Is Your Salvation FORGED By God Or a FORGERY Of Religion?

Photo by Ron Lach :

Please turn with me in your Bibles to Acts chapter eight. The message God put on my heart for you is:

Is Your Salvation FORGED By God, Or A FORGERY?

Opening: That may seem like a strange question, but I think its a very important question you MUST ask yourself before you leave this room. God doesn’t want you guessing about your salvation. We are told in 1 John 5:13, “These things (the Scripture) I have written to you, that you may KNOW you have eternal life”. God wants you to KNOW that you are saved. Not just religious, but saved.

“What’s the difference?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked!

Illustrate: The other day I went to Ollies – a local discount store – because they sent me a 15% off coupon for a complete purchase. You know me – I love free or discounted. I had bought a non-stick copper pan that was supposed to last forever from Ollies. “Forever” is about 3 years. Having received this discount I headed toward Ollies. Finding the newest “you can never scratch it, even if you throw it in a volcano” frying pan, I headed toward the checkout with my coupon and pan. I got in the shorter line.

Thank goodness, because “Religion” was in the longer line.

Religion is the devil’s tool. Religion has little to no love for God, and certainly loves only its follower. Religion attacked Jesus when He walked this earth. Religion persecuted the early Church. Religion crucified, stoned, and beheaded the Apostles. Religion boiled the Apostle John in oil. I can always spot religion.

Religion loves rituals, not relationships.

Religion is two people arguing in Ollies – not about salvation through Jesus – but on whether you should worship God on Saturday or Sunday. One believed you worship God only on Saturday. The other, on Sunday. Me, I think EVERYDAY!

As these two argued, I never – NEVER – heard them mention the name of Jesus, the Cross, or the empty Tomb. Let me talk for just a minute about the “Sabbath”, the seventh day of the week. Beloved, the שַׁבָּת Shabbâth, {pronounced. Shab-bawth} was NEVER given to the Gentiles, but to the Old Covenant Jew. Israel under the Old Covenant was commanded to have a WEEKLY Shabbâth (Exodus 20:8-9), a SPECIAL Shabbâth during the ceremonial feasts (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28:18, 25-26; Numbers 29), and a YEARLY Shabbâth every seventh year (Leviticus 25:2; Exodus 23:11; Leviticus 25:4). If you’ll study your Bibles you’ll find that …

Only NINE of the Ten Commandments are given to all Christians in the New Testament. The command to keep Shabbâth, {Shab-bawth} is NOT given to the Church. We worship JESUS CHRIST on SUNDAY for He ROSE FROM THE GRAVE on day.
(Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2, 9)

Did the Apostles worship on the Shabbâth in the Jewish Synagogue? Yes, they did. Why? So they could share Jesus Christ with the Jews. The Apostles also preached the Gospel on the First Day of the week (Acts 20:7), taking up offerings on that day (1 Corinthians 16:2).

Our Lord Jesus did not strictly keep Shabbâth when He walked this earth, for He went about doing good on that day. Jesus told the Pharisees:

Matthew 12:8 … the Son of Man (that’s Jesus) is Lord of the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 … The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

God gave the Jews Shabbâth so they would rest one day in seven. Shabbâth was never given to the Church. The Apostle Paul wrote:

Colossians 2:16-17 Let no {one} therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

As Christians we are free to worship God EVERYDAY. We gather on Sunday because our Lord rose from the grave that day. If you want to gather on Saturday, then do it! There’s nothing wrong with that! But Christians should always remember that – in spite of our differences – we are to go {into the world} and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you(Matthew 28:19-20). If you want to have a LOUD discussion in Ollies, make sure you are talking about SALVATION IN JESUS. It doesn’t matter if you’re doctrinally correct. It doesn’t matter what day you gather with other Christians. What matters is that you are in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, that God is your Father, and the Holy Spirit your constant Companion.

How Can I Distinguish RELIGIOUS FORGERY from

Please write this down: Religion always violates the basic Royal Law of love. Always.

Acts 8:1-3 And Saul was consenting unto {the Deacon Stephen’s} death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the Apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling {literally dragging} men and women {Saul} committed them to prison.

Saul is a Pharisee, a member of the Ruling Council of the Jews in Jerusalem. Saul is RELIGIOUS. What does Saul do? Saul is instrumental in killing Stephen. Saul is RELIGIOUS, Stephen is a CHRISTIAN.

Religion kills. Religion “persecutes the Church”.
Religion “scatters” and “makes havoc”.
Religion “imprisons”.

Religion is NOT honest. Religion bribes false witnesses (Acts 6:11, 13) to tell lies. Religion was in the Garden of Eden in the mouth of a Serpent, hissing lies, saying, You will not die if you disobey God. When you eat of this tree, God knows you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil(Genesis 3:4-5). Religion looks good on the outside, but inside is full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27). Religion does not love either God nor man. Religion twists the commandments of God.

After help execute “Blasphemous Stephen”(Acts 7:59-60), Religious Saul volunteers to head the cleanup committee of the Council. Saul is of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5). Saul trained at the feet of the famous Rabbi Gamaliel, and was taught according to the perfect manner of the Law (Acts 22:3). If you asked Saul if he was going to go to Heaven, he would have said “Absolutely”. If you were to ask him why he thought he was going to Heaven, Saul would have said “I am a Pharisee of the Pharisees. I keep all the rituals, all the feasts. I never miss Synagogue (Church).

Acts 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling {sýrō, [pronounced soo’-ro], DRAGGING} men and women committed them to prison.

Saul brutalized the Church. Saul was certain that he was Heaven bound. After all, he kept the Law. He was doing what the High Priest of Israel was telling him to do. He was sincere in his methods. That’s what religion looks like. It is brutal. Religion means well, but missed the mark of God.

FAITH FORGED BY GOD endures the attacks of religion.

Acts 8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

Religion drove the early Christians away from Jerusalem, the religious capital of Israel. But the early Christians – saved by the Grace of God – baptized in obedience to Christ their Savior – went our sharing the Gospel. Jesus told us:

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Persecution and trial never destroys saving faith, but grows it, forges it into something greater and stronger to glory of God. Genuine faith NEVER gives up, because Jesus won’t let us give up.

1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome {the spirit of Antichrist}: BECAUSE greater is HE that is in you, than he that is in the world …

Acts 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria {where the Gentiles are}, and preached Christ unto them.

Samaria is a religious stronghold. Philip, empowered by God the Holy Spirit, goes to a thoroughly pagan area and preaches. What are the results?

Acts 8:6-8 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.

There was great joy in that city. Where people hear the Gospel and turn to Jesus as Lord and Savior, God brings JOY into their hearts. People are looking for JOY today through their religion. Some are religious WOKE. Others are religious SENSUOUS. Yet others are religious EPICUREAN. Oh, there are thousands upon thousands of religions. These religions do not bring joy. Do you know what brings joy? A life surrendered to Jesus Christ. When you are saved by faith in Christ, God sends His Holy Spirit into your life. Once the Spirit comes, He blesses your life with:

Galatians 5:22-23 … the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance

When you meet and receive Jesus Christ in love, Jesus uses His Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit in your life. The religious are filled with JOY over what they know. The Christ follower is filled with JOY over WHO they know. The testimony of the Christian is:

Romans 5:11 … we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

There is GREAT JOY in that city, for people found the Lord Jesus and believed on Him.

Acts 8:9-11 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

Do you see that BUT? Anytime God’s people are reaching out, anytime the Gospel has any success at all, the devil will rear up his head against it. The Chief Apostle is called Simon Peter, because Jesus gave him the name Peter or Cephas. I suspect Jesus renamed Simon Peter because the Lord knew that one day His people would meet another kind of Simon. This Simon is a sorcerer. God forbade His people Israel from having anything to do with sorcerers (see Deuteronomy 18:10-12). These people – men and women – are the devil’s preachers. They are in league with Satan. Satan often gives these people the ability to do “power, and signs, and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). These people are spoken of in the New Testament, saying:

Revelation 16:14 … they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

Simon was a RELIGIOUS man, but he was not a RIGHTEOUS man. He had power, but his power was not from Jesus Christ, but from a fallen angel named Lucifer. The Bible says that Simon bewitched the people with sorceries” (Acts 8:11). Simon had quite a following, and he loved the attention he was getting.

Then Phillip came along, preaching the Gospel of salvation. We read:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

The crowds believed in what Philip preached. What did he preach? He preached Christ, and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). He preached Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to God the Father but by HIM” (John 14:6). Philip “was 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” (Romans 1:16). Philip preached the simple Gospel Peter preached:

Acts 2:38 … Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What a glorious Gospel Message we have been given. God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Simon Believed … Or Did He?

The Bible now tells us:

Acts 8:13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

It seemed to be a miracle! Here was a man involved in sorceries, but now He himself believed also. Now you might say, “well, Simon must be saved. He believed what Philip said, and Simon was publicly baptized, acknowledging Jesus as his Savior”. Was he saved?

The Apostles Peter and John come from Jerusalem to pray for these new converts. In the beginning of the Church while the Apostles walked the earth, the Spirit was often given by the laying on of hands. I could preach a whole sermon on what’s happening here, but I’m afraid I don’t have the time. Suffice it to say that Jesus wanted His Apostles explaining the indwelling Holy Spirit to the early Church Christian. This is what we see in:

Acts 8:15-17 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy {Spirit}: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy {Spirit}.

What did Simon do when he saw this laying on of hands? We read:

Acts 8:18-19 … when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy {Spirit} was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy {spirit}.

We read earlier that Simon believed. But did he really? He believed, after a sort. But his faith was NOT saving faith, for it did not change or impact his life. The stepbrother of Jesus wrote:

James 2:19-20 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?

Saving faith is always – ALWAYS – accompanied by a change of heart toward self and sin.Simon is ME centered.When Zacchaeus, a Tax Collector was saved by believing on Jesus Christ, he said:

Luke 19:8 … Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

Zacchaeus faith was genuine, because he received Jesus Christ as LORD, and stopped worshiping money (Luke 19:9-10). Salvation does not make a person perfect, but salvation puts love of God in a person’s heart. Zacchaeus’ faith was real, but Simon’s was fake. The Bible tells us about fake faith in:

John 2:23-25 Now when {Jesus} was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.

Word Study: The Bible tells us many believed in {Jesus} name. They believed that Jesus could do miracles. They believed that Jesus could heal the sick. But they DID NOT believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord of Heaven. The King James tells us that Jesus did not commit himself unto them. The word rendered commit is the Greek pisteúō, {pronounced pist-yoo’-o}, which was translated in the earlier verse as believed. The text says:

they BELIEVED in Jesus name when they saw the miracles He did, but

The saved person – truly saved – is the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). When you get saved, God comes into your life. He begins to work in you. This is why the Bible 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.

God begins working in the life of the saved. “Let him that stole steal no more” (Ephesians 4:28). A person is changed, and daily more changed, to be less like the darkness and more like the light. The Apostle told the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Faith That Is A Forgery Will Not Save

Peter told Simon:

Acts 8:20-23 Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

When Simon heard these words, he was not angry at Peter. He simply told the Apostle:

Acts 8:24 … Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.

Simon did not even attempt to pray for himself. Why? Because he had NO relationship with God. God was not Simon’s Savior and Lord – money was, and power was. God was not Simon’s Father. Jesus did not die on Calvary for Simon, because he did not believe on Him.

I believe that there are many who profess Christ, but when they leave this life they will never meet Him. Jesus calls to whosoever will, saying:

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.

May God move on your life in such a way that you have assurance of your salvation. Do not leave this place today with a forgery of faith. May God the Holy Spirit bring you to Him Who alone can save, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen and Amen!

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About Paradise

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Luke 23:36-43 the soldiers also mocked {Jesus}, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews. 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

As Jesus hung on the Cross dying for our sins, He did not suffer just from the nails – but from the mocking crowd around Him. To be right, and know you’re right, and yet to be accused of wrong, is one of the worse sensations in the world. Jesus knew He was right. He knew He was the Messiah. And yet, as Jesus hung from the Cross, He said nothing in His defense. This was prophesied by Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:7 (ESV) He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

The soldiers mocked Jesus. “If You are really the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”. Jesus said nothing. They offered Jesus “vinegar” – actually “vinegar mingled with gall” (Matthew 27:34). This was actually a small kindness, this offering of vinegar. The “gall” or myrrh (see Mark 15:23) was a substance that – mingled with weak alcohol or vinegar – dulled the pain of crucifixion. Jesus refused the vinegar the first time it was offered. Why? Because the Bible says:

1 Peter 2:24 {Jesus} his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

Jesus paid the full penalty for our sins. It was not until later – after Jesus bore our penalty – that He allowed Himself to drink some of this drugged vinegar (John 19:28). This, too was prophesied of the Messiah:

Psalm 69:21 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

The soldiers mocked Jesus. The Cross He hung on mocked Jesus.

Luke 23:38 a superscription also was written over {Jesus} in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews

This was Pilate’s way of taking a dig at the Jewish Leaders (whom he hated), and lightly mocking Jesus. When criminals were executed by the Romans, a sign was usually placed above their head to tell all what their crime was. Jesus’ crime was This Is The King Of The Jews. Some passing by would read this sign and suppose that Jesus tried to lead an insurrection against Roman Authority. Pilate mocked Jesus.

Jesus was mocked by one of the two criminals that hung on Crosses next to Him. If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. The thief or murderer – we don’t know exactly what his crime was – was mocking Jesus. Then the other “malefactor” {Greek κακοῦργος kakoûrgos, [pronounced kak-oor’-gos], meaning}evil doer spoke up. This man speaks a number of words, to which Jesus replies:

Luke 23:43 … Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Now that’s what I want to talk about tonight. Jesus said NOTHING when He was nailed to the Cross, and NOTHING when He was mocked. But when one of the malefactors asked Jesus remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom, Jesus replies with TODAY shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.

What Was “Paradise”? What Is “Paradise”?

The word “Paradise” is found three times in the New Testament. It is found in Jesus’ words to the thief (“Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”). It is found in:

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Paradise” is also called “the third Heaven”. The FIRST Heaven is the atmosphere around our earth (see 2 Samuel 21:10; Daniel 4:33), our skies. The SECOND Heaven is outer space, where the stars are (see Genesis 15:5; 22:17; Exodus 32:13). The THIRD Heaven is – at the time Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12, the abode of God Himself.

In the Old Testament under the Old Covenant, people became saved by faith in God. The Scripture says,

Genesis 15:6 And {Abram} believed the Lord, and {the Lord} counted it to Him as righteousness.

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness

Abraham, David, Moses, Isaac, Jacob – all of the Old Testament believers did NOT go to the Third Heaven upon dying. Under the Old Covenant, God gave Israel a system of animal sacrifice and blood offering to temporarily cover their sins. God told His Old Covenant believers:

Leviticus 17:11 the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the animal sacrifices were but temporary, shadows of the coming Messiah. We are told:

Hebrews 10:1-4 For 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.

It was NOT POSSIBLE for the blood of an animal to take away our sins. Why? Because WE ARE NOT ANIMALS. We are humans, created in the image of God. Believers under the Old Covenant temporarily covered their sins with animal sacrifice. Our Lord Jesus came from Heaven to take away the first animal sacrifices by becoming the once and for all Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (Hebrews 10:9-10, 12). The Old Testament Saint was saved by believing on God’s promise of the future Messiah. But as animal blood was but a temporary offering for sin, when the Old Testament Saint died they did not go to “Heaven” but to “Abraham’s Bosom”.

Animal Sacrifice Was Not A Key
That Brought Anyone Into Heaven

If animal sacrifice were suitable for salvation, then it was a waste of time, and a terrible cruelty, to send Jesus Christ to this earth to die on the Cross. But the Bible makes it clear that the Blood of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ ALONE makes payment for sin. Christ was incarnated as Jesus, that is, Eternal God became perfect Man:

Galatians 4:4-6 But 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. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

It is the Blood of Jesus that covers our sins. It is the Blood of Jesus that sends the Holy Spirit to indwell and adopt us. The Lord Jesus declared:

John 14:6 I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father BUT BY ME.

Our Lord Jesus came from Heaven to this earth to live a sinless life (see Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5), so that He could die for our sins (see Romans 5:8; John 1:29). Jesus did this in submission to the Father’s will (see Matthew 26:39; Luke 22:42; Acts 2:23). It is His Blood and His Blood alone that gives us entrance into Heaven:

1 Peter 1:18-19 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:

No one can come to the Father, but by Jesus” (John 14:6). The Old Testament Saint, at death, did not ascend into Heaven. Our Lord Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:13 … no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

No one ascended into Heaven after death until Jesus returned to Heaven, having paid for our sins on the Cross.

The Old Testament Saint did not go to Heaven, but to Abraham’s Bosom. This is why when Jesus told the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, He said:

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.

Abraham’s Bosom” was a place of comfort and waiting that the Old Covenant Believer went to before Messiah went to Calvary. Once Jesus made total atonement for our sins, He “descended first into the lower parts of the earth” (Ephesians 4:8-10) to “lead captivity captive”.

I believe that the Old Covenant Saints were in Abraham’s Bosom when Jesus appeared. Presenting Himself as Messiah, He led the Old Testament Saints into the third Heaven or Paradise. Before Jesus went to the Cross, Hades or Hell had two compartments. Billy Graham notes in his sermon “Is There A Hell?”:

And this story {of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16}, the word hell is used, translated hell in our authorized version, though it’s actually Hades, because Hades was in two compartments apparently: one was called Paradise, and one was called the place of torment. And they could apparently see across the gulf between each other.”

Evangelist Andrew Wommack notes:

Even though these Old Testament saints were blessed, they were not able to enter into the presence of the Lord because the atonement of Christ had not been completed. So, in that sense, they were captives. When Jesus died, He descended into ‘Sheol’ and took the captives captive. He took them to heaven, into the very presence of God and vacated that part of ‘Sheol.’ Now, all that’s left in ‘Sheol’ is hell. In the New Testament, the Greek word that is used to refer to this area is ‘Hades’ and it is only applied to the place of torment.”

No one entered into Heaven proper until Jesus Christ
made payment for our sins.

When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you leave this life to go not to Abraham’s Bosom, but Paradise or the Third Heaven.

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.

How Does One Get To Paradise?

We are clearly shown how to get to Heaven in our focal text.

Luke 23:40-41 … the other {malefactor} answering {his friend} rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.

First, you must REPENT to be saved.

The Gospel message is, Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The word Repentis the Greek compound metanoeō, which means “to change the mind”. One malefactor mocked Jesus, but the other malefactor changed his mind about his life and his culpability. He said “we are suffering JUSTLY”. He did not see his crucifixion as a mistake, a miscarriage of justice, but rather something he and his companion richly deserved. Notice that this believer was clearly supportive of Jesus. Jesus said:

Mark 8:38 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, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Luke 23:42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord

Second, You must receive Jesus as LORD and Savior.

The Bible tells us in,

Philippians 2:9-11 (NKJV) Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I have heard preachers say that you can receive Jesus Christ as Savior alone and you’ll be saved. I do not believe the Scripture supports this. The Lordship of Christ is central to the redemptive work of the Cross. The Bible says:

Romans 14:8-9 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.

Jesus Christ both LORD and SAVIOR of His people. Dr. R.G. Lee said in his sermon “The Name Above Every Name”:

When the Caesars and Charlemagne, the Napoleons and Wellingtons and their so-called splendid victories are forgotten, the multitudinous trophies of His saving power, in enjoyment of His endless fruits of His blood-bought victories, will sing the praises of His peerless name. There never was a name like the name of Jesus — so representative of sacrificial love at its best. And someday, ‘every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord — to the glory of God the Father.”

Third, You must cast your life wholly upon Jesus.

Luke 23:42 … he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

This new believer does not ask Jesus to get him off of the Cross as his companion did. He just asks that Jesus remember him when the Lord gets to His Kingdom. When Joseph, imprisoned in Egypt for a crime he didn’t do, interpreted a dream for the Chief Cupbearer, he asked him:

Genesis 40:14 … think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this {prison}

Sadly, the Chief Butler/ Cupbearer forgot all about Joseph once freed from prison, and did not remember him until much later (see Genesis 40:23). The Chief Butler was, I’m sure, a good man. But unlike the Chief Butler and his forgetfulness, Jesus told the believer:

Luke 23:43 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise.

Paradise is the place where Jesus is. Jesus said,

John 12:26 (ESV) If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The Bible tells us that, at the end of time, there will be a new Heaven and a new Earth. John the Revelator wrote,

Revelation 21:1-4 I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Before Jesus went to the Cross, Paradise was in Abraham’s Bosom. After Jesus went to the Cross, Paradise in in the Third Heaven with our Lord. But at the end of time, Paradise will not just be in Heaven, but it will be on earth. The New Jerusalem will come down from Heaven, and from this place Jesus will rule and reign. I am so ready for Jesus to return. How about you?

May God touch your hearts with this, His Word. If Jesus is not to you Lord and Savior, I pray that today will be the day you give yourself to Him. In the power of the Holy Spirit, and for the glory of our God. Amen and Amen.

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The New Covenant Of The Heart

Photo by Ehioma Osih:

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah was known as the “Weeping Prophet”. He wept because – though he spoke the Word of the Lord – neither Israel nor Judah would not hear him. There is nothing more trying than to be a spokesman for God, and yet none hear you. I often think of that old saint Noah who, preaching for 120 years, had no one willing to ride on his Ark but 7 family members and a bunch of animals. Jeremiah had worst to deal with. Israel and Judah had so hardened their hearts that God could not reach them, though Jeremiah tried his best. The problem was not Jeremiah, nor Noah.

The problem was and has always been the human heart.

When God saves, He saves by and because of Grace

Look in verse 31. God is speaking to “the house of Israel, and … the house of Judah”. God saved these two “houses”, the Hebrew בַּיִת bayith, {pronounced bah’-yith}. This word is used to describe a “family”, as in “The Bayith of Buffaloe” (my family name). Israel is divided into two families at this writing. Now, this was not the way it was supposed to be. God said that He was going to make a NEW Covenant with the two houses of Jews – Israel and Judah – a covenant distinctly different from

Jeremiah 31:32 … the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;

First of all, who was Judah and Israel when God first met those families, those peoples? They were a people in Egypt. The Bible says that one King of Egypt died. Judah and Israel were not TWO in Egypt, but they were one House, one bayith. The Bible tells us:

Exodus 1:8, 11, 13 (ESV) Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. … 11 .. Therefore {the Egyptians} set taskmasters over {the Jews/ Israel} to afflict them with heavy burdens. .. 13 {the Egyptians} ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves 14 and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.

Judah and Israel were only ONE Household in Egypt. They were a household of SLAVES. I think there is nothing worst than being a slave. To be taken against your will, to be made to do any labor, any debauched or evil thing, made to obey the voice of the Master. To be beaten, and tormented, and killed as no more than a beast of burden. To be sexually abused, at the whim of the Taskmasters. What a horror slavery is!

God brought Israel and his family of twelve sons to Egypt to bless them, and to care for them. They came to an Egypt co-ruled by their brother Joseph (remember, him who had the coat of many colors?). God loved Israel, the Father of that nation. God loved Israel the nation, and called them to love Him. God told Israel:

Deuteronomy 7:7-8 (ESV) It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers …

God loved Israel because of the promise He made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). God loved Israel because Abraham loved God, and in love God promised Abraham an Israel, a Messiah, and a blessing to all the families of the earth. God did not call Israel because they were worthy. Oh, no, God does not call the worthy. God told Israel before leading them into the Promised Land:

Deuteronomy 9:6 (ESV) … the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.

God approached Israel in love. In love, God sent Israel and his twelve sons to Egypt. And Israel, placed in a wonderful land and in a great place to grow, grew into millions and into a nation.

And Israel forgot to love God. They grew cold in their love for God.

Wandering away from the love of God, Israel found herself enslaved, horribly enslaved. God spoke to Israel, saying:

Jeremiah 2:14, 17, 19-20 (ESV) Is Israel a slave? Is he a home-born servant? Why then has he become a prey? 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way? Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. 20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

Israel drifted away from the love of God, and in drifting away from the love of God, they drifted away from loving one another. Israel began to worship the gods and goddesses of Egypt, ignoring the God Who saved them.

When they drifted away, God stayed right where He always is. Beloved, when you drift away from God’s love, when you forget that it is He Who saves, and He saved you though you are unworthy, God does not leave. But when we begin to absorb the gods of the land:

sexual immorality with its consequences (abortion, disease, abandoned children)
sensual immorality (drunkenness, drug addiction, early death & disease)
social immorality (perversion of Biblical marriage & family)
soulish immorality (wokeness, gender dysphoria, racism)
surgical immorality (intentional defilement of the human body)

we harden our hearts to the love of God. As Israel became acclimated to Egypt, normalizing the false worship, God was there but He stopped blessing Israel. Let us learn a lesson from this. Compromise with the darkness, with that which God considers evil, will always boomerang and end up hurting the compromiser. Israel became brutally enslaved. The Bible says:

Exodus 2:23-24 (ESV) … the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24 And God heard their groaning …

Don’t you love the love of God? Though Israel messed up their lives and caused themselves to be enslaved, when they cried out to God, “God heard their groaning”. Oh, our God is SO GOOD. “Truly God is good to Israel” (Psalm 73:1). God told Israel and Judah:

Jeremiah 31:32 … I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…

Though Israel had turned from God, when they turned back to God and cried out for rescue, God said “I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt”.

God did not send an angel to save Israel. God Himself came to save Israel. God Himself saves His people.

God took them by the hand. They were in a deep place – a pit – that they could not climb out of. But God stooped down and “took them by the hand”. God did not leave them in Egypt, enslaved and mistreated. God took them out. He took them away from there, and led them toward the Promised Land. The Bible says:

Exodus 13:21 (ESV) … the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.

God Himself became the GPS for Israel. Israel left Egypt with but one lawlove and follow God. This is what the Grace of the Bible is all about. God is to be our focus. What did our Lord Jesus called “The Great Commandment”?

Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV) … You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

You are to love God FIRST, above all else. Why? Why should God be our FIRST love? Because like Israel, we are unworthy. We are weak. Yet God love us still. If we love God because of Who He is, then we will love our neighbor as we love ourselves, for we are all made in the image of God. Every life has value. Every life is precious. From the conceived in the womb, to the oldest person in a nursing facility, that life is precious. God loves, and loves them still.

God led Israel by pillar of cloud and pillar of fire. It was God, not an angel. It was God, not a phenomena or a miracle. The Apostle Paul talked about this “cloud” in:

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (ESV) For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud,{the Pillar of Cloud} and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud {the Pillar of Cloud} and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

The Messiah – God the Son – was in the Cloud, in the Fire, and in the Rock that gave Israel water in the wilderness.

How did Israel repay God’s love? Did they love Him back? Did they rejoice that the Christ, the Messiah, the Great Shepherd watched over them? No, they didn’t.

Jeremiah 31:32 … my covenant they brake, although I was an Husband unto them, saith the Lord:

Word Study: God was a Husband to Israel, to every person in that nation. God saved them all equally. They followed God to salvation. What is interesting about the Hebrew for Husband here isבָּעַל bâʻal, {pronounced baw-al’}, which means “to be married to another, to love and cherish and look over, as a man should properly do for his wife”. Yet Israel broke the Covenant of love. Though God was bâʻal {pronounced baw-al’} to Israel, each time the going got tough Israel did not look to their Husband, but to false gods, to serve Baal (Hebrew בַּעַל Baʻal, {pronounced bah’-al}, the false gods of Egypt and Canaan. If you’ll notice, both Hebrew words are very close to being the same – and yet, they are not. Israel turned from following God to following the made up gods of Egypt and Canaan.

So God took Israel to Mount Sinai,
& gave them The Law through Moses.

Israel would not follow God by love, so God gave Israel the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law given on Sinai had Moral Laws (which are hard wired into the human conscience), as well as Civil Laws and Ceremonial Laws that were given only to Israel.

This is why our Bibles are divided into “Old Testament” or “Old Covenant” and “New Testament” or “New Covenant”. The FIRST Covenant of God is a Covenant of Love, a Covenant that says “Follow God and put Him first, not because you have to, but because He loves you, infinitely loves you”. The great American preacher Gardner Taylor said:

If you are in Jesus Christ, you are on the right road. Don’t let anybody turn you around. I am as certain as I stand here that there is no other way to life, life radiant, life glorious, life triumphant, except in Jesus Christ …. if you’re in Christ, you’re on the right road”.

Israel followed Christ out of Egypt (for He is the Pillar of Cloud and Fire), and were safe, protected, and provided for. But then Israel began to lose their focus. They PUT THEMSELVES FIRST instead of the Lord. So the Lord gave them the Law on Sinai. The Apostle Paul tells us why God gave us the Law:

Galatians 3:19 (ESV) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made…

The Law was given because Israel refused to follow Christ in love. The Law reflected the perfect holiness of God. The Law demanded animal sacrifices, and the sprinkling of blood shed. The Law regulated the diet and life of Israel, and specified when and where worship must be given.

The Law was a Taskmaster, and Enslaver of God’s people. The Apostle said:

Galatians 3:21-23 (ESV) … if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

Oh, this is so good! God gave Israel the Mosaic Law. The Law could not give life. The Law could not save. But the Law acted as a TASKMASTER that would whip Israel until, like they did when the Egyptian Taskmasters whipped them, they would call out to God. It was God’s plan to ALWAYS SAVE BY FAITH. We are saved by love, by putting God first – not because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to.

Illustrate: I have a little game I play with Sherry, my beloved wife. She sometimes will ask me for something, and I’ll reply, “Sure. I’ll be glad to do this. Just fill out a form (I’ll make up a number here) in triplicate, all signed, and I’ll get right on it.” Instead of getting a “form” (which is but a joke), I usually get a poke in the ribs for my silliness. Wives do not have to fill out a form to get their husbands to do something. I serve my wife – not because I HAVE TO – but because I LOVE HER AND WANT TO.

So it is with God.

God does not want us serving Him because we HAVE to. He wants us walking with Him because we LOVE HIM, because we WANT TO. Some of you are in Church today because you feel you HAVE TO BE. Well, that’s fine. The Bible does say NOT FORSAKING the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as you see the day {of judgment} approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). It’s good to assemble together as God’s Church. But if you’re here because you HAVE to be, not because you WANT to be, then how much good will you get out of it? If your hearts aren’t in it, what good is it?

What did the Law do for Israel? It exposed the hardness of their hearts to God. Go back to our text:

Jeremiah 31:31-33 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;

Israel started out as ONE house, ONE nation. But when God addressed them He spoke of a new covenant He was going to make with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. They were ONE house when they followed God in love, but are now TWO houses – Israel and Judah. What happened?

Though Israel was given the Law, the Law had no power to change their hearts. It was a measuring stick, a ruler to show them how how Holy God is. But the Law did nothing to change the heart. When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam reigned in Solomon’s stead (1 Kings 11:43). Now God told His people, ALL of His people,

Deuteronomy 6:5 … thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

This is the GREAT COMMANDMENT. God also told His people in the Law:

Leviticus 19:18 … thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.

This is the heartbeat of the Law. Love God with your ALL. Love your neighbor the way you want to be loved. That’s it! When Rehoboam became King the ten northern tribes of Israel came to him, and asked the King to lower their taxes (1 Kings 12:4). The Ten Northern tribes were suffering, and asked their brother to alleviate their suffering. Do you know what Rehoboam did? He told the Ten Tribes:

1 Kings 12:11 (ESV) … my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.

Anytime I see trouble in a nation or in a Church, it’s when we have “I problems”. Rehoboam was lifted up by pride because he was king. Rather than love his people, and treat others with the respect that he wanted to be treated with, he made himself NUMBER ONE.

When you make yourself NUMBER ONE, you automatically
make God and Others NUMBER TWO.

That day the Ten nations walked away from Judah, the ruling tribe of Israel. What was “Israel” became “Israel and Judah”. The Ten Northern tribes went to Samaria, and set up headquarters there. The Ten Northern tribes also stopped worshiping God, but began to worship the false gods and goddesses of Canaan.

God was not pleased.

Israel was TWO, though she was to become ONE. How would she become ONE? God said:

Jeremiah 31:33-34 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel;After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

God said “I’m going to make the TWO (Israel and Judah) into the ONE (Israel)”. How was He going to do this? By making a NEW COVENANT with Israel, a NEW COVENANT with His people. Some 600 years before Jesus came to this earth, Jeremiah prophesied of His coming.

God stooped to lead Israel out of Egypt by His hand.
God stooped again in Jesus Christ.

Born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23) in a manger in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1), Christ became Jesus, and this God/Man came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). When you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:

Romans 10:9-13 (ESV) … if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

When we believe that He is the Messiah – the Pillar of Cloud and Pillar of Fire – the One Promised Who would write the Law on our hearts – then He does this. God sends His Holy Spirit into the life of those who receive Jesus (John 14:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Romans 8:9). God writes His Law – the Law of Love – on our hearts.

Our Lord Jesus is God bringing the New Covenant
to us who believe.

How do I know this? Because of the Lord’s Table. The Bible tells us that, at the first Lord’s Table,

Luke 22:19-20 … {Jesus} took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Though the King James renders this “New Testament” (διαθήκη diathḗkē, {pronounced dee-ath-ay’-kay]), it means the same thing. A “testament” or “covenant” is a legal document that binds two parties to one conscience and direction. When you receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, God sends his Spirit to your heart. God prophesied of the New Covenant in …

Ezekiel 36:26-27 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh 27 And I will put My Spirit in you, and move you to follow My decrees ….

God writes His love in the hearts of those who come to Christ. God writes in our hearts not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God; not on tables of stone {like the Law was}, but in fleshly tablets of the heart. Do you know the proof of salvation? It is that you love God. Not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to. Do you know the proof of salvation? It is because you LOVE OTHERS. Not because you HAVE to, but because you WANT to. The Lord’s Table reminds us that we are under the New Covenant. The Lord’s Table reminds us that we are of the House of Christ (Hebrews 3:6), and that we are to be in one accord in loving God and loving one another.

Do you know Him? Do you know my Jesus? I pray that God the Holy Spirit will draw you to His side, to His nail scarred hands, this very day. Praise Him. Love Him. In Christ’s name, Amen and Amen.

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Jesus Teaches Us To Pray

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk:

Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke chapter 11.

I am never surprised when people don’t listen to me, their Pastor. Sadly, we are all at times hard of hearing. When our Lord Jesus gave His Sermon on the Mount, He taught us the pattern of godly prayer. Jesus started out by telling us to not be like the Pharisees who loved to be seen praying by men – not by God (Matthew 6:5). The Pharisees were always seeking the spotlight, whether in giving or in praying or in following the Law of God. Jesus told us that we should not use vain repetitions in prayer (Matthew 6:7-8). Prayer is conversation with God – not nagging God. God gave us a pattern for prayer that I’m sure you’re all familiar with:

Matthew 6:9-13 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

I love praying this prayer every day, and then personalizing it for my day. It is important to understand that this “Lord’s Prayer” is a pattern. Anyway, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray that day on the Mount of Olives.

But they did not listen. Or if they listened, they did not process it. It was only after they watched the Lord pray – seriously and frequently pray – that they came to Jesus thirsty to learn about prayer. Jesus said “Blessed are those who HUNGER and THIRST for righteousness, for THEY WILL BE FILLED” (Matthew 5:6). God will not attempt to fill a full vessel.

You must come thirsty to God to be taught of God

The reason we have few regular worshipers in the Church – particularly during “Prayer Meeting and Bible Study” on Wednesday night – is because people have slaked their thirst with other temporal things. Eventually, though, life will send a misery your way. Thank God for the miseries, for they lead us to hunger for God’s presence. The disciples had been watching Jesus – the Son of God – very God of Very God – and saw that He had a habit of prayer. This made the disciples hunger and thirst for righteousness. We read:

Luke 11:1-4 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when {Jesus} ceased {praying}, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. 2 And {Jesus} said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 3 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Perpetual Prayer along with a Regular Reading & Research
of God’s Word empower the Christian!

Our prayer is to be according to the pattern that Jesus Christ twice gave us. Whenever there is something tragic that happens – a shooting at a school or in an inner city, death from hurricane or tornado, the death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of a disease that cannot be cured, people in the south and on the news will often say:

Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Most everybody in the world prays. Buddhists pray. Hindus pray. The Dalai Lama prays. Non-Christians of every type pray. Pagans pray. Satanists pray. Polytheists pray. Mormons pray. Jehovah Witnesses pray. Muslims pray. Are the prayers of the other world religions the same as the prayer of a Child of God? Absolutely not. What makes Christian prayer unique (other than the truth that our God is the ONLY true God) is …

Christian Prayer Is Distinctly Trinitarian

Graham Cole wrote in his article, “You Asked: Can I Pray To Jesus?”:

Christian praying is Trinitarian praying. This is deeply important, for much Christian praying in my experience is Unitarian: “Dear God. . . . Amen.” Unitarian praying makes it hard to see why there’s any real difference in praying to the God of the Bible as opposed to praying to the God of, say, the Qur’an. … Christian praying exhibits the very structure of the gospel. Jesus stands at the center as the Mediator, the Father as the Addressee, and the Spirit as the Enabler.”

As Christians we are under a direct command from Jesus to go and teach all nations … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. So what has Jesus commanded us about prayer? Jesus said,

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

Jesus Expects Us To Pray Like He Expects Us To Breathe

Word Study: Jesus starts with whenyou pray. This is the Greek Particle ὅταν hótan, {pronounced hot’-an}, which means “whenever, at the time”. As a Particle hótan assumes that YOU WILL PRAY. Jesus used this same particle to describe things that are going to occur, or things that you MUST do. For instance:

Blessed are ye, when {hótan} men shall revile you” (Matthew 5:11)
When {hótan} you give alms” (Matthew 6:2)
When {hótan} you fast” (Matthew 6:16)
When {hótan} they persecute you” (Matthew 10:23)

Jesus expected His followers to be hated, persecuted. He expects us to be generous to the poor, and to fast. Jesus also expects us to pray. Prayer for a Christian is not optional – it is commanded. Prayer is how we communicate to our God. Prayer draws God close to us.

If we would pray more, we would fear less.
If we would pray more, we would worry less.

Illustrate: Too often – like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) – we wander away from the Father’s House to dwell in the land of the lost. While in that horrid land we find ourselves eating the swill of the hogs. We snack on rotted pieces of worry, on moldy chunks of fear, on the drippings of self pity and anxiety. Oh that we would COME TO OUR SENSES like the Prodigal did (Luke 15:17) and head back to the Father’s House!

Troubles and trials to come to us all. The Apostle Paul was abandoned by his good friend Demas (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10). Paul was attacked by Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14-15), doing his best to slander and destroy his ministry. At the lowest point of his ministry Paul said “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me” (2 Timothy 4:16). And yet Paul never gave up. He never let worry and fear drag him down, but focused upon God Who loves him, and gave Himself for him.

Prayer Speaks Light Into The Darkness

We must pray. When we pray, our prayers should be clear, coherent, and vocal. We read:

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

Word Study: It is assumed that we will pray, for we are commanded to pray. Further, our prayers are to be SAID. This is the Greek λέγω légō, {pronounced leg’-o}, which means “to speak with meaning”. Our prayers are to be intelligent words spoken to the Intelligent God. You say, “But why must I speak out loud, if I am by myself?” Because it is what God tells us to do. We are to carry on a conversation with God as if He is in the room with us. But guess what? He is! God is always with us. Jesus is always with us. So we carry on a conversation with our God.

Our prayers are not to be mantras or guttural sounds like many followers of Eastern religions will practice. Our prayers are a conversation with the God Whom we love. Who is this God we address? Jesus said:

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

Jesus modeled praying to God as Father repeatedly as some
165 times in the four Gospels” (Mark Driscoll)

Jesus had us use a familiar an intimate term for the Head of the Trinity. We call Him Father. The word “Father” denotes God as the Source of Life as well as the Head of the Kingdom of God. Very rarely in the Old Testament do we see God referred to as “Father”. Two cases I can think of are in:

Isaiah 63:16 (ESV) For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father,

and Isaiah 64:8 (ESV) But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

When God was referred to as “Father” in the Old Testament, it was generally expressive of God’s relationship to the nation Israel, or to Judah once Northern Israel departed from the confederation. The Gospel Coalition article “God As Father” notes:

God is addressed as Father, not because he is Israel’s Creator, but because He is its Redeemer, which reveals the nature of the special relationship that God has with his chosen people.”

God as Father to an individual is rare in the Old Testament.

Under the Old Covenant, people could not be “born again” of the Spirit because Christ had not yet come. So God generally called ISRAEL the nation to be His “son”. We see this in Exodus 4:22-23 where God calls the nation Israel “My firstborn son”. There are several other Scriptures where God treats Israel as His son. See Deuteronomy 1:31; 8:5; 14:1; 32:6; Jeremiah 3:4, 14, 19, 22; 31:9, 20; Hosea 11:1-4; Malachi 1:6; 2:10; 3:17. It is only under the New Covenant that Jesus brought that we as individuals can – through faith in Christ – be individually recognized as “sons of God”. This was prophesied in the Davidic Covenant where God promised David a special offspring:

I will be his Father and He will be my son”
(2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 17:13)

The promise referred to the Messiah Who would one day come to occupy David’s Throne forever. Solomon – David’s son and successor only reigned 40 years. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (see Hebrews 1:1-12).

Because Of Jesus, God Is “Our Father”

Luke 11:2 When ye pray, say, Our Father

When Jesus came, He introduced God as not just the Father of Israel, but the Father of each and every believer IN HIM. He said we are to address God as “OUR Father”. Jesus is part of that “Our”. When Mary Magdalene met the resurrected Jesus at the empty Tomb, she tried to cling to Him. Jesus told her:

John 20:17 (ESV) … “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

When we pray, we are to pray to “Our Father”, meaning “My Father and Jesus’ Father”. Jesus said,

No one has seen the Father except He Who is FROM God ; He has seen the Father (John 6:46) … whoever has seen ME has seen the Father … (John 14:9)

Only Jesus has seen the Father, as He is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father (see Colossians 2:9; John 10:30; Isaiah 8:13-14 c/w 1 Peter 2:7-8; John 8:58). When we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we become children of adoption:

Ephesians 1:5 (ESV) {God} predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will …

Romans 8:15 (ESV) For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!

Galatians 4:4-7 (ESV) … when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The followers of the other religions found in this world don’t suggest that their adherents be anything other than a follower or supplicant. But for the Christian, we are adopted as sons of God because we have received THE Son of God as our Lord and Savior.

The First Purpose Of Prayer Is To Bring Glory To The Father

Luke 11:2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

What is the first purpose of prayer? It is to bring honor and glory to our Heavenly Father. I have heard people pray,

Jesus, our Father, thank You for giving us life. Thank You for saving our souls.”

But this is not what Jesus told us to do when we pray. Are there times when we should speak directly to Jesus in prayer? I think so. There are times when we – realizing the great price Jesus paid for us on the Cross – that we want to thank Jesus for that great salvation. I do not believe this is in error. Jesus said in:

John 5:20-24 (ESV) … For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

We should honor Jesus as we honor the Father, for it is the Blood of Jesus Christ that covers our sins. It is the teachings of Christ that we carry out into the world. Jesus Christ has given us access to the Father, and has, through His Blood, made it possible for the Holy Spirit to cause us to be “born again” and adopted into the Family of God. But we need to be careful not to make Jesus out to be the Father. Jesus did as the Father directed, and Jesus and the Father are “one” in purpose (John 10:30; 17:22). When Jesus prayed, and taught us to pray, our prayers are to be primarily addressed to:

Luke 11:2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Our Father is in Heaven.
The Son is our High Priest and Sacrifice for sin.
The Spirit is with us, empowering us.

  • Is it wrong to pray to Jesus? I don’t think so. There are times when we should properly pray to Jesus. When Stephen was being martyred for our faith, he prayed Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). When Saul was knocked down on Damascus Road, he prayed to Jesus, asking Lord, what will You have me do?” (Acts 9:6). John the Revelator on seeing Heaven unveiled prayed for Jesus’ return, saying “Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). There’s nothing wrong with praying to Jesus at times. However, most prayers should be addressed to the the Father.
  • Is it wrong to pray to the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit of God is with the people of God, on this earth. He indwells us. We are told in Romans 8:9 (ESV), “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. The Father is in Heaven. The Holy Spirit occupies the body of the believer. As the Scripture says:

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.

1 Corinthians 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

1 Corinthians 6:19 … your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God…

I do not believe that it is wrong to pray to the Holy Spirit. After all, He is the One who empowers our prayers. When I am studying Scripture I often ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to His truths. When I don’t know what to pray, I ask the Spirit to guide my prayers. Yet we always remember that prayer is to be primarily toward God the Father. The Apostle Paul said,

Ephesians 3:14 …For this reason I bow my knees BEFORE THE FATHER

I like to think of it this way. My prayers are:

Primarily TO the Father,
THROUGH my High Priest, the Lord Jesus,
EMPOWERED by the Holy Spirit.

Luke 11:2 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

We pray that God will expand His Heavenly Kingdom into an earthly Kingdom. It is the will of God that Heaven would come to us. Jesus said:

Mark 3:35 (ESV) … whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

What is the Will of God? It is that people would come to Jesus by faith, and rely upon Him for their salvation. It is the Will of God that Christ’s words be taught this present world. It is the will of God that we love one another as we would be loved. It is the will of God that we love God above all else and all other.

1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality …

It is God’s will that we neither endorse nor participate in the sexual immorality that grips our nation and the world. We are not to approve love making outside of that which God has determined is proper marriage.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 … give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is God’s will that we be thankful for all that He allows to enter our lives. We are to realize that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, to those who are called according to HIS purpose” (Romans 8:28). If we pray,

Luke 2:2 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done,
as in heaven, so in earth

If you are sick, trust God in the sickness. If you are well, trust God in the wellness. Pray that God’s will will be done through you and your life. God has promised us:

1 John 2:17 (ESV) … the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

We may not understand what we are going through, but we don’t have to. Let us understand that God’s will will be done – and God loves us unconditionally. Let us live for the Lord. Don’t focus on the trial or the suffering, but focus on doing the good that God expects of you:

1 Peter 2:15 (ESV) For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

The Second Purpose Of Prayer Is To Meet Our Needs

Luke 11:3-4 Give us day by day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

After asking God that His will be done here on earth as it is done in Heaven, we begin to pray for our needs. We pray for our daily bread, that God would feed us and house us. When we pray that God meet our physical needs, we lessen our anxiety and worry while “casting all our care upon Him, for He cares for us”(1 Peter 5:7). Jesus warned His children to NOT be like the lost of this world. He said:

Matthew 6:8 (ESV) Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

God the Father did not spare His own Son, but gave Jesus up for us all. Will He not now supply our temporal needs? (Romans 8:32). Yes, He will. Be thankful, and ask God to provide for your physical needs. We also pray:

Luke 11:4 forgive us our sins, for we also forgive
every one that is indebted to us.

We cannot grudge carry and be effective Christians. We must forgive others who have offended us, knowing that our God freely forgives us when we go astray. Finally,

Luke 11:4 lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil

We acknowledge our weaknesses before God. It is not we who save ourselves, but God Who saves us and keeps on saving us. We ask God to deliver us from the evil and darkness of this present age. We as believers do not give up. We pray. We seek God’s presence. We seek God’s Kingdom. We seek God’s power.

Oh, that God would lead His people to be a people of prayer. This is the only hope we have against the darkness. May God draw you into a deeper, more intimate prayer life with Him. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen and Amen.

Posted in Luke, prayer, Praying Like Jesus Series, Sermons Preached | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Choosing Your Master

Photo by Cameron Yartz:

Life is all about choices, about the decisions you make. In America we have unprecedented freedom – but in reality we all serve someone or something. If you choose to serve the wrong something, this can bring terrible and eternal consequences. Jesus said:

Luke 16:13-22 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. 15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. 16 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. 18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery. 19 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. 22 And it came to pass …

God Calls Us To Choose His Love Or His Wrath

We choose how we will live our lives. We choose to be the master of our story, or to let someone or something else be the master of our lives. The best life is to choose to serve God. Our Lord Jesus said:

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

It is best to serve God. It is best to pattern your lives after Jesus Christ. It is the highest sort of life to hear the words of God and to obey them and do them. Why? Because God is love. The best life is to love God, and be loved of God. Anything God requires of us is, of necessity, for our good. God does not make us love Him, but calls to us in love to repent and come to Him.

If you believe that “God is love”, then you also believe that God wants US to love. The scripture says “He that will not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). We are all made in the image of God, and as such are called to imitate God in love. We are to love God first as our Creator. “God is love, and the one that dwells in love dwells in God, and God dwells in them” (1 John 4:16). God is love. But God gives us choice. We have free will. We choose whom we will love. No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. The call of salvation is to CHOOSE. Do you choose to serve God, or to serve Mammon?

Word Study: What is mammon? The Greek μαμωνᾶς mamōnas means “treasures of this world”. It is not just a reference to money – as some translations make it out to be. No, mamōnas is anything that you treasure above God your Creator. In America today there are many gods that entice people – though we may not consider them as gods. YOU are a god when you treasure yourself above all else. Your bank account, your looks, the opinion of others, your stuff – anything that you love above God can be mamōnas. Your spouse, your children, your sexuality and sexual expression. Mamōnas. That which you cling most to can be mamōnas. Food, comfort, self satisfaction, mamōnas. Charles Stanley wrote:

When Paul arrived in Athens, he found religious people seeking to please their various gods. To make sure all their bases were covered, there was even an altar inscribed to an unknown god. The Athenian religious culture may seem totally foreign to us, but today people are likewise seeking to please false gods. Some who claim to follow the True God are actually worshiping an image of their own making.

God has free will, just as we do. He can choose to love,
or choose to parcel out wrath.

I have heard people say, “I can believe that God is Love – but God is wrath? No, I can’t believe that. Beloved, God is indeed LOVE and is also WRATH. I can prove it in just two words.

The Cross

When we look at the Cross, we see and preach the love of God to us. But the Cross IS ALSO WRATH. The Lord Jesus – God manifest among us – hung on that Cross, beaten and bloodied, pinned by nail and thorn to rough wood – because of the WRATH of God. God despises sin. God cannot be in the same room with sin. Sin is mamōnas, the false god so many follow after. Sin is to ignore the Creator, and satisfy the created. Sin exalted the created and minimizes the Creator.

Is hell real? Is Heaven real? As God is indeed Love, there must be a Heaven. As God is indeed wrath, there must be a Hell.

God plans no one to go to Hell, but we choose hell by rejecting Him. The Scripture says:

1 Thessalonians 5:8-10 But let us, WHO ARE OF THE DAY, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 FOR GOD HATH NOT APPOINTED US TO WRATH, BUT TO OBTAIN SALVATION BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. 10 WHO DIED FOR US, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him …

Word Study: We do not have to be under the wrath of God. God calls us to REPENT. REPENT is CHOICE. John the Baptist preached:

Matthew 3:2 … REPENT (μετανοέω metanoeō): for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

The Messiah was coming, the King of glory. R-E-P-E-N-T. Turn from mamōnas, and turn to God. Jesus preached the same message (Matthew 4:17). REPENT (μετανοέω metanoeō). The Greek metanoeō means to change the direction of the mind. Jesus warned:

Luke 13:3, 5 … unless you REPENT, you will all likewise PERISH …

If you keep following mamōnas, whatever treasure that is for you, you will find your life falling apart, and in shambles. Religion will not help you. Religion cannot save you. Right after Jesus warned of following mamōnas or God, we read:

Luke 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided {Jesus}.

The Pharisees Thought The Law Could Save Them

The Law was never meant to save, but to convict us that we need the Savior. The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and goodsays Romans 7:12. The Law of God points out how we all fall short of the glory of God. No one has ever been saved by keeping the Law apart from faith in God. The Apostle wrote:

Galatians 3:24 … the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Every person ever saved was saved by loving and clinging to God.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, the Hebrew Children, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Elijah, John the Baptist … every warrior of faith was saved not by law but by faith. Salvation is to fall in love with Jesus. Jesus said:

John 14:15, 21 If you love Me, keep My Commandments … 21 He that has My Commandments, and keeps them, he loves Me: and the one that loves Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love Him, and will manifest Myself to him.

John 15:10 IF you keep My Commandments, you shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s Commandments, and abide in His love.

God is love, and He saves souls from Hell when we come to and fall in love with Jesus. Billy Graham preached in a crusade several years ago,

I am going to Heaven totally and completely upon the basis of what Christ did on that Cross. Salvation is not by works, it is by the Grace of God. … You must receive by faith, and believe, and then you must be willing to follow Him and serve Him. It means you start living a disciplined life under the Lordship of Christ. It means that you serve Him in every little thing every day.

If you are a Child of God, you love God. You love Jesus. The Pharisees, however …

Luke 16:14 … were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

Word Study: They did not love Jesus. They derided (ekmyktērízō, ek-mook-ter-id’-zo, to “turn up the nose” to, to sneer or scoff) Him. The Pharisees were covetous. Their god was themselves. They wanted things for themselves. They lived for themselves. Though they knew the Law said Thou shalt not COVET” (Exodus 20:17), they ignored this Law, while keeping all the rituals of the Law. The Pharisees followed the parts of the Law that was appealing to them. Jesus said of the Pharisees, they are like whitewashed mausoleums(Matthew 23:27). They rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus told them:

Luke 16:15 And {Jesus} said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

With the Pharisees they justified themselves before others. They outwardly kept the Law – at least, the visible portions of the Law that were ritualistic. But they were only mimics. The Apostle Paul – a Pharisee named SAUL before he met Jesus – writes:

Romans 13:8 (ESV) … whoever loves others has fulfilled the law …

Galatians 5:14 (ESV) For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.

The Ten Commandments are all about LOVE. The first four speak to the love of God. The last six speak to the love of others. God calls us to love. The Pharisees only had love for themselves. They made a show of giving, of prayer, of service. They fed their own egos. They had no concern for others. If you are saved, the scripture says …

1 John 4:18-19 There is NO FEAR IN LOVE; but PERFECT LOVE {love to Christ Jesus} CASTETH OUT FEAR: because fear hath torment. He that FEARETH is not made perfect in love. 19 We love HIM …

No Christ follower need fear death or hell. You are loved.

We love God our Father, Who sent His Son to appease the just wrath of God.
We love God the Son, Who took the wrath on Himself for us.
We love God the Spirit, Who indwells us because of the Blood of Christ.

because He first loved us …

The Pharisees would not love God, because they loved mamōnas, the false gods of this world. Return to verse 15. Jesus told them that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. An abomination{bdélygma, [pronounced bdel’-oog-mah]}, “the DETESTABLE thing”. What are the highly esteemedthings which God considers abomination. The world DESPISES the Law of God, but LOVES sin. The Christian loves Jesus, and hates sin. Why? Once saved, God writes His Law in our hearts” (Jeremiah 31:31-34). When we come to Jesus Christ broken, He touches us, and begins to mend us from the inside out. He changes out heart from following mamōnas to following God. Once our hearts are changed by salvation, we begin to – because we love God – to follow His Law. Jesus said:

Luke 16:16-17 The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. 17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

The law and the prophets were until John. Animal sacrifices and feasts are finished. The Blood of Jesus Christ covers the sin of the believer.

Hebrews 10:12, 14 … THIS MAN, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins FOREVER, sat down on the right hand of God … 14 For by one offering {Jesus} has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

The King of Heaven has come. John the Baptist is gone. “Since that time {as John’s ministry has ended} the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it”. Here is the One Who has the keys of Heaven. Here is the Son of God, Eternal Deity, come to earth to make payment for our sins. Here is the One Who will show us what God expects. As God is LOVE, God expects those who have been changed by HIS LOVE to LOVE others, to LOVE our enemies, to LOVE the indifferent, but to LOVE GOD MOST. The Pharisees turned their noses up at Jesus. They mocked Him. They plotted against Him. They told lies about Him. And yet, Jesus went to the Cross, dying for their sins as He died for the sins of the whole world. The Pharisees twisted the Law – but the Law of God cannot change. Jesus said:

Luke 16:17 … it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.

Word Study: What is a tittle? It is a tiny mark used in the Hebrew Bible, very small, that changes the meaning of a word. The Law of God will never fail. What was sin in Jesus’ day is sin today. What was sin at Mount Sinai is sin today. We cannot make sacrifice for our sins by killing an animal, nor can we, by penance, make the wrath of God go away. That part of the Law has not passed, but has been fulfilled by Christ Jesus. When Jesus died on the Cross, He died for every sin, past, present, and future that I and you would commit. At the Pastor’s conference I just attended, Pastor Gene Mims illustrated it this way:

How many of you were alive when Jesus died on the Cross? No one. So the sins He died for were – for you – all FUTURE sins.”

I love that. Now Jesus illustrates, making an application that the Pharisees twisted in the Law. He said:

Luke 16:18 Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.

When God made man in His image, God “made them male and female” (Genesis 1:27). It was God’s design that marriage be a trusted, and permanent institution. The Pharisees had allowed – and even encouraged among themselves – divorce for any cause. What this entailed was that a man could marry a woman and, after she bore his children and increased in age, that man could then put away his wife for every cause”? (Matthew 19:4). Sacrificial and godly love are taught in the family, particularly in the marriage relationship. Jesus told the Pharisees,

Matthew 19:4 … have you not read {in the Scripture} that {God} Who 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 two shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no longer two, but one flesh. What God has joined together, let no one put asunder…

Jesus did not wipe out or minimize the Law of God. The Commandment of God is a lamp; and the Law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.(Proverbs 6:23). Great peace have they which love Thy Law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).

What God has made Law, the God Who is love made it Law. We bask in the love of God when we obey His Law, when we, from the heart, live so as to please Him and Him alone. The Pharisees allowed divorce for every cause, but God wants us to sacrificially love in our marriages, in our families, putting others first as He has done.

Who Is Condemned To Hell Under The Wrath Of God?

As Jesus is teaching the Pharisees, He turns to the subject of the present life and of the after-life. As we look at the story Jesus is telling, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus has not yet went to the Cross. Jesus told Nicodemus:

John 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Before Jesus made payment for our sins, the righteous dead went to be with Abraham. Abraham was not properly in Heaven, but in a temporary place until the Blood of the Lamb was shed. When Jesus died on the Cross, the Bible says:

Hebrews 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Once Jesus died on that Cross, for the three days His Body laid in that Grave, He ascended into glory, presenting Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. His BLOOD satisfied the wrath of God, a wrath justly deserved against all sin and sinners. The Scripture tells us:

Hebrews 9:24 Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

Before Christ paid the wrath of God, the Old Covenant Saints went to “Abraham’s Bosom”. But after His death the Scripture says in

Ephesians 4:9-10 {Jesus} ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 {The Jesus} that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.

Jesus is not speaking of Heaven proper, but Abraham’s bosom. This may confuse you, but let me say that now because of Christ absent from the body, {we are} present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

The Master’s Illustration Of Heaven & Hell

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.

Here are two people. Jesus doesn’t give us many particulars on “Lazarus”, other than the is poor and suffering. We can learn something about Lazarus from his NAME. The name “Lazarus” means “The one whom God helps”. Jesus had a friend named Lazarus (see John 11:11) that He often visited in Bethany. This poor beggar has nothing in life by the Lord. Jesus said, Blessed are the poor, for you shall have the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Lazarus had no home to speak of, no job, no decent income, and little food.

Then there was the rich man. The rich man worshiped mamōnas, mammon. He had no love in his heart for anyone but himself. He had the finest clothes, the finest food, the finest home. This poor friend of Jesus laid in the gate of the rich man’s home, and that man had to step OVER the body of Lazarus to get to his riches. Periodically the rich man would allow Lazarus into his mansion to sit under the table like a dog, eating a few scraps of bread. I can see the rich man and his children taking a little meat from their plates, and tossing it on the ground, watching Lazarus wrestle with the dogs just to survive.

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.

There’s several things we can see Jesus teaching about the afterlife. Though Lazarus suffered in life, because he loved the Lord, he was loved in the next life. He was taken to “Abraham’s bosom”, embraced by the father of faith. Though Lazarus had no friends in this life outside of dogs, when he entered the next life he was escorted into glory “by the angels”. Lazarus was comforted, though he passed through death’s portal. What about the rich man? Though Lazarus was unknown in life to all but God, the rich man was unknown by God in the next life. Though in this life the rich man never looked up, in hell he lift up his eyes. Some modern Preachers have told us that – if you die as an unbeliever – that you burn up in Hell. Is that true? Not according to Jesus. Jesus said that the rich man was being in torments. He was suffering, but not burning up. The Bible says of hell and eternal punishment:

Isaiah 66:24 … their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.

When Jesus spoke on the horror of hell, He warned that it is a place where “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44-48). Jesus said that it would be better if you maimed your current body if it would keep you from entering the horror of hell. Hell is where the wrath of God is poured out. Hell is an unspeakable horror that those who will not repent shall go. Hell is not where God put you, but where you, in your godlessness, have parked yourself. The Bible says:

1 Thessalonians 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ

Who is in hell? The IMPENITENT. The rich man is in hell. He is in torment. Does he repent, calling on the name of the Lord? Absolutely not! He doesn’t cry out to God, but to Abraham:

Luke 16:24 … he 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.

The man is still chasing after mamōnas. He wants Abraham and Lazarus to wait on him, so he asks for just a drop of water. He follows the pattern of Satan, who encouraged Adam to take “just one taste, just one fruit”. The rich man cares nothing for Lazarus, Abraham, nor God. He just wants what he wants. Abraham replies:

Luke 16:25-26 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.

God treated this man like he was a son in this life. He was given so much good from God’s Common Grace. The Bible says that the goodness of God leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4). God’s Grace is clearly evident all around us, and yet, he ignored the Provider of that Grace. While in this life “the goodness of God continues”. It is His goodness that brought you to this place today. Finally, the rich man asks:

Luke 16:27-29 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.

Jesus gave us a clear teaching on Heaven and Hell. God revealed the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament. This rich man – and the Pharisees Jesus is talking to – have heard the truth. The truth is the truth. If you leave this life without Christ, there is no second chance in the next life. It is your choice. God wants to love you, and has allowed His Son to absorb all of the just wrath of God for you. Will you come to Him? Will you give your life to Jesus? Will you trust that He died for your sins, and rose from the grave to lead you from this life and into glory? The choice is yours. Make the right choice. Call on Jesus and be saved. Follow Jesus, and be blessed. May Christ Jesus and the Spirit of God draw you close to God. Amen and Amen.

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The Joy Of Faith

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Philippians 1:25-27 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; 26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. 27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

The Joy Of Faith Comes Only Through Suffering

We see toward the end of verse 25, “Joy of Faith”. When you live for Jesus, you will often find yourself in bad spots. The Apostle Paul had more than his share of bad spots. Saul met Jesus on the Damascus Road, and heeding His call became Paul the Apostle. When Ananias was told to go to Saul and lay hands on him, Ananias was initially hesitant. After all, the Saul had been terrorizing the Church. But Jesus told Ananias:

Acts 9:15-16 (ESV) “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.

As Saul caused others to suffer for Satan’s sake, now Paul himself will suffer for the sake of {Jesus}. Oh, how Paul would suffer! Paul told the Church at Corinth:

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (ESV) For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

The brighter and more flamboyant the LIGHT, the greater the DARKNESS will hate it.

Paul said that he was so distressed that we despaired of life itself. That is a profound statement. This means that Paul got so discouraged that he and those with him welcomed death. This is a state of advanced depression, where life has lost its savor. Paul was like that poor old Saint Job who cried out:

Job 6:2-4 (ESV) Oh that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! 3 For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up. 4 For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.

How was Paul afflicted? He said:

2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (ESV) Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

Oh, how Paul’s ministry was filled with suffering. He was betrayed by friends.

Alexander the copper-smith (2 Timothy 4:14) “did Paul GREAT harm”.
The Church he started compared him to Apollos (1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:4).
The Missionary Mark abandoned Paul at one of the most critical moments of his ministry, and drove a wedge between Paul and his good friend Barnabas (Acts 15:37-39).

2 Corinthians 1:9-10 …(ESV) we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.

The reason that Paul and those with him were given more than they could bear was to require them to cast their burdens on God our Savior. This is what FAITH is. I have heard FAITH used as an acronym:

F orsaking
A ll
I will
T rust in
H im

God puts us in bad situations to help us to learn to trust in Him, and not in ourselves or in others. People are fallen. People are broken. Yes, God wants us to help one another – this is the nature of the Church. The Church cannot be on Internet, nor on a Social platform. The Church is where broken people come together as a body, the Body of Christ. What saith the Scripture?

1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 25-27 (ESV) … just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. … 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

This life is filled with suffering. Suffering is the byproduct of sin. We are called together to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). This is what the Church is – the Kingdom of God on the earth. We should care for one another, and lift one another up. And yet, there is only so much we can do for one another.

The suffering that God gives us, which He makes our portion, helps us to grow and to be more like Christ. Our Lord Jesus suffered. He never suffered from His sins, for He had none (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus was, is, and will always be without sin. But again, the brightest Light will bring the greatest hatred from darkness. When Jesus came to this earth, He practiced F-A-I-T-H. He trusted in God the Holy Spirit, and God His Father. Jesus went into Gethsemane and, though He took His Apostles with Him, they all slept as He prayed. Three times Jesus prayed:

Matthew 26:39 (ESV) … “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Forsaking All, Jesus Trusted God. As He was carried into illegal courtrooms and before Gentiles, He trusted God. Beaten, bruised, tortured until He looked like a bloody worm, Jesus prayed from Calvary’s Cross:

Psalm 22:6-8 (ESV) I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!

Did Jesus despair of life? Yes, He did. He cried out My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? from that bloody Throne He hung from. Yes, He despaired of life. But what did Jesus do? Did He quit? No, we are told:

Hebrews 12:2 (ESV) {Jesus} for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus knew that beyond the Cross, His sacrifice would bring many more into the Kingdom of God. So He looked beyond that momentary suffering, and trusted in God. F-A-I-T-H. Forsaking All, I will Trust in Him, in God.

Paul Was Ready To Go Home, But Wanted
To Teach The Church The J-O-Y of F-A-I-T-H

Philippians 1:25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

Paul said I have this confidence. What is he talking about? We read …

Philippians 1:21-24 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Paul realized the great truth of Christianity. You see, every other religion in this world is based on a dead founder. Think about it.

Mormonism’s Joseph Smith is dead.
Jehovah Witnesses Charles Taze Russell is dead.
Christian Scientist’s founder Mary Baker Eddy is dead.
prophet Muhammad is dead.
The multiple founders of Hinduism are all dead.
Baha’i Faith’s founder Mirza Husayn ‘Ali Nuri is dead.
Humanism’s founder poet Francesco Petrarca is dead.
The founder of Confucianism, Confucius is dead.

This is just a small list of the some 4000 recognized world religions. Yet all of their founders are dead. Yet there is One Founder Who never died. Guess Who? It is Jesus. Jesus died on Calvary, and rose from the grave on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:4). Jesus knew He was going to die, and embraced it. He said (Luke 24:46-47) “it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Jesus died for OUR sins, so that we would NEVER have to die. The Apostle said therefore with confidence,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain

He even went beyond this. Paul said that he would rather …

depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is {better} for you

Paul was not worrying about dying. In fact, to him death was a good friend that he looked forward to embracing. Now this doesn’t mean that Paul was suicidal or foolhardy with his life. It just means he understood the great truth of our faith.

Our Founder is NOT dead.
Our Founder has CONQUERED death.
Death has NO HOLD on us.
Death will not scare us.
Death is a whipped puppy!

We are reconciled to God our Father through the Blood of the Cross (Ephesians 2:16). We who are saved by faith in Christ (forsaking all I follow him), are now children of God because of our faith. There was a silly song years ago, but it popped in my head:

That’s word, because, you know
You can’t touch this
You can’t touch this
Break it down!
Stop, Hammer time!

Disease can take my body, but it can’t touch this soul of mine. We put the hammer and nails on Jesus, but Jesus put the hammer on death for us.

1 Corinthians 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Jesus has defeated sin and death, and these things are not meant to be our masters any more. We are to live for Jesus. We are to put others before ourselves.

What is the J-O-Y of F-A-I-T-H that
Paul wanted to teach us?

Paul was ready to go to Heaven. And yet, God was not ready for him. God had things that He wanted Paul to do before he left this earth. Believe it or not, God has things that He wants YOU to do for Him before you leave this earth.

Sadly, this part of Christianity has been hidden as “Cultural Christianity” sweeps through the American Church. We are never told that “Forsaking All, I Will Trust Him” is what F-A-I-T-H is all about. We are also not told that J-O-Y is an acronym that establishes how we are to order our lives. Let’s spell it out:

J esus above all else first.
O thers are to be served next. Finally,
Y ourself. Seeking your own blessing comes last.

There is no JOY to be found in “me first”. The Scripture does not teach this. The Savior does not teach this. Christianity is an entirely selfless religion. I have heard in recent years silly statements in the Churches like:

God wants you to love yourself first.
If you don’t love yourself, how can you love others?
You need to do what suits you, and be true to your feelings.

These statements have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. They are from the religion of Humanism, and are absolutely wrong. When you make yourselves the center of the universe, life starts becoming senseless. This is why we are seeing so much “gender dysphoria”, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc. We were designed by God in the Garden of Eden to serve others and to serve God. We are to ALWAYS put JESUS FIRST. If we put Jesus FIRST, then we will emulate Jesus. When we emulate or imitate Jesus, we will see JESUS ALWAYS PUT OTHERS FIRST. The pattern that Jesus followed was:

J ehovah (God)
O thers
Y ourself

Jesus said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9). Why? Because He put JEHOVAH God first. The Bible tells us that “Jesus TOUCHED the leper, saying, “Be clean”, and the leper was cleansed (Matthew 8:3). He put OTHERS before Himself. Yes, Jesus took time for Himself. In Matthew 4:1-2 Jesus spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, just prior to the start of His ministry. In Luke 6:12 Jesus prayed all night before choosing His Apostles. Jesus often went out in the morning to pray (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35).

There are six times in Scripture that Jesus
chose solitude over people.

We all need “ME” time, time to be with God by ourselves. But we are never to put ourselves first. We are told in:

Philippians 2:3-5 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

This is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the world and the worldly IN the Church say today. In our society it is “me before thee”. But this is not how God created us. He made us in the image of God, then placed us in a Garden that needed no weeding to tend to it. It was only when Adam put HIMSELF FIRST that he lost Eden and the joy of God’s presence. We are to put JESUS FIRST, then OTHERS, then YOURSELVES. If you do what the world does today, and the cultural Christian does today, you will not have JOY. For if you have YOURSELF first, OTHERS, and lastly JESUS, you have YOJ but not JOY. You have confusion, not what God has secured for you through the death and resurrection of His Son. Listen to the Scripture:

Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
Do not provoke or envy one another (Galatians 5:26)
God opposes the proud but gives grave to the humble (1 Peter 5:5)
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)
Bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2)

Philippians 1:25-27 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; 26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. 27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Word Study: The joyless Christian is the one who puts themselves first. He says, let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ. The word translated conversation is the Greek politeúomai, {pronounced pol-it-yoo’-om-ahee}, which means “your citizenship, how you behave in the Kingdom of God”. You are a citizen of God’s Kingdom whether you are in this Church or outside of it, in the marketplace or elsewhere. Your citizenship should be as becomes the gospel of Christ. This is what God expects of you. When you put Jesus first, then others, then yourself, then and only then will you have J-O-Y. May God the Holy Spirit give you the J-O-Y of Faith. For God’s glory, and the furtherance of His Kingdom I pray this. Amen and Amen.

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.

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Who Or What Constrains You?

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2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For 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.

A rich man gets in a horrible accident. Waking up in the hospital, he realizes what has happened. Crying out, he says “My Mercedes – oh, my poor Mercedes!”. A nurse at his bedside said, Honey, you’re confused. You could have died in that accident. Praise the Lord, but the only lasting damage you have is you lost your left arm”. He starts crying again, but this time says,

My Rolex, Oh, my poor Rolex!”

You may say this is silly, but so many are so silly in the same way. The greatest thing that God has given you is your SOUL.

Many people, much like this man, have their priorities in the wrong place. They are living their lives for all the wrong reasons. Jesus said, Whoever believes on Me, out of their life shall flow RIVERS OF LIVING WATER” (John 7:38). If the center focus of your life is anything but Jesus, in time your life will seem empty, dried up. I pray that through this message today you will come to give your lives to Jesus, and understand what the Apostle meant by the love of Christ constrains us.

The “Love Of Christ”

Throughout the Old Testament, God showed His love for His creation. God put Adam and Eve in a perfect “Paradise”, and even when Adam sinned, God covered his sin. Though Adam died spiritually, God did not take Adam’s life but took the life of an innocent creature. Adam was saved by the sacrifice of an innocent.

Man continued to fail God. The world drifted so far from God, that the Lord would have destroyed it all. Yet God loved us anyway. He had Noah build an Ark, and though God stayed the judgment of mankind for 120 years, God used Noah to save a remnant that would repopulate the earth.

Word Study: God loves us so much! Each time God loved us, we pushed Him away. And yet, He did not destroy us. His wrath tarried, for God promised that a Messiah would come to save us. The word “Messiah” is only rendered four times in the King James Bible, in Daniel 9:25-26; John 1:41 and in John 4:25. In the OLD Testament “Messiah” is theHebrew mâshîyach, {pronounced maw-shee’-akh}, which means “One Anointed or Chosen by God to govern or care for others”. The Kings and Prophets of the Old Testament were mâshîyach or anointed for service. Yet in Daniel God foretold of a special Person Who would be mâshîyach or “The Anointed One”. When we come to the New Testament and move into the Common Greek (Koine Greek), the word mâshîyach is not used to describe the Messiah, but “Christos” or “Christ” – some 559 times. In the New Testament Jesus is called “The Christ”, or “Jesus, the One Anointed of God”.

Kings were anointed to protect, rescue, and lead nations.
Priests were anointed to temporarily cover our sins before God.
Prophets were anointed to speak to us God’s Word.
Jesus was anointed to be both King and Priest to “whosoever will”.

Jesus is THE Christ. There is no other. Jesus is the King of Israel, prophesied by Micah:

Micah 5:2 (NASB) But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.

Jesus is THE Christ. He is the King of Kings and lord of Lords, the One that God said would sit on and rule this world from the Throne of David.

2 Samuel 7:12-13 (ESV) I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

Jesus is THE Christ. His birth is unique, for Jesus is God with us, God become Man. The Prophet told Israel:

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 {meaning “God with us”.

The Angel Gabriel told Joseph, the future husband of Mary that she was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (see Matthew 1:21-23). Jesus is Eternal God lowering Himself to be like us, flesh and blood. The Prophet declared that Jesus, this Unique Person, would be King of All. The Scripture says:

Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV) … the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…

Jesus is no mere man, fallen as we are.

Jesus Himself declared He was the ONE AND ONLY Christ!

Jesus told the Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26) “I am THE Christ”. There is NO OTHER CHRIST but Jesus. The Apostle wrote:

John 20:31 … (ESV) … these {things} are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, THE Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus the Christ came to give us life, to bring us to God. Jesus came to save His people from their sins.

The Jews wanted Jesus to save them temporally, to help them defeat Rome. But Jesus did not come to just give us temporal salvation, but ETERNAL salvation. Jesus’ Kingdom is a Kingdom of love. Jesus came to this earth because of God’s love:

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.

Jesus’ Kingdom operates by LOVE, by DOING LOVE, by BEING LOVE. God loved us so much that He sent His Beloved Son to this earth, lowering Himself, giving Himself for our sins. If you love Jesus you will do as Jesus says.

John 14:23-24 … 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. 24 He that loveth Me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not Mine, but the Father’s which sent me.

Jesus came speaking the “words of eternal life”. He came to this earth – eternal God the Son – telling us what eternal God the Father wanted us to know.

Jesus is (Matthew 16:15-18)the Christ, the Son of the living God.

What was it that Jesus the Christ came to do for us? Once He revealed He was the Christ,

Matthew 16:21 (ESV) … From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Jesus came to this earth to die for us. He came to save broken us. The Apostle said:

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 … 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 …

Illustrate: Ligonier Ministries along with Lifeway Research did a two year study they called “The State of Theology”. In Statement Number 15 they asked people to answer this as TRUE or FALSE. The statement was:

Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God”

71% of adults agreed with this statement – and two thirds of professing Christians believe that humans are born in a state of innocence. Yet this is not what the Bible says. The Bible states that – because of Adam’s fall – we are born into this world:

by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3)

God made everything VERY GOOD according to the Bible (see Genesis 1:10, 21, 25, 31). Yet Adam’s fall brought us all into a state of separation and sinfulness. The Psalmist wrote:

Psalm 51:5 (ESV) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

The Jews were well aware that they were sinners by nature, for yearly they sacrificed animals to cover their sins during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

and in the New Testament:

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

and again, Romans 3:23 … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

The Love of Christ did not come into this world to make another political party or to be another king ruling the earth. The Love of Christ came into this world to make payment for our sins. The Love of Christ came into this world to free us from sin.

2 Corinthians 5:15 {Jesus} died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

It is the sin nature in us that makes us want to live FOR OURSELVES. Before we met Christ, every Christian followed after the flesh. How did the Apostle put it in

Ephesians 2:1-2 And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; (2) Wherein in time past ye walked according to the {ways} of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

People who are not saved are driven by the prince of the power of the air, one of the titles given to Satan or Lucifer, the devil. Before meeting Christ and His love a person is driven by self and selfishness, by pride, by the “Prince of the Power of the Air” or by USELESSNESS. No one is innocent. If any were innocent, then Christ would have had no need to go to the Cross. For Whom did Jesus die for? Just the Jew? NO! The Scripture says:

Romans 5:6 (ESV) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

That’s you without Jesus. You are “the ungodly” if you do not love Jesus, if you do not obey Jesus, if you do not believe Jesus.
You are a child of Adam without Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. (22) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive …

Jesus Christ came to this world to save us from ourselves. He came to make payment for our sins, and to turn us from our sins. Jesus came to save our souls by His death – and to lead us daily toward God through His life.

The Love Of Christ “CONSTRAINETH US”

Word Study: The reason that Christ left eternity and came to this earth, becoming perfect flesh, was to make payment for our sins on the cross of Calvary. But this is not where the story stops. He “CONSTRAINETH Us”. The word translated “CONSTRAINETH” is a verb, the Greek Present Active Indicative of συνεχω, sunecho, {pronounced soon-ekh’-o}, which means “to hold or bind together, to compress, to take captive or arrest, to compel, or wrap up in”.

If you have been loved by Jesus, and have lovingly received Him as THE Christ, then you are to be “constrained” or “bound together” with God and with one another in love. You are a changed creature is you belong to Jesus. You are to be distinct and separate from this present darkness. We read:

Hebrews 10:10 … we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

The Bible says that Jesus “offered ONE sacrifice FOR SINS FOREVER” (Hebrews 10:12), and by one offering He hath PERFECTED FOREVER THEM THAT ARE SANCTIFIED” (Hebrews 10:14). The death of God’s Son brings those who receive Christ as lord and Savior COMPLETE SALVATION. Not only are our sins covered, but God indwells us, and makes us a New Creature:

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.

God is in YOU, Christian. If God seems far away, perhaps you have allowed yourself to be “constrained” by the wrong things.

Perhaps you are spiritually lazy, and have refused to submit yourself to the Word of Christ, the Scripture. Many are spiritually lazy today, anemic because they have not heeded God’s Word. Or perhaps you have heard the Word of God, but refuse to DO that which the Christ says. The Scripture says:

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

WHO shall separate us from the love of Christ? None of those things have a chance of separating you from His love. Whether it be:


ILLUSTRATE: These things do not separate us from the love of Christ. What separates us from the love of Christ, the Living Water of God, is OURSELVES. We can be lazy. We can sit in our recliners, watching television, skipping Church, and manufacturing reasons as to why we can’t serve Jesus. In time, we become like a dried up ketchup package. We LOOK good on the outside, but are tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lay in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14). It is the Love of Christ that should hold us together. It is the love of Christ that should press in on us. It is the love of Christ that should ARREST Us. We do not belong to ourselves anymore. We are Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). What does this mean from a practical viewpoint? The Scripture says:

1 John 3:7-10 (ESV) Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. 8 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. 9 Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 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.

The Christian is “CAPTURED by the LOVE OF CHRIST”. The Holy Spirit indwells us. We do not chase after sin. Though we may sin – and every Apostle sinned as recorded in the Scripture – but when we do so the Spirit of God draws us home to Jesus. He convicts, He tweaks our conscience. We are given the ministry of reconciliation so that we can tell others of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men …

We do not compromise with the world. We fear God, and love our neighbors. We persuade men to come and give their lives to Christ. We are no longer bound to death, but belong to Jesus.

I Asked God For An Illustration. He Gave Me Lazarus.

Word Study: Jesus had a friend named Lazarus. The name “Lazarus” has a meaning behind it, which is, “Whom God helps”. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. The Bible tells us in John chapter 11 that Mary and Martha contacted Jesus, saying:

Lord, Lazarus whom You love is very sick”. (vs 3)

Jesus loved Lazarus. We know He does, for the passage tells us numerous times that Jesus loved Lazarus. “The love of Christ constrains us”. He loves us all so very much. And yet, hearing that Lazarus was sick, the Bible tells us that “Jesus stayed where He was – without moving – for two more days after He heard about Lazarus” (vs 6). When asked about Lazarus, Jesus said:

John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”

Lazarus is not going to die. There is something the disciples, and we who are here today – need to see. After two days Jesus told the disciples it was time to go see Lazarus. Jesus said,

John 11:11 … Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

Lazarus was not just Jesus’ friend, but he was Our friend. Jesus went to awake him out of sleep. To make sure the disciples understood, Jesus told them:

Luke 11:14-15 … Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

The disciples have been following Jesus, but they are still fuzzy on what it means that Jesus is the Christ. Some still hold onto the idea that He will conquer Rome, and establish Israel as the capital city of His Millennial reign. Jesus is not here to conquer Rome. He is here to save us from spiritual death. He is here to give us the life God wants us to have.

When Jesus gets to Lazarus’ home, He’s met first by Martha, the elder sister. She blames Jesus. “Jesus, if You had been here, Lazarus would not be dead! But we believe that whatever You ask God, He will give it to You” (vs 21-22). Jesus told Martha:

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?

These are some of my favorite Scriptures. I so love it. Where Jesus touches, death is dispelled, and the light is lit. Where Jesus ministers, the darkness retreats. When Jesus meets Mary, the younger sister, she says again “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died”.

Jesus wept. (vs 35)

Why did Jesus weep? I don’t believe it was because Lazarus was dead. Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. I believe it was because of unbelief. Mary and Martha had seen Jesus do the miraculous. Mary had sat at Jesus’ feet hearing the Word of Life. The disciples had seen Jesus raise people from the grave before. And yet, unbelief still abounded. Some accused Jesus, saying:

Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” (John 11:37)

Where is His power? Why didn’t He come? Why did He wait till Lazarus died to help him? Jesus commanded that they roll the stone away. Then Jesus prayed a short prayer:

John 11:41-42 Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed Messiah from God. But even now all do not believe. Jesus allowed His friend Lazarus to die so that He could prove that He was and will always be the Messiah. Jesus stood at the mouth of the grave, at the maul of death, at the opening of that black and forbidding place. And then Jesus said,

Lazarus, come forth!”

Lazarus came out of that tomb. He came toward Jesus, hearing His voice. Once out of the tomb, others who were alive pulled the old wrappings of death from his body. Lazarus left that tomb. The living do not belong in a tomb.

If you are a Child of God by faith in Christ, you do not belong in a tomb. You are to come out of the darkness, and walk with Christ in the light, doing the things He bids you do. The love of Christ constrains US. Are you part of the US? Or are you a child of darkness. Your life and lifestyle prove who you are. Let us live for Jesus, loving Him and imitating Him Who gave everything for us. For Christ’s glory I preach this. Amen and Amen.

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Who Has Your Heart?

Photo by Hernan Pauccara:

Please turn with me in your Bibles to:

Luke 17:11-21 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he 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. 15 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. 17 And Jesus answering said, 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. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. 20 And when he 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.

We All Have A “Heart” Problem

Illustrate: March 21, 2009 was a little crazier in San Diego, California than it usually is. Drug suspects were moving large amounts of money in a truck, and Drug Enforcement Agency personnel got wind of it. They contacted the Highway Patrol and asked for assistance in tracking and stopping the vehicle. The driver refused to stop. At one point “cash was hurled out of the truck onto Interstate 805”, according to one news source. At that moment pandemonium broke out. Drivers on the interstate slammed on their brakes and, without regard to their safety, jumped out of cars and ran into the highway to grab all the money they could. One High School student Marco Casillas ran into the moving traffic with his friends. “It was a dream come true, we were in heaven. We saw one {bill}fly on the windshield and it was a $100 on my face and we just stopped and grabbed it… We were scared. We were parked halfway on the freeway, and halfway on the freeway…[But] we are football players and we were being greedy, and we were running and taking it from everybody, but then it got taken away.” Before they could escape with the money, officers seized the $1000 he and his friends had grabbed. Officers recovered around $18,000 in cash, all of it illegal to keep. People could have been killed – but by the grace of God no injuries were reported.

Illustrate: Weird things happen in California. On November 20, 2021 an armored vehicle was carrying money for the Federal Reserve on Interstate 5 in Carlsbad, California. The vehicle’s rear door popped open, and cash poured out – again, bringing about a “feeding frenzy”. People slammed on brakes, jumped out of their vehicles, and ran into moving traffic to get as much money as they could while they could. The California Highway Patrol and the FBI noted that – though some people returned the money – many others left the scene with stolen money.

Some of you might be wondering, “Well, what’s wrong with that? After all, finder’s keeper’s, loser’s weeper’s!” Yet this was not found money. In the first instance, this was money that came from the sale of drugs and death to children, to someone’s child. This drug money was probably bathed in blood, as drug cartels often kill to amass their power over a territory. Drug pushers capitalize on the weakness and loneliness of people, often giving their victims the first few doses for “free”. Then after a person is enslaved to the drug, the pusher has them turn to prostitution and robbery to get their “fix”. In 2020 91,799 people died from drug overdoses. This is blood money! As for the Federal Reserve Truck, money taken from the central bank of our nation effects not only local banks, but impacts the stock market as well. What would cause someone to run into traffic, risking their life for a green piece of paper? A confused and darkened heart.

The Bible talks about the human “heart”. Now, the Scripture is not speaking of that muscle in your chest. The physical heart pushes blood through your body. If the physical heart stops beating, your life on this earth stops. The spiritual heart is the center most part of your soul.

What is IN the spiritual heart is manifest in what you OUTWARDLY do. Religion cannot fix a heart problem.

Our Lord Jesus put it this way. Jesus chastised the religious Pharisees of his day – because they twisted the Word of God to make allowance for their sinful practices. Their are many in our world who do that today – you might be one of them! Jesus told the Pharisees:

Matthew 15:7-9 (ESV) You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

Preach: Jesus said of the Pharisees, their heart is far from Me”. God gave us His Word, the Holy Bible, to show us His Standard and His Savior. We are to follow His Savior Jesus Christ with all our hearts. We are to love God with all our hearts. Jesus came to this earth not just to heal our physical bodies, but to fix our heart problem. He said:

Matthew 15:10-11, 17-20 (ESV) … “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” … 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.

When we look around our America today, around our homes, in our schools, what do we see? Certainly there are good things out there. Certainly there are good people. But I’ll guarantee you, there were a lot of “good” people who stopped traffic to pick up and, yes, steal money that was not their own. They did not earn that money. They had a heart problem.

Jesus came, not to be a Hero, a conquering King,
but to be a Healer of our hearts.

What is the cause of evil thoughts, like racism and hatred?
What leads to murder?
Why would a person abandon his wife and child to sleep with another woman?
Why do we see such sexual immorality in America today – often in Churches?
Why do thieves steal?
Why would a person bear false witness and slander another soul?

These things come from a corrupt heart. Every evil we see in America, shouting out from the headlines, every injustice can be traced back to a corrupted heart. The corrupted heart says,

I am all that matters. I am the center of the universe.”

We are born with corrupted hearts. We come into this world with hearts focused on ourselves, on our wants and desires. We see this illustrated in our text today.

Jesus Is The Healer Of Broken Hearts

Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

The Lord Jesus is traveling across the land, walking from one point to another. Why? Jesus did not just stay in Jerusalem and Judea. The Bible says that “He came unto his own” (John 1:11), but “His own would not receive Him”. Jesus Christ came not just for the Jew, but for whosoever will. Our Lord Jesus came to share the Gospel with “the Jew first, but also the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). He came not to just convert the hearts of the physical seed of Abraham, but Jesus Christ came to fulfill the promise that God made:

Genesis 12:3 (ESV) … in you {Abraham} shall all the families of the earth be blessed ..

Jesus is called of God to preach the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of God. Repent, and give your hearts to Him!

When the heart puts anything or anyone on its throne, wickedness is the output of that life. The Bible tells us that:

Mark 1:14-15 …(ESV) after John {The Baptist} was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

John the Baptist ministered and preached of the coming of the Messiah, the One that God promised would come to this earth to fix what ails us. John preached, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Then the King came. There is no Kingdom without a King, and John preached that the King was coming. Then one day John saw Jesus.

John 1:29 (ESV) BEHOLD, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus takes away the sin of the world by paying for our sins on the Cross. He is the Lamb of God. Jesus takes away the sin of the world by entering our lives and by ruling our hearts.

John was pointing out Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, but Jesus is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. Jesus is the Conquering Lamb of Revelation 17:14. Jesus Christ is the Avenging Warrior of Revelation 19:16. Jesus is, according to the Scripture,

1 Timothy 6:15 (ESV) … who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords

John preached on the coming of Jesus, until Jesus came. Then John was imprisoned, but Jesus kept preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. Jesus preached,

Mark 1:15 … The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel

Jesus preached the Gospel. He called people to Himself. Jesus is to be our King. Jesus said “Follow Me”:

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. (Matthew 4:19)
Follow Me, and let the dead bury the dead. (Matthew 8:22)
Follow Me, Matthew, and leave your money behind. (Matthew 9:9)
Follow Me, and take up your Cross. (Matthew 10:38)
Follow Me
, and deny yourselves. (Matthew 16:24)
Follow Me
, and give away all that you now worship. (Matthew 19:21)

Your heart is desperately wicked. If you are on the Throne of your heart. You are your own god. The kingdom of god – little g – is within you. Repent! Turn away from all the gods and goddesses that you have treasured up to this point. If your family is your god, REPENT! Jesus said:

Luke 14:26 (ESV) … If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

But” you object, “doesn’t the Law say that we are to honor our father and mother?” (Exodus 20:12). Yes, it does. Jesus is not saying that we actually despise our loved ones, but that we are to love Jesus MORE than we love our loved ones on this earth. I am not to rest on the throne of my heart, nor am I to elevate others as idols on the throne of my heart. When God gave us the Ten Commandments, the first of the Commandments was NOT to honor your father and mother. The FIRST of the commandments is to PUT GOD FIRST. God has said:

Exodus 20:3-4 (ESV) … you shall have NO OTHER GODS before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in Heaven above or that is in the earth beneath … 5 You shall not bow down to them nor serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God …

God is to be King of our hearts. “Know that the LORD, He is God! It is HE Who made us, and we are His..” (Psalm 100:3). Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, God amongst us, the King come to visit His people. When Jesus preached …

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the Gospel.”

He was preaching the same thing John the Baptist was preaching. Jesus Christ is the long awaited Messiah. He is the Son of God come down to this earth to redeem us from our broken hearts, to fix what ails us. When a person is saved that person makes a God guided decision to put away all other gods and goddesses – and to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. At that moment Jesus goes onto the throne of our heart.

We are saved, and God the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives.

Surrender To Jesus Is The Solution To Our Need

When John the Baptist was imprisoned for his faith, he sent messengers to Jesus with a simple question:

Matthew 11:3 (ESV) “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

John has been imprisoned, tortured, starved, and will soon be beheaded. In the midst of this darkness, John began to wonder if, perhaps, he had stood up for the wrong messiah. At this time in Israel’s history there were many who professed to be “Messiah”, people who would save Israel from the Roman Empire. Yet one after another of these false messiahs were captured, killed, and became nothing but a brief blip on the radar of humanity. The Blessed Physician further expands this questioning by the great Prophet John:

Luke 7:21-23 (ESV) In that hour {Jesus} healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

When John’s men came and asked Jesus if He were God Incarnate, the Messiah, Jesus did not immediately answer. Instead Jesus healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind {Jesus} bestowed sight. The Pharisees said that Jesus “cast out devils by the prince of devils” (Matthew 9:34; 12:24). Yet the Bible says that when the Messiah came:

Prophecy Revealed: Isaiah 35:5-6 (ESV) Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.

This is the Scripture Jesus was alluding to. When the Messiah came, the blinde shall see, the lame walk, the lepers would be cured, the dead would be brought back to life (see also Isaiah 26:19; 29:18; 61:1). Jesus Christ is the Messiah. Jesus Christ is the King of the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is God the Son, and the Son of God.

Luke 17:11-13 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he 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.

The Bible tells us that ten men that were lepers cried out to Jesus. They had heard that Jesus was passing through, and had heard how Jesus was healing people. These men stood afar off. Why didn’t they come up to Jesus? Because Leprosy was a horrible and contagious disease that could kill God’s Israel. As a result, those who were lepers were set apart – extremely quarantined – by the Law of God. The scripture says:

Leviticus 13:45-46 (ESV) “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

These ten men – all nameless and unknown – are in a miserable place. They are lost to their families. They have no business they can conduct. They are shunned by society, He is unclean. He shall live alone. The leper is not supposed to enter the city. They are not allowed to ride in the back of the bus, nor in a segregated part of the restaurant. They are unclean, cast off and cast out. They have lost everything. If someone touches these lepers, that person becomes, according to the Law, unclean. The lepers stood afar off. They cried out:

Jesus, Master, have mercy on us

Word Study: Notice how they call to Jesus. He is ἐπιστάτης epistátēs, {pronounced ep-is-tat’-ace}, which means “The One Who is in Charge”. Jesus is the One in charge.

Who is in charge of your life? Do you pursue a little “g” god,
or is Jesus your epistátēs, your God?

Jesus is the Gospel. He is the King of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the Savior and Lord of His people. Jesus is the YHWH – the Great I AM that the Prophet Jeremiah spoke of in Jeremiah 23:6. Jesus became the Son of Man – Incarnate – through the operation of the Holy Spirit of God on a virgin named Mary. He entered the human story by clothing Himself with flesh. But Jesus Christ is God the Son. He is epistátēs, the Master, the King of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus controls nature. When Peter had toiled all night and caught no fish, Jesus sent him back out. Master, epistátēs, we have toiled all night. But we will do as you say. (Luke 5:5). When Peter did as Jesus said, he caught so many fish that they broke the nets. Not long after that Jesus is in the boat sleeping with Jesus when a storm arises. They wake up Jesus saying “Master, epistátēs, we perish!” (Luke 8:24). Jesus rises – raises a hand – and the wind and sea calm down.

Jesus is greater than the Law or the Prophets. Peter, James, and John accompany Jesus to a mountain one day, and there see Him transfigured and speaking to Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:33). Afterward Peter says, “Master, epistátēs, let us make three altars here – one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah”. God the Father spoke from Heaven, “This is My Beloved Son: Hear Him” (Luke 9:35).

Jesus is greater than any need you have. A woman with uncontrollable bleeding reached out to, and touched Jesus. With just one touch she was healed. “Master, epistátēs, we do not know who touched You” (Luke 8:46). When the woman fell down before Jesus, affirming that she had touched Him, Jesus said:

your faith hath made thee whole; go in peace(Luke 8:48)

Jesus Christ is the epistátēs. He is the One and only Master. He is the King of the Kingdom. Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. The lepers stand far off. But Jesus sees them:

Luke 17:14 And when {Jesus} 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 men heard Jesus’ words. Jesus told them to go to the priests. Why? Because Jesus honored the written Word of God.

According to the Law, only the priest of Israel could declare someone cleansed of leprosy. In the first recorded sermon Jesus preached, He said:

Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Jesus did not come to give us a “loophole” by which we can sin without guilt. Jesus fulfilled the animal sacrifices of the Law, but did not eradicate the righteousness of the Law.

The Law required that the healed leper present themselves to the priest. Once the person was recognized cleansed or leprosy, he was to make a sacrifice to God (Leviticus 14:4-7). Two birds were used. One bird was killed, and its blood sprinkled on the cleansed person and on the living bird. This was highly symbolic of what would one day come through Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus was sacrificed outside the camp (Hebrews 13:11-13) for our sins. Our Lord Jesus is resurrected, ascended back to Heaven to guarantee our salvation (John 3:13; 6:38). Our Lord Jesus “became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (Acts 2:27; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The Bible says, as they went, they were cleansed. Jesus healed these men, but they had to obediently go to the priest, and make sacrifice unto God. They had to do what Jesus said do. Read a little further:

Luke 17:15-18 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. 17 And Jesus answering said, 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.

Ten men called Jesus Master, epistátēs. Yet only nine really regarded Jesus as the Master, as the Son of God. All ten went to the priest, who offered sacrifice for them and pronounced them clean. But only one person returned to praise God for Jesus.

Only one leper was fixed where it mattered, in his heart. The other nine still had themselves on the throne of their hearts. If you are born again, you will return to Jesus. You will give glory to God by bowing your knee to Christ Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh, saving us!

We do not know the nationality or the color of the other nine men that refused to return to and worship Jesus. We do know who the returning man was. Jesus calls him a strangerand a Samaritan”. The one who worshiped Jesus is a Gentile. Jesus tells this man:

Luke 17:19 … Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Faith In Jesus Alone Makes Us Whole

Word Study: The phrase hath made thee whole is the Greek σώζω sṓzō, {pronounced sode’-zo}, which means “has saved you from suffering, from sin, from Messianic judgment”. Jesus is not speaking about the man’s leprosy. His leprosy was healed – along with the other nine lepers – when he presented himself to the priest as God the Son commanded. Here Jesus is speaking not of temporal salvation from suffering, but the salvation of the soul. The word sṓzō is first used in the New Testament in:

Matthew 1:21 … and {Mary} shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS, for He will SAVE (sṓzō) His people from their sins.

When Jesus was asked “Why do You spend so much time with sinners?”, He replied:

Matthew 18:11 For {I} the Son of Man is come to SAVE (sṓzō) that which was lost.

On the Day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter preached:

Acts 2:21 … whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be SAVED (sṓzō).

When commanded not to preach the Name of Jesus, Peter boldly said:

Acts 4:11-12 … {Jesus} 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 (sṓzō).

After pronouncing this man “saved”, his heart renewed and regenerated because of his faith in Jesus, the Pharisees asked:

Luke 17:20-21 … 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.

The Pharisees were asking the same question I hear people asking today. You see, Israel was in bondage to Rome. Would Jesus be the One Who led Israel in revolt, to bring about peace and freedom from the enemy? Jesus did not come to “fix” Israel, nor to “fix” Rome, nor to “fix” America. Jesus came to fix the human heart. An ancient Pastor name Augustine said:

You have made us for Yourself, O Lord,
and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Where is your heart resting today? Beloved, open your heart to Jesus. Do not harden your hearts to His plea. Jesus came to this earth to save the broken hearted – He came to save those who believe in Him. I beg you, please receive Him as your Lord and Savior! Holy Spirit, please do this work. Touch lives for God’s glory. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen and Amen.

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Likewise …

Photo by Kaique Rocha:

Last Wednesday night we looked at the qualifications and responsibilities of ELDERS in the local Church. ELDERS are not OLD PEOPLE. The Biblical definition of an ELDER is

Someone mature and maturing in the faith of Jesus Christ. Someone who spends regular time in the Christian disciplines of prayer, Scriptural study, and productive assembly with the Saints”

Elders are NOT to “be lords over God’s heritage, but … examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3). Let’s continue our study:

1 Peter 5:5-7 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for 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.

There are two poisons that the Holy Spirit through Peter the Chief Apostle now addresses: PRIDE and WORRY.

Salvation Requires Surrender To God.
Pride & Worry Are The Opposites Of Surrender.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon {God};
for {God} careth for you

Word Study: The word translated care is the Greek μέριμνα mérimna, {pronounced mer’-im-nah}, which literally means “distractions caused by anxiety, worry”. When our Lord Jesus talked about the “Gospel Seed” and the things that can destroy that seed from blooming into a right relationship with God, He said:

Matthew 13:3-4, 7, 22 … Behold, a sower went forth to sow {the Gospel}… 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell … 7 among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them … 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the Word; and the CARE mérimna of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

CARE or WORRY can cause a person to hear the Gospel message, and then to walk away without receiving the seed. When a person hears the Gospel, Jesus warned us all to count the cost” (Luke 14:28) before giving our lives to Him.

To follow Jesus is to “forsake all that you have” (Luke 14:33)

Luke 14:26-27 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.

The devil has crept into the Gospel message of many churches over the past 50p years of so, and has suggested that you can be saved without total surrender to Christ. This is a lie from hell.

You cannot be saved, and still be sick with sin. (Romans 6:1-2; 6:15)
You cannot be saved, and still abide in darkness. (1 John 1:7; John 12:46)
You cannot be saved, and carry hatred or racism in your heart. (1 John 4:20)
You cannot be saved, and ignore Christ’s commands. (1 John 2:4)
You cannot be saved, and not be born again. (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23)
You cannot be saved, and not be a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

If you hear a preacher preaching salvation WITHOUT
REPENTANCE, then RUN, for this is devilish doctrine.

Pastor C.H. Spurgeon stated:

Grace which does not make us hate sin is false grace. We must preach repentance from dead works, and faith which works by love, and the people must be told that Christ has not come to save men in their sin but from their sin. On this we will be clear as the sun at noon.”

Salvation requires surrender to God. Salvation will make you different than the world, and thus hated of the world, just as it hates Jesus (John 15:18, 25). The darkness will always hate the light. There are many who hear the Gospel preached who, being in anxiety as to how it will effect their marriages, their relationship with their friends, and perhaps even their jobs, reject Jesus. Nine times out of ten people reject the Gospel out of PRIDE and ANXIETY or WORRY. If you come to God with empty hands, repenting of your old way of life and casting yourself upon Him, then you have His promise:

Hebrews 7:25 … to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Let’s look at the word (God} “careth”.

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon {God};
for {God} careth for you

Word Study: Here is why I like to look at the original text of Scripture, and not just the King James. The word “” is the Greek mérimna, but the word careth (though the KJV links the former word with the latter) is an entirely different word, which is μέλω mélō, {pronounced mel’-o}. This word means “to care about, to be deeply interested in, to have concern for”. Whereas mérimna refers to anxiety, worry, mélō means that “God is concerned about the smallest areas of your life, and watches over or focuses on you”.

When we begin to obsessively worry about events that are occurring in our lives, this is actually a function of PRIDE. We want to be in charge of every little thing. Yet there is no blessing in this way of living. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us:

Matthew 6:26-34 (NKJV) Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

We are told to “cast all our anxieties on God”. Why? “Because God is FOCUSED on our lives”. We are His children, if we have been born again by faith in Christ. God paid the greatest price for us that He could have paid. The Bible says that

1 Corinthians 15:3 … Christ died for our sins

1 Peter 2:22-25 {Jesus} committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. 23 When He was reviled, he did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to {God} who judges justly. 24 {Jesus} Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

God the Father and God the Spirit gave the most precious thing He could for our salvation. God gave His Son to the bloody Cross of Calvary. God paid the MOST for you at salvation when He sent His Only Begotten Son to die for your sins:

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.

God gave more for your salvation than BILLIONS of dollars. He gave His Son. It is ARROGANT to believe that god gave so much for my salvation, that God will not CARE FOR HIS INVESTMENT. You are God’s investment. You are God’s Workmanship (Ephesians 2:10).

If you are saved, you should not let worry or anxiety control you. You are to be controlled by the Love of Christ and by the Holy Spirit.

If it is true that “While we were yet helpless, Jesus died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6), and that “Jesus gave Himself to rescue us from this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), and that “all things work together for GOOD to those who love the Lord, for those who are called according to HIS PURPOSE”, THEN WE NEED NOT WORRY. Worry and anxiety are useless things that lower our faith, and introduce the horrible sin of unbelief into our lives. The Contemporary Christian Group Cain sing in their song “I’m So Blessed”:

Trouble knocking at my door today
I ain’t gonna let it in
And worry wanna steal my joy away
But I ain’t gonna let it win
‘Cause on my best day, I’m a child of God
On my worst day, I’m a child of God
Oh, every day is a good day
And You’re the reason why
I’m so blessed, I’m so blessed
Got this heartbeat in my chest
No, it doesn’t matter about the rest
If I got You Lord, I’m so blessed

As We Surrender To God, We Surrender To One Another

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

The Elders – those who have a regular relationship with Jesus Christ through exercise of the Christian Disciplines (Prayer, Bible Study, Christlike Service) – are to be leaders in the Church. But they are not to be dictators.

The heart of Christianity is SUBMISSION. You cannot be saved without submitting to Christ. You cannot be a Church without submitting to one another. Be “CLOTHED” with humility.

There is absolutely no organization EVER that functions without submission. In the Godhead though Father, Son, and Spirit are all co-equal and co-eternally God, all three Persons voluntarily submit to each other respecting the roles they perform.

The Father sends the Son into the world (1 John 4:10)
The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and
proceeds from the Father (John 14:26; 15:26)

My commentary notes:

“… our salvation is based on the Father’s power and love (John 3:16; 10:29), the Son’s death and resurrection (1 John 2:2; Ephesians 2:6), and the Spirit’s regeneration and seal (Ephesians 4:30; Titus 3:5).”

SUBMISSION is not a dirty word. A business cannot run without submission. The military cannot effectively defend us without submission. No Church long remains a Church without submission. And marriage along with the FAMILY cannot thrive without submission.

A few years ago the Southern Baptist Convention revised our Baptist Faith and Message in the area of marriage. The statement

A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

was added – and the uproar was heard around the world! “Women submit to their husbands! How dare the Southern Baptists! Don’t they know we are in the twenty-first century?” The liberal news channels on television had a field day, and feminist after feminist stood before the microphone to tell off us confused Baptists and our so called “Faith and Message”. Yet if you actually read the Baptist Faith and Message you would read:

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

This is Biblical, not humanist. We are called to – in the marriage – “submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21-23). Pastor and Author Randy Alcorn wrote:

“… the same Bible that says women are to submit to their husbands also says that a husband and wife are one (Matthew 19:6 and others). Fascinating parallel isn’t it? Does the Bible teach that women are inferior to men? Absolutely not. God made mankind (male and female) in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But God does have different functions for male and female. Even in the natural realm, women get pregnant and men don’t. Men have sperm and women don’t. Within the God-ordained authority structure, men and women have functional differences even though they are one.”

We are told in tonight’s text:

1 Peter 5:5 yea, all of you be subject one to another

Our entire world fell into the destructiveness of sin because mankind did not practice SUBMISSION. Adam was told to submit himself to God, and NOT EAT that which God forbade. Adam was to care for the Garden of Eden and for Eve, but to obey God. Adam ignored the command of God. Eve was supposed to submit to her husband, but instead submitted to a talking snake (which was Satan, that old serpent (Revelation 20:2). Adam was supposed to be leading in the marriage, but instead took the forbidden fruit when Eve gave it to him. Where submission is lacking, nothing works right.

Salvation is not mine to hold on to, no more than it was mine to create. Salvation is a “gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are told in:

Titus 3:5-7 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; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

We are saved by Grace – not by works. But once saved, we SUBMIT ourselves to God, and turn away from the darkness of this world. We are told:

Titus 2:11-13 (ESV) For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Jesus was even MORE SPECIFIC when He said:

John 10:27-30 (ESV) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

I will be quite plain here. If you live your life on this earth without regard to what Jesus has taught then you are patently NOT saved. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me LORD, LORD, and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). The saved follow Jesus. Who stands apart from God and refuses to follow and submit? It is Satan, and his fallen followers. It was Satan who first said:

Isaiah 14:13-15 … I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the [angels] 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 [God]

Pride makes of fallen man and fallen angels a god. Worry robs the Christian of the joy of the Lord, as well as the “peace of God that passes all understanding”.

PRIDE says “I can do this without God”, whereas WORRY says “I must do this without God”. PRIDE says “I am as good and able as God” whereas WORRY says “I am not able – but no one else is able either”. PRIDE wraps its hand around a thing and hold it up under its own power. WORRY wraps its hand around a thing and refuses to surrender it to the Greater Power of God. Both emotions – and their accompanying actions – are not only sinful, but they are destructive. PRIDE causes the young person to experiment with drugs and sex, and generally leads to terrible destruction. WORRY robs the life – even the Christian life – of joy and peace. How do we avoid these twins of destruction, pride and worry? We submit ourselves unto the Lord. We trust Him and Him alone with our lives. We turn unto Jesus, and keep our eyes on Him. We do as the Scripture says:

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Look at Jesus. Sinless, He was willing to come at the command of the Father into a sin soaked world. Perfect, Jesus sought out not those who thought themselves perfect, but the least among us, the sinners. Eternal Creator God, Jesus lowered Himself to become a part of His own creation. And perfectly innocent, Jesus willingly went to the Cross of Calvary to redeem us from Satan and sin.

Oh Beloved, let us put away pride and worry. Because Joseph’s brothers were proud and anxious, they sold their brother into slavery. Joseph overcame this horrible evil by casting all his anxiety upon God, knowing that God cared for him. When Joseph reunited with his brothers, he told them:

Genesis 50:19-21 (ESV) … “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

It was anxiety and pride that led King Saul to sacrifice on God’s altar rather than to wait for the Prophet Samuel. The Prophet told him:

1 Samuel 13:13-14 “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

Pride and worry caused Herod to kill the babies of Bethlehem, and to cut off John the Baptist’s head. Where ever pride and anxiety have a home, blessing is lost, and souls are not brought to the Kingdom of God. The Bible tells us:

1 Peter 5:5 … God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

There are four young Jewish men that stand out throughout human history as those who followed the Lord. These men were the Prophet Daniel, and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that these men bow down and worship a golden statue of himself that he had commissioned. They refused – and were saved from a fiery furnace. Yet later in his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar was made to lose his mind, so much so that he began to graze in the fields like a cow (Daniel 4:25-35). It is so true that God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

How Do I Conquer Pride And Worry In My Life?
In Short, Find Another Hobby!

There are three positive steps you can take to conquer pride and worry in your life. First,

1 Look for a place of service in the Church. God puts us together as a Church on purpose. We are told in 1 Corinthians 12:18, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. Each part of the Church – much like the human body – must submit to the other parts if we are all to be blessed. When one part suffers pain, all parts suffer pain. When one part is blessed, all parts are blessed. God wants there to be “no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26). Find your niche, and then serve in it. Do not expect to be served or waited on, but work for the good of the Body and the glory of God.

2 Control your tongue. Ensure that you are glorifying God and blessing the Body with that little flap of muscle. The purpose every Christian has is to remember that not only I, but other Christians belong to God. The Scripture 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.

Be particularly careful with your tongue when you are offended or under stress. Try not to set a fire that will burn the Church down!

3 Take a look in the mirror, and realize that YOU are not the Church. You are just a PART of the Church. You need the Church as much as the Church needs you. Sister Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not tuberculosis or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.” Jesus said:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Nowhere in the Scripture are we commanded to love ourselves. We are commanded to love others. John Stonestreet of Breakpoint notes:

The biggest factors behind the drop in life expectancy among Americans over the last three years are drug overdoses and suicides. In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, and approximately 45,000 people intentionally took their own lives. These deaths, along with alcohol-related deaths, have been dubbed “deaths of despair” … {there is a} 30-percent rise in suicide rates among 15-to-24 year-olds … As the sixth-century theologian Isidore of Seville put it, “to commit a crime is death to the soul; but to despair is to descend into hell.” If there’s a better word than “Hell” to describe the despair we are seeing in so many American communities, I’m not aware of it.”

This world needs Jesus. This Church is God’s tool to bring the glorious hope of Jesus to a lost and dying world. Let us strive to be one as we reach other to other in His name, for His glory. Through God’s Holy Spirit I pray. Amen and Amen.

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I Am Not a god

Photo by ArtHouse Studio:

Turn with me in your Bibles to Psalm 117.

Opening Illustration: A cowboy rode into town, and saw a crowd gathered around a gallows. The hangman standing by, there was a man clothed in leaves and branches. Everything he was wearing BADLY was leaves. The cowboy dismounted his horse, and went toward the crowd. He whispered to another townsman standing there, “Are they getting ready to hang this guy?” He replied, “Yes we are, stranger. This man kept telling us he was a bush, and kept dressing up like he was a bush. We warned him to stop it, but he refused. So we’re hanging him!” The cowboy said, “Hanging him because he says he’s a bush?” The townsman said, “No. We’re hanging him because he won’t stop rustling”.

Yeah, that’s a “dad joke”, or you might think a “bad joke”. But it’s a good introduction to the message today. Every time I turn on the television or radio, I hear people pushing “You do you, and I’ll do me”. According to the Progressive mind so prevalent today we as humans can make ourselves into anything we want to be. If I’m born a woman, I can be a man with enough surgery. If I’m a man, I can have radical surgery and hormones and breastfeed babies. In fact, some say that men can get pregnant. If I wake up and think I’m a kitten or a dog, then what I say is reality. I can bark or meow, and you must treat me as a “furry”.

We want to be God. We think we are God. We Aren’t God.

This mentality creeps into the churches – even our Church. It creeps into your Pastor. I was praying this past Monday and felt like God told me to “Go to the middle of My Book”. So I went to Psalm 117. I kept trying to “get a sermon” out of this text until God reminded me, “You are not God. You are David.” So I stopped trying to make a sermon, and asked God what He wanted me to say. Read with me:

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.

Psalm 117 is not only the middle chapter of the Bible,
but it’s the shortest chapter in the Bible.

Don’t let this confuse you. Psalm 117 is packed with great truth. If the Bible were an Oreo©, Psalm 117 would be that creamy center that holds it together. Psalm 117 is one of the SIX Hāllel” or “Egyptian” Psalms (Psalms 113 through 118), so named by the Jews because they focus on praising God for His goodness and grace. The first and last words of this Psalm are:

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord … Praise ye the Lord

which is the Hebrew Hālal Yᵊhōvâ. The Hāllel was recited or sang before, during, and after many of the Jewish Feasts. Our Lord Jesus sang Psalm 117 & 118 just before His crucifixion. We are told in …

Matthew 26:30 (ESV) when they had sung a hymn (hymneō), they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Throughout the Bible we are COMMANDED to Hālal Yᵊhōvâ or “Hālal yâ” – Praise the Lord – over 250 times. Those who were most successful in our faith focused on Praising God. King David prayed:

Psalm 119:160-164 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. 161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. 162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil. 163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. 164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous rules.

It is no wonder that David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David focused on praising God for the blessings – and even the cursings – in his life. Why are we to praise God? A few years ago an unbeliever named Michael Prowse wrote an open letter in the London Financial Times. He wrote:

Worship is an aspect of religion that I always found difficult to understand. Suppose we postulate an omnipotent being who, for reasons inscrutable to us, decided to create something other than himself. Why should he . . . expect us to worship him? We didn’t ask to be created. Our lives are often troubled. We know that human tyrants, puffed up with pride, crave adulation and homage. But a morally perfect God would surely have no character defects. So why are all those people on their knees every Sunday?”

God does not command us to worship Him because He is arrogant or prideful. God commands us to worship Him because we need to constantly remind ourselves, “I am not God”.

Only God is God. People are constantly asking me to be God. I cannot be God. I’ve been asked about the upcoming revival: “What if the revival gets rained on? What if there are mosquitoes? What if its too hot? What if a hurricane or tornado comes? The field is rough – somebody might twist an ankle!” Listen Beloved, I am not God. You are not God. We are to worship God the best way that we can, and constantly remind ourselves that we are not God. God is God. God is God.

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord … Praise ye the Lord

Our God is the LORD. He is Yᵊhōvâ. He spoke to Adam and told him:

Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV) … “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Adam heard Yᵊhōvâ. God made the instruction very clear. YOU, Adam, may not eat of it. God said nothing of Eve, but of Adam. God said, “Adam, I alone am God. You work for Me. You praise Me. You obey Me, and you will be blessed. But if you try to take on MY JOB, it will kill you!” Enter the Serpent. Adam sees the Serpent. Adam knows the command. Adam hears the Serpent (who is Satan – see Revelation 12:9) tell the woman:

Genesis 3:4-5 … (ESV) “You will not surely die {if you eat that which God forbade}. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Adam was intrigued. Yᵊhōvâ told him not to eat of this tree – but now this snazzy, talking serpent told him it was all right to do. Adam wanted to be like God. What did he do? He tried being God. The Bible tells us that Adam’s little experiment to be God did not work. We are told:

Romans 5:12 (ESV) … sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned

Romans 5:19 …. by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners

We praise the LORD because He alone is Yᵊhōvâ. We praise Him because He is God and we are not. We praise God not just on Sunday, but we worship Him throughout the week because He is God and we are not! The Bible says:

Psalm 96:4 (ESV) … great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.

There is only one “Capital G” God, and He is the God of Scripture. All other “small g” gods are figments of our imagination. When I was a little boy I prayed to Jesus and to Santa Claus. I asked Jesus and Santa Claus to come into my room every night. I imagined Jesus riding in the sleigh with Santa, circling over my bed, driving away the horrible demons that hid in the dark under it. Santa is a wonderful concept, a spirit of giving – but Santa is no god. Santa is actually a secularized version of a Christian named Nicholas, who lived around 280 AD in Patara, near Myra, Turkey. He traveled the country side, giving away all he had to help the poor and sick. Saint Nicolas never rode in a sled, and he was not a god – though He was saved by believing on our God. Only the God of Scripture is God. God told His Old Covenant people Israel:

Isaiah 44:6 … the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

There is no God but our God. Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9). We who are Christian affirm that for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6). The idols that people follow are nothing but man made gods. “We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Corinthian 8:4).

Idols hurt people. When Adam tried to be God, he hurt the whole world. We are all born into sin because Adam did what he did. Idols hurt people today. In India there is a Temple where people worship rats. People bring food to the Temple, feeding these creatures and praying to them, even as these nasty animals carry

“… hantavirus, leptospirosis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis (LCMV), Tularemia and Salmonella. Wild rodents also may cause considerable property damage by chewing through wiring in homes, car engines, and other places”.

In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Mauritius people are starving to death, while cattle are worshiped by the Hindu faith. Hindus believe that each cow contains 330 million gods and goddesses. At festivals honoring Krishna, priests shape cow dung into images of the god. (Source: “Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches” by Marvin Harris, Vintage Books, 1974). India has more cattle than any other country in the world, but they may not be eaten, but only worshiped – along with monkeys, cobras, and other snakes.

Hāllel Psalm 115:3-8 (ESV) Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 5 They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. 6 They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. 7 They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. 8 Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.

Idolatry starves and kills a people. We may not worship cows, monkeys, or other animals, but we as Americans worship many things. We worship sports. We worship politicians. We worship things. We worship ourselves. Hey, “You just be You, and I’ll be Me”. You can be anything you want to be. This is idolatry. Only God is God.

Only God Is God, And Praise God, He Is Merciful To All!

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us

A Jewish prayer book of the Apostle Paul’s day – back in the early Church – had a well known and ancient prayer that the men of the Synagogue said weekly. The prayer was:

I thank You, O God, that You have made me a Jew, and not a Gentile.
I thank You, O God, that you have made me free, and not a slave.
I thank You, Lord God, that You have made me male, and not female.

That prayer may have made some of you uncomfortable. It sounds as if the early Jew believed that Gentiles (that’s us), slaves, and women are all inferior to Jewish men. The Jewish women would pray:

I thank You, O God, that You have made me a Jew, and not a Gentile.
I thank You, O God, that you have made me free, and not a slave.
I thank You, O God, that You have made me according to Your will.

So a Jewish woman prayed, believing she was better than Gentiles (that’s us) or a slave. Yet when God commands us to praise Him, what does He command?

O praise the Lord, all ye nations

The nations is the Hebrew gôy, which means “Gentiles, non-Hebrew people”. God calls on the NATIONS or the GENTILES to FIRST praise God. Then the Lord says:

praise Him, all ye people

The people is the Hebrew ʼummah, a reference to Israel. God wants the whole world to praise Him, for God equally values every person. There are no second class people with our God. Every person made is a person God made, and made on purpose. There are no mistakes with God. When God called an old man from Ur of the Chaldees named Abram to follow Him, God told this childless man:

Genesis 12:1-3 … “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God told Abram, who would become Abraham “I will make of you a great nation. God would give Abraham a child, and through that child God would create the nation Israel. But God went on to tell Abraham in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The word families is the Hebrew Mishpâchâh, which means “every class of people, every tribe, every kind”. It was never God’s intention to be God over just Israel, or just a select few. God calls all people to Him to worship. God was going to bless all of fallen humanity. He would use Israel to do this.

God would use imperfect and broken Israel to bring the Savior into the world. God used Israel to give us all Jesus.

God created Israel through a childless Abraham and a barren Sarah. God would give Abraham the power and stamina to have a child with Sarah, and God would make Sarah fertile. But God would do a much greater miracle through Israel. God prophesied that He Himself would enter this world as a Perfect and Sinless Man. God said in:

Isaiah 7:14 … the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The word Immanuel” (ʿimmānû’ēl) means “with us is GOD”. Eternal God would become Perfect Man through a virgin birth. Why? Why would God so lower Himself? Because … hear me …

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us

We cannot save ourselves. Adam’s sin brought sin to all his progeny – that’s us. From the time Adam was cast from Eden with Eve, to this day and beyond, we are ALL SINNERS. A sinner cannot fix a sinner.

Romans 3:23 … For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Man tried to be God and lost Paradise. So how can man return to Paradise. Only God can do this for us. Only God can save us.

Romans 3:24-28 … 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. 27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. 29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

God the Father – through the Holy Spirit – sent His Son into humanity through a virgin. The Angel Gabriel told that virgin:

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.

That same Angel Gabriel told Joseph, the betrothed of Mary,

Matthew 1:20-23 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.

God’s only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, came into this earth through a virgin. Jesus came to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of God’s Israel. To whom did Jesus come? For us all, whether Jew or Greek, whether Bond or Free, whether Male or Female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Jesus came for every person, no matter how broken. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Why do you eat with sinners?”. Jesus replied:

Matthew 9:13 … I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

As the Pharisees continued to criticize Jesus, He held firm, declaring:

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.

God entered this world as a Perfect Man. The Messiah was prophesied to come to us.

Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful {,} Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Jesus Christ came into this world – eternally with the Father, very God of very God – and lowered Himself to be like us (yet without sin). Jesus then walked among us, doing miraculous deeds, doing good where ever He went. Yet His primary mission on this earth was to be the One Who would give us all access to God. The Apostle told us:

1 Timothy 2:3-6 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. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

How is one saved? Not by our works, but by faith in the Work of Christ. Our Lord Jesus said:

John 6:29 This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom {God} hath sent.

Only Jesus can make a sinner right with God. Only Jesus can bring whosoever will to a place of saving Grace, and can translate us into the kingdom of God. Only Jesus can make payment for our sins. Jesus Christ is the True Manna from Heaven Who gives life unto the world (John 6:33). Jesus is the Bread of Life, that, if you believe on Him, you will never thirst (John 6:35). It is Jesus Who came from Heaven to do the Father’s will (John 6:38). What is the Father’s will? Jesus said:

John 6:39-40 (ESV) … this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

There is no other God but our God. We are not gods. But God became like unto us to reach us, and bring Heaven to us, and us to Heaven.

God’s Truth Endures Forever

Psalm 117 O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people. 2 For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.

God’s truth never ends. What God has said is “sin” in the Old Testament, is “sin” in the New Testament. God despises sin. Sin is anything that makes us out to be gods. Sin separates us from God, and separates us from God’s blessings. But here is a truth that is eternal. If you will come to the Lord Jesus and receive Him as Lord and Savior, He will not only heal you of your sins, but He will bring you into union with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. We are told in:

Hāllel Psalm 116:5, 13 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. 13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.

Hāllel Psalm 118:8-9, 14 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. 14 The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.

I told you at the beginning that Hāllel Psalm 117 is the center chapter of the Bible. Many years ago three men were put to death – executed – on a hill called Calvary. The crowd mocked the Man in the middle, saying,

Matthew 27:40 … If Thou {Jesus} be the Son of God, come down from the Cross…

The thief on the left, dying, said the same thing to Jesus. Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39). And Jesus said nothing. But the thief on the right looked at that Man in the middle. Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom. And Jesus said, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves. The truth will never end, but is a golden thread that will draw each believer into eternity.

Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If not, today is the day to call on Him and be saved. For God’s glory, and through the Spirit’s power I pray this. Amen and Amen.

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