to Luke chapter 2.

  1. I have heard people describe 2020 as “a dumpster fire”. One sign I saw said that 2020 was “like looking both ways before crossing the street, and getting hit by an airplane”. What made the year seem so tough was politician overreach in response to the Coronavirus, a run away media that threw fuel on the fire, a few bad police mistreating and shooting people, and the rioting and name calling that followed. I do not want to downplay the Coronavirus by any means. As of December 15th, 2020, there have been 301,000 deaths attributed to the Coronavirus. The hospitals are filled with sick people, the nursing homes locked down, and many states are entering more quarantines and business shut downs. I read the other say that some 100,000 restaurants in the U.S. will remain permanently closed because of shutdowns. I could go on and on, but I’d like to share something with you from the CDC, something you’ll never hear. Maybe this will give us a little perspective.

In 2018 the number of deaths in the U.S. were 2,839,205. Their causes?

Heart disease: 655,381
Cancer: 599,274
Accidental Deaths: 167,127
Respiratory disease: 159,486
Stroke: 147,810
Alzheimer’s disease: 122,019
Diabetes: 84,946
Influenza and Pneumonia: 59,120
Kidney diseases: 51,386
Suicides: 48,344

When you look at these numbers you can see that, though 2020 has been rough, every year is rough. It seems rougher this year because of media scaremongering. I certainly do not want to diminish the suffering that many have gone through because of this Coronavirus. But the CDC statistics on the 1918 Pandemic (H1N1 virus {flu}): “The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.” This is twice the number of deaths attributed to the Coronavirus.

Is God Gone Away?

When bad things happen, people always ask “Where is God?” God is here. God is always here. But from the beginning of human history, death and disease have been with us. This is a result of Adam’s sin, not God’s fallibility. When humanity does that which God says we ought not do, we receive viruses, thorns, thistles, mosquitoes, and all the other icky things. We need to realize:

• We are fallen creatures living in a fallen world. King Solomon described human history this way:

Ecclesiastes 1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

• God is in control, even in the bad times. When Jesus entered this world, there was harshness all around Him and His earthly family. And yet, everything that happened, happened because God our Father orchestrated it to happen. God is in control. Let’s start reading:

Luke 2:1-7 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And ALL went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Word Study Cæsar Augustus demanded that every person in the Roman Empire be counted. The King James says “all the world should be TAXED”. The word translated “TAXED” is the Greek ἀπογράφω apográphō, {pronounced ap-og-raf’-o}, which means “to enroll, enter into a register, to be recorded”. This same word is used in reference to the Book of Life:

Hebrews 12:23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written {apográphō} in heaven …

The purpose of the Roman Census was to count people. To fulfill the Roman order, every person had to return to their ancestral homes. Mary is of the lineage of David, so she must go with her husband, also of that same lineage.

Luke 2:3-5 And all went to be {counted}, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 to be {counted} with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child …

Joseph and Mary’s lineage could be traced back to King David of Judah, and David’s “city {of birth}” is “Bethlehem”. In an article from the Religious News Service (December 23rd, 1995), Professor James F. Strange writes:

“They had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph’s ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem. … It was a fairly grueling trip … In antiquity, the most we find people traveling is 20 miles a day. And this trip was very much uphill and downhill. It was not simple. … Joseph and Mary likely would have traveled only 10 miles a day because of Mary’s impending delivery. … the trip through the Judean desert would have taken place during the winter, when “it’s in the 30s during the day [and] rains like heck,” said Strange. “It’s nasty, miserable. And at night it would be freezing.””

During the trip, Joseph and Mary not only had to deal with her pregnancy, but also lions, bears, and wild boars. Bandits and Robbers were also common hazards. It was a very hard journey which would have taken up to a week and a half to complete.

God Is There, And In Control – ALWAYS

When we go through trials, we often ask “where is God while I am in this valley”. Where is God? He is where He always is. God is there. God is with us. And God is in control. Our God is greater than we can imagine. God says:

Isaiah 55:8-9 my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Beloved, it was not Caesar that ordered Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem – it was GOD.

When God prophesied of the Coming of the Messiah into the world, He said:

Micah 5:2 But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

The One Who was to be born had been going forth from everlasting. Though Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ as God the Son existed with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit from eternity past. He is the

Revelation 1:8 … Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty

Eternal God would take upon Himself humanity in Bethlehem. Jesus is the prophesied Son of David that God promised in:

2 Samuel 7:12-14 … I {God} will set up thy seed {,dear David,} after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. …

No one in their right mind would take such a horrible trip with a pregnant woman unless absolutely necessary. But it was necessary. Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem, because God said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Later on when the Wise Men would come from Babylon to Jerusalem looking for Jesus,

Matthew 2:2 … saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Herod the puppet king of Israel would ask the chief priests and scribes as to where Christ (Messiah) would be born. They would tell him:

Matthew 2:5-6 … In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

The Bread Of God Must Be Born
In “The House Of Bread”

The name “Bethlehem” means “The House of Bread”. During His ministry, those who follow Jesus will ask Him, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?”. Jesus tells them:

John 6:29-35 This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

Jesus is the Bread of Life!

When Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem – again, a hard journey on people in the best of health – did they find a cushiony bed and breakfast to stay at? No.

Luke 2:6-7 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Word Study The Bible tells us that Jesus was laid in a manger “because there was no room for them in the INN”. The word translated “INN” is the Greek κατάλυμα katályma, {pronounced kat-al’-oo-mah}, which means “guest room”. Many homes of that day kept their animals stabled on the first floor of their houses. The “guests” stayed on the upper floors. Because of the census, all of the regular rooms that people would have rented or stayed at were filled. Mary and Joseph had to occupy the lower room, a night time shelter for the family animals. Was this cruelty? Where was God in all this? God is still in control.

God Intended His Lamb To Be In A Manger

Jesus as a baby was cradled in a manger, this too being a fulfillment of prophecy. Many, many years before this, God went to Abraham and told that old saint:

Genesis 22:2 Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

This son is Abraham’s only begotten son. He has just had this child in his old age. Abraham was a hundred years old (Genesis 21:5) when Isaac was born. We do not know how much time passed from Isaac’s birth till the command of God, but we do know that Isaac was old enough to accompany his father and to carry the wood of the sacrifice.

Abraham does as God requests. On the third day (Genesis 22:4) Abraham and Isaac climb to the top of Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:2), the same place where Solomon would one day build the Temple of God (2 Chronicles 3:1). Once they built the altar, Isaac asks his father:

Genesis 22:7-8 … my father … 8 Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

Abraham’s answer? Genesis 22:8 … My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering:

After Isaac willingly laid himself down on the altar, and Abraham went to sacrifice him, it was then that God stopped him. Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked (Genesis 22:13) … and there he found the lamb of God. Isaac did not die because “God provided Himself a lamb for a burnt offering”. Abraham named that place Jehovah-Jireh (Genesis 22:14), meaning “the Lord will provide”.

Why is Jesus Christ laid as a baby in a manger? God provided Himself a Lamb for the burnt offering”. Where else would you find a lamb, a sacrificial lamb, but in a manger? Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God. John the Baptist would later declare on seeing Jesus:

John 1:29 … Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.

Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God, sent to take away the sin of the world. He is the replacement for the animal sacrifices that Israel made year after year. These sacrifices could not satisfy our Holy God – they were but shadows.

Hebrews 10:1-4 … the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.

God will provide Himself a sacrifice for sin. That Child born on that holy night so long ago is the Lamb of God. He was see by the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

This precious Baby of Mary’s will grow up to be “the satisfactory payment for our sins, and not just for ours, but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2, my paraphrase). Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God!

1 Peter 1:18-20 … ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you

It is God in that small baby, sent to redeem us. It is God willing to die for us. It is God alone Who is worthy to atone for sin. It is God you receive as Lord and Savior, causing your name to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 13:8). All Heaven declares (Revelation 5:12) “Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain”. Jesus Christ is the sent Messiah (Luke 10:16; Mark 9:37; John 13:20). Jesus Christ is Shiloh prophesied, the One Sent of God:

Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Where better a Lamb to be than in a manger?

1 Corinthians 5:7 Christ our Passover … sacrificed for us

Jesus is the Lamb in the Throne of God in yonder Heaven (Revelation 22:3). Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8).

The Shepherds {Jews} See The Lamb Of God FIRST

Luke 2:8-14 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

These Shepherds are watching sheep – lambs – that one day will be used as sacrificial animals. Only the best of the lambs can be used to make payment for sins on the altar of God. These Shepherds can identify a lamb without blemish (Leviticus 1:3; Deuteronomy 15:21), prized as a sacrifice for sins. The Angel of God comes to these Shepherds first, for God promised the Messiah to the Jews FIRST. That which God has foreordained in Christ Jesus will replace the “dead works of the Law” (Hebrews 9:14) by “a NEW and LIVING WAY” (Hebrews 10:20). No longer will the people need to approach God through the Temple and the Blood Altar. This baby Lamb in that manger will establish the only Way unto God. The Angel tells the Shepherd:

Luke 2:10 Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people

In this past year we have seen more riots over perceived “racism”, statues torn down, “critical race theories” pushed forth. Do you want to see racism end? It will not end by legislation, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Racism is something that sinful humanity created. The Bible speaks nothing of “races”. The only times the word “race” is used in Scripture, it is in reference to competitive running. The Bible speaks of nations, of peoples. The Apostle Paul preached:

Acts 17:24-27 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:

In humanity, God has made us all OF ONE BLOOD. We all bleed red. We are of ONE BLOOD, one race, the HUMAN race.

That Lamb of God in the Manger came to this earth through Mary to be the sole means of salvation for all people. There is no other way to peace with God. There is no other way to peace with other peoples. Jesus is…

Luke 2:10 a Savior, which is Christ the Lord

When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, His sacrifice on Calvary, His Blood, is the covering for your sins. It is through Jesus Christ that the insanity of sin is rejected. Beloved, all who are in Christ by faith are my brothers and my sisters. My family is not distinguished by outward color, but by inward faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God!

Luke 2:14 … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men

Hearing this good news, the Shepherds did not wait. The Bible says:

Luke 2:15-17 … the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

Do you want to see world peace? Then you must tell others about Jesus. Do you want to see racism die? Then you must tell others about Jesus. It is only this faith in Christ that changes the human heart.

Luke 2:18-20 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Do you know Him? Do you know the Jesus of Scripture? If you know Him, then you should be glorifying and praising God for this great gift of life. Jesus Christ came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly (John 10:10). The greatest gift that God could give you is His Son Jesus. The greatest gift you can receive this holiday season is Jesus. The greatest gift you can give to others is Jesus Christ. Oh Beloved, if you do not knows Him, repent and turn to Him today. I heard this the other day – I do not know where. But I agree with this.

“If Your Repentance Did Not Change Your Life, Then You Need To Repent Of Your Repentance”

Come to Jesus Christ today. Receive Him as Lord and Savior. Believe He is the Lamb of God Who died for you. Believe He is the Son of God Who gives you eternal life. He lives, so we live! May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit! Amen and Amen.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Sermons, Luke, Sermons Preached | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Christmas Light

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Tonight we’ll be in two chapters of the Scripture. In the Old Testament, we’ll be in Isaiah chapter 42. In the New Testament, we’ll be in Matthew chapter 2.

In Isaiah chapter 42, God spoke through the Prophet concerning Jesus Christ our Lord. We read:

Isaiah 42:1-4 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

We know that this is a prophecy of the Coming Jesus because, after Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, the Pharisees gathered and held a council as to how to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14). The Bible then quotes our Isaiah text:

Matthew 12:15-21 But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence: and great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all; 16 and charged them that they should not make him known: 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by {Isaiah} the prophet, saying, 18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. 21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

When Jesus came, He came to bring the love of God and compassion to all He saw. This is why the text states “a bruised reed shall He not break, and a smoking flax shall He not quench”. In two places in our text we are told of the Messiah that:

vs 18 … he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles

vs 21 … in his name shall the Gentiles trust

Jesus The Messiah Would Also Come For The Gentiles

Isaiah 42:16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them.

In Christ, God would reach out to save not just Israel, but all who will believe in Him. This is not the first time that God let Israel know that He wanted to save the Gentiles as well. Through the Prophet, the Lord said:

Isaiah 45:22 Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else

During this Christmas Season you will see “Nativity Scenes” in Churches and on lawns throughout the nation. In most nativity scenes you will see the Baby Jesus in a manger, Mary and Joseph, some shepherds, and three wise men. This seems to be the standard formula. Though the shepherds came to see the Baby Jesus, the Scripture says:

Luke 2:12, 16 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. … 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

The Shepherds saw, not the Wise Men, but Joseph, Mary, and the Baby Jesus in a manger. On the other hand, when the Wise Men came to see Jesus, He was NOT in a manger, NOR was Joseph there. We read:

Matthew 2:11 And when {the Wise Men} were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him …

The Wise Men only saw Mary and Jesus, and both were in a house. What is most interesting to me is that

Luke, a Gentile Physician, wrote about the Jewish Shepherds going to see Jesus in a manger. Matthew, a Jew and a Levite, wrote about the Wise Men who were Gentiles who went to see the young child Jesus in a house.

Both Jews and Gentiles saw the Messiah shortly after He came into the world. Though they did not see Him at the same time, the Jews saw Him first, and the Gentiles last. This is because the Gospel of salvation was offered:

Romans 1:16 … to the Jew FIRST, and also to the Greek {Héllēn, Gentiles}

God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as to King David concerning the coming of the Messiah. Therefore it is no mystery why Jesus would be revealed to the Jew first. It was the Shepherds who would come to see Jesus in the manger. But the wise men would come some time later – and these were clearly Gentiles. They came because God promised Abraham:

Genesis 12:3 … in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Jesus came for us all! Let’s focus on these “Wise Men”

Matthew 2:1-2 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

We do not know how many “Wise Men” came to see Jesus. We will later read that they bring three gifts, but the number of men is not mentioned in Scripture. These men come into the Capital City of Israel, the place where the Temple of God and the Priests were. They were coming according to the promise of God in Isaiah 42:16

Isaiah 42:16 … I will make darkness light before them

The Wise Men said,

we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him

These men are following a star, probably traveling at night. They called Jesus “The King of the Jews”. As they went through Jerusalem asking this question, word got back to King Herod the Great. Herod was an awful man. He was born in Idumea, south of Judah. Herod was King over Judea because the Roman Senate appointed him. He was therefore a puppet King, serving at the whim of Rome. When Herod heard the Wise Men were looking for “The King of the Jews”, this threatened him because he was suppose to be “King of the Jews”.

Matthew 2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Herod was notorious for his cruelties. When Herod was troubled, all Jerusalem was troubled. An example of his cruelty was that, when he laid dying, he ordered the imprisonment of many Pharisees. He ordered that, once he died, these imprisoned Pharisees be crucified so that the day of his death would be marked by weeping!

Mark 2:4-6 And when {Herod} had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

Herod asked the Chief Priests and Lawyers where the Messiah was prophesied to come from. They correctly referred to the prophecies of:

Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Discovering this, Herod calls the Wise Men to his palace:

Matthew 2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

Dr. Bob Utley notes in his commentary that “Herod was interested in the age of the child. Since it took the Magi many months to travel from Persia, Jesus was at least one or two years of age at this time.” Herod was not genuinely interested in the Messiah, other than to remove a threat to his throne.

Matthew 2:8 {Herod} sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

I have often wondered why Herod didn’t send an armed escort with the Wise Men to Bethlehem. I believe it is because God knew Herod’s heart, and knew that his intent was to ultimately kill Jesus. The Bible says:

Proverbs 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.

God is in control! He knew that Herod would have killed the young Jesus without a moment’s hesitation. God moved Herod’s heart to send the Wise Men on their way unhindered, thus allowing them to finish their mission. But God also insured that the Wise Men, as well as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, would all escape Bethlehem before Herod realized it. The Father had a plan for Jesus, and that plan was not that a monster King kill His Son. No, His plan was to save the world through Jesus.

Galatians 4:4-5 … when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

The Wise Men Worship The Lord Jesus

Matthew 2:9-11 … When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him…

They WORSHIPED Jesus. This is the Greek προσκυνέω proskynéō, {pronounced pros-koo-neh’-o}, which means to prostrate oneself in homage, to reverence or adore. These men came to worship the Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord. The only One Who is supposed to be worshiped is God Himself. Jesus told the devil in the wilderness:

Matthew 4:10 … thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve …

No one is to be worshiped, no one but God. Jesus Christ, our Messiah, is God. Though this is the first time Jesus is worshiped, this is NOT the only time He is worshiped – and RECEIVED that worship.

The leper worshiped Jesus (Matthew 8:2)
A certain Ruler worshiped Jesus (Matthew 9:18)
The disciples worshiped Jesus (Matthew 14:33)
The Canaanite woman worshiped Jesus (Matthew 15:25)
The mother of James and John worshiped Jesus (Matthew 20:20)
The disciples worshiped the resurrected Jesus (Matthew 28:9,17)

Jesus Christ is worthy of all worship. He is to be adored, for He is the Door of salvation, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The Father told the Angels:

Hebrews 1:6 … let all the angels of God worship him.

As a part of their worship, the Wise Men gave “treasures” to Jesus.

Matthew 2:11-12 … and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

Again, tradition assumes that there are three Wise Men, because there are three gifts. Yet we do not know this. The gifts given to Jesus were very appropriate for the Messiah.

  • Gold has always been a precious metal. The Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:10-17). Once a year the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple where the Ark was kept, and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal onto the Mercy Seat on the lid of the Ark. This was to appease the wrath of God for the sins of His people (see Leviticus 16). From a practical standpoint, this gold would finance Joseph’s family as they fled to Egypt to avoid the wrath of King Herod.
  • Frankincense was obtained by making incisions in the bark of the trees of the genus Boswellia. The white resin or gum that was produced was mixed with (Exodus 30:34) “stacte, and onycha, and galbanum”. God told His people Israel to (Exodus 30:36-37) “beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.” Burned as an incense by the priests, it symbolized the prayers of Israel rising up to God. Jesus Christ is not only our Messiah, He is our High Priest (see Hebrews 8:1; 9:11, 24), representing us unto God.
  • Myrrh was obtained like frankincense was, by slashing the bark of trees. Frankincense came from the genus Boswellia, whereas Myrrh came from the flowering trees of the genus Commiphora, of the incense-tree family (Burseraceae). When later in life Jesus was crucified, He would be offered myrrh to drink (Mark 15:23) to stupefy Him, making His crucifixion easier. Jesus would refuse to drink that myrrh, bearing the full weight of our sins on His body on that terrible tree! After Jesus died on the Cross, Joseph of Arimathæa and Nicodemus would go to Pilate and get permission to take His body from that place. The Bible says in John 19:39-40 “{they} brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.”

Jesus Is Saved, And A Terrible Prophecy Is Fulfilled

Matthew 2:13-15 when {the Wise Men} were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

Matthew tells us that Jesus’ family temporary exile in Egypt was a fulfillment of Hosea 11:1. But next we see the evil of Herod fully exposed. Realizing that he had been betrayed, Herod ordered that Bethlehem be attacked:

Matthew 2:16-18 Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by {Jeremiah} the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

The Prophet Jeremiah foresaw this horrible massacre in:

Jeremiah 31:15 Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; {Rachel} weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

Why did God send His Son into the world? Because without Jesus, evil is unchecked. The life that rejects Christ as Lord and Savior can become as mean as Herod’s life was. Oh Beloved, this world needs Jesus. Oh Beloved, we all need Jesus. The Light of God led the Wise Men to Jesus. The Light of God beckons you to Jesus. If you do not know Him as Lord and Savior, I pray that this Christmas your focus is not on the presents under the tree … but the Presence of God Who died on the Tree. He gave Himself for you and for me. Trust Him. Believe He gave Himself for your sins. Obey the Gospel:

Romans 10:9-13 if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

May God touch your hearts with His Scripture, and His Holy Spirit. Amen and Amen!

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Let This Mind Be In You

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

God wants His people, saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to have the mind of Christ. We are to think like Jesus in a non-Jesus world. In another place the Apostle said:

1 Corinthians 2:16 … we have the mind of Christ

If all that Jesus Christ wanted to do is cover our sins, to save us from the wrath of God, He could have entered humanity as a full grown man. If salvation from sin was the only goal that God had for us, Jesus could have suddenly appeared at the Temple just prior to the crucifixion Passover. He could have surrendered to the Cross, being betrayed and executed on Calvary, all without being born in a manger. The Scripture says:

2 Corinthians 5:21 For {God} hath made {Jesus} to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Praise God for the Cross. Without the Cross of Calvary we could not be saved. But God wanted to do more than just save us. He wanted to show us the mind of Christ, to teach us how a godly person should live. It was not only to fulfill prophecy that Christ was born in a manger in Bethlehem, and was raised in a nondescript town like Nazareth.

Jesus was born into humanity to show us what God
expects of His Children.

Just as every loving parent has expectations and standards that they want their children to meet, God, our most Loving Father, has expectations and standards He wants us to meet. Jesus was born in a manger, a lowly place, but did not grow up with a chip on His shoulder. So many people are born poor – I remember poor as a child – and then, because of this environment, turn to crime. Some people use their childhood as a reason to act out. But Jesus was born in the lowest of places, and yet, continued to fulfill His purpose in God.

Jesus came to this earth, being born of a virgin, to show how much God loves us. But then Jesus grew up among humanity, showing us all what God expects us to be. Jesus came so that we might have life – abundant life. God wants us to more than just exist.

You must COME TO JESUS if you would have the ETERNAL life
God wants to give you (John 5:40).
You must MODEL JESUS if you would have the BLESSED
life God wants to give you.

Did our Jesus not warn us:

John 10:10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

There is a thief that wants to rob you of the life God wants you to have. This thief is the devil, the evil one, called in Scripture “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The greatest enemy to the Full Gospel of Christ, the one who seeks to rob us of the life that the True God wants to give us, is the devil and his dark systems of thought. When the Apostle called out the enemy of the Gospel, he spoke against the “god of this world”, saying:

2 Corinthians 4:3-5 …. if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.

The devil is in an all out battle to seize the minds of as many people as possible. He wants to nullify the power of the Gospel. The Bible says that,

As a person thinks in their heart, so that person is” (Proverbs 23:7)

Your Life In Christ Hangs On An IF

The unbeliever cannot know the blessed life that God has for those who believe in Jesus. The believer in Christ, however, has experienced His Grace. We have been in a low place, and God lifted us up. As God has done to YOU, YOU are to do to others. Read with me:

Philippians 2:1-2IF there be therefore any consolation in Christ, IF any comfort of love, IF any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

When telling us about the “mind of Christ”, the Apostle reminds the Christian what we experienced when we came to Jesus in faith. In the text the Apostle uses the word IF in three ways:

  • IF you, dear Christian, experienced CONSOLATION in Christ. The word “consolation” is the Greek παράκλησις paráklēsis, (pronounced par-ak’-lay-sis), which means “to come alongside and embrace so as to comfort”. When you came to Christ by faith, what did HE do for YOU? Did Jesus condemn you as a sinner, or did He come alongside you, and embrace you? I remember the day I was saved, how lost I was as I reached out to Jesus, how lonely life was. And as soon as I reached out, He reached out and grabbed my hand. He said, “David, I forgive you. David, I receive you. David, I adopt you into the Family of God”.
  • IF you, dear Christian, were COMFORTED by the love of God. Didn’t Jesus do the same for you, dear Christian?
  • IF you, dear Christian, were given the FELLOWSHIP of God. Didn’t Jesus not only love you in spite of yourself, but also send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit of God (John 14:16), to lift you up, and to abide with you forever? Didn’t Jesus bring to you the peace of God, which passeth all understanding(Philippians 4:7)? The genuine Christian has felt the embrace of God at the point of salvation, and numerous times throughout our walk with Christ.

It is the mind of Christ to elevate, to bless. It is the devil’s way to denigrate, to curse. It is the mind of Christ to unite in love. It is the devil’s way to tear apart, to cause division. It is the mind of Christ to forgive, to embrace.

Beloved, as you have received, so are you to give. We who are Christians are to be like minded (like Jesus’ mind), having the same love (that Jesus has), being of one accord (as Jesus is with the Father), of one mind (as Jesus is with the Godhead).

You as Christians have experienced the UNMERITED love of God in Christ. As we have received, so are we to give. What are the Great Commandments, according to Jesus?

Matthew 22:37-40 Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

When Jesus said On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets, He was emphasizing that THIS is what God our Creator intends us to be like. We are to love, fervently, passionately, as Christ loved and loves us. We are not to be like the world.

Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Word Study The word STRIFE, the Greek ἐριθεία eritheía, {pronounced er-ith-i’-ah} means to be partisan, electioneering, sneaking about politically, bringing divisiveness or factions. The word VAINGLORY, the Greek κενοδοξία kenodoxía, {pronounced ken-od-ox-ee’-ah}, means “to puff oneself up with empty pride”. A holy people following God cannot be arrogant, or self serving. The Christian, like Christ, needs to be constantly asking themselves:

How Can I Be a Practical Blessing To Others

Small minded “me first” people cannot do great things for God. Small minded “me first” people cannot be used of God. When God offered Israel the Promised Land, the people refused to go. They would rather protect themselves than live for God. The Lord’s response was, “Ok, then you’ll not go. You will wander 40 years until you die out, and your children shall go forth and be blessed”.

Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, BUT every man ALSO on the things of others.

God is not saying that we are not to take any time for ourselves. We should take time to feed and clothe ourselves. We should take time to rest ourselves. But do you see the words BUT and ALSO? Just as important as feeding ourselves is, it is important that we reach out, and do for others. If you have been blessed by Jesus Christ, by God the Holy Spirit, by the Heavenly Father, then you should strive to be a blessing to others.

Holiness Is The Pursuit Of Christ’s Mind

Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

The phrase “Let this mind be in you” can also be translated “Have this attitude in yourselves”, or “Have the same mindset”. THE CHRISTIAN IS INDWELT WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. God is in you (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19). The Christian’s objective in this life is to be like Jesus, to pursue the mind of Christ. We do this by REMOVING anything from our lives that is not of His Will. We are told in …

Ephesians 4:22-24 put off concerning the former {way of life} the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

The Christian is called to a new life in Christ. The old hateful ways are to be taken off, like old, dirty clothes. When we sin, we confess our sin to the Lord, and are restored to a right walk with Christ.

We who are Christians do not give ourselves over to fear or foolishness, we give ourselves over to faith.

Illustrate I was talking to a fellow the other day who was worried that he had the Coronavirus. I told him, “You can go to the Maury Health Department. They have a drive through testing area – you don’t even need to get out of your car!” His reply first was to look at me with wide eyes, saying, “Have YOU been tested?” I told him, yes I have. It’s a simple test. Go get it. He replied “I heard they push the q-tip up your nose so far they hit your brain! I’m not going!” I assured him that this was not the case, as I and my wife had been through the test. He wouldn’t listen. He would rather sit and worry, rather than take the available help. This is NOT THE MIND OF CHRIST.

Dr. Joe Pettigrew recently illustrated how we can drift from the mind of Christ. He wrote:

The following article turned up in a newspaper: “A lady took my seat in church. She’s very nice… a good friend, in fact. I can sit anyplace; no big deal. My seat’s on the right as you enter the sanctuary. I can rest my arm on the end. It’s a good seat, but I wouldn’t raise a fuss about a seat… never hold a grudge. ACTUALLY, it was three months ago she took it and I really don’t know why. I’ve never done anything to her… never taken her seat. I SUPPOSE I’ll have to come an hour early to get my seat. She took it because it’s one of the best seats in the house. She’d no business taking it… and I’m not going to church two hours early to get what’s rightfully mine.”

As God’s children, dear Christians, we are not to let the devil hijack our thoughts. We are not to become his pawns. The Scripture reminds us:

2 Timothy 1:7 … God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. … God; 9 who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began

Illustrate It is easy to let our minds drift into bad territory. This can happen to the best of believers. The Priest Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth are very much part of the Christmas Story. You see, before Jesus Christ could come into humanity and be born of a virgin, God had to raise up a Herald who would go before Jesus. That Herald would be John the Baptist. John’s birth was just as carefully orchestrated by God as the birth of Jesus was. John would be born about 6 months ahead of the baby Jesus, and John would begin preaching about Jesus 6 months before our Lord was baptized in Jordan.

Zacharias and Elisabeth are John the Baptist’s parents.

Their story is very interesting. It is told in Luke 1:5-24. As Zacharias ministered in the Temple, serving at the altar of incense, the Bible says:

Luke 1:11-17 there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before {the Messiah} in the spirit and power of {Elijah}, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Zacharias had been praying his whole life for a child. Now God promises to give him a child – and not just a child, but a John the Baptist. God told John thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. John received a great gift from God. Did he rejoice?

No, he doubted. Zacharias doubted the power of God.

He asked the Angel, “Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” (Luke 1:18). Zacharias had lived in loss his whole life. Now hearing the promise of God, he could not receive it, but doubted. The Angel Gabriel replied:

Luke 1:19-20 I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

God made Zacharias a promise, a promise that he should have been overjoyed with. Instead his mind was trapped into doubt and despair. The Angel took away Zacharias’ voice until the day that John was born.

The devil uses fear and doubt to rob us of blessing.
Reject him. Seek the Mind of Christ!

The Scripture tells us, as Christians, we are to be:

2 Corinthians 10:5 casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ

As goes our thoughts, so goes our life. Let us invite God into our minds. Let us turn off the television and the social networks, and open up our minds to the Word of God. Our God will transform us, if we but let Him (Romans 12:2).

Act Like Jesus To Think Like Jesus

Philippians 2:5-7 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

God showed us what a blessed life is in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus is “in the form of God”. Jesus Christ has been and will always be God. He is

Our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)

We are told in Colossians 2:9, “In Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in body form” (my paraphrase). Though Jesus Christ is Creator God (John 1:1-3, 14), He entered into this world “the form of a servant”. That little baby born in Bethlehem, was not born in a fine motel, but in a manger. His parents were not rich and powerful, but working class people. Jesus did not live in a big, notorious city like New York, New York. No, He grew up in a tiny place called Nazareth. He made Himself of no reputation. Jesus often said:

Matthew 20:26-28 whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

People, if you want to be happy you must do the things that Jesus has said to do. He told us:

John 13:15-17 For I have given you an example, that ye should DO as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye DO them.

Jesus Christ lived a life of service – not to Himself – but to us, to others. He did good where ever He went. He gave His life for us. The Apostle said:

Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus Christ came into this world – that baby in the manger – so that He could die for our sins. He gave Himself for us. Beloved, if He has given Himself for you, you are called of God to give yourself to others. The way to a happy life is a life of service. Not being served, but serving, doing, loving as Jesus loved. It is humility and loving service that impresses God. This is the lifestyle that is a polar opposite to that of the world.

Examine Yourselves: Are You Saved?

If you are saved, then you are saved to serve Jesus, to confess Him Lord. As the Apostle speaks of the life of Christ, and how we are to live like Jesus, he makes a very remarkable statement. He says:

Philippians 2:12-13 …. work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure

The Apostle does not tell us to WORK FOR our own salvation. Salvation is something that no one can earn – it is a gift of God. There are so many wonderful verses that explain this:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:5 … (by Grace ye are saved)

Romans 4:16 … {salvation} is of faith, that it might be by grace …

Romans 11:6 … {salvation} is by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

The Bible gives this promise, that

John 1:12-13 as many as received {Jesus}, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we become sons of God. Following that moment in time we are commanded to obey Him Who saved us, to imitate Him, to “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This is what makes a difference in the world, is the Christian WORKING OUT their faith, not WORKING FOR their faith. It you are God’s child by faith in His Son, you have received precious promises from God. Live OUT your faith so that others might see it. Live OUT your faith with fear and trembling. What you, dear Christians, do is what will change the world. If you are saved, be like Jesus. When you fail, confess your sin to God. Get up, and be like Jesus. DO the things He said do, and you will be happy and blessed.

May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit.

Posted in Philippians, Sermons Preached | Tagged | 2 Comments

What Love Is

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

Turn with me in your Bibles to …

Luke 1:26-29 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

What does love look like? Everyone wants love. The bulk of most songs we hear deal with love, and relationships. Years ago when I was young, one of the groups I listened to called Foreigner did a song entitled “I Want To Know What Love Is”. In the chorus of that song the group said:

I want to know what love is, I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me

There is Someone Who can show us what love is. We all need love, and need to love. We see what love is in the true story of our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth. Let’s look at this recounting one more time.

Luke 1:26-29 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

Love Fulfills It’s Promises

Every word is important in the Bible. We start out with “in the sixth month”. The “sixth month” is very important. In order for Christ to come, before He came His prophesied Herald would have to come. 700 years before this moment the Prophet said that the Herald would come:

Isaiah 40:3-5 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

The King of Kings, God Almighty, will write Himself into humanity. But the King must have a Herald. The Prophet Malachi also saw the Herald:

Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.

Six months prior to this moment, the Angel Gabriel comes to Zacharias and Elisabeth, and tells them that they will have this Herald. The same Gabriel now comes to Mary 6 months later to bring her good news. God’s Plans cannot be thwarted.

Isaiah 14:27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall {stop} it? And His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back.

God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16). This Son was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) to come and dwell among us. The Apostle said:

Galatians 4:3-5 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Love Reaches Out To The Lowly

The time for the sending of God’s Son had come. It was six months after Elisabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist. Gabriel did not go to Jerusalem, the Holy City. He did not go to a well known place, or a powerful place. When God came into the world, He would come “unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth”. Nazareth is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. Bethlehem is mentioned as the birthplace of the Messiah. But not Nazareth. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” is a question often on the lips of people (John 1:46). Nazareth was perhaps the least of all the towns in Israel. And yet, God sent Gabriel to Nazareth. Not to New York City. Not to New Jersey. To Nazareth. A humble place. The angel comes to a young virgin named Mary, engaged to an unknown carpenter working in Nazareth.

Luke 1:27-29 … the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

I find this very interesting. The Angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is highly favored. This is the Greek χαριτόω charitóō, {pronounced khar-ee-to’-o}, which means “to be given special honor”. The Lord God was going to bestow a special honor upon Mary. Blessed art thou among women. Mary would be given the greatest honor that a woman ever had. What I find most interesting is that Mary is not shocked at the Angel’s appearance. We are told, Mary was troubled AT HIS SAYING. She was not troubled at his appearance, but with what he said. Why was this? Because Mary was a believer, a person well acquainted with our Heavenly Father. What was it that her Father wanted her to do? The Angel continues:

Luke 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found FAVOR with God.

Word Study The word translated FAVOR is the Greek χάρις cháris, {pronounced khar’-ece}. Mary had found GRACE. Grace is unmerited favor from God. Mary was saved by Grace, and it is Grace that now chooses her to be the vessel by which the Savior will come.

What is Nazareth to the world? Nothing!
Who is Mary to the world? Nobody!
Love Reaches Out To All!

When Jesus came, when …

John 1:14 … the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Grace is Heaven’s coin. Grace is God’s way. Mary loved the Lord. She was saved by Grace, and love Him by Grace. Now God in His Grace decides Mary would be the vessel by which He would “become flesh”. When we love God, and follow Him by Grace, He will call on us to show our love. The Angel tells Mary:

Luke 1:31-33 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Mary is told “you shall conceive in your womb”. This is something Mary her self cannot do. No woman can “concieve in her womb”. She must have the donation of a man in order to conceive – that’s basic biology. But this child is different from any other child ever born. This child is JESUS. His name means “Yahweh our Savior”. Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of the promise God made in the Garden of Eden. He told the serpent, that old devil:

Genesis 3:15 … I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

The “seed of the woman”, the Messiah, would come from a virgin birth. Jesus would “become flesh and dwell among us” (John 1:14) through the supernatural birth of Jesus. As the Prophet said:

Isaiah 7:14 … the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (meaning, God with us).

Jesus is “the Son of the Highest”. He is God the Son become flesh. The Angel says, “the Lord God shall give Him the Throne of His father David”. Jesus is from the lineage of King Davids. He is the fulfillment of the promise that God made to David,

1 Chronicles 17:11-14 it shall come to pass, when thy {O David} days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: 14 but I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.

The Child that Mary would bear would be the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant! Jesus is “the Son of the Highests .. and of His Kingdom there shall be no end”. What a wonderful blessed truth this is. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords would enter humanity. He would enter through a lowly virgin, and be raised in a lowly place.

Mary does not doubt God, but she is curious. Again, I find this amazing. When Gabriel came to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, the Bible says:

Luke 1:12-13 … when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias…

Mary, on the other hand, is excited but curious. She asks a good question.

Love Does The Impossible

Luke 1:34 … How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Mary knows her basic biology! She has never been intimate with any man, but is chaste, awaiting the consummation of her marriage. How can a virgin have a Child such as Jesus? The Angel tells her:

Luke 1:35-37 … The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Among humanity, it is not possible for a woman to have a child without the seed of man. But God the Holy Spirit would bring a miracle in Mary. She would experience the power of God, for with God, nothing is impossible.

I want you to think about this. You are a young girl, perhaps just a teenager, who will soon be pregnant. You are not growing up in a permissive and liberal society like America. You are growing up in ancient Israel, under the harsh laws of the Torah. A young woman, pregnant, and without a husband, would certainly be ostracized. Mary’s family would probably disown her. Joseph would probably divorce her. She might have been run out of town. Yet her words were simply:

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Mary does not know how God will do what He will do. She doesn’t know what is to come. But she trusts God, and is willing to be the “handmaid of the Lord”.

Mary does not doubt the Lord, but knows that her elderly cousin Elisabeth – well advanced in years – is with child. Elisabeth is carrying the Herald, and Mary the Son of God. So she doesn’t hesitate – she goes to Elisabeth’s home to help her out. I remember when Sherry was 6 months pregnant, and how hard it was for her to do the simplest of things. I had to help her. Mary goes to help Elisabeth.

Luke 1:39-45 Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

There is no indication in the Scripture that anyone – even the Angel Gabriel – told Elisabeth that Mary would be bearing the Messiah. The Angel has just told Mary about it. So Mary goes to Elisabeth’s home, and as soon as Mary enters the home, Elisabeth knows that Mary is carrying the Messiah. To those who tell me the Fetus is no life until it is born, I love to point out this text. The Fetus in Mary would have been in the earliest stages of development, and yet it was the Lord Jesus. And the baby John, still in his mother’s womb, jumped for joy at the presence of Mary and Jesus. The baby John jumped for joy, according to Elisabeth. Life is precious in the womb. Life is precious, even if still in the embryo stage, as Jesus no doubt was.

Love Is Not Self Centered, But God Centered

Mary has been told by the Angel Gabriel that she has been given exceptional favor from God. Mary now hears her cousin Elisabeth acknowledge her special place in God’s Plan. But Mary does not go all egotistical on us. She does not become puffed up with pride.

Mary praises God! She says:

Luke 1:46-47 … my soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.

Mary does not boast on what she has. She boasts on God. There are some who believe that Mary had some special construction that made her sinless. Yet this is not true. The Bible says:

Romans 3:23 … all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

The Bible says that, compared to God,

Isaiah 64:6 … we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Mary knows that she is a sinner saved by Grace. She magnifies God. She says “my spirit hath rejoiced IN GOD MY SAVIOR”. If Mary were sinless, she would not require a savior. But she needs a Savior, as do we all. Since the Bible says:

Romans 5:12 … by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Oh Beloved, “By MAN came DEATH” (1 Corinthians 15:21). So God now bypasses Man, fallen Man, and creates in Mary a sinless Man named Jesus. This child Mary would bear …

Hebrews 4:15 … was in all points tempted like as we are, yet WITHOUT SIN

This Child that Mary would bear will grow up to be the Sin Bearer. Because God loves us, He sent Jesus. The Bible says:

Hebrews 9:27-28 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

No, Mary was not sinless. She was a believer, one who looked unto God for salvation. Her Son will be the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Mary does not magnify herself, but magnifies God.

Luke 1:48-50 For {God} hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

Mary speaks of her “low estate”, the Greek ταπείνωσις tapeínōsis, {pronounced tap-i’-no-sis}, which means “pitiful” or “vile”. The Apostle Paul used the same word when he spoke of the future resurrection of the saints, saying:

Philippians 3:21 {God} shall change our VILE {tapeínōsis} body, that it may be fashioned like unto His {Jesus’} glorious body …

Mary is not puffed up with what God has promised to her. She humbles herself before God, showing us that God chose the right vessel for the Christ’s birth. Our bodies are indeed VILE. But God in love will one day raise up His Children, and then we shall be VILE no more. Mary shows us the strength of humility. She is surrendered to the Lord, willing to do whatever God would require of her.

Oh Beloved, what a wonderful thing it is to surrender to the Love of God. The Apostle said that the secret of joy in this life is the surrendered life.

2 Corinthians 12:10 … when I am WEAK, then am I STRONG

God will do great things with us if we would but humble ourselves before Him.

God does not save a man standing up.
God saves a man kneeling.
God empowers a man willing.

God was able to do the impossible with Mary because she was willing and surrendered. God will do the impossible with anyone who is willing and surendered.

Dr. W.A. Criswell once said, “The Christian faith addresses itself to the need for regeneration—for the forgiveness of sins; for a new life, a new heart; a new way, a new day.” What God is doing in Mary is a new thing. What God will do in you is a new thing, if you will but turn to Him. Mary continues her beautiful prayer:

Luke 1:51-53 {God} hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

To those who are self-sufficient, proud, mighty, or arrogantly rich in the things of this world, God has nothing for you. God scatters the proud in the imagination of their hearts. God puts down the mighty from their seats. But if you are lowly, humble, willing, God will bless you. What does God say?

John 7:37 … If any {one} thirsts, let him come to Me and drink

Revelation 22:17 the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

To those who are thirsty, if you come to the Lord, He will quench your thirst. As Mary did, make yourself available to God even when what He asks doesn’t make sense. Like Peter’s boat filled with fish, sink in your own esteem as God blesses you. Be like the Baptist who said “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The river called Pride has drowned more Christians than any other body of water. Put your pride away and do as God bids you to do. The root of false theology is found in putting my desires above God’s Will.

Luke 1:54-55 {God} hath {given help to} His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy; as He spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.

God never changes. His love is never ending. He loves you, and has shown His love in the supernatural birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you do not know Him as Savior, then I beg you, come to Him today. Do not delay. Surrender to His love. He is the very definition of love. May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit. Amen and Amen.

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God Is Our Refuge And Strength

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Psalm 46:1-2 To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth. 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear ….

As I read through the Psalms, and even through the prayers of the patriarchs throughout our Bible, I am struck by the fact that no one starts out their prayers with, “God, I want”. Those old saints who knew best, knew that as humans we do not need more stuff. We also do not need more comfort. But we do need more of God.

The Most Successful And Blessed People
Are Those Who Want More Of God

Read through your Bibles. God met with Moses at the burning bush, commissioning him to go and tell Pharaoh “Let My People Go” (Exodus 3:1-10). God gave Moses the power to bring ten plagues upon Egypt. As Moses led Israel out of Egypt, God went before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:22). God led Israel through the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13) as if on dry land. The Lord fed Israel manna, bread from heaven (Exodus 16:15). God told Moses to come up on Mount Sinai to receive His Law, written with God’s own hand (Exodus 31:18). After all these magnificent things, with even

Exodus 33:11 …. the Lord speaking to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend

still Moses asked God

Exodus 33:18 … I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

Moses did not want more stuff. He wanted more of God, to know more of God. And consider King David of Israel. God called David when he was but a shepherd (Psalm 78:70). God blessed David with victory after victory. God enabled David to kill Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4), and later in life promised David that the Messiah would come from his lineage (2 Samuel 7:13). Having had blessing after blessing, David prayed:

Psalm 25:4-5 Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. 5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

It is God that we need. Not just on Sunday, but every day. Not just when we are in a valley, but up on the mountaintop. We need God because we are so terribly weak. At least, I am. I need Him more every single day that He grants me life.

We Are All Weak, But God Is Strong

Many times when we read the Psalms, we neglect to read the “Headers”. This Psalm starts with this header:

To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.

This song is “to the chief Musician for the sons of Korah”. The sons of Korah were singers among the Levites, what we might call worship leaders. Korah himself was Moses’ nephew. He led a rebellion against Moses, trying to take over leadership of Israel (Numbers 16:1ff). God initially wanted to destroy all of Israel for this rebellion, but Moses prayed, and asked for Grace for Israel. God told Israel to separate themselves from the homes of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Following this, God caused the earth to open up, and to swallow all those who stood in rebellion against Moses (Numbers 16:31-33). However, God did NOT kill the sons of Korah.

Numbers 26:11 Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.

God did not destroy the innocent with the guilty, but, as He has said,

Deuteronomy 24:16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

Though their father behaved shamefully, the sons of Korah continued to sing to the glory of God. The musical note A Song upon Alamoth, according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary:

{this is} a musical term (1 Chronicles 15:20), denoting that the Psalm which bears this inscription (Psalm 46:1-11) was to be sung by soprano or female voices.”

I suspect the Psalm was sung this way because, in ancient Israel, most choirs were entirely of men. By making the Psalm to be sung only by women it emphasized that power in life does not come from human strength. It is God’s power that gives us the ability to prevail. The Lord spoke through the Prophet in another place, saying:

Jeremiah 17:5-7 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like the {bush} in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. 7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

The strongest person is not the person who can lift the most, or endure the most. The strongest person is the one who knows the Lord, and knows to run to the Lord when tried.

Psalm 46:1 God is our REFUGE and STRENGTH, a very present help in trouble.

God is our REFUGE, the Hebrew מַחֲסֶה machăçeh, (pronounced makh-as-eh’), our “Shelter, Refuge, Place of Security”. The same word is used in:

Psalm 62:7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my REFUGE {machăçeh} is in God.

Psalm 73:28 But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my TRUST {machăçeh} in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.

Psalm 91:2 I will say of the LORD, He is my REFUGE {machăçeh} and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Just as a refuge was a fortress, a tower, or a place of high walls, our God is a fortress, a tower, and a place of high walls. Resting in Him we have blessing and hope. God saved Israel because He loved her. He cast down entire nations in Israel’s defense. Will not God protect you, dear Christians, having shed the Blood of His own dear Son for your salvation?

We may be tried, but we are not to fret, fear, and foolishly worry over what is to come. We are a delivered and cherished people!

The Scripture says that God has

Colossians 1:13-14 … delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins

God did the greatest thing He could do for us at the point of our salvation. He gave His only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. Having saved us, we are to remember that we are precious to Him. Jesus Christ is God the Father’s BELOVED SON, in Whom He is well pleased (2 Peter 1:17). As Jesus gave Himself for you, you are also Beloved of God for His sake.

Our power is in God. Our strength is in Jesus.
Sometimes we forget this.

In 1 Chronicles 21 we see what happens when we forget our strength is not in us, but in our God to Whom we run. The Bible tells us that:

1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

It was the devil that whispered, “Hath God really said, you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”. With that whisper came the fall of humanity into sin. Satan whispers in our ears, encouraging us to doubt God, or to inflate our own ego. David told his right hand man Joab:

Numbers 21:2 … Go, number Israel from Beer-sheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.

Joab knew what was in the heart of David. David began to think that all the battles he had won were because of his own prowess, or because his army was bigger than anyone else’s army. Joab warned David:

Numbers 21:3 The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?

I wish I had had a Joab to stand up and warn me all the times that I thought it was about ME, instead of being about God IN me. A Joab is a good friend who warns us when pride comes. As the Bible says:

Proverbs 11:2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

Because David forgot that the blessings he had were from God, the Lord punished Israel (1 Chronicles 21:14-15) by killing 70,000 men. Let us not follow in King David’s footsteps, at least, not in this pride. As God told Zerubbabel:

Zechariah 4:6 Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

When trials come in life, always remember “God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble”. Do not try to fix it before you run to God. Trust Him Who saved you. When Job, that dear old Saint, lost all that he had, he would not curse God and die as his evil wife suggested (Job 2:9). He ran to his Refuge and Strength, saying:

Job 1:21 Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Our God Is Never Far Away

Psalm 46:1-2 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

Though King David messed up when he numbered Israel, his head was in the right place when he came upon Goliath. Israel was gathered together to do battle against Philistia at Shochoh, when the Philistines sent out their champion, Goliath. Goliath is described in 1 Samuel 17:4-7. The Bible tells us that the tip of his spear weighed 18 pounds. Goliath was about 9 feet tall – a giant of a man. He was powerful as well. His metal armor weighed 157 pounds.

As everyone else looked at Goliath and trembled, David looked at God Who was beside him and rested. When King Saul doubted David’s ability to defeat the giant, he said:

1 Samuel 17:37 … The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.

The Lord our God was near David when he was guarding the sheep at night. The God Who gave David the ability to stop the lion and the bear would surely saved David from a bear of a man! David trusted in God – and Goliath lost his head that very day. Beloved, our God is near.

Stop listening to the whispers of Satan. Stop believing his lies. If your heart is shriveled with fear, God cannot use you to change the world. Look at the God Who saved you – and believe that He saves you still!

When the Prophet Elijah stood before 450 false prophets, and all of Israel, he did not allow the numbers against him to influence what he believed. Elijah knew that God is near, and that God is able. He told the false prophets:

1 Kings 18:24 … call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.

God is near. God is near! He is not asleep at the wheel, but has promised “ I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5). Our Jesus has promised,

Matthew 28:20 …. lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

If God is with us – and He is – and God is greater than Anyone – and He is – then we need not fear.

Psalm 46:2-3 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. SELAH.

The Bible tells us not to fear. Some 365 times throughout Scripture we are told, “Fear Not”. When we fear, we are implying that God does not love us. But God does love us. The Apostle said:

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

When we fear, we forget the faithfulness of God. But our God is there. He is right in the middle of it all with us.

Do you see the word SELAH? The word means “REST”. When we are tried, we need to REALIZE our limitations, then RUN to the Lord Who loves us. Hiding in His love, we are to REST in His embrace. Trust God, trust the Lord Jesus in your trial. He will not forsake you.

Psalm 46:5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

God is with His people. He has promised this in so many different ways. Jesus told us:

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Someone once asked me, “Why do you go to Church?” My response is, “Because Jesus loves the Church. But also, because I need the fellowship of the others.” I just received a call from an unchurched family seeking “Christmas for her kids”. They have hit hard times. I receive calls like this frequently throughout the year, every year since I have been in ministry. People who have no concern for the Lord, and have been through valleys of despair.

Beloved, I need my Church family. I need others around me to remind me to look to Jesus when I am tried. I need the WE of the Scripture, the Church that Jesus so loves. The Apostle said:

Romans 8:31-39 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God is with us, if we are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

Psalm 46:7 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. SELAH.

In verse 3 we saw a SELAH, or “Rest”. Now in verse 7 we see a SELAH, or a “Rest”. The “Lord of Hosts” is with us – the God Who made all things, Who controls the angelic hosts, He is with us. REST. Rest in Him. God ends the Psalm with these wonderful words:

Psalm 46:10-11 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. 11 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

We are not to fear. We are to glorify our God, to exalt Him, to lift Him up. Run to Him. Rest in Him. But do not fear. Our God is able! May He touch your hearts with His Spirit and His Word. Amen and Amen.

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Why Call Him “Jesus”?

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Every year around this time we focus on the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. His birth is unique among the births of all other children from the beginning of time. The birth of Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise God made to the devil in Genesis 3:15. The Lord promised the devil, that old serpent (Revelation 12:9; 20:2):

I will make you, you old serpent, and the woman enemies. Your seed and the seed of the woman will be enemies. The seed of the woman will crush your head – and you shall bruise His heel.” (my paraphrase of Genesis 3:15)

This “Seed of the Woman” is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He Who was born of a virgin, fulfilling the prophecy of Scripture:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

As the Christmas story goes, a Jewish Carpenter named Joseph discovered his wife to be Mary was pregnant – and they had not yet come together to consummate their marriage. Joseph decided to put his wife away – to give her a bill of divorce – but to do it privately. He did not want Mary harmed. As Joseph dreamed that night the Angel Gabriel came to him, saying:

Matthew 1:20-25 But while {Joseph} thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

The Apostle Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 when he refers to the child that the virgin Mary is carrying. The Angel tells Joseph to name the coming Child “Jesus”. But then Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, telling us that the virgin born Child would be named Immanuel. So why didn’t Joseph name Jesus, “Immanuel”? Is this a discrepancy in the Scripture? No, not at all.

The short answer to the question is “Jesus” is our Lord’s human name, but “Immanuel” is one of our Lord’s
Divine Names.

Immanuel” Is Jesus’ Divine Name, But
“Jesus” Is Immanuel’s Human Name

In the Old Testament God describes Himself with a variety of names, each one meant to explain to us who and how God is.

Humans have only one name, though we may have nicknames by which we are known. God introduces Himself with many different names.

When God called Moses to follow Him, and to go to Pharaoh to present God’s demand, “Let My people go”, Moses asked God:

Genesis 3:13-14 … when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

God is “I AM”, always present, never ending. He has always existed, and will always exist. He is the Great and Eternal “I AM”. But this is not the only name God uses of Himself. God calls Himself:

  • ELOHIM (the Godhead): In the beginning ELOHIM created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1)
  • YAHWEH ELOHIM (the Lord God): … in the day that the LORD GOD made heaven and earth (Genesis 2:4)
  • EL SHADDAY (God Almighty): The Lord appeared to Abram and said unto him, I am EL SHADDAY (Genesis 17:1-2)
  • EL BETEL (the God of Bethel): … God said to me in a dream, Jacob … I am EL BETEL
  • YAHWEH MEKADDESH (the Lord Who Sanctifies): The Lord spoke to Moses … I am YAHWEH QADASH (Exodus 31:12-13)

I could continue on, but you see the point. God uses many different names for Himself to describe His power and authority to us.

The Bible also uses many different names for our
Messiah, Jesus Christ.

In addition to Immanuel (God with us), the Prophet said of Jesus:

  • As we studied this morning in Isaiah 9:6, “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of peace. Isaiah gave not just Immanuel (God with us) as a Divine name for the Messiah, but four more names in this text. Each name describes the power and authority of our Lord Jesus.
  • When Gabriel went to the virgin Mary to tell her of her pregnancy and future child, he told her in Luke 1:31-32 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest. The Messiah’s human name is JESUS, but His divine name here is SON OF THE HIGHEST.
  • The Prophet Jeremiah saw the Messiah as “a King Who reigns wisely”. He went on to say “and this is the name by which He will be called: The LORD is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6)
  • When John the Revelator introduces “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth”, Jesus then describes Himself in Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. He uses two names to Divine names to describe Himself to us.

“Jesus” is the human name that our Lord was given, but He has taken to Himself many other Divine Names, each describing an aspect of His power and authority. But this brings me to a second question:

What Is The Significance Of The Name “Jesus”?

God is quite specific on naming the baby “Jesus”. He told Joseph:

Matthew 1:21 … thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

And God tells Mary:

Luke 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

Why is Jesus called “Jesus”? We are told by Gabriel as he speaks to Joseph:

For He shall save His people from their sins”

The name “Jesus” is very interesting, because there is an Old Testament “Jesus” and a New Testament “Jesus”.

The name “Jesus” comes from the Greek Ἰησοῦς Iēsoûs, (pronounced ee-ay-sooce’). This would be the Gentile form of His Name. The same name in Hebrew would be יְהוֹשׁוּעַ Yᵉhôwshûwaʻ, (pronounced yeh-ho-shoo’-ah or the shortened form Yeshua), that is, Joshua (. For all intents and purposes “Jesus” is interchangeable with “Joshua”. To the Hebrew, Jesus would be “Joshua”. To the Gentile, Joshua would be “Jesus”. The names are paralleled. Now you understand why I said there is an Old Testament Jesus, and a New Testament Jesus.

Whether Joshua (Yeshua) or Jesus (Iēsous), the name means “Yahweh Is Salvation”

In the Old Testament God’s people were called Israel. To Israel came the Law.
When God sent Moses to Israel to secure their release, it was by faith Israel was saved. Israel had to do as God said, acting in faith, if they were to be blessed and released from bondage. The Blood of the Lamb was put on the entryway of their homes. By faith Israel killed the Lamb. By faith Israel marked their homes with Blood. It was the blood of the Lamb that saved Israel.

When Israel left Egypt, it was God’s intent to carry them through the Red Sea, through the Jordan, and into the land of Canaan. God had promised this land to Abraham and his descendants many years before:

Genesis 15:18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

The Land of Canaan did not belong to the pagan people known as the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaims, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, or the Jebusites. God owns the land – all the land, regardless as to what human documents may say. The Scripture declares,

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

God headed Israel toward the Promised Land – but Israel did not have faith in God. They allowed what was going on in the land around them to influence their faith. They did not look up to God. Even Moses failed God in faith. When the Israelis murmured against God at a place called Meribah, Moses asked God what to do. God told Moses:

Numbers 20:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

Moses was but to speak to the Rock. The Bible tells us “This Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The Rock represented our Jesus Christ, resurrected from the Grave. Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well:

John 4:14 … whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Our Lord Jesus gives Living Water – the Holy Spirit of God – to all who are thirsty. Jesus said:

John 7:38-39 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Moses was to but speak to the Rock, to speak to Jesus, and living water would flow! Yet Moses struck the Rock, disobeying God. Because of this God told Moses, “You will not enter the Promised Land”.

To Enter The Promised Land, Believer,
You Must Follow Yeshua

When Moses – who represented the Law of God – failed to enter the Promised Land, who was his replacement to lead God’s people? It was Yeshua – Joshua. God made promises to Yeshua. He said:

Joshua 1:2-5 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. 5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

God gave the Old Testament Joshua (Yeshua) a very simple rule for power and victory. Yeshua was told to go forth in faith, knowing by faith three things:

God will be with you,
God will not fail you,
God will not forsake you.

Israel was to follow the Old Testament Yeshua/ Joshua, as the Old Testament Yeshua/ Joshua followed God. God said, “Step out on faith – I am there for you. I will not fail you. I will not forsake you. Just follow Me”. Everywhere the Old Testament Yeshua/ Joshua went, there was victory. There was only one blemish on his record, and that was when sin came into the camp. In Joshua 7:1 God’s people took to themselves that which was forbidden – and the Israelis lost, terribly lost the battle of Ai. Once Joshua uncovered where the sin was, he eradicated the sin, and from that point on Israel was blessed. Every Jew knew the story of the Old Testament Joshua. The Old Testament Joshua/ Yeshua (Yahweh is our Savior) lived a wonderful life, and led Israel (God’s people) into victory after victory.

Joshua/ Yeshua was a national hero to Israel. Every school child learned of Joshua, and the greatness that Israel achieved under his leadership.

Sixty three years before Jesus became incarnate (in the flesh) through the virgin Mary, Jerusalem was put under siege by Roman General Pompey the Great. At the end of the siege Judea (Southern Israel) was incorporated into the Roman Empire. When Joseph discovered his wife Mary was with child, he and all of Israel had been in Roman bondage and occupation for 63+ years.

Imagine this: For your ENTIRE LIFE all you have known of Israel is that it is subjected to the Gentiles. You grew up hearing about Yeshua/ Joshua, and hearing about how Israel had once achieved greatness in Canaan because of faith in God. Joseph’s father Jacob told him all about Israel’s great past. Joseph’s grandfather Matthan told him all about Yeshua, and the wonderful days when Israel was great. Israel was great because Israel followed Yeshua/ Joshua as he followed God.

But now? Israel is under Roman Rule. It has been under Roman rule for 63 years. The Temple was not built by Israel, but was built by Herod, the puppet Governor of Jerusalem . It is a Gentile built and Gentile funded structure.

The days are darkest. Now Joseph discovers that his Mary is pregnant – and they have not even come together yet. Oh, how dark Joseph’s spirit had to be! Then Gabriel comes. In the blackest of night, the light of God shines brightly. Now listen to what the Angel says as if you were Joseph:

Matthew 1:20-25 … Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

What the New Testament, written in the Gentile language called “Greek”, we hear that the Baby to be born of Mary is JESUS. But what Joseph hears is in the Hebrew. God tells him, “You shall call His name YESHUA (Joshua): for He shall save His people from their sins”.

Imagine what Joseph is thinking. “Joshua – my Son is
going to be another Joshua!” This would hit him
like a ton of bricks!

Once You Understand The Significance Of The Name Of “Jesus/ Joshua”, You Understand More Of The Significance Of The Scripture

The Angel told Joseph:

Matthew 1:21 … thou shalt call his name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.

Those who followed Joshua in the Old Testament were blessed. Those who stood against Joshua in the Old Testament were cursed. Those who follow Jesus, the New Testament Joshua, are blessed. Those who do not follow Jesus, the New Testament Joshua, are cursed. Our nation will never be blessed while we follow the ways of the “Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites”. We must follow Jesus, the New Testament Joshua. We must rest in Him.

To Be Blessed, You Must Follow Yeshua.
This Is Not Optional!

The Old Testament Joshua gave the people of God a limited blessing, a limited rest. Why? Because even though Joshua led Israel to successfully take the land of Canaan, Joshua could not change the hearts of the people. Joshua’s leadership – just like every politician that has ever existed – can only do so much with broken people. God must change the hearts. It was the hardened hearts of Israel that led them from victory to Roman captivity. It is the hardened heart of a people that keeps them from the blessings of God.

When Jesus began His ministry, and as God the Holy Spirit healed people through Jesus, excitement built up around Him. So many people saw Jesus – Yeshua – as another Joshua. They thought that Jesus came to lead them from Roman rule an into Israeli independence. In John 6, when Jesus fed above 5000 people with five barley loaves and 2 small fish (John 6:9), the Bible says:

John 6:14-15 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

Yeshua – the New Testament Joshua – fed above 5000 people with very little provisions. He would make a great King. So the crowd thought they could force Him to be their King, and as a mighty King, Yeshua could free Israel from Roman bondage. They thought that Jesus could bring peace into Israel just as they were. Beloved, the problem of humanity is not the environment. It is the human heart. It is the heart enslaved to sin.

It is the heart enslaved to sin that led Israel away from God time and time again. Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the King of Kings and Lord of Lords:

1 Timothy 6:13-16 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.

Our Jesus – Yeshua – is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There will come a day when He will rule on this earth. But Jesus did not come the first time to conquer our enemies. When Pilate asked Jesus, “Are You a King?”, Jesus said:

John 18:36-37 … My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Jesus Christ – Yeshua – was born into humanity to lead us from the devil’s lie, and into the truth and the Light of God our Savior. He came to save a people, that, whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus came preaching the Kingdom. The Old Testament Joshua led a broken people into a Promised Land. The New Testament people came to change hearts, to turn us from the darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

Turn with me in your Bibles to Hebrews 4. The Book of Hebrews is very interesting, because it shows how the Old Testament shadows are fulfilled in the New Testament Jesus. In Hebrews 4 the Author warns against doing what the Old Testament Jew did under Joshua’s leadership. God tells us:

Hebrews 4:8-12 For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. 11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. 12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The word “Jesus” in verse 8 is a reference to the Old Testament Yeshua/ Joshua. Joshua could lead Israel to a temporary rest, a taking of the land of Canaan for a time. But after a time, Israel (God’s people), lost this rest because of sin in their hearts. They departed from God in their faith, and lost the blessings of Canaan. Israel lost the Promised Land because of sin. Yet the Hebrews text tells us,

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God

Israel’s bondage under Rome was because of Israel’s sin. But this does not mean that God has abandoned His people. Absolutely not! There remains a rest for the people of God. That “rest” is in the New Testament Joshua – Jesus Christ our Lord. We “rest” in His Word. We trust in His provision. We know that He has conquered the world, and do not fear. How do we attain this rest? The Bible says:

Hebrews 4:11 Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief

We LABOR to enter into THAT REST. We struggle against ourselves, forcing ourselves to dwell on what Jesus has said, to do as the Master has commanded. This is the REST we LABOR to go into – our REST in Jesus. It is often a struggle. Even among the saved, there is a struggle. The devil, through media, television, and Internet, tells us to forsake the way of the Master and to follow the popular path. Beloved I tell you,

Matthew 7:13 … wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

It was the “wide gate” of public opinion that caused Israel to lose the Promised Land. But, as Jesus said:

Matthew 7:14 … strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

How do we govern our lives? Where do we place our minds? We place them on the Word of God. We both HEAR and DO what our God has told us. We must get back to the Word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 … the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword

God loves us, and wants only the best for us. If we will be victorious, let us give our hearts and minds to Jesus. Let us trust in what He said. Let us both HEAR and DO His good pleasure. This is the way to reclaim our land. This is the way we as God’s Church will lead America out of the horrid hole it has gotten itself into.

We need Jesus, and His Word, as Lord over our lives. Let us follow Him with all that we have. For Christ’s sake I pray. Amen and amen.

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Unto Us

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Turn with me to the Book of Isaiah, often called the Old Testament Gospel of Christ. If you’re looking for it, go to the middle of your Bible to Psalms, the Hebrew Hymnbook. From Psalms go to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, ISAIAH. While you’re turning there, I want to talk about the state of our world in 2020.

If I remember 2020 for anything, it will not be for the Coronavirus (a world-wide pandemic), nor for who won or lost the Presidency. What will make 2020 stand out in my mind is the incredible divisiveness and pettiness that I have seen from all of America.

I am told a local Church near us had a “split” the other day over the wearing of “masks”. That’s foolish. How are you going to explain that to Jesus on judgment day? (And yes, even Christians will be judged).

People are fighting about masks. They are fighting about politics. They are tattling on one another at the bequest of the state. I have read of people turning in other people to law enforcement because they had “too many” over for a family Thanksgiving meal. The Bible teaches us that we are to love God and love our neighbor. The Apostle Paul settled an argument over what could and could not be eaten at a Church supper by saying:

If what I eat offends my brother in Christ, I will eat no flesh while the world stands. I do not want to hurt my brother!”
(my paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 8:13)

The arguments and division do not come from God.
They come from the devil and the darkness.
It hurts my heart when I see us in such confusion!

1 Corinthians 14:33 God is NOT the Author of Confusion,
but of Peace

Where confusion is, God is not. The Prophet Daniel – the man responsible for training the Magi (Wise Men) who went out to find the baby Jesus – prayed a great prayer. In that prayer he told God:

Daniel 9:7-9 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day … 8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

Beloved, our Lord Jesus said “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

We need to re-center ourselves – to get back to Christ.
Our communities need Christ.
Our Churches need Christ.

I asked God what I should preach this week, and as I prayed the content of Isaiah 9:6 came to my heart:

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Let’s break this down, and apply it to our hearts.

Unto US A Child Is Born

In the first thirteen words of our text, the phrase “unto US” is repeated twice. What is this season we call “Christmas” about? It is what God did for US. He did not do it just for the Jew, nor for just one nation. The Apostle said:

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

God came in to humanity as a Jew, a Jew born of a virgin. But God did not come into humanity as a Jew just for the Jews. God came into humanity for the Jews FIRST because God keeps His promises.

God keeps His promises!

God promised King David – a Jew – that the Messiah would come from his lineage. Why? Because one day David was praying, thanking God for all the things that the Lord had blessed him with.

Have YOU thanked God for that which He has blessed YOU with today?

As David thanked God, he realized that he had a fine home, a palace to live in with Bathsheba his wife. And yet God had no home to stay in. David got under conviction. He told Nathan the Prophet, “I have a nice home. But God’s Ark – that which represents His Throne – it’s housed in a tent!” Nathan told David, “Follow your heart, for God is with you” (2 Samuel 7:1-3). That night God sent Nathan back to David, telling him:

2 Samuel 7:5 Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? 6 Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.

God never asked for a house. But He loved David for what was in his heart, and promised him:

2 Samuel 7:12-14 … I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son.

With those words God promised that He would send His Son through the line of David, a Jew. Jesus was born a Jew because David was a Jew, and God promised David an eternal Son and an eternal Throne. Unto us a child is born means that God will keep His promise to David. But Unto us a child is born does not mean that God just keeps His promises to the Jews. God keeps His promises to everyone.

We All Come From The Same Stock.

Before there were ever Jews, God made our first parents, Adam and Eve. God made Adam and Eve – the prototype human – after His image. The Bible says:

Genesis 1:27 … God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

This is God’s design. People ask me, “Were Adam and Eve white, black, red, or yellow?” And my reply is, YES! Adam and Eve had the ability – based upon Divine Design – to be any color, and any skin and hair type. God made humanity with skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce a pigment called MELANIN. As one source notes, “The difference in skin color between lightly and darkly pigmented individuals is due to their level of melanocyte activity; it is not due to the number of melanocytes in their skin”.

We do not know what color our first parents, Adam and Eve, were. We do know that God told Adam and Eve to multiply, and fill the earth. Man began disobeying God early on, and settled in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:1-9). Because they would not voluntarily do as God commanded, God confounded their language, that they would not understand one another’s speech. This caused humanity to spread.

When we speak of human melanin and what we call “race” – God does not even use that word in the Bible. Not for people. I looked it up. The word “race” is found four times in the King James, and each time it is used for running, not for color. When the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel at Athens, he said “of our God …

Acts 17:24-26 … God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth

Racism is evil. Racism in any form is evil. The God Who, in love, made Adam and Eve in His image. We are all offspring of that prototype. We are all of one blood. Though our disobedience at Babel scattered us, we are all of one race. We are the HUMAN race. Unto US a child is born.

Jesus died for the US. He died for the white, the black, the red, the yellow. Jesus Christ – Eternal God – would become humanity so that He could redeem humanity. Beloved, we are all born into this life sinners, corrupted because of our first parents. The Apostle Paul, himself a Jew, said:

Romans 3:9-12 What then? are we {Jews} better than {the Gentiles}? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; 10 as it is written, {here the Apostle quotes Psalm 53:1-3 & 14:1-3}There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Racism is foolish because it assumes a particular outward color of a person determines their standing with God. God says, NO! You ALL are far from Me.

Romans 3:23 All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

Romans 5:12 … by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned

It was Babel and the Divine Design of the human body that caused people to scatter, and colors to begin to change. Disobedience to God brought confusion and death over all the world. Yet God promised that “unto US a Child is born”.

The devil brought and brings division. God the Father sent His Son to bring us together. The Apostle Paul, addressing racist and godless tendencies in the Church at Corinth, said:

2 Corinthians 5:14-19 the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh:

I have read this text many times, but only today has it jumped out like a cobra after a meal! Christ Jesus – that Child born in Bethlehem – died for ALL. He did not die just for people like me, but for ALL people. Once you grasp that, the Apostle says, you are NOT to live for yourself, but for HIM Who died for all. That person you see, whether they be like you or not, Jesus Christ died for him. The Apostle said, and I paraphrase him:

Because Jesus died for ALL, we who are Christians know no one AFTER THE FLESH.

The color of a person should mean nothing at all to the right minded Christian. God loved that person of whatever color enough to shed His Son’s blood for him, as well as for you and I. The Apostle goes on to say:

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

What matters – or should matter – to the Church of Christ is whether or not a person is IN CHRIST – not what color of skin that person has. Unto US a Child is born.

Unto US A Son Is Given

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given …

The Child was BORN, but the SON was GIVEN. The Son of God was never born, but He Himself is eternal God, ever living, never ceasing. The Apostle John said of the Son of God:

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus Christ – the Eternal Word of God – WAS GOD. He was in the beginning with God. How much so? The Apostle says, ALL THINGS WERE MADE BY HIM. Jesus Christ is Creator God. We are told in:

Colossians 1:15-17 {Jesus Christ} is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

It was Jesus Christ Who walked in the Garden of Eden. It was Jesus Christ Who formed Adam from the dust of the ground, and Eve from Adam’s rib. It was Jesus Christ Who walked in Eden that horrible day that Adam ate that which was forbidden. It was Jesus Christ Who cried out, “Adam, where are you?” It was Jesus Christ Who told the serpent of his future destruction, saying:

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

It is Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, who was GIVEN to cover the sins of all who will receive Him. It is this Jesus of Whom we are told:

Hebrews 1:1-6 God … 2 hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by {Jesus} also {God} made the worlds; 3 {Jesus} being the brightness of {God’s} glory, and the express image of {God’s} person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4 … 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

When the Child was born, the Angel told Mary:

Luke 1:35 The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

This was God keeping His promise, the one made to the serpent in Genesis 3:15. Isaiah foretold this “seed of the woman” by saying:

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name {God with us}.

God would come to be with us through Mary. The Son of God is eternal, and has always been. But the Child born of that virgin Mary, God incarnate, is the Child born. The Son was given so that He might redeem His fallen world, the world hijacked by satan. But the Child was born to show the love that God has for every person. The Child was born so that God Himself could intervene in the confusion, and bring us back to Himself.

When the Son of God was born through Mary, He was born as the Son of Man to make payment for our sins. Born a Jew, He died for all. The horror of racism is that it covers up the great love and truth of the Gospel. God’s Son humbled Himself.

Jesus humbled Himself in Bethlehem, being born in a manger.
Jesus humbled Himself in family, being raised in Nazareth.

Jesus humbled Himself as He walked the earth. He had no home.
Just as God has no house, Jesus refused to buy property.
He wanted to save a people to Himself.
The Son of God humbled Himself to the Cross.

Philippians 2:5-11 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When we receive the Son of God as Lord and Savior, we ourselves become children of God, all equal in standing. Though receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not change my skin color, it should change how I regard other people’s skin color. Though receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will not change my Divinely Designed sexuality, it should change how I regard the opposite sex. The Apostle declared:

Galatians 3:26-29 ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior gives us power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name (John 1:12). There are no second class citizens in the Heaven that our God occupies. There are no second class Christians in the Kingdom of God. All people have value, a value not derived by skin color, but by faith in Jesus.

Jesus Christ came into the world to tear down the walls that people build around themselves because of sin and racism.

Ephesians 2:14 … {Jesus} is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

By being born and going to Calvary, Jesus tore down the barriers between us and God, and between us and others. We who are saved are to be “fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Born again by faith in Christ, the Christian views the world with different eyes. All that we see have the potential to be son of God. All.

The Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulder

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

When a person is saved, that person receives Jesus not only as SAVIOR, but also as LORD. “The government shall be upon His shoulder”. Jesus is my King. Jesus is my Lord. Do not believe that you can be saved by faith in a half- Jesus. A half- Jesus will not save a whole, broken you. We are told in:

Hebrews 3:6 Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

When Jesus walked the earth, He had no house, He was as God in the Old Testament. He ascended unto Heaven, but has a house now upon this earth. That “house” is you, dear Christian. Christ is in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). A.W. Tozer wrote in his devotional:

No Christian believer should ever forget what the Bible says about the Person and the offices of the eternal Son, the Christ of God. “God hath made this same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Jesus means Savior; Lord means Sovereign; Christ means Anointed One. The apostle Peter did not proclaim Jesus only as Savior; he preached to them Jesus as Lord and Christ and Savior, never dividing His Person or His offices. Remember, also, the declaration of Paul: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, thou shalt be saved.” Three times in the passage to the Roman Christians telling how to be saved, Paul calls Jesus “Lord.” He says that faith in the Lord Jesus plus confession of that faith to the world brings salvation to us!”

The government is on His shoulders. Let me ask you:

Have you been hurt by racism, thoughtless people, ungodly actions?

Turn it over to Jesus!

After noting that the government is on His shoulder (Jesus is in charge of His people), this Child Born and Son Given is given FOUR titles:

Wonderful Counselor (there is no comma in the Hebrew)
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

FOUR is the number of REST in the Bible. The fourth commandment is to remember a day of rest. Have you been hurt by racism, favoritism, meanness? Tell it to Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor. Share the burden with Him Who loves you so. Do not seek vengeance – seek to be like a Child of God. Jesus was hurt by ungodly people, and yet turned the other cheek. Jesus commands us:

Matthew 5:44-45 I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Have you been denigrated? Devalued? Share the hurt with your Jesus. Give it to the Mighty God that He is. Let God fight your battles – you live for Him. You need not avenge yourselves. Hasn’t Jesus promised:

Romans 12:19-21 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Do good to those who do bad to you. Overcome evil not with more evil. Fire does not fight fire, but makes the blaze larger. I was often curious about the “heaping burning coals of fire on the enemy’s head” statement. In ancient times people used small, portable stoves to cook their meals. When the coals went out, they would carry the stove to a friends house, usually carrying the stove on their heads. A friend would given them a “heaping portion” of lit coals to carry home on their heads.

Do good, Beloved, when evil is done to you.

Let us live for Him Who gave so much for us. If you have seen Christ, you have seen the Everlasting Father. If you possess Christ, then you possess the Prince of Peace. Let us not play the devil’s game, burning our families, our communities, our churches, and our country down. If you have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, every day is another day headed home. If you do not know Him as Lord and Savior, He bids you come to Him today. He came for you! Will you go with our Jesus? May God touch your hearts with His Word and His Spirit this very day. Amen and Amen.

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Jesus Is The Christ

Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash

What we call “The Christmas Story”, the conception and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, is only found in two books of the New Testament. It is found in the Gospel of Matthew, a Jewish Tax Collector who became an Apostle of Jesus Christ. More of the Christmas Story is found in the Gospel of Luke, a “beloved Gentile Physician” (Colossians 4:14) who was a companion of the Apostle Paul. We’ll talk about Luke’s account this coming Sunday night at Riverview. So turn with me in your Bible to Matthew chapter 1.

Matthew 1:1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew – a Levite – makes three claims about Jesus

  • First, Matthew says “Jesus is the Christ”, the Messiah that God promised to send to mankind in the Old Testament. Christ”, the Greek Christos, is not Jesus’ last name, but His function. Later on in the Book of Matthew as Jesus enters the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, He asks His disciples,

Matthew 16:13 Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Cæsarea Philippi was a well known seat of idolatry. The other disciples gave a variety of answers as to the popular concept of who Jesus was. It was Peter who declared:

Matthew 16:16 … Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus affirmed that Peter had spoken truly – that He is, indeed, THE Christ. Jesus is the Messiah promised. When Jesus stood before the High Priest just before His crucifixion, the Priest demanded:

Matthew 26:63 … I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus told the High Priest You said it yourself” (Matthew 26:63). The High Priest tore his clothing, saying, “This Man has spoken blasphemy”. The Jews knew that when the Messiah came, that He would be “God with us”, the Christ. Jesus is the One and Only Messiah, promised of God throughout the Old Testament.

  • Matthew also declared Jesus to be “the Son of David”. If Jesus is the Christ, then He MUST be the Son of David. God made a promise to King David in:

2 Samuel 7:12-14 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son.

Messiah would come from the House of David. God promised this would happen in what we call the “Davidic Covenant”. David was to have a Son sit on his throne that would rule forever. When Jacob lay dying, he told Judah:

Genesis 49:10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

Shiloh” literally means “Him Who Is Sent”. Judah was to rule Israel (David was of the Tribe of Judah) until “Him Who Was Sent” – the Messiah – came. Throughout His ministry Jesus declared that He was the One sent as Messiah. He said in:

Luke 10:16 … he that despiseth Me despiseth Him {God} that sent me.

Mark 9:37 … whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.

John 13:20 … he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.

John 5:23 … He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

John 5:30 … I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

Jesus is the Christ, the Shiloh that Jacob foresaw. He is the Messiah sent for us all, if we would but receive Him.

  • Jesus is also the Son of Abraham. Why is this important? It is because God promised Abraham:

Genesis 12:1-3 … Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2 and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3 and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

God told Abraham that “in thee shall ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH be blessed. The Messiah was not just coming to save the Jews. Jesus was coming to save whosoever will believe in Him. God prophesied of the Coming Messiah:

Isaiah 42:1,4 -7 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. … 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. 5 Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee,and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

To prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David and Son of Abraham, Mark gives a genealogy of our Lord Jesus. When we read the genealogies in Scripture, I must confess, I often get sleepy. Yet Matthew quotes this genealogy to prove to Jesus meets the criteria of the Messiah. He starts Christ’s lineage in …

Matthew 1:2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren …

The genealogy continues unbroken to verse 6, where we read:

Matthew 1:6 and Jesse begat David the king; and David the king begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah;

Matthew’s lineage of our Lord Jesus begins at Abraham, continues through David, and ends with:

Matthew 1:16 and Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

Jesus is “called Christ”, designated the Messiah. His lineage traced through Joseph His stepfather qualifies Him to be the Messiah.

Joseph Was The Stepfather Of Jesus,
But Not His Father

Matthew 1:18 … Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise…

Word Study The word translated