SERMONS
 
March 31, 2024
 
Responses to the Resurrection
 
Charles Colson was an aide to President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. He served time in prison for his involvement in the cover-up. He became a Christian and was founder of Prison Fellowship, a ministry to prison inmates. In March 2002, he said these words in his Breakpoint commentary:
“Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up a crime perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States—the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their president. But one of them, John Dean, turned state’s evidence. That is, he testified against Nixon, as he put it, "to save his own skin". And he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on—just two weeks! The cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, all that those around the President were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake.
“But what about the disciples of Jesus. Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stoning, and execution for preaching the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead.
“Don’t you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or crucified? That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities? None did.
“You see, men will give their lives for something they know to be true, but they will never give their lives for something they know to be false.”
What do you know about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Would you die for it or deny it? In Matthew 27 and 28, we will see four possible responses to the Resurrection of Christ.
Matthew 27:62-66 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
The reaction of the religious leaders, who had been instrumental in the crucifixion of Jesus, represent the first possible response to the Resurrection:
1. I can try to deny the Resurrection.
It’s very interesting that out of all the people involved with Jesus, the group that was most concerned about His Resurrection was not His disciples, but rather the religious leaders, who had been instrumental in having Jesus executed on the cross. And their approach to the Resurrection was to try to keep it from happening. They wanted to deny the Resurrection.
It must have been comical to God, the Father, watching the priests and Pharisees going to Pilate, hearing Pilate issuing orders, observing the soldiers straining to roll the stone in front of the entrance of the tomb, watching them sealed it with the seal of the Roman Empire, and then standing guard to make sure that nothing happened. Can you imagine someone, who spoke the universe into existence, being hampered by a mere stone in front of a tomb, or a seal made of wax and rope, or by a few Roman soldiers armed with swords and spears?
But no matter how hard those religious leaders may have tried to deny the Resurrection, the stone could not stop it, the seal could not stop it, nor could the soldiers stop the Resurrection.
Jesus said in John 10:17-18, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Nevertheless, there are still those who try to deny the Resurrection today. Some deny that the Resurrection ever happened. They come up with all kinds of theories to try to disprove the Resurrection. Claiming to be wise and enlightened, they have become fools.
However, there are many more who accept the fact of the Resurrection, but deny its significance and power. They concede that Jesus probably rose from the dead, but they deny that His death and Resurrection should have any influence on their lives.
Let’s look in the following chapter of Matthew and see what the soldiers and the religious leaders decided to do after the Resurrection.
Matthew 28:11-15 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
From this portion of scripture, there appears to be two more possible responses to the Resurrection:
2. I can be distracted from the Resurrection.
Even though they had been eyewitnesses, the Roman soldiers were distracted from the reality and the significance of the Resurrection for a couple very good reasons. First, they had failed in their duties and they feared for their own lives. Second, there was the money. It was a substantial amount. All they had to do was lie.
Even today, most of the world, including Christians, are distracted from the significance of the Resurrection. Instead of focusing on the Resurrection, they celebrate Easter, a pagan holiday honoring a goddess of fertility that witches worship. Easter is all about activity. There are Easter outfits to buy, eggs to be colored and hidden, candy to purchase, and meals to be prepared. People are so busy and distracted by the pagan activities and traditions that they don’t take time to really focus on what the Resurrection means. They may talk about it briefly, even pay homage to it by going to church, but its significance is lost because they have Easter on their minds.
There is one other possible response to the Resurrection that we find in this portion of Matthew’s account:
3. I can be deceived about the Resurrection.
The story which the religious leaders concocted and convinced the soldiers to spread was obviously intended to deceive people about the truth of the Resurrection. In fact, by the time that Matthew wrote his gospel, probably more than 20 years after the Resurrection, the story that the disciples had stolen His body was still being circulated among the Jews.
We have already seen that the religious leaders tried to deny the Resurrection, but they were also deceived about the significance of the Resurrection because of their own selfish interests. Not only did they despise Jesus because He had frequently pointed out their hypocrisy and selfishness, but they also realized that if people knew Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, they were going to lose respect and much of the power and influence that they held over the people.
Even today, one of the reasons so many people are deceived about the Resurrection and its significance, is because of their own selfish interests. As we’ll see in a moment, the only proper response to the Resurrection is to acknowledge Jesus is LORD! He is God Almighty! And give Him control of our life!
Most people just aren’t willing to do that, but they still think they will go to Heaven. That is the most dangerous deception of all.
Now, let’s go back and finish Matthew’s account by reading about the other events which were sandwiched in between the two accounts that involved the religious leaders and the soldiers:
Matthew 28:1-10 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ’He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you." So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
In this passage we find the fourth, and only proper, response to the Resurrection.
4. I can delight in the Resurrection.
The first people, other than the Roman soldiers, to learn of the Resurrection were the two Marys. From the other Biblical accounts, we know that the stone has already been rolled away by the time they arrived at the tomb early that morning. They certainly were not expecting a Resurrection, since Mark records that they had purchased burial spices which they intended to put on Jesus’ body.
Imagine how frightened the women must have been upon seeing the angel and realizing that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb. But as soon as they realized that Jesus had risen from the grave, just as He had predicted, they were filled with joy and ran, not walked, to share the news with the disciples. And then, when Jesus met them along the way, they fell at His feet in submission and worshipped Him.
Now they knew for sure, that what Jesus had proclaimed, was true! They responded by rejoicing and humbling themselves at the feet of Jesus. He was indeed LORD—GOD ALMIGHTY! Therefore, they would devote their lives to Him!
It is likely there are people here who have responded to the Resurrection of Jesus in each of the four ways I have described. Perhaps in different periods of your life, you have responded to the Resurrection in all four ways.
For some of you, you have responded with delight and have given Jesus control of your life. He is your Lord as well as your Savior. And if that is your case, you are blessed. I encourage you with the words Jesus spoke to Thomas after His Resurrection.
John 20:29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
But it is also likely that some of you have come here and would honestly have to say that you have not responded with delight. Perhaps you would have to admit that you are one of the people who have been denying the Resurrection. Or perhaps you have always believed in the fact of the Resurrection, but you have denied the significance of the Resurrection in your life.
There may be some of you here who have been distracted when it comes to the Resurrection. It is not just the busyness of all the Easter preparations that have distracted you, but the demands of living your life on a day-to-day basis have kept you from really thinking about the significance of the Resurrection and what it means for your life.
Or some of you would honestly have to say that you have been deceived about the Resurrection. You have believed the lie that Jesus’ body was stolen or some other theory. Worse yet, you have been deceived by believing you are capable of directing your own life and still go to Heaven.
Or, maybe there is some combination of denial, distraction, and deception that has kept you from delighting in the Resurrection. I can honestly say that is exactly where I was for many years. I have responded to the Resurrection in all those ways.
And if that is where you are, I want to encourage you to respond to the Resurrection with delight by believing in the Resurrection. That means Jesus is who He claimed to be: the Son of God! He is LORD, God Almighty! He gave His life on the cross to atone for your sin in order that you may have eternal life with Him.
Jesus said in John 11:25, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
When some people in Jerusalem realized the significance of the Resurrection, they responded this way: Acts 2:37-38, Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
 
March 24, 2024
 
Why Do We Live?
 
This is Palm Sunday, the day Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly. But by Friday, He is crucified. Why did He live and die a violent death? The world does not know. It is our duty to tell them, but let’s make sure we know the answer.
1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may wish that you have eternal life.” Wait, I got it wrong. Again, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may guess that you have eternal life.” Sorry, I got it wrong again, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may hope that you have eternal life.” That is what many believe, but the Word says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may [K N O W] that you have eternal life.”
God wants us to know we have eternal life. He doesn’t want us to wish-so, guess-so, hope-so; He wants us to know-so.
Now in order to know that we have eternal life, we have to be aware of what God said to do to receive eternal life. First, as the scripture says, we must believe Jesus is the Son of God. Without this faith, it is impossible to receive eternal life.
Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Salvation is a reconciliation with God that pardons us from the guilt of our sin. Sin made us God’s enemies. But, by the blood of Jesus on the cross, that sin debt was paid, that warfare against God was ended. We have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
You see, God doesn’t just forgive our sin and say, “Now, it’s up to you.” When a person is saved, the Holy Spirit of God comes into him, and lives in him. The Holy Spirit gives us intimacy with God. We hear Him speak to us, and He gives us grace to follow Jesus.
During the Passover Supper, that took place this week before His arrest, Jesus explained in John 14:15-17 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Last week after the service, Rosie asked me, “Why do we live if we are just going to die?” Now, that is a very profound question! In other words, if this is all there is, what is life all about? Does our life have a greater purpose than the chickens at Pilgrim’s? To answer these questions, let’s first consider how we are made.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
So, we see from this verse that we are spirit, soul, and body—a three-part entity, made in the image of a triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
First of all, we consist of a body. We are here in a body, right? So obviously, we have a body. Our body is like a space suit we wear while we are on spaceship Earth. When we leave this Earth, we will leave this earthly body behind.
Now the second part is not quite as obvious. We also have a soul. The Greek word for soul is the word psyche. It’s the word from which we get psychiatry, psychology, psychological, and psychic. All of these words refer to the soul. The soul is you; that’s your personality, your idiosyncrasies, your intelligence, your sense of humor, all of those things that make you the person that you are. That is your soul. In other words, your soul is your mind, your will, and your emotions. You—your soul—lives inside your body.
Thirdly, there’s the spirit. Now what is the spirit? I used to think that soul and spirit were about the same thing, just the invisible part of a person. But Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and of spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Clearly, the soul and spirit are invisible and connected, but they are not the same. The spirit is that part of us that makes us different from any of the animals or plants in Creation. The spirit is that part of us that enables us to know and worship God. Our spirit can contain the Holy Spirit or evil spirits.
John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Romans 8:12-17 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
See, plants have a body, but they don’t have a soul. Animals have body and a soul. Animals have mind, will, and emotion, but they don’t have a spirit. Only man has a spirit. Only man can worship God. Only man can pray. Only man can conceive of eternity. Only man was created in the image of God and can be filled with the Spirit of God.
Our spirit speaks to our soul: the mind, the will, and the emotions. The spirit gives the mind discernment. The spirit gives the will desires. The spirit directs the emotions (either evil emotions or the fruit of the Holy Spirit). And so, the human spirit speaks to the soul: the mind, the will, and the emotions. What is in our spirit controls our soul.
Now what does the soul do? The soul (the mind, will, and emotions) controls the body: the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears; the mouth.
What does the body do? The body does what the soul commands. It moves out into the world and does things. Put all the parts of man together (spirit, soul, and body) and there is a life—a person—created in the image of God.
God wants to occupy our spirit. So does Satan. Whoever occupies our spirit is who will control our soul and body. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit fills our spirit, we will show the fruit of the Spirit, which is the life of Jesus abiding in us. Without the Holy Spirit, we are vulnerable to evil spirits and “lost” eternally. Now, what does “lost” mean?
In the beginning, God made Adam healthy, happy, and holy, and God was living in Adam’s spirit. Adam was with God in the Garden of Eden. But Adam sinned by disobeying God. And when Adam sinned, God moved out of Adam and cast Adam out of the Garden. Why? God has no fellowship with sin. He is a holy God.
Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.”
Did Adam die the day he and Eve ate the forbidden fruit? Physically, Adam went on living for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, he died that day. He did not die immediately in his soul. He did not die immediately in his body. He died immediately in his spirit. Death is not just the separation of the soul from the body. Death is the separation of the spirit from God. Eternal death is eternal separation from God. Adam was created to live forever with God. But, Adam died immediately in his spirit after sinning because God departed from his spirit. After that, Adam died progressively in his soul, and ultimately in his body.
A lot of folks are like Adam; they are spiritually dead. Their soul is operating. Their body is operating. But they are minus God in their spirit. That is the definition of being lost.
We don’t have to rob a bank, commit murder, or commit some perversion to be lost. No, we don’t have to do anything, because we are lost the day are born. We are born with a sinful spirit that we inherited from Adam. We are lost because God is not in us. As a result, we follow evil spirits instead of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:1-3 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
We can be fine, upstanding, wonderful, and religious, just like Nicodemus, who came to Jesus secretly at night, and still be lost. Jesus told Nicodemus he had to be born again of the Spirit in order to see the kingdom of Heaven.
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Here is the situation. Sin has separated us from a holy God. So, man has an emptiness, where God was in the spirit. Now that’s the condition of every man, woman, boy, and girl without the Lord Jesus Christ. We feel empty, without purpose, and lost until we are filled with God, the Holy Spirit! Therefore, we must be born again of the spirit to be saved.
Because we cannot save ourselves, Here is what God did: Ephesians 2:1-9 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind [soul], and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Jesus, the Son of God, came to Earth as an infant. He experienced everything we experience, yet without sin. When this week came, He took our sin upon Himself and shed His blood on a cruel cross to atone for that sin. That sacrificial act of shedding His blood on the cross is what provided a new covenant with God, forgiveness of sin, and eternal life. That is what we celebrate this week.
Jesus did not die as a martyr. His death wasn’t an accident. No one could take His life from Him. Jesus had the power to lay down His life and to take it up again.
Jesus said in John 10:17-18, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
Jesus willingly obeyed the Father and died on the cross so we could have His life in our spirit. He came to Earth so that we might go to Heaven. He became the Son of Man that we might become sons and daughters of God. He was born of a virgin so that we might be born again of the Spirit. All this is the grace of God—doing for us and in us what we cannot do ourselves. Why did He do it? Because He is loving and merciful. Jesus died so we can live eternally with Him, just like it was in the Garden of Eden.
In summary, salvation is not primarily getting man out of Earth and into Heaven. It is getting God out of Heaven and back into man! Salvation is you living in God and God living in you!
Now a saved person is not somebody who merely believes intellectually that Christ died for his sins. A saved person is somebody who believes AND has given Christ control of his life. If you’re not willing to make Him Lord, Jesus can’t be your Savior. When we are born again of the Spirit, Jesus comes into your spirit to take control of your life and fulfill the reason we are alive. We don’t just live to die. God gave us a purpose. God gave us eternal life, and God gave us His righteousness.
Romans 5:19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Remember what we said about how Adam died? When he sinned, Adam died immediately in his spirit, progressively in his soul, and ultimately in his body. Now, when we get saved, we become a new creation. We are justified immediately in our spirit by the blood of Christ, we will be made righteous progressively in our soul as we conform to Jesus, and we will be glorified ultimately in our body when Jesus returns.
The Lord Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.”
Now I’m hoping that you’re hearing His voice today, and if you hear His voice, that you will open the door of your heart. Jesus will not break in. You have to open the door and invite Him in. That is the act of faith. You open wide the door and say, “Come, Lord Jesus! Forgive me of my sin and take control of my life. Fill me with your Spirit and make me the person You want me to be.” Then you do what the first believers did:
Acts 2:37-41 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
 
 
March 17, 2024
 
ROCK OF WISDOM
God is like an immovable, solid Rock. He does not change. It is wise to fear and trust Him.
Deuteronomy 32:4
The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
1 Samuel 2:2
No one is holy like the LORD, For there is none besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.
Matthew 7:24-27
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.
And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man …
That’s what the past 2.5 years of sermons have been about. Hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into practice. It is easier said than done, but it is imperative that we do it.
James 1:22
Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Jesus’s words penetrate our soul and spirit. They are convicting. Sometimes they appear to be way beyond our abilities. And yet, Jesus desires that we both hear His words and obey them, because they are the wisdom of God and beneficial to our life. That is why Jesus concludes His Sermon, by telling a short story about two home-builders. He points out something concerning the builders that is identical as well as something that is different.
What is identical in the story?
STORMS!
Storms know no boundaries. Storms do not play favorites. Storms are a common experience to every person in life. Both builders in the story experienced the same storm. Notice the similarities: The rains came down. The streams rose. The winds blew and beat against the house.
Now, we may want to ask questions about the storm – why did it come – why was I not spared from its harshness. But instead of focusing on the storm, Jesus wants us to focus on what is different in this story.
We all face storms, but the difference is how the builders prepared for the storms. It’s a real difference that shows up in the lives of real people. We know storms are coming, but not everyone is properly prepared when they come.
One of the builders in Jesus’ story built his house on the sand – perhaps some attractive beachfront property. When complete, I’m sure it was a lovely house. The other man built on rock – possibly just up the hill from the other man’s beachfront property. The casual observer might not have noticed any difference in the two structures. The difference was in the foundation. Foundations are not easily seen, but storms make them evident.
We live in a culture where many have unwisely built their lives on shaky foundations. They do this because they are convinced that there are no absolute ways to believe and live. They end up building their foundation on sand and their life looks good until a storm comes.
A wise life is built on the solid, unshakeable Rock of Jesus Christ. Once we start compromising with that foundation, we create serious flaws and consequences in our life. To build wisely, requires complete surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
Wisdom hears Jesus’ words and puts them into practice. Wisdom understands that the entire Sermon on the Mount is not an exaggeration to make a point, but the truth about how to live. Obeying the words of Jesus brings His blessings into our life and prepares us for life’s storms.
So, how do we completely surrender our lives to Jesus Christ? Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-26
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?"
Complete surrender to Jesus Christ requires a daily regimen of denying self, picking up a cross, and following Jesus. Not only are we to deny ourselves of things contrary to the Word of God, but we are to give up all self-determination and dedicate our lives to Christ.
It is a sacrifice, a death to self—like being nailed to a cross.
This is a daily sacrifice we make in order to follow Jesus. Otherwise, we will drift back to unwisely following our own desires. When we surrender, we lose our life to wisely gain the life of Jesus, which is eternal blessings. In this life-long surrender, our minds will be renewed to God’s way of thinking.
Romans 12:1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.
For our minds to go through this transformation, we must saturate our thinking with Jesus’ words instead of TV and social media.
His teaching must become the first set of criteria used in our decision making.
His wisdom must become the fire that melts us and the mold that shapes us.
We must define truth as "His Word" and define all that is outside of His Word as "untruth".
Building your life on the words of Jesus is building on a solid rock that will withstand all the storms of life.
Proverbs 2:6-11
For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you…
God wants us to be wise in everything that we do or say. “Everything”—think about what that means!
God wants us to be wise in making good decisions.
God wants us to be wise in handling our finances.
God wants us to be wise in our relationship with our wife, husband, children, relatives, neighbors, friends, co-workers, enemies, boss, strangers, and with people in general.
God wants us to be wise in choosing a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife.
God wants us to wise in following the laws of the land.
God wants us to be wise in taking good care of our bodies and our health.
God wants us to be wise in what we eat and drink.
God wants us to be wise in planning our daily affairs.
God wants us to wise in handling the problems that we face in life. God wants us to be wise in handling our business affairs.
God wants us to be wise in handling our emotions.
God wants us to be wise in our thoughts and in our prayers.
God wants us to be wise when we are at home, at work, at school, in the neighborhood, in the supermarket, while driving our car, while we are on vacation, or wherever we may be.
God wants us to be wise with the time we have on earth.
Yes, God wants us to be wise in everything we do or say.
Ephesians 5:15-17
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Understanding God’s will changes how we spend our time, our money, and our talents. It changes how we approach our circumstances, our relationships, our work, and our attitudes.
A focus on self leads to devastating shortsightedness and has evil, destructive consequences. A focus on God—His character, His ways, His eternal nature—leads us to wisdom and blessings.
For example, from God’s Word, we learn that the will of God is to abstain from sexual immorality.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that each of you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.
The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.
For God did not called us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.
We do not learn this truth from the world because the world rejects God and His Word. The world is on the broad road that leads to destruction. They are building on the sand. Therefore, our society is teeming with sexual immorality and suffering the consequences (Broken hearts, suicide, abortion, divorce, single parenting, poverty, and crime).
Placing any faith in our own wisdom is a form of pride and self-deception. It dooms us to failure.
We do not know anything about the future for certain;
we don’t know the intricacies of our own hearts;
we don’t see all the motives and moods of other people;
we don’t fully grasp the spiritual realities of God’s Kingdom.
God has a handle on all of these things; we have a handle on none of them. To act as if we do, is the ultimate act of foolishness!
Jesus said in John 14:25-26
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
To become a wise person, we must believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and make Him Lord of our life. If we do that, He has promised to give us the Holy Spirit, who will remind us of everything He taught.
But before the Holy Spirit can remind us of what Jesus taught, we need to first hear what He said by reading the Word of God, and praying for understanding on how to apply it to our life. Then, when you hear the still, small voice of the Spirit reminding you what to do, do what He says!
That is what wisdom is all about.
Wisdom is living according to the words of Jesus. You are a wise person when you build your life upon the solid Rock of Jesus Christ by trusting Him and being obedient to His Word.
Trusting Christ is not natural to the fallen human heart. Even the redeemed heart has to learn how to trust Jesus. Trust makes a conscious decision to forsake our own understanding and lean on Jesus Christ, obeying what He said, whether we are in a storm or at peace.
Are you faced with a decision today? Make up your mind not to act until you have sought God’s wisdom diligently, persistently, and patiently.
Ask Him for His wisdom. God promises to give it. When He gives it to you, follow it, no matter how hard it seems at first. I assure you, living according to our desires is much harder in the end than following Jesus.
James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became a man and demonstrated wisdom as well as taught wisdom. However, He was rejected. Although He committed no crime, He was arrested and sentenced to die by crucifixion. At that time, Jesus and His wisdom appeared foolish.
But in three days, He rose from the dead, proving He is who He says He is, having all power in His hands, even power over death. And because Jesus Christ is alive today, the wisest thing to do is to trust in Him for our salvation, for our healing, for our deliverance, for our hope and strength, and for the way to live.
Psalm 30:2-5
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
No matter what storm you may be facing, do the wise thing by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Rock of Wisdom. Obey His Word in the midst of the storm, and your joy will come in the morning. In other words, you will be glad you did.
 
March 10, 2024
 
Deception, Wisdom, and Waiting on the LORD
In the nineteenth century, a theological student went to see the famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon. The student was very concerned that he could not understand the meaning of certain verses in the Bible. Spurgeon replied kindly but firmly, “Young man, allow me to give you this word of advice. Don’t be overly concerned. Give the Lord credit for knowing things you don’t understand.”
Many centuries before this, Job learned that lesson. He said in Job 12:13 “With God are wisdom and might; he has counsel and understanding.”
If we desire to be wise, we must first fear the Lord, for that is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord will cause us to obey His commands and hate evil, which are wise things to do. But most people refuse to fear the Lord and prefer to do as they please. Others do not believe God even exists, and they think this unbelief makes them wise and enlightened. However, those who do not fear the Lord are deceived and foolish.
1 Corinthians 1:18–31 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Through philosophy and rational thought, humans try to determine the mysteries of their existence. This approach leads to wrong conclusions and self-deception because they have the wrong premise. They have not believed in God nor in the truth in His Word, so they are deceived and doomed to come to false conclusions.
Romans 1:22-25 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
The one who can deceive us the quickest is our self. Self-deception is visible in our behavior. What we do, or how we act – that is our belief system – that is what we truly believe, regardless of what we say we believe. So, if our believing is wrong, our acting will be wrong.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
Notice how we can counter self-deception, “… let him become a fool that he may become wise.” Becoming a fool is simply another way of saying that we must renounce worldly wisdom and wisely submit to the wisdom of God. This is a universal law. We must be empty of self, in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must renounce our own righteousness, in order to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We must renounce our own strength, in order to be made strong in the Lord. We must renounce our own wisdom, in order to have God’s wisdom.
The world does not understand God nor the gospel of God. So, they mock Christians who believe God and the gospel of His grace. You see this clearly in the media. The only group in our society that can be mocked and ridiculed is Christians. Even if they are not mocking, those who are not Christians mentally agree that Christianity is “foolishness.”
And so, what often happens is Christians remain quiet to avoid ridicule. They compromise their faith to gain respectability and to be seen as wise in the eyes of the world. Unfortunately, when they do that, they lose their witness to the world and they become insignificant. Therefore, Christians must embrace persecution and respond like Jesus.
Those who live according to the wisdom of the world, think they are wise and enlightened, but they have actually become fools. For example, the worldly wise of today are so “enlightened” that they cannot determine whether people are male or female. They are even confused about their own gender and make extreme efforts to change their gender.
This foolishness began with the acceptance of homosexuality as an alternate lifestyle. In a few decades, homosexuality became the popular enlightened lifestyle. Marriage was redefined. New genders were invented to legitimize sexual perversions. Not only can we be attracted to our gender, we can become the opposite gender. Better yet, we can be whatever gender we feel like on any given day.
This foolishness will destroy our society. Worse yet, it will eternally damn those who practice this lifestyle and do not repent and give their lives to Jesus Christ. This is the truth, but those in the world consider me a hater and bigot for speaking the truth on this subject. Listen to God’s judgment and the hope of redemption in Jesus Christ:
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
“Atheists” love to debate Christians on the existence of God and other Biblical issues. Whenever I listen to them or read their arguments, I cannot help but notice a certain arrogance as they put on sophisticated airs about their enlightened superior wisdom.
However, I remember I was once like that. I thought like that. I considered myself enlightened with superior wisdom. I had no fear of God, for in my mind, He did not exist. Thinking I was “wise,” I had become a “fool.” I thank God for His mercy and saving grace. Therefore, pray for those who consider themselves to be wise in this world—that their ears and eyes might be opened to the reality of God.
Psalm 94:8-11 Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see? He who disciplines the nations, does he not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge—the Lord—knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath.
God knows, sees, hears, and disciplines. Therefore, be wise and fear the Lord.
Put no confidence in the wisdom of this world. To do so is to set ourselves up for deception and disappointment. If we are wise, we will learn the truth of God’s Word and follow Jesus. The consequences of following Jesus will result in a great inheritance.
Ephesians 1:11-14 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Believers have a distinct and blessed position in being saved. Believers belong to Jesus Christ. They are His blood-bought possession and treasure. They are no longer their own. They were born again into God’s family. They are a child of God. They were redeemed by God’s mercy and given grace to become the Bride of Christ. They are to become like Christ and to serve God and others. They have a divine purpose in this world – to tell others about Jesus so that they may believe in Jesus Christ and be saved from damnation.
Now, because of this blessed position in Christ, believers can go about their lives, being excited about things that really matter – God’s ideals, His plans for us now, and His presence in Heaven when we leave this world.
Despite our blessed position and divine purpose, there are times when we do not know what to do. Those are not the times to lean on our own wisdom and understanding. Wisdom tells us to wait on God. That can be hard to do, especially when unbelievers are doing whatever they want and they seem to be “successful”.
Psalm 37:1-9 Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
If you are not sure what to do, do not act on your own wisdom. Wait on the Lord to direct you. It is very important to read His Word so that you remember what God has said.
Psalm 106:13 But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.
The temptation goes like this: You have asked God for direction. It has not yet come. You feel as if you must act soon. Surely, God must want you to go with your best instincts. If He did not, He certainly would have answered by now. Therefore, His silence must mean nothing other than to go ahead and do what you think is best. When we yield to that temptation, we suffer the consequences of our thinking.
To wait on God is wisdom, but it requires a joyful attitude and patience, both fruit of the Holy Spirit. It also requires humility to ask and trust God. Waiting patiently for God’s will further develops His patience and wisdom in us.
James 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
While waiting patiently on the Lord, selfish desires must be quelled. God must be asked. We must listen. The Word must be read and obeyed. The counsel of others in the Body of Christ must be sought. In time, one course of action will stand clear. The voice of God will whisper in your spirit: “This is the way. Now walk in it.” But, the question is: will you wait to hear His voice? Do you trust the wisdom of God enough to wait until after it is “too late”?
God will not heed our deadlines, but He is never too late. His direction will eventually come, His way will be clear, and His timing will be perfect. Trust Him.
There is one decision each of us must make and we do not have to wait to know God’s will, because He has already made it clear on the cross. God’s will is that we be saved from damnation, but we must decide if Jesus is the Son of God to whom we will submit our entire life and repent of our sin and self-determination.
If you are ready to make that decision, die to your old life of sin by following Jesus in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you grace to wait on God, trust Him, and lean on Him for all your understanding and decision making.
 
 
March 3,2024
 
Making Wise Decisions
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Not only is this a popular scripture, I have already used it in during this series on wisdom. Familiarity can breed contempt, or at least boredom. Being familiar with a scripture can cause you to think about something else. Recognizing the risk involved, I still want to revisit these scriptures because I see so many “Christians” making unwise decisions, especially with relationships. It does us little good to be familiar with a scripture if we do not act on it.
First, there are some common myths that we need to dispel. A myth is a belief or story that is not the truth. These myths cause us to make unwise decisions.
Myth #1: God’s will is hard to find. Not true. Much of what God desires is already revealed in the Bible. A substantial part of knowing God’s will is learned by reading His Word. How can one make wise decisions if they do not know what God has said?
Those who want to benefit from His blessings, but do not read His Word, are fooling themselves. They are expecting an impossibility, like having good health without eating a balanced diet nor exercising, or the benefit of passing a college course without attending classes, reading the textbook, and doing the work.
The Word of God guides us, protects us, and speaks to us about wisdom and God’s will. Proverbs 6:22 says, “When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.”
We have learned in Proverbs recently that God’s will is for us to fear Him and to seek after wisdom instead of folly. It is also God’s will that we guard our hearts because our mouth will reveal its contents.
God’s will is also mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Many of our problems would dissolve if we followed these simple and easy commands.
Myth #2: God wants us to know the future. Not true. God does not reveal what is coming next month or next year, but instead, He commands us to walk by the light of His Word.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
The picture here is not of a spotlight that fills the entire room but of a man who is out in the dark, walking along a dangerous trail. The only light he has is an old oil lamp that glows just enough to reveal the terrain right in front of him. When he takes a step, then the light provides guidance for the next step. One reason that God does not reveal our entire future is because He wants us to trust Him moment by moment as we take one step at a time.
Myth #3: God’s greatest goal for me is happiness. Not true. As Americans, we are familiar with the statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In case you did not know, that statement comes from the Declaration of Independence, not the Bible.
Still, some “Christians” believe that God wants us to pursue happiness. So they do what they think will make them happy. This is a false gospel. God wants us to pursue righteousness.
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
God is committed to our holiness, not our happiness. And, in order for us to become holy, sometimes He allows us to go through some very tough discipline.
Hebrews 12:5-6 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
While God cares about our concerns in life, He is much more interested in the kind of person we are. Therefore, instead of focusing on your happiness, commit yourself to personal transformation, becoming more like Jesus.
2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 For this is the will of God, your sanctification [purification]: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
Now, that we have dealt with some myths that cause us to make unwise decisions, let’s dissect Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
This passage gives us three key responsibilities. 1. We need to trust in the Lord with everything we have; 2. Stop leaning on our understanding; 3. Acknowledge Him in all our ways. Only when we do these three things, (I emphasize “do” because I hear too many “yes, but…, but…, but…”) only when we do these things, does the promise stand that God will make our paths straight.
Trusting in the Lord is more than having our assurance in Him. Trust carries the idea of sitting on a stool with full confidence that you will not be let down. When you trust God, you put your full weight on Him.
Notice that we are called to total trust and complete commitment: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” God does not want half-hearted devotion.
Jesus said in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
God calls us to full commitment every day of the week. Partial commitment is not trusting in the Lord with all our heart. The word “heart” refers to our soul, which is our mind, will, and emotions. It is what makes you, “You”. We are to trust God with all our heart; that is, with all our feelings, thoughts, emotions, and our decisions—with everything about us.
I will illustrate total commitment with a story: A chicken and a pig were walking together towards the Hurrah Festival when they came to a sign in front of the community building that said, “Annual Fundraiser. Ham and egg breakfast.” The chicken said to the pig, “Hey, that is right up our alley. Why don’t we go in and help out?” To which the pig replied, “That is easy for you to say. For you, that is just a contribution. For me it is total commitment.”
God is not looking for contributions. He is looking for commitment. What are you giving?
Verse 5 continues: “and lean not on your own understanding.” “Understanding” refers to the mental process we use to analyze a problem, break it down into smaller parts, and then decide what we are going to do. Most of us think we can figure things out on our own this way. But, if we are serious about making wise decisions, we must fight against that natural inclination to trust what we think is best. That does not mean we should not use common sense, but it does mean that we should not “lean” on our understanding for total support.
Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 28:26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
While God wants us to trust and lean on Him, He also encourages us to get godly council from others when we need to make a major decision.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 20:18 Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance.
Do not seek council from someone disobeying God, nor someone who will tell you what you want to hear. Seek advice from someone walking in obedience to God because that person can hear God’s voice and give you God’s wisdom from His Word.
So, here is what we have so far from verse 5. Lean on the Lord. Give yourself totally to Him. Do not automatically trust what you think you should do, but get the advice of others.
Now let us look at verse 6: “In all your ways acknowledge Him…” “All” means all, not some. In “all your ways” means, in everything you do, in every detail of your life; every day, in every way, all the time. This requires a constant focus on the Lord every moment of the day, listening to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The words “acknowledge Him” carries with it the idea of “acting like you know” God. Too many times, I see “Christians” act like they don’t know God, for they act like unbelievers. Acknowledgment is the kind of knowing that only comes by an intimate personal relationship. A husband and wife know each other. When we really know God, we will never question His will.
To acknowledge God is to give Him control of every area of life and to focus on Him continuously. Make it a priority to learn who God is, what He is like, how He relates to us, and what He is doing in this world. Then invest your entire life in what you learn. Even if it costs you all your have, it is well worth it. Only a life based on this kind of intimacy with God will satisfy. Only godly wisdom can make everything else meaningful.
Jesus said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever wants save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
The last part of verse 6 tells us that God “will make your paths straight.” Notice that God does not promise to make us wealthy, healthy, popular, or comfortable. He promises something much deeper and better. He will make our paths straight, which means He will make it clear what direction we should go and He will help us navigate through whatever life throws at us.
When we decide to give God first place and trust Him totally, He will straighten out our paths and even remove obstacles. The straight path is not always easy, in fact it is narrow, but it does lead away from sin and destruction and give us a deeper relationship with Christ.
Recognizing that we may be facing a difficult decision right now, or soon will be, let us review what has been said today and over the past few weeks that will help us make wise decisions.
1. Fear the Lord. Proverbs 3:7 “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. When you hate something, you avoid it at all costs. Hatred of evil is wisdom.
The fear of the Lord will also cause us to obey Him and to make wise decisions. There are too many who unwisely pick and choose what they want from God’s Word, instead of obeying God whole heartedly. Warren Wiersbe writes: “The will of God isn’t a curiosity for us to study, it’s a command for us to obey; God isn’t obligated to reveal His will unless we’re willing to do it.” This brings us to number two:
2. Read the Word of God and do what it says. Proverbs 13:13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. Search the Bible for the principles, commands, or prohibitions that apply to the decision you need to make, and to your relationships with other people, especially the opposite sex. Then do what it says. Most of the situations we are faced with are already dealt with in the Word of God. Most of the problems we have are because we didn’t obey the Word of God.
3. Pray. Proverbs 15:29 The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Most of the bad decisions we make are the result of not taking the necessary time to lay things out before the Lord and pray about the decision. Seek the Lord daily, repent of all known sin, and allow Him time to answer your prayer.
4. Listen to advice, but remember, God is sovereign. Proverbs 19:20-23 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
God is in control. Even when we make bad decisions, His purposes will prevail. He will lead us unto repentance and wisdom if we humble ourselves before Him and repent. Therefore, do not fear man nor the future. Fear the Lord, read and obey His Word, pray, and you will make wise decisions according to His will.
The wisest decision you will ever make is to make Jesus your Lord and Savior. If you believe Jesus is the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross, confess your sin to Him and repent—stop doing it. Die to your old life of sin by following Jesus in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you grace to trust God with all your heart and lean on Him for all your understanding and decision making.
 
Feb. 25, 2024
Christians Need to Hate More
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD. As Christians, we want to wisely live a pure life for God, but we struggle with the temptations in the world and the desires of our flesh. We know sin is wrong. So, why do we foolishly give in to temptation and commit sin?
Romans 7:14-25 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Paul explained our situation and our problem. Sin dwells within us. He also declared our hope and deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ!
When tempted, we must realize and confess that we have a desire to sin. Then immediately, we must run to our Father for grace to overcome. If we fail to do this, we will stop denying self, we will stop picking up our cross, and we will stop following Jesus. We will give into the desire to sin. Why? Because to our shame, we do not love God more than our desires and we do not fear God enough to hate evil.
I say that because Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride and arrogance, and evil behavior and perverted speech.”
Hate is a very strong emotion. The dictionary defines “hate” as having an “intense hostility and aversion to.” When we hate something, we never want to be around it, and we will do everything in our power to avoid it. We will deny it a place near us. (i.e. Spiders, snakes, mice, etc.) So, maybe the answer to “Why do we sin?” is simpler than we think. We do not hate it enough. We only dislike its consequences.
As a result, we are comfortable with a little sin in our lives. Besides, everyone sins. God made us, we were born with a sin nature, so it is just the way we are. That thinking shifts the blame for our sin onto God and we accept sin as our normal behavior.
The progression of this thinking is like this: We struggle with our sin; we find we cannot overcome it, everyone else is doing it, so we accept it as part of who we are. We end up with a perspective of “I’m okay, you’re okay”, for we all sin. We may try to do better, but we are comfortable if we fail.
The problem with being comfortable with sin is that it is entirely contrary to the nature of God. God is not comfortable with sin. He has no fellowship with sin, nor with sinners. Romans 7 is a description of our struggle, but it is not a description of our life in Christ. Jesus paid a terrible price to redeem us from sin and its power. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, sin is never a light matter to God!
There is a false faith in many segments of the contemporary Church. It is the belief that sin, being universal to human nature, is not all that serious. Therefore, we must love ourselves and forgive ourselves. That psychological tenet makes us god, or it creates a false god who is lenient, as opposed to I AM who hates sin. We cannot forgive our sins. Only God can forgive sin through the shedding of Christ’s blood. Therefore, we must turn to Jesus as our redeemer and the atonement of our sin. When we come under the blood of Jesus Christ, our sin is forgiven. When we die to sin during baptism, we are born again to live a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only then do we become a new creation, a holy child of God, forgiven and loved by God, with the power to deny sinful desires.
Furthermore, Almighty God is calling His born-again children out of this world. He tells us that we are not to be like the rest of this world. We are to be conformed to the standard of Jesus Christ and that is a life-long transformation through confession, repentance, and being continually filled with the Holy Spirit.
We are not to stay in our Romans 7 condition. We are to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus by the renewal of our mind, as Paul writes in Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good pleasing and perfect will.
If we do not hate sin enough to avoid it regardless the personal cost, we will conform to the pattern of this world, instead of conforming to the pattern of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ. Instead of loving ourselves and giving into our desires, we are to love God and fear Him. That love and fear for God causes us to obey His commandments and avoid sin.
Romans 6:1-7 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Whomever has a real love for God and a hatred for sin, dies daily to self in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then that person has God’s grace and power to live a righteous life for God’s glory. He has no desire to “be like the world”. He desires to be like Jesus everywhere he goes, among his family, friends, and everyone else, no matter what people say about him.
God’s Word tells us numerous times to love the LORD and hate evil:
Psalm 97:10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 101:1-4 I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music. I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
Psalm 119:104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore, I hate every false way.
Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor [hate] what is evil; cling to what is good.
There is no valid excuse for tolerating sin in ourselves. If we truly love and fear the LORD, we tremble at the thought of being involved in things that He hates.
When God calls something sin, it is sin, and we are not an exception to that! Because God hates sin, He hates it when people know what is right and do not act accordingly.
Therefore, God calls us to hate sin, and to hate the deeds of people (not the people) who willfully choose to sin against His Holy ways. We are to speak out about sin and warn people of its consequences, not tolerate it. Warning sinners is a loving act toward them, even if we must suffer the consequences of speaking the truth.
Yes, there can be severe consequences in this world for choosing not to sin. Remember Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:7-9 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
For Joseph, the very thought of committing adultery with his master’s wife was unthinkable. His attitude shows his love and fear of the LORD. Therefore, he would not betray his master and sin against God. So, he quickly left her, but he was still falsely accused of rape by the spurned wife and spent years in prison.
Do you respond like Joseph regardless of the consequences? Or do you think, “That sounds like fun! No one would ever know! Everyone does it. Besides, I can get forgiveness later!”
Our reaction to temptation illuminates our love and fear of the LORD, or it shows our lack of it. The degree to which we are willing to tolerate evil (or even invite it) in our life is the degree to which we do not yet love and fear the LORD. We don’t muster up hatred for evil in order to develop a love and fear of the LORD. It doesn’t work that way. The more we learn to love and fear the LORD, the more we will super-naturally hate evil and its influence in the world and in your life.
That secret sin in our life is not a secret to the LORD! He is not tolerating it. He hates it, but He is patient with us, waiting for us to repent and turn to Him for grace to hate it, too. He loves us, and He wants us to love Him and to desire His blessings and life.
If we fail to wisely fear the LORD and hate evil enough to repent, there are eternal consequences. Listen to these scriptures:
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators [sexually immoral], nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous [greedy], nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners [swindlers] will inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Jesus said in Revelation 22:12-15, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Consequently, if we do not fear the LORD, and if that fear does not translate into a hatred for evil and repentance, we have something very real to fear—the Judgment of God and an eternity in Hell!
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Now, it is important at this point, to clarify the difference between a momentary moral lapse (of yielding to our sin nature) from deliberately choosing a lifestyle of sin. It is not falling into sin, confessing it, and repenting that will condemn us. It is deliberately choosing to sin without repentance that brings God’s wrath upon us.
For example, some people are in obvious, willful disobedience to the clear commands of God regarding sexual relations outside of marriage, homosexuality, abortion, and gender identity. Stating this does not make me popular, for these sins are idolized and very popular in our culture. Nevertheless, it is the duty of every Christian to speak the truth with love and gentleness because people are unwittingly on the road of eternal destruction.
Others are in less obvious, but just as destructive sins, with pornography or substance abuse. They keep it hidden and excuse themselves by thinking they are not hurting anyone else. Sin is not an issue of hurting other people, it is an issue of rebelling against God!
Whatever sin you are excusing, repent (stop doing it) and be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Recognize the awesome power and holiness of the LORD, and ask God for grace to love Him and fear Him, and to hate your sin as He hates it.
Some of us are doing this. For example, those in addiction recovery are taking these steps and overcoming their sinful desires through the power and grace of God. All of us are addicted to sin, and therefore, all of us need to take these same steps to overcome our sin.
1 Peter 1:14-19 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.
To summarize, we need to realize that we have sin in our lives because we have a sin nature, and also, because we have not hated sin enough to stop yielding to that nature. Furthermore, we need to acknowledge that when we do not deny ourselves of sin’s temporary pleasures, we do not love the LORD more than we love ourselves.
The remedy is to stop loving and forgiving ourselves, and to start loving and fearing the LORD! We need God’s forgiveness and His hatred of sin.
Therefore, we need Jesus Christ to save us from our wretched sinful life. We need to be born again to live a new life, filled with the Holy Spirit, so that we have His power over our sin nature. We need to stay near to the Father so we can get His grace to hate sin the same way He hates sin, to be holy as He is holy, and to love as He loves.
The temptation to sin will be a continuous battle that will last the rest of our earthly lives. Therefore, we must focus on Jesus Christ instead of the temptation, and continuously get God’s grace to deny ourselves and pick up a cross to follow Jesus. We must continuously ask our Father for this grace, because we cannot hate and overcome sin without Him.
There is good news in Hebrews 4:15-16, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
 
 
Feb. 18,2024
 
SCRIPTURE ABOUT THE 2ND COMING OF CHRIST!
Zechariah 14:4
On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.
Acts 1:9-11
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?
“This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Revelation 1:7
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him.
And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.
Even so, Amen.
1 Corinthians 15:50-54
I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery:
We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For the perishable must cloth itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will be true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him.
According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 John 3:2
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.
But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as he is.
1 John 2:28
And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at his coming.
Matthew 24:36
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Romans 14:10-12
But why do you judge your brother?
Or why do you show contempt for your brother?
For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.
For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
1 Corinthians 3:9-15
For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.
But each one should build with care.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what its is, because the Day will bring it to light.
It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.
If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.
If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Revelation 6:17
For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?
Revelation 7:14
I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Jeremiah 30:7
How awful that day will be!
No other will be like it.
It will be a time of trouble for Jacob [Israel], but he will be saved out of it.
Zechariah 12:1-3
The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel.
Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut to pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.
Zechariah 14:1-3
Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst.
For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished.
Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.
Revelation 19:6-7
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
“Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!
“For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 19:14-16
And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.
And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron.
He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS.
1 Thessalonians 3:13
May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.
Zechariah 14:9
The Lord will be King over the whole earth.
On that day there will be one Lord, and His Name the only Name.
Revelation 20:6-6
Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.
The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
Psalm 2:9
You will break them with a rod of iron; You will dash them to pieces like pottery.
Isaiah 11:4-5
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.
Revelation 20:7-9
When the thousand years are over, satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle.
In number they are like the sand on the seashore.
They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves.
But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.
Revelation 20:10
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the Lake of Burning Sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.
They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Revelation 20:11-13 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from Whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.
And there was found no place for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.
And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.
And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.
And they were judged, each one according to his works.
Revelation 20:14
Then death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire.
The Lake of Fire is the second death.
Anyone whose name was not written in the Book of Life was thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Mark 9:47-48
And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out.
It is better for you to enter the Kingdom of God with one eye than have two eyes and be thrown into Hell, where, “The worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
2 Peter 3:13
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new Heaven and a new Earth, where righteousness dwells.
Revelation 21:2-3
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them.
They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.
2 Peter 3:11-14
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and Godly lives as you look forward to the Day of God and speed its coming.
That Day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new Heaven and a new Earth, where righteousness dwells.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
 
 
 
Feb. 11. 2024
 
 
Two Invitations
Wisdom and Folly are portrayed in Proverbs 9 as rival women, each preparing a feast and inviting people to it. Wisdom is a lady of godly character, while Folly is a prostitute serving stolen food. Their invitations are worded identically. Wisdom appeals to the mind. Folly appeals to the senses. It is easier to excite the senses than the mind, but the pleasures of Folly are deceptive and temporary. By contrast, the blessings of Wisdom are true and eternal.
THE INVITATION OF WISDOM
Proverbs 9:1-6 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
Wisdom dwells in a well-constructed house. A banquet is prepared inside. The meat and the wine are ready. All are invited to dine with her and to live with blessings, but not all will, as Jesus described with a similar banquet in one of His parables.
Luke 14:16-24 But he [Jesus] said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
We may intend to go to the great banquet someday, but we may never make it if we get sidetracked by other activities that seem more important at the time. Don't let anything become more important than the invitation you hear today to live according to God's wisdom.
Wisdom begins with fearing God. To fear God is the wisest thing we can do. God is God and we are not! Much wisdom is gained from acknowledging this simple truth. Much trouble is avoided by giving God control and obeying His Word, for He has given us the instruction book for a blessed life.
Unfortunately, we often want to be in control of our life. We think we know what is best, but that is not the case. The One who made us, who knows us inside and out, knows what is best for us. He is the Holy One. We need to fear Him. We need to honor Him. We need to give Him control of our life rather than trying to be in control ourselves. For His ways are not our ways – let’s thank God for that! Our ways have led us into trouble many times. Thank God that when we repent and turn around, He is always there, ready to forgive us when we confess our sin and seek His mercy, forgiveness, discipline, and renewal in the Holy Spirit.
THE INVITATION OF FOLLY
Proverbs 9:13-18 The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol [Hell.]
The foolish woman is the direct opposite of the woman of wisdom, just as the antichrist is the direct opposite to Christ. Christ leads us to life and Heaven – the antichrist leads us to death and Hell. This prostitute, Folly, is similar to the prostitute described in the Revelation.
Revelation 17:1-6 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
The foolish woman acts seductively to lure all of us with whatever we are attracted to. She neither fears God nor loves Him. She is rebellious. She leads people, who are going straight, astray with her wickedness and deception. She says, "Come. Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
Do not be deceived! She is not offering living water nor the bread of life. She is offering adultery and immoral worldly pleasures. Using this symbolism, God’s Word says:
Proverbs 5:15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. This verse is also about sexual pleasure, and we are to enjoy it with our spouse and no one else.
If we forget God’s Word, we can be enticed by the curiosity and excitement of the forbidden. We begin to foolishly think the grass is greener over the fence. But in reality, the grass is only greener over the septic system. It is not sweet nor pleasant. It has bitter consequences.
There are other kinds of adulteries that Folly offers. False worship, superstition, the philosophies of men, idolatry, hidden sins, secret lusts, and willful disobedience are all adulteries against our Lord and husband, Jesus Christ. And these adulteries will lead us to Hell.
Knowing this, beware, for there is still something hypnotic and intoxicating about wickedness. Sinful behavior seems more exciting than the ways of Wisdom. Immediate pleasures are more enticing than future promises. Therefore, many people ignore Wisdom’s banquet and eat the stolen food of Folly. Then they find out that Folly’s food is addictive. One bite or sip of sin leads to another, and that leads to death.
So, don't be deceived by Folly. God is warning us and He will not be mocked. Sin leads to death and Hell. Before eating Folly’s stolen food, take a long look at what happens to those who eat it. God sends us warnings for our own good—not to deprive us of any pleasure.
The Scriptures describe life as a journey on a road. We often come to forks in the road where we have to make a decision. Without realizing it, the decision is often about which god we are going to follow and serve. The Creator gave us a free will and every person throughout time has faced the same decision a daily basis. God’s Word tells us about those who made wrong decisions and those who chose correctly. We are to learn from their experiences.
Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and truth. And put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Here in Proverbs 9, the Lord uses the symbolism of two women to help us visualize our choice between which god we are going to serve. Wisdom, with her house firmly established, invites all to come and enjoy her godly hospitality. Folly sits at the door of her place, enticing the ignorant to come and taste her forbidden food and drink her stolen water. She claims if you taste something illicit, the pleasure is multiplied. But behind the lie is death. It is the same offer and consequence that Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden. It is the same offer and consequence that we must face every day, too.
For those who choose Wisdom’s hospitality, there is a growth in wisdom, learning, and insight. These have the potential of producing a long successful life for us.
By contrast, for those who accept Folly’s invitation and enter her house, there is a surprise awaiting: "But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Hell." Stolen water may seem sweet, but it is also poisonous. For those who follow Folly, who spouts the wisdom of the world, the end is death and eternity in Hell.
There was a time in my life that I believed Christians were nothing but hypocrites. But I have learned that if you are a Christ-follower, you are anything but a hypocrite, for to follow Christ requires admitting you are a sinner and you need a Savior. At its heart, Christianity is about a lack of confidence in self and a complete confidence in Christ.
For example, how many of you have heard the statement, “Fake it ‘til you make it?” Many have bought into this false way to succeed in life. Sadly, they get stuck with “faking it” and never move on to “making it.” Still, they loudly insist they’re OK, even though they aren’t. The way of Folly, is “fake it ‘til you make it,” but no one will never make it without Jesus Christ. A practicing Christian is not “faking it ‘til they make it.” They are trusting in Christ to teach them, guide them, and enable them to “make it” by His grace and power working in them.
The way of Wisdom is a proven path for a blessed life. This path was demonstrated by Jesus Christ. Even with all of life’s twists and forks, difficulties and disappointments, we “make it” by trusting and following Jesus. At the end, we’ll be able to look back upon a life lived well.
Notice, Wisdom has maids that assist her is proclaiming her message. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town. Symbolically, we are those maids. This is a picture of every believer in Christ whose commission is to share the Good News with everyone we can. We are to tell others which door to enter to find life.
John 10:7-11 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Therefore, choose the house of Wisdom. Eat her food and drink, which come from the Word of God. Jesus is coming again to judge and repay everyone for what they have done.
Revelation 22:12-17 “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Wisdom promises everlasting blessing and eternal life. Folly promises a moment of pleasure, and she hides the consequence of everlasting Hell and eternal death. Their voices are similar. Their invitation is identical, saying, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” The only difference between the two invitations is the spirit of the one inviting. Wisdom isn’t flashy, rarely impresses, and never demands. Folly is brash, showy, and frequently pushy. Folly says you were put here to have a blast. Wisdom says you were put here to be a blessing.
Every choice we make is a response to the voice of Wisdom or the voice of Folly. When we are want something to eat, both are speaking. When we are in search of security, both call out. When we are making plans, both compete for our attention. When we are spending our time and money, both are beckoning. They always say the same thing, “Come in here.” Ask the Father to fill you with His Spirit so that you can discern the spirits speaking to you and make the right choice.
Remember what our Father told us last week. Proverbs 3:1-8 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
If you have been listening to the wrong voice, making bad decisions, and suffering the consequences, then listen to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit today. Stop, turn around, run to Jesus and confess your sin. Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross and repent of being your own god and decision-maker.
If you haven’t done so previously, make Jesus your Lord by dying to your old life in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will tell you what decisions to make in order to follow Jesus. When you read God’s Word, you will hear Him say, “This is the way, walk in it.”
 
Feb. 4, 2024
 
WISDOM AND SUCCESS
We have been meditating on wisdom. It begins with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom enables us to follow Jesus and stay on the narrow road that leads to abundant life here, and eternal life with the Lord. During this journey, our purpose is to successfully do God’s will. In the first 12 verses of Proverbs 3, God gives us clear instructions on what we must do to receive His wisdom and be successful in God’s Kingdom. The first one is this:
1. We must get God’s Word into our heart, obey it, and not forget it.
Proverbs 3:1-4 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
The will of God is revealed in the Word of God. So, if we want to know the will of God, we must read His Book. It is really that simple. I can’t tell you how many times I have tried assembling some new purchase without reading the directions. I think I know what to do, so I skip that part and try to assemble it on my own. That is foolishness, because I make mistakes and waste time correcting my mistakes.
The same is true in life. We make errors when we don’t read and obey God’s instructions. So many people are wandering from place to place, from relationship to relationship, from marriage to marriage, from job to job. And they feel confused, disillusioned, and lost. God says to us, “Read my directions, obey them, and don’t forget them.”
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Notice what happens when we read the Word of God. It judges the thoughts and intentions of our heart. It convicts us and it corrects us.
If we ignore God’s Word, the level of sin in our life will grow larger and larger until one day we are doing things that we never would have tolerated in the past. So, read, obey, and don’t forget God’s Word! Then you will have wisdom, success, and peace.
2. Secondly, to have God’s wisdom and success in our lives we must surrender the control of our life to God.
Proverbs 3:5-8 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
People who are wise in their own eyes don’t pray very much, if at all. Why should they pray? They have it all figured out. However, God never tells us that we should have the answer to everyone else’s problems, or that we should be able to solve all of society’s ills, or that we can handle life ourselves. Instead, God says, “Do not lean on your own understanding, do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord, and trust in the Lord with all of our heart.”
Let’s be honest. Our wisdom is limited and our hearts are not pure. We do not desire above all else to glorify God at any cost. Even when we have come into a relationship with Him, our motives are mixed. We want to glorify Him, but we also want to seek our own good in our own way. As a result, we miss the blessings of His wisdom, success, and peace.
For example, God’s plan of success for you might be radically different than what you had planned. His plan of success for you might be in raising godly children who will one day do great things in His Kingdom. That is not going to put you on the cover of a magazine, but that is your holy assignment from the Lord.
Success in the Lord might mean taking a lower paying job and moving into a smaller house so that you can do what God wants. People will not congratulate you for downsizing, but God blesses obedient servants.
Wisdom and success in the Lord might mean staying in a marriage with an unspiritual spouse. Your work is in the prayer closet and to be a holy example within the four walls of your house. The world will not call you wise or successful for being a faithful spouse, but God will bless you for being a faithful servant in His Kingdom.
Beware when you begin to think about abandoning God’s difficult or unexciting calling, for that is an indication that you are becoming wise in your own eyes. God is worthy of all our trust. We are worthy of suspicion. Yet, we often struggle between His wisdom and ours. His way can seem so hard. We forget that our way is harder. Therefore, we must make a conscious decision to forsake our own understanding and lean on His. He has the plan and He will see us through! And when we have successfully walked that straight and narrow path, we will have a faith that is refined, pure as gold, and not only that, we will have God’s wisdom, success, and blessings.
Let us remember that getting wisdom from God means, first and foremost, getting HIM! When God, the Spirit, is in us, He transforms us. His wisdom becomes a part of us, and He conforms us to the image of Christ! It is a life-long process. He changes our character, our outlook, and our priorities. He makes our paths straight when we give Him control. If we want God’s wisdom to successfully direct our paths, then we must read and obey His Word and allow it to control our heart, mind, will, and emotions.
Verse 7 emphasizes that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” The opposite of fearing the Lord is self-reliance; such as the statement, “I got this!” A focus on self leads to devastating shortsightedness and evil, destructive consequences. A focus on God—His character, His ways, and His Word—leads people into wisdom, success, healing, and health.
3. Thirdly, to be successful and receive wisdom from God, we must surrender our money and possessions to Him. Now, you say I am meddling, but listen to what God’s Word says:
Proverbs 3:9-10 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
The purpose of all creation is to honor God. God promises that when He is honored—in this case, with our firstfruits—that He will grant success and give an increase. What are firstfruits? The principle is very simple. Give to God first of all your increase in wealth and watch how He will abundantly supply all your needs. Those who honor and obey God faithfully in small things will be given greater things by which to honor God even more.
Millions of people miss out on God’s blessings because they will not honor God with their money and possessions. We say we cannot afford to tithe. In reality, we cannot afford not to tithe. There is no better investment in this world.
Malachi 3:8-10 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
That is God’s promise. Trust God with your money and possessions. Put tithing you’re your budget. It will cause an adjustment to your lifestyle. Then watch what God will do as you continue to honor Him this way. This is no guarantee that those who tithe will become worldly rich. It is a promise, however, that God will be generous with those who are trusting and honoring Him.
Beware of the motive to give so that you will get something back. That is not honor; that’s manipulation. That is like saying, “If you scratch my back, I will scratch yours.” Our motives for giving to God should be our love for Him and a desire to trust and honor Him.
4. Lastly, to gain God’s wisdom and be successful, we must receive His discipline as love.
Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
Our natural reaction to reproof/correction, from anyone, even God, is to get offended. We don’t want anyone telling us what to do, and we don’t think anyone has a right to do so. Of course, God has that right, but we think He’s always on our side. When He works through others to correct us, we tell them our relationship with God is personal and they have no right to judge. When God works through our circumstances, we complain without considering that He might be wanting a change in our hearts. We have a hard time accepting correction. We flee any kind of discomfort. Therefore, we suffer the consequences of being wise in our own eyes and despising His discipline.
Part of our problem is confusing the Lord’s discipline with condemnation or rejection. His discipline is not for condemnation but always for edification. It can be a painful edification, but it is well worth it if we are trained by it. We should not despise His discipline. Instead, we should receive it in love. His discipline is always for our good even if He has to prevent our dream, end a relationship, or ruin our false reputation.
Hebrews 12:5-11 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
We can take comfort that when God disciplines us, He is treating us His children. His intent is to make us more like Jesus. God does not discipline those He has given up on. He lets them have their way and to suffer the consequences. God disciplines those He loves. You would not be going through tough discipline if God did not care for you as His child.
The hard circumstance that you are in may well be discipline from the Lord to urge you to change something in your life. Or perhaps, it is a divine stress test, planned for your improved character. Regardless of its nature, it is designed to shape you into the image of Jesus. It is wise to trust and cooperate with God’s discipline, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Wisdom and success come to those who are trained by God’s discipline.
Proverbs 4:5 Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Don’t forget! The beginning of wisdom and the key to success is the fear of the Lord. Give Him control of your life by obeying His instructions. Ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit so you have His grace to do this. Be sure to read His instructions and obey them. This will make you wise and successful in the sight of God and man. That is God’s promise.
The first step in fearing the Lord is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Without this faith, you will end up in Hell. Therefore, fear Him and believe in Him. Confess your sin to Him and repent; that is, stop doing it and give Jesus your life by dying to your self-will in baptism. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will gradually transform you into the image of Jesus as you obediently trust in the Lord and not your own understanding.
 
 
Jan. 28, 2024
 
 
Guard Your Heart
Have you ever tried painting a room without spattering paint on yourself? Or playing ball without getting dirty? Or washing the car without getting wet? How about staying undefiled in a sinful world? How can we do it? God’s wisdom tells us.
Proverbs 4:20-22 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
The heart is not a reference to the organ in the chest that pumps blood. It refers to our soul. It is that part of us that constitutes the center of our mind, will, and emotions. The heart is pictured as the source from which life flows. It is all that goes into making you, you.
Whatever enters our ears influences our heart and our decisions. So, we need to be attentive to God’s words. We must listen to God's sayings. Words of wisdom are God's divine counsel to us. When we receive and act on God’s wisdom, we reap life and blessings instead of death and curses.
But, what worth are words of divine wisdom to us if we are inattentive or if our ear is tuned to worldly sounds or input? God’s words make no impression on the person that is not attentive to them.
For example, a flight attendant was frustrated by the passengers’ inattentiveness during her what-to-do-in-an-emergency talk at the beginning of each flight, so she changed the wording. She said, “When the mask drops down in front of you, place it over your navel and continue to breathe normally.” Not a single passenger heard the change.
Some parents teach their children not to listen. You know the kind, “I’m not telling you again, then I’m going to do something.” That child has learned that until a certain decibel of scream is reached, that the parent doesn’t mean it. But here, in Proverbs, we are told that it is our responsibility to be attentive to the instruction of our parent, the Father.
Many of you were in Sunday School this morning. Were you listening to hear God speak to you? We are now half way through the worship service. Have you heard from God yet? Yes, the teacher or preacher needs to present the truth in an appealing manner, but you have a responsibility to listen! God’s words are for your benefit, but only if you hear them, keep them in your heart, and obey them.
Not only are we to listen for God’s voice and truth, verse 21 teaches us to keep God’s words in our sight. Don’t just listen to teaching and preaching, consistently read God’s Word daily and do what it says. That is wisdom.
The next verse (22) gives us the reason. The verse begins with the word “for.” For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.
God’s wisdom gives life and health of all types: intellectual, moral, physical, and spiritual. Nothing adds to the health of body and the enjoyment of life like continually holding before your mind the truth of God’s Word and obeying it. The reward is a genuinely peaceful life regardless of circumstances. However, you won’t realize this blessing until you listen, read, and obey God’s truth. Then you will reap the blessings promised in God’s Word.
Proverbs 4:23-27 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
The reason why the heart is so important is because it determines the quality of life you will experience. Therefore, guard your heart with all vigilance (awareness). Guard your thoughts, your desires, your emotions, and the choices you make for or against God. Because those things are going to spill out in the way you speak and live, and they will determine whether your life is meaningful or miserable. In other words, what happens inside you is more important than what happens outside of you.
The heart is to be guarded closely because there is great danger that it will be turned away. There are so many attractive influences, so many seductive forces, and turning away would be catastrophic. Ask the Lord for grace to guard your heart. He will grant that request when we trust Him and rejoice in Him regardless of our circumstances.
Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Notice, our focus is to be on the Lord, rejoicing in Him, instead focusing on the worldly concerns around us. The reason for this diligent focus is because whatever the heart concentrates upon, the ears will hear, the eyes will see, the feet will go, and the hands will do.
Therefore, guard your heart to keep it from getting defiled, stained, or poisoned by evil. Maintain your heart like a precious garden. Pull out the weeds of sin, nourish the Word planted by the Lord. Obey it meticulously, otherwise our heart will automatically drift towards a worldly condition. For it is like a garden, reclaimed from the wilderness, and it will naturally return to its wild state if it is not carefully guarded.
Hebrews 2:1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
It is important to guard what comes into the mind, because it will affect our heart and we will become what we think! If we permit hateful thoughts to remain, we will become cruel and heartless. If we let in lustful thoughts, we will become immoral. But when we dwell on lovely, pure, and unselfish thoughts, what flows from our mouths and comes forth in our conduct will be pleasing to God and a blessing to others.
Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
So, keep the mind pure by thinking on these things, and obey what God says! If we pollute the mind, the infection will spread. Before long, hidden appetites will become open sin and public shame. This is why some Christians fall away or are inconsistent in their Christian growth? They let sin remain lodged in their heart. They were not diligent to guard the pathways to their heart through their ears, eyes, and obedience.
A man must not only be redeemed, he must be sanctified (purified for God’s use). For example, verse 24 says, “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.” So, the heart needs to be purified. Then our speech will produce good fruit.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:33-37, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Our mouth will reveal the condition of our heart. If we have a habit of vulgar thinking, our words will reveal that. If we think ill of people, our words will reveal that. If we think the best of people, our words will show it. Our words reveal whether we consistently guard our thought life or not. Our words make a huge impact on the quality of life we enjoy, for out of our mouth we speak curses or blessings upon ourselves and others.
As with all of God’s gifts, we should use our speech for His purposes.
Titus 2:7-8 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
To guard our heart, we must also focus our eyes on the Lord. Much sin is committed when we begin to look aside instead of focusing on the Lord. When the eye is focused clearly on God, the whole body is full of light.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
We all face many choices. Some are big choices that concern our marriage or our children or our job, and our church. We can be blind to our own self-deception and make wrong decisions. We need to ask the Lord to open our eyes so that we can see His will clearly before deciding.
For example, ask the Lord, “How will this effect my relationship with you?” The greatest goal in life is not a comfortable retirement, a healthy body, high achieving kids, or a good marriage. The most important goal in life is to become like Christ. Guard against anything that would distract you from becoming more like Jesus.
If the focus of our life is on Jesus, then a life of integrity can be lived because we will be following Jesus. You will be faithful, loving to your spouse, honest in your business dealings, a good worker, and a good father or mother. These things glorify God.
My dad was a farmer. He told me that if he kept his eyes on a distant object like a fence post or tree while he is plowing the first pass in a field, he would make a straight furrow and all the other furrows would follow it. The principle is the same when you mow your lawn or drive a car. The principle is also true of life—especially as we live it one day at a time. Fix your eyes upon Jesus so that you will not turn to the left or the right.
To guard your heart, verse 26 adds that you must turn your foot away from evil. If you follow Jesus, the promise is that all your ways will be sure. Examine what activities you are presently part of and see if you are honoring Christ in them. If not, forsake them and follow activities where you can honor Christ; and you will be assured of His assistance.
Remove obstacles to your path so you don’t stumble. Stay out of those areas that will bog you down. Know where you are going so you don’t get detoured into things that waste your time and energy.
Watching your foot path has the most value when you view it from God's viewpoint. He sees the beginning and the end. It is most wise to follow His guidance and take the path of His leading even though we cannot see where He is leading. On thing we can know is this straight and narrow way will lead us to eternal life, but don’t expect to find a lot of people traveling it.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:13, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and a few find it.”
When Christ reigns in our hearts, our feet will follow Him on this narrow road. It is a hard road but it leads us on a direct route to the gates of Heaven. It is hard because we must make our way through the maze of godlessness that threatens to distract us and wreck us.
So, stay focused on Jesus. Ask God each day to guard your heart, to guide your eyes, to direct your steps, and to fill you with His Spirit. Ask for grace each day to hear and embrace His wisdom and to follow Him with all our heart. God will answer that prayer!
Isaiah 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”
Isaiah 35:8-10 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Perhaps somewhere you chose to leave God's way of holiness to enter some pleasurable bypath. If so, run back to Jesus. Confess your sin. Accept His promise of forgiveness and repent.
What is repentance? Repentance is going back to the Lord and returning to the right path.
When the Prodigal Son returned home, he did not just get a ring, a robe, and shoes. The greatest thing he got back was his father. The Lord himself is waiting for anyone this morning who is willing to repent.
In conclusion, I ask, “Have you heard the Holy Spirit speak to you? Has He told you the condition of your heart today?”
Jesus said, "out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries." God’s Word says you can be double hearted (Ps. 12:2); hard hearted (Prov 28:04); proud hearted (21:4); have an unbelieving heart (Heb 3:12); a cold heart (Mt 24:12); and an unclean heart (Ps 51:10).
What kind of heart do you have?
Whatever your heart’s condition, Jesus has the cure. Believe He is the Son of God, who atoned for your sinful heart on the cross. Confess your sin to Him and make Him your Savior and Lord; that is, make Jesus your Master. Repent of your sin and follow Jesus, first in baptism, where you will die to your old life and be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will lead you on the pathway of holiness and give you grace to guard your heart during every temptation along the way. The Spirit will speak God’s wisdom to you and say, “This is the way. Walk in it.”
 
 
 
 
1/21/24
 
WISDOM'S WARNING
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. It is wise to fear the Lord, and when we do, God shows us the wise way to live.
Wisdom is constantly calling out to us during our busy lives to stop, listen, and obey. Wisdom calls out direction and correction. Should we ignore the call, the consequences can be severe and eternal.
Proverbs 1:20-23
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
"How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.
The simple ones are the ignorant ones. The most common excuse for doing wrong and falling into trouble is ignorance. “I did not know any better,” we protest. However, at some age of accountability, that excuse is rejected by God.
Wisdom is not some hidden treasure or the sole possession of a select few. To the contrary, Wisdom cries out for us to listen and respond. The wisdom of right and wrong, as presented in the Word of God, is available for all to read and follow. Our problem is our unwillingness to listen to God’s wisdom and follow it.
Wisdom also cries out with a loud voice that everybody can hear, through both creation and our conscience!
Romans 1:19-21
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.
So they are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Like Wisdom, we must declare the Word in an uncompromising way, hiding nothing to make it more acceptable. Our task is to proclaim the Gospel with gentleness and love so everybody can hear, believe, and be saved. It is the hearer’s responsibility and decision to respond.
Sadly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s wisdom are “foolishness” to the majority of people. They scoff at it. They prefer to create their own wisdom, even denying the basic knowledge of when life begins, what is a woman, there are only two genders, who can have babies, etc.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the
discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise?
Where is the scribe?
Where is the debater of this age?
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
In verse 22, Wisdom begins her sermon with an urgent appeal to stop rejecting her, and to respond to the stern rebuke she is about to give them.
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”
The ways of Wisdom are set before us and the consequences of our choice are clear. Wisdom tells us the way of blessing and curses. Wisdom even tells us which way to choose.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.
Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them."
We must respond to Wisdom’s cry and respond her words now, before we are in a crisis. The lessons of wisdom occur during careful meditation upon the Word of God, not in a quick solution when we are in a crisis.
Simply sitting in a pew week after week will do nothing unless what we hear becomes the focal point of our thinking. Hearing the Word and agreeing, without meditating on it and applying it to our life, is self-deception because action is required. Faith without works is dead. We will not be changed, and we will not grow, by passive hearing. We must set our affections on God’s wisdom and act on it!
There’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for wisdom. Socrates led the young man to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, “What do you want?” “Wisdom, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up.
“What do you want?” he asked again.
“Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.”
Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping.
“What do you want, young man?”
Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Wisdom, O wise and wonderful...”
Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty.
“What do you want?” “Air!” he screeched. “I need air!”
Socrates said, “When you want wisdom as you have just wanted air, then you will have wisdom.”
Unfortunately, we are like that proud young man. We want wisdom, but we don’t crave it like it was our life’s breath. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the Lord who gives us His wisdom, but we must fear Him, seek Him with all of our soul, listen to Him, and obey what He says!
If we will not do this, Wisdom gives us a warning:
Proverbs 1:24-31
Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
Wisdom warns us of the consequences of disregarding what God says. Nevertheless, most people foolishly reject Wisdom. So, God lets us reap the full consequences of our deeds after we have been properly warned and we have rejected His Wisdom.
Galatians 6:7-8
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
So, after all the warnings about curses and the promises of blessings, why do people still foolishly reject Wisdom?
The FIRST reason is because they don’t want to listen. I have heard people say, “Don’t tell me that. I don’t want to know.” They think ignorance will make them less responsible for their actions.
The SECOND reason Wisdom is rejected is because some are just insensitive to it. They hear it, but they refuse to accept it or to submit to it.
Jesus would often speak in parables to separate those willing to accept His teaching and those who were not. At the end of His parables, Jesus would say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In other words, if you understand what I am saying, then do it.
Most of us like the parables. They are interesting. Unfortunately, we are insensitive to their wisdom and we miss their lesson for our life.
A THIRD reason Wisdom is rejected is that we think there is plenty of time to accept it later. Many people put off reading God’s Word as if it is something they will get around to later in life. “I’ll worry about that when I’m old and retired and have nothing else to do” is their attitude.
The tragic fact is that most people, who reject the Word in their youth, will not be able to grasp it in their old age. Their hearts and minds will be too hardened. Procrastination is not a virtue, especially not in spiritual matters.
2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
In verse 25 we see the FOURTH reason why Wisdom is rejected: because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof.
It is rebellion that ignores, neglects, or disregards God’s Wisdom. When confronted with wrong, we come up with every excuse to blame another person or situation for our folly. The first step in acquiring wisdom is admitting that we are wrong and we need Wisdom.
Beginning in verse 26, there is a shocking pronouncement:
“I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you”.
Wisdom shifts, from the denunciation of the foolish, to their judgment. When the Lord speaks of laughing “at your calamity/disaster,” it is not that He is heartless. Rather, it is a reference to the absurdity of your unbelief:
All the foolish can be sure that their own actions and intentions will boomerang against them. What God said would happen will happen, even though it doesn’t happen immediately. And when it does happen, those who scoffed and laughed at Wisdom will find the joke is on them.
Therefore, Psalm 37:1-13 instructs us:
Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him, but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.
Wisdom rejoices when righteousness ousts wickedness, knowledge overcomes ignorance, and humility topples pride. Again, God is not mocked.
We will reap what we sow.
Since the foolish did not respond to Wisdom in their time of salvation, Wisdom will not respond to them at the time of their judgment. They will “call on” her, saying they are at last ready to listen, but it will be too late. Their indifference to Wisdom has already condemned them.
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
Fools, seeing no need for the “fear of the LORD,” do not listen to Wisdom. In fact, they favor other lifestyles. Eventually, they will suffer the consequences of their choices. They became foolishly wise in their own eyes and they will reap the fruit of their “wisdom”.
Can you see how Wisdom’s call is like the Gospel call, with its warning of coming judgment if the call is ignored? Today is the day of salvation. Don’t ignore it and choose your own way of life.
There is a point when it is too late to repent. God will eventually withdraw His invitation to sinners because they have repeatedly rejected Him.
Proverbs 1:32-33
For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.
Wisdom’s concluding remarks combines the simple and fools together with in their certain and final doom. Their complacency (willful carelessness) leads them to their eternal death, a destiny that stands in marked opposition to that of the obedient, who remain secure and without fear of disaster or death.
Isaiah 32:17-18
And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
If you realize you have been ignoring God’s wisdom, wise up, repent, and begin seeking it with all your soul. Fear the Lord. Ask the Father to forgive you, and to fill you with the Holy Spirit. Then listen to the Spirit’s voice and obey His Wisdom.
Psalm 128:1-2
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.
If you lack salvation, you can become wise today by first believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross.
Confess your sin to Him and repent—stop doing it.
Die to your old life of sin and self-determination by being baptized, and make Jesus your Lord and Master.
As a result, you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will cry out to you with the wisdom of God.
Listen to Him and obey Him.
He will lead you on the pathway of life and holiness as you deny yourself, pick up a cross, and follow Jesus.
 
1/14/24
The Wisdom of the Cross
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?
So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.
“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
At first glance, Paul’s statement, “But we have the mind of Christ,” appears boastful. It would not go over well in our easily offended culture of today. It probably did not go over well in the Corinthian culture then, except within the church. In the church, it would have been a treasured truth and an amazing revelation. So, it is with us today.
We need to realize what this is saying:
The mind of the One through whom the entire universe was created, the origin of all wisdom, is available to us!
We are not limited to human reasoning. We are not bound by the limitations of history’s greatest thinkers, who have all fallen drastically short of discovering the eternal truth. No, we have a supernatural access to the mind of Christ!
We know the direction of history and where it is leading; we know how to escape this fallen world; and we know who holds all power in the palm of His right hand. This vast, incomprehensible wisdom is ours—if we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we cannot understand spiritual wisdom.
Our problem is we don’t seek the wisdom that has been provided. We often resort to lesser means of wisdom because we are either unaware that the mind of Christ is accessible, or we are unable to believe the promise, or we don’t take time to seek God’s wisdom and we have chosen our own wisdom instead of doing what God says in His Word.
The mind of Christ is ours through the Spirit of God, who comes to us only through faith in the Son, Jesus Christ. The Spirit searches the deep things of God and reveals those things to whomever seeks Him. Such things are foolish to the world, but they are truth nonetheless—truth that we can know and base our lives on!
Paul states that he did not use “lofty speech or wisdom” when he preached. In other words, he did not try to impress people with his knowledge and ability like the popular philosophers of his day. His message was all about “Jesus Christ and him crucified,” and most of his listeners saw it as complete nonsense. Today, the world’s reaction to this message is no different.
So, how do Christians come to understand the wisdom of Jesus Christ and Him crucified? How do we come to see that the Christ of the cross is the only source of eternal life?
You might say, “Well, I just believed it,” or “I just know it in my ‘knower’”. And that is probably all you understood in the beginning. But it’s not quite as simple as that. The Holy Spirit gives us the mind of Christ and He explains the wisdom of the cross to our mind and spirit.
I. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS IS ETERNALLY SIGNIFICANT
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.”
Though the message of the cross is foolishness to the world, it is a message of wisdom among the mature in Christ. We see it as the wisdom of God, but most do not see it as we do. Why? Because the message of the cross does not agree with “the wisdom of this age.” Therefore, “the rulers of this age” reject it.
“The rulers of this age” are those who determine the outlook and values of our society. They are the so called wise, the influential, and those of noble birth. They are the world leaders, the movie and music stars, the billionaires, the leading professors, economists, and scientists. They tell us what to think, what to wear, what to buy, and so on.
But why should we listen to them? Why should we do what they say? Their wisdom is “doomed to pass away.” It is without eternal value. The latest theory or fad of man might be popular today, but it will one day become totally insignificant.
In contrast, the wisdom of the cross is eternally significant to each person for salvation.
II. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS WAS ONCE HIDDEN FROM THE MIND OF MAN
Paul said, “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.” This secret and hidden wisdom of God is Jesus Christ and the cross.
Most of the Old Testament prophecies of the cross are difficult to understand without the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His followers on the road to Emmaus--
Luke 24:25-27
“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
No one anticipated the cross, not even Christ’s disciples. Though it was predicted by the Old Testament prophets, no one saw it coming, because the wisdom of the cross was once hidden from the mind of man, but now it is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
III. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS WAS DESTINED FOR OUR GLORY BEFORE TIME BEGAN.
Paul writes that the wisdom of the cross is for us today.
“None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
The crucified Christ is “the Lord of glory.” There is a clear contrast between the saved and “the rulers of this age.” Like Christ, the saved are destined for glory, but the rulers of this age are destined for destruction.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-12
For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
Romans 8:16-17
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:29-30
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
The wisdom of the cross is that the authorities who crucified Jesus were unknowingly carrying out God’s plan. The crucifixion was God’s plan, and He used man’s misunderstanding of Jesus to bring it about.
The rulers thought they were doing away with a messianic pretender. In fact, they were illegally and immorally executing “the Lord of glory.”
They thought they were so wise, yet by their folly they brought to pass God’s perfect plan that He designed before time began.
IV. THE WISDOM OF THE CROSS IS REVEALED ONLY BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
No human mind conceived the wisdom of the cross. God prepared the cross and all of its blessings for those who love Him. He fills them with the Holy Spirit, who reveals the deep things of God to us.
The wisdom of the cross has not been revealed to everyone, because most do not love God, and therefore, they do not have the Holy Spirit. As a result, they see the cross as stupidity. But God has revealed His wisdom to us by his Spirit.
Therefore, if we “see” the wisdom of the cross, it has nothing to do with our brilliance or education. It has everything to do with the Spirit of God revealing it to those who love Him.
You can never reason a person into the Kingdom of God. If your friend says, “I just don’t see what you’re talking about,” that is not an excuse; it's reality.
He truly cannot “see” it!
Paul said, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
It is not that your friend does not want to accept the message of the cross; it’s that he can’t accept it. He is unable to understand it because the Holy Spirit has not revealed it to him. Therefore, pray that God will bind the demonic spirits that have blinded him, and pray that the Holy Spirit will mercifully and graciously give him faith to “see” and believe.
For an individual to be saved, the public work of the Son of God on the cross must be combined with the private work of the Spirit of God in one’s heart and mind.
We should express gratitude to God for the gift of His Son, but we should also express gratitude to God for the gift of His Spirit, who enables us to grasp the wisdom of the cross and possess the mind of Christ.
Whatever God knows, the Spirit knows.
Verses 11-13 “For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?
So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”
The only person who knows your thoughts is you. The only way I can know what you are thinking is if you tell me.
As the spirit of a man knows the mind of that man, the Spirit of God knows the mind of God. And the Holy Spirit tells us what God thinks. As you read the Word of God, you can “hear” the Holy Spirit interpreting the meaning for your life.
The Holy Spirit reveals the wisdom of the cross to whomever God gives grace to believe. What an awesome God we have! Not only does He save us through the crucifixion of His Son, but He sends us His Spirit to enable us to understand what He has done! Christ and the Spirit are the key to everything: faith, conversion, and understanding of the Gospel.
We must praise Jesus for our salvation. When He ascended into Heaven, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to be in us and among us. Consequently, the Holy Spirit convicted us of our sin and gave us grace to believe in what Jesus did on the cross for our salvation.
We should thank the Holy Spirit for the conviction and the fear of the Lord that He brings; otherwise, we would still be in spiritual darkness.
To summarize, you have your own mind. You can also have the mind of Christ. Which would you rather depend on?
Begin each day by disavowing your own wisdom.
We must acknowledge that we do not have the wisdom to make the decisions we will face each day.
We do not know all the details or future implications of any decision.
But God does, and He makes His wisdom available.
Acknowledge your utter dependence on the Holy Spirit for the mind of Christ. Ask God for His Spirit and His wisdom, and believe His promise to give it to you.
James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
His wisdom is readily available, but we must ask. Our usual tendency is to pray for direction.
Instead, pray for wisdom, and the direction will become clear. The mind of Christ is more than directions for a way to go; it is wisdom that shows us the way, the truth, and the life. But, when we ask for wisdom, we must believe. Otherwise, God’s wisdom will not come.
James 1:6-8
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
What does this mean? Is it only that we must believe He will answer us? It is that, but it is much more. We must believe—ahead of time—that what He tells us is wisdom to be followed! We must be committed to obey His instructions before He gives them. If we are not committed, we are double-minded and God will not answer!
For example, many Christians ask for God’s wisdom as an option to throw into the mix. It becomes one possibility among a range of many.
If we are only requesting His advice, He will not give it.
God only gives wisdom to be implemented, not suggestions to consider.
The commitment to obey comes first. The mind of Christ is generously granted to us, but only for us to obey.
Perhaps all of this is hard to understand. I pray you realize that what you find difficult to understand—the wisdom of the cross—has eternal significance for you. For upon that cross, Jesus atoned for your sin so that you do not have to go to Hell. That is the bottom line. The wisest thing you can do is believe this and act on it.
Therefore, if you believe Jesus atoned for your sin on the cross, you must commit your life to Him as your Lord, by confessing your sin to Him and asking for His forgiveness.
Then repent of your sin—that is, stop doing it—and die to your old life by being baptized—buried in water.
You will be raised to live a new life, born of the Holy Spirit, who will give you the mind of Christ, including spiritual wisdom to understand the cross, and grace to follow Jesus.
 
 
1/7/24
THE FEAR OF THE LORD
The Holy Spirit has led me to speak about wisdom for a few weeks. Where do we begin to approach this subject?
Proverbs 9:8-12
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.
An unbeliever has no fear of the Lord. To him, God does not exist, so there is no one to fear. He will scoff and mock your faith in God and consider himself a free thinker, enlightened, and wise. Actually, he is a fool to reject God, and he becomes his own foolish god.
Some of us “believers” are not much better. We are uncomfortable with the idea of fearing God. So, we defend God as One, whose love is so great, there is no reason to fear Him. We redefine fear as “awe” and “reverence.” In doing so, we fabricate a different god out of our imagination.
Although awe and reverence are appropriate reactions to Almighty God, the Scriptures indicate that something more than awe and reverence is appropriate. The fear of God is the kind of fear that terrified the disciples when they heard God’s voice at the Transfiguration. It is the kind of fear that makes you hide your face or die if you were to see Him.
Matthew 17:5-6
He [Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
Every time someone encountered the living God, this is the kind of reaction they had. Only when God took upon Himself human flesh, could we look at Him and survive.
But then, we did not recognize Him, nor did we fear Him.
We crucified Him.
Indeed, God is love. So why does a God of love tell us that wisdom begins when we fear Him? Because when we approach the Holy One casually, we do not take Him as seriously as we ought, and we do not take our sin as seriously as we ought.
Fear is the proper response of our sinful nature in the overwhelming holiness of God. Fear gives us the correct vision of Him. When the fear of the Lord grips us, we gain knowledge of our God and of the great mercy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That knowledge begins to rearrange our lives. And that is what wisdom is about.
True wisdom humbly receives the Lord's correction. True wisdom is not complacent with what we already know. Wisdom makes us want to know the Lord better. That is why we love the Lord's correction and discipline. It adds to our wisdom and knowledge of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord, that brings wisdom, is not associated with hiding from God, like Adam and Eve did after they sinned. Instead, it motivates us to run to Him for mercy and to look to Jesus for salvation. The fear of the Lord exists in harmony with God’s love only in the heart of a believer who trusts God's forgiveness through the atoning sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.
However, if we just focus on God's love and forgiveness and ignore His holiness and hatred for sin, Satan easily misleads us into disobedience. We see much of that in the world today. No doubt, like me, you have struggled with it in your own soul. How easy it is to imagine that since God loves me, He must be like a good friend. He'll be there for me. He'll support me. He'll see me through, no matter what I do. So I can do as I please, and if I get into trouble, I can give Him a call. That thinking is unbiblical and turns God's love and forgiveness into a license to sin!
The security of the believer is not “Once saved always saved”. Our security is found in denying self, picking up a cross daily, and following Jesus. It is an obedient lifestyle.
Romans 6:1-4
What shall we say then?
Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
By no means!
We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Or don’t you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
On the contrary, the fear of the Lord motivates us not to sin. Realizing sin separates us from God and condemns us to Hell, coupled with how merciful and loving God has been to us, we are thankful and begin to think, "I want to serve Him. I want to obey His commands. I want His will to be my will. I want to dedicate my life to Him."
This fear of the Lord delights in God’s commands and hates what is evil, just as He hates evil. It does not think of using His forgiveness as a license to sin. The fear of the Lord holds God in too high of regard to think of abusing His love in that way.
After all, He is Almighty God, who out of pure love and grace has freely made His promises and faithfully keeps them. In Him alone, there is forgiveness. He alone is the Savior. Why would we dishonor His name? Why would we pervert His holiness? Why would we break His commandments and go against Him? Why would we do these things and disobey Him?
There are two reasons: Because we have lost our fear of Him, and we do not love Him.
The greater our knowledge of who God really is, the greater our love will be for Him, and the greater our fear of Him will be also. The apostle John loved Jesus. He once laid on His breast. He was present at the crucifixion. He took Mary into his home. But when John saw Jesus in all His glory, he fell at His feet in fear, like a dead man.
Revelation 1:17-19
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.
But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one.
"I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
"Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this."
The fear of the Lord is a very important aspect in a Christian’s life, but this truth has been neglected by many preachers and teachers today. The fear of the Lord is important because it causes Christians to run to Him, confessing their sin, and seeking His forgiveness and grace to repent.
Without the fear of God, deceived “Christians” go on sinning and believe they do not need to repent. God’s Word warns us about this.
Hebrews 10:26-31
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”
And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
If these verses generate a fear of God in you and cause you to repent, then the judgment specified in them doesn’t apply to you now. God sent Jesus to shed His blood for our sin.
But, if we reject that sacrifice and refuse to repent, then there is no other sacrifice for our sin. If we profane the atonement by deliberately continuing to sin without confession and repentance, then we will experience God’s wrath.
God doesn’t play our games or accept our philosophies. He is an awesome God! We better be believing!
John 3:18-21
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
Jesus said in Luke 12:4-5
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.
Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
Until we understand who God is—that He is holy, just, and righteous—and develop a fear of Him, we will not have true wisdom. Wisdom tells us that God’s commands are for our good.
Therefore, the fear of the Lord is the basis for our walking in His ways, serving Him, and yes, loving Him. As this fear develops our understanding of God and His wisdom, a love for God also develops. As a result, we begin to obey God not because we must, but because we love Him.
The fear of the Lord and a love for the Lord go together in the heart of a believer.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?
Proverbs 8:13
To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
Proverbs 15:16
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.
Wherever God appeared to people in the Word, the results were an overwhelming sense of fear and dismay, an alarming sensation of their sinfulness and guilt in the presence of a holy God.
The self-assurance of modern “Christians” and the shocking disrespect shown for God are evidence of deep deception. As a result, they continue to deliberately sin and do not seek the Truth. Instead, they disdain those who speak the Truth and seek those who will tickle their ears.
The Bible tells us that people in the past feared God, and people in the future will fear God. The Bible has also shown that devoted men, such as Moses, Abraham, and Noah, feared God.
What makes us think differently? Who told us that we should not fear God? The answer: Satan and his followers! The same ones who tell us we don’t need to obey God!
Without the fear of the Lord, we will never know Him; we won’t believe; we won’t repent, and we won’t be saved.
When we fear God, we will seek Him and His mercy with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we find Him, we will repent. We will develop a love for God and a hatred for sin. We will want to follow Jesus and to be filled with His Holy Spirit every day. Then we will have grace to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and His Church will grow!
Acts 9:31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened.
Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
So far, all I have talked about is just the beginning of wisdom. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom", the text said. Even if we had the entire Bible memorized word for word and could answer any trivia question about it, we would still not be at the very beginning of wisdom.
Until all that knowledge is combined with the fear of the Lord, we will not have wisdom.
For true wisdom not only knows God’s Word, it obeys God's Word. Wisdom practices God’s commands daily and whole-heartedly believes His promises. Wisdom honors God in our choices and decisions. It glorifies Him in our words and actions.
Gradually, His wisdom becomes more and more the way we think, feel, speak, and act. It shapes our character, thoughts, emotions, attitude, wants, disposition, and behavior. The remarkable thing is: When you fear the Lord, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear the Lord, you fear everything else!
No person can make you wise. Yes, the Lord sends preachers and teachers to proclaim His Word, but they cannot make you obey that Word so that you grow in wisdom. Wisdom comes from fearing the Lord and seeking Him with all your heart!
How often have each of us missed opportunities to grow in wisdom?
We watched another TV program instead of taking a little time to spend with God in His Word.
We let the busy activities of life interfere with hearing His Word publicly preached in church.
Or maybe we do attend church regularly, but we leave the message at church, never thinking about it during the week nor practicing it in our daily lives.
Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.
This is your spiritual act of worship.
We often think of worship as words and songs that come out of our mouths. It is so much more. It is a lifestyle, a sacrificial way of living that acknowledges every moment of every day that there is One far greater than ourselves. When His interests consistently supersede ours and we act obediently, we are wisely worshiping God.
Therefore, when you pray, imagine yourself in the throne room of Almighty God. You can only enter in by the blood of Jesus. So, don’t do this casually, but fearfully before an awesome God. Lay yourself out before Him and confess your sin.
Then say to Him, “I am Yours. Do with me as You will. I give up my right to govern myself. I exist for Your purposes, and for Yours alone. Fill me with your Spirit so that I have grace to do your will and produce your fruit.”
Do this every morning and throughout the day, then live out your day mindful of who you belong to and what your purpose is. This is true worship. It is the wisest thing you can do.
 
 
12/31/23
DISCERNMENT FOR AN UPCOMING YEAR
Larry Vann
Our topic this morning is Godly discernment. We’ll cover the subject of discernment—then put it to use.
Why do we need Godly discernment? Because of our challenge to make disciples.
While our country elects representatives who are immoral, about 2/3 of our people claim to adhere to Christian beliefs (or at least Christian values). What do we make of this? How do we cope with it?
Rapid change defines modern life. This change builds innovative buildings, computer controlled drones for warfare, and satellites that are sent into space in ever increasing numbers.
This rapid change also results in a growing gap in the common experiences between our generations—which in turn creates challenges to the value sets and belief systems between them.
The evil world is using this gap to divide and manipulate us.
A common tactic of the political left is to refuse to debate issues because doing so may give some credibility to their opponents. A common tactic of the right is to fain being insulted and hurt at being demonized by their opponents.
As Christians, we must know how to communicate, not only between ourselves, but also with “them”.
People belittle the Bible because “they” want to do the things “they” shouldn’t do without feeling shame. “They” argue that truth is dependent on circumstances. “They” will determine what is right or wrong, true or false. “They” scorn us for referencing the Bible because, to them, it is old fashioned and out of touch with today’s issues. “They” tell us, “You need to think for yourself.”
Question: How do we deal with “them”?
Answer: By using Godly discernment.
• POINT 1
We are to realize we are on a battlefield which is over our heads, pun intended.
Ephesians 6:10-18
Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Stand firm with the belt of Truth buckled around your waist, the breastplate of Righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the Readiness that comes from the Gospel peace.
Take up the shield of Faith, to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of Salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions …”
If we are properly armored, we won’t be distracted and can concentrate on the real battles. We’ll have a peace that comes when we have a good relationship with Jesus.
Throughout the New Testament Jesus makes statements that begin with the words, “I tell you the truth…” We read in John 1:17, “…
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
There is such a thing as truth that is not variable.
We believe this. We know this.
To be suited up properly requires we demonstrate the Truth.
Psalm 86:11
Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may live according to your Truth.
To live according to the Lord’s truth, requires we understand the personal traits that have no place in it.
In Col 3:8-10, we read, “…you must rid yourself of…anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.”
Get rid of ungodly behaviors. We accomplish this, with God’s grace, by not thinking in evil ways.
The devil hits us with lies, accusations, and guilt. Without righteousness, these attacks will penetrate our hearts. The Breastplate of Righteousness, gained by living a Life according to God’s Truth, is a tool to keep us clean.
Discern we need to be in a good (obedient) relationship with Christ Jesus in order to properly communicate to “them”. WWJD (What would Jesus do?)
Ex 28:15
“Fashion a breastplate for making decisions …”
In 1 Kings 3:9, we have Solomon’s request of God, “So give your servant [and us] a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”
We are always to be ready with our quality of life in check and our ability to discern right from wrong. We are to make up our minds, now (in advance) to follow God’s ways, always, as exemplified by Jesus, no matter what.
1 John 5:4-5
“For every child of God overcomes the world; and the victorious principle which has overcome the world is faith. Who, but the man that believes Jesus is the Son of God, overcomes the world?”
Satan attacks our faith—wanting us to doubt God and our Salvation. We MUST trust in the truth of God’s Word. Have confidence in the value of God’s Word.
Study to learn and understand the Bible’s contents.
Psalm 149:4
For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.
We are instructed to be humble. We must maintain communication with our Commander through prayer. We must always seek God’s guidance in our lives—because it is God’s will that we always be ready to encounter the world’s views of things.
• Point 2
Jesus informs His apostles (and us), in Matthew 10:16, that in dealing with the world we will be “like sheep [His sheep] among wolves. Therefore, [we are to] be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
As shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves. Okay—let’s understand the “how” of this because we “discern” it is important. Right?
The reference “shrewd” is another way of saying we are to be “sensible and prudent”.
“Innocent as doves” is another way of saying we must be “not guilty of dealing with others in a self serving way”.
Just like Jesus’ sheep, we are to be kind and gentle—but above all, to know our master—and not to be gullible to the worldly games people play.
In Mark 12:14, Jesus gives us an example of how He handles the “them” He had to deal with:
They [the Pharisees and Herodians] came to Him [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity.
“You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
“Is it right to pay taxes to Ceasar or not?
“Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”
Christ answered wisely, in verse 17:
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Jesus didn’t swallow “their” flattery, but instead, understood their true intent. “they” assumed Jesus thought just like “they” did, and so “they” used this tactic to try to bring Him down to “their” level, but Jesus didn’t cooperate—His thinking was not like “theirs”.
Our thinking is not to be like theirs either.
This brings us to the question of: What do we think about?
Are our thoughts on issues and events taking place in this world? If so, then our minds are in turmoil. The Bible says we are to set our minds and keep them on the things of God. (see Colossians 3). This discipline alone will teach us to focus on important issues and not the garbage people add to manipulate us and achieve their agendas.
In “The Parable of the Soils”, some of the plants were choked out and died because of the cares of this life and the distraction of wealth. The real battles are for the souls of people.
Don’t play the game of letting “them” tell us what we are thinking, in order to be pleasantly agreeable.
We can explain what we think, ourselves, thank you very much.
We don’t “play smart” because we are wise enough to know we can be outsmarted if we play games. We don’t owe everyone our opinion and need to know when to reserve it—especially when dealing with those we sense may “adjust” what we say.
2 Timothy 3:1-5
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days: People will be […] ungrateful […] without love, unforgiving, slanderous […] brutal, treacherous …] having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”
In other words, “they” may very well know Christian doctrine, Christian cliches, attend a church…. Don’t be deceived!
Know them by what they reveal about their thoughts in their actions and speech.
A twisted game people try to convince us to play is to follow our emotional heart. Do what we “feel” is right.
The Bible tells us man’s heart isn’t the solution; it’s the problem. Paul declared there was nothing good in him, meaning “in his
human nature.” (Romans 7:18)
Paul could read about this in the book of Ecclesiastes (9:3) where Solomon remarked how people’s hearts are full of evil, universally. Jesus said “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come ….” (Mark 7:21) Christ died and rose so that we can follow THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Another popular game is to try and convince us to compromise on right and wrong. As lambs, we can’t compromise. The Bible makes the transition to salvation as radical as possible. From death to life.
From the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of Light.
These metaphors express the absolute gap that exists between being children of wrath and children of God. We’ve been recruited to fight “with love” for the souls of people by sharing the Good News.
Thinking we can do better at this, by finding am “middle ground” in the war between God and Satan, is wrong. It isn’t love to compromise regarding sin.
Sin destroys and kills. Love doesn’t.
For some, standing for God’s Truth and not playing “their” games may mean we pay a price. The Bible promises that paying such a price won’t be for nothing. (Rev 12:11) For our sake, and for others, we must stand for what is true, speaking the Truth in a sincere and loving manner.
• POINT 3
We must realize that even people with amazing spiritual gifts are fallible. We must discern by the Spirit what people say, and not simply take their words as true at face value. (See 1 Cor 14:29.) We don’t belong to any man or woman or denomination or worldly organization. We belong to Christ alone. Only He is our Shepherd.
On the Last Day we will each “Man Up” and take responsibility for our own life. (See Romans 2:6-8.)
Don’t be impressed by people’s intellect. Even if we spent every moment of our lives learning information, our intellect would still be woefully limited. Intellect only pays off when we submit to the facts:
God knows all and loves us.
A final deception I’ll mention this morning is the idea that the Gospel is designed to make us happy.
Just as Brother Jerry has preached many times: Happiness is temporary. But knowing we are bound for an eternal life in heaven gives us God’s joy – something no one can take away.
When we try to attract people to church with an emotional appeal, we’re robbing them of the true Gospel of self-sacrifice which will give them eternal hope, joy, peace, and love. We ask and do not receive, because we ask amiss. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. (from James 4:3-4).
Summarizing the lesson thus far:
We MUST realize we are on a SPIRITUAL battlefield—beyond our own capability to cope with alone.
We MUST wear the armor of God through our knowledge of Scripture and accept guidance in discernment by the Holy Spirit.
We must pray to God (our Commander) for grace and guidance and be busy with the commission Jesus gave us: to spread the Gospel as Jesus’ sheep—as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves).
We have to honor the truth, when we communicate with others.
A case for us to discern this morning: Faith and Good Works
You are all familiar with Jesus’ parable, in Matthew 25, about the money a man loaned to his 3 servants. To one servant the master gave five talents, another two, and to a third he gave one. The first two servants doubled their talents, but the third hid his in the ground and simply returned to his master what he had been given.
Beginning in verse 26, the man addressed his third servant. Please listen carefully:
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
By spiritual discernment we know that the parable relates to us. We are the servants who are given talents (blessings, gifts, etc.) and are supposed to accomplish something with them.
My understanding of the case of the last servant is that we must not face God empty handed—without being able to show some Spiritually inspired good we have done (something of value that will pass through “THE” fire of 1 Cor 3:15).
While we may not be able to persuade our neighbors to come to Christ, we can encourage others to follow our example if we live a consistent life using Godly discernment. We can encourage each other by consistently meeting together in worship. We can let people see our steadfast joy in living a Christian life with Jesus as our Savior. We can tell people through our actions about our love for Jesus. We can make them aware by telling them that “we” know Jesus is the Savior of this world we live in—its only hope.
To be absolutely clear:
Let’s read some verses, beginning with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Now follow that with John 3:36: Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son [does not obey Him—AMP, ERV and NLT] will not see life.
If you believe, then you obey.
Added clarity is found in Hebrews 3:18-19
“And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”
By discernment we are able to say, “In God’s dictionary, “believe in” and “obey” mean the same thing.”
Romans 2:6 says that God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” By using the word substitution just given, the verse could read “God will give to each person according to what he believes.”
We must not be the “lazy servant”. We must look to make a difference while we still can.
We are warned in Ephesians 5:14-16
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Be careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Does your Godly discernment tell you the lesson today was true?
Does belief in Jesus mean “to know and obey him”?
I hope it does.
We’ll all answer to God for our decisions.
I know this has been a relatively “busy” lesson this morning. Let’s leave here and put our faith into practice before the world by living Biblically based lives—full of unselfish, unprejudiced, Biblical discernment.
 
12/24/23
The Journey to Bethlehem
Bethlehem is the setting for the birth of Jesus. It is significant because it is also the setting for the Book of Ruth. Ruth was the great-grandmother of David. She was not an Israelite. She was a Moabite who married Boaz from Bethlehem. They had a child named Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of King David.
1 Samuel 16:1 The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”
God promised David that his kingdom would last forever. But hundreds of years later the earthly kingdom of David crumbled from the consequences of sin. It was conquered by Babylon and became non-existent as a kingdom. As a result, the royal family tree of David looked like it had been sawed off.
Did God fail to keep His promise to David? By what was SEEN, it appeared so. But God told Isaiah what was UNSEEN in the background.
Isaiah 11:1-2 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
There are going to be times when our future looks as hopeless as a stump. But God is working in the unseen background when our situation is bleak.
For example, nation after nation had fallen to the Roman Army. One of those nations was Syria. Syria consisted of several provinces. One of those provinces was Judea, the location of the once mighty Kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon.
Judea was further divided into districts (small kingdoms) and a local “king” judged the matters in his “kingdom”. All the kings in Judea were subject to the Roman governor, who represented the Emperor of Rome. The Israelite kings were not allowed an army, nor could they decree any law. As a result, the Jews and Samaritans, living in Judea, were subjects of Rome with little or no hope of gaining their independence.
The citizens were taxed heavily to support the Roman Empire and its occupation. On top of this burden, a new Roman Emperor was on the throne and he ordered a new tax. To keep anyone from escaping the new tax, a census would be taken.
To be properly identified, every man in Israel had to return to his ancestral home to register for the census. They had to give their names, the name of their employer and job title, the name of their wives, children, servants, slaves, and the location of their property so the Romans could assess a value to their home and to the people associated with that home. The amount of taxes to be assessed was solely dependent upon the decision of the tax assessors appointed by Rome. These taxes could be collected in the form of money, property, and/or family members (if that is all that’s left). In this bleak and oppressive situation, the people wondered, “Where is God? What is He doing?”
Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
In Nazareth, a tiny city in the kingdom of Galilee, there lived a poor, devout carpenter named Joseph, a descendant of Jesse and David. News of this census caused great concern for Joseph, for he knew that somehow, he must make the long 80 mile journey to his hometown of Bethlehem, a small town 6 miles south of Jerusalem. To make matters worse, Joseph’s wife was 8½ months pregnant.
The Bible doesn’t tell us what transportation they used, but any type would still make it an arduous journey for Mary. There were no Burger Kings or McDonalds along the road. There were no Holiday Inns. Even if there were such places, there was no money to pay for these conveniences. So each day, perhaps as much as 10 days on the road, they had to cook their own meals, bathe whenever possible in cold water streams or out of a wash bowl, sleep on the ground, and keep moving until they reached Bethlehem.
We aren’t told what Mary thought, but it would be normal for her to think, “The Angel appeared to me months ago, and I know this baby is God’s! This is the worst possible time to make this dangerous trip! What is God doing?”
Have you ever felt that way toward God? When we look at the circumstances of life, we may wonder, “What is God doing?” The problem is that we are looking at what we can SEE with our eyes. However, reality is so much more than what is visible to the human eye. What we CAN’T see is actually the most important reality of all.
Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
When I was informed by a company, whom I had served for 26 years, that my employment was ending in 2 weeks, it was shocking news. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach, but immediately, the Holy Spirit said, “Do not fear, I have something else for you to do.” At that time, the “something else” was UNSEEN, but it was still a reality. That assurance from God gave me complete peace, which astonished my supervisor, and it gave me an opportunity to share my faith in God and His provision.
As shocking as the news of this census was to Joseph and Mary, I believe they also had the assurance and encouragement from the Holy Spirit. Quite likely, they were reminded of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
Nothing is said in the Bible about the long journey, but the most direct route Mary and Joseph may have taken went along the Jordon River through Samaria to Jericho. That would be the easiest part. The last leg of the route would have been difficult. Jericho is the lowest city on the globe, and Jerusalem and Bethlehem are situated on top of the mountains. From Jericho’s plain to Bethlehem, it is 28 miles uphill, rising 3,500 feet.
Situated on the top of Mt. Zion was the beautiful Temple of Jehovah. Every year Jews from all over the world traveled to Jerusalem because this Temple was the dwelling place of God on earth. Anyone, who wanted to give thanks to God or to receive forgiveness from God, came to the Temple, which was visible to the travelers on the Jericho road for many miles.
What the travelers on the Jericho road could SEE with human eyes was a magnificent, white structure representing God’s presence on earth. What was UNSEEN, as they passed by Joseph and Mary, was that the baby Mary carried would make that Temple obsolete. God’s presence had already moved from the Temple to the body of a tiny pre-born baby. The very presence of God had already come to dwell in human flesh.
While Jesus was on earth, God’s presence resided in Him. After His death and resurrection, God took up residence, not in a Temple, but in every believer.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
People no longer have to travel to Jerusalem in order to connect with God. Because the Holy Spirit, who is Emmanuel (God with us), has come to dwell with us and in us. But no one could SEE these things at the time.
What was SEEN was an exhausted young couple, forced to take shelter in a stable. What was SEEN was the birth of one more Jewish baby—born in a barn to poverty stricken parents, who were far away from home.
What was UNSEEN was that God had entered man’s time and space. What was UNSEEN was that God had come to bring the Kingdom of Heaven into an oppressive world with salvation and freedom to anyone who believes in Jesus, the Son of God.
2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
The night Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph could not hear the angel’s declaration. They couldn’t see the wise men following that distant Star. While they were swaddling their new baby and lying Him in a manger, the Father was still at work behind the scene.
Soon shepherds would arrive with an amazing story about a host of angels. A week later, two devoted worshipers in the Temple would declare they had seen the Messiah when they saw baby Jesus. Two years later, wise men, following a star, would arrive in Bethlehem with valuable gifts for Jesus, the King of the Jews. Then Joseph was instructed by an angel in a dream to flee to Egypt to avoid the murderous King Herod.
Matthew 2:13-15 Now when they [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
After the death of Herod, an angel appeared to Joseph again in a dream and told him to leave Egypt and return to Nazareth. The next 25 or so years would be normal and uneventful. As a boy, Jesus submitted to His parents and obeyed them. As a young adult, He apprenticed as a carpenter, and then worked to help support His family. As far as we know, the first 30 years were mostly ordinary, not so different from our lives. But during those years, God was working behind the scenes to set the stage for Jesus’ 3-year ministry and the fulfillment of His purpose for coming.
God is working behind the scenes of our daily lives, too As far as what we can SEE, things just go along in a normal way with nothing important happening.
We need to realize that what we SEE with our eyes is not all that is going on. God is working. And when trials come upon us, disrupting our daily life, God is still working His purpose behind the scene.
There is a lesson for us in Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The people who passed them on the road to Bethlehem saw only worn out travelers, one of them heavy with child, plodding along because the oppressive Roman government demanded a census and more taxes. They had no idea that they were walking past the Son of God! They had no idea God was doing His greatest work behind the scenes of an oppressive situation.
God was establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. That baby born in Bethlehem is the eternal King of this Kingdom and the fulfillment of the promise that David’s kingdom would never end.
And through faith in Jesus, the King of Kings, you can be part of that Kingdom.
Mark 1:14-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
By believing in Jesus as the Son of God, you can know the joy and the excitement and the hope of being a part of a Kingdom that will last forever! It is not a kingdom of this world, but you can experience the Kingdom of God every day!
Luke 17:20-21 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he [Jesus] answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed [SEEN], nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
And behind the scenes of this world, Jesus is preparing a physical Kingdom we will SEE and live in forever!
Jesus said in John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.”
Each of us are on a journey. Sometimes the journey is long and arduous. However, the purpose of our journey is to get us to the place, where God has determined, that Christ is to be born in us by the Holy Spirit.
Maybe this moment, in this place, is where God has been leading you. Your journey has been uneventful, or it has been long and hard. Either way, God has been working behind the scenes to give you faith in Jesus and a desire for a new life.
You see, you have to be tired of your old life before you desire a new one. You have to be tired of being your own god before you give lordship and control to Almighty God.
The journey you have been on is your “Road to Bethlehem”, taking you to the place where Jesus will be born in you. Then you will have a new life.
Are you ready for that? Are you ready for the life of Jesus to be born in you? If so, you must believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. He sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for your sin.
As much as our proud society hates the idea of an atoning sacrifice, Jesus was sent into this world to die. Like the sheep and cattle around Him in the manger, Jesus was born for slaughter. He bore the sin of a fallen world on a cross so we could escape Hell! He descended to earth so we could ascend to Heaven!
The crucifixion of Jesus was a horrible scene. What could be SEEN was the unjust torture and death of an innocent man. But God was doing something UNSEEN. He was saving mankind from Hell if they would believe Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus clothed Himself in human flesh to die, He was raised with a heavenly body to live forever, and He made it possible for us to be born again of His Spirit and live forever, too. The result is Jesus doesn’t just give us life; He is our life. In Him, we live and move and have our being. (Acts 4:28)
Therefore, believe in Jesus and give your life to Him by confessing your sin and repenting of it. If you have done that, then confess your faith publicly and die to your old life by following Jesus in baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you a new life and a new journey, called the Way. It is a narrow road where we follow Jesus, and it leads us into the Kingdom of God on earth and unto the heavenly city of God, called New Jerusalem, where we live forever (Revelation 21:1-4).
On this new journey, God will give you grace and power to walk by the Spirit and no longer by the desires of your flesh, because you will be a temple of the Holy Spirit. God will be in you. He will lead you and remind you of everything Jesus taught. You will have God’s power to be a witness of Jesus to those who are still on their road to “Bethlehem”, where Christ can be born in them, too.
 
 
12/17/23
The Last Thing Jesus Said
After Jesus was crucified, He was buried in a borrowed tomb. He didn’t use it long. The morning of the third day, women went to the tomb to anoint His body and found the stone of the tomb rolled away with an angel sitting on the stone. The tomb was empty!
Matthew 28:5-10
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
So that is what the women did, and the disciples went to Galilee for their final meeting with Jesus.
Matthew 28:16-20
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Traditionally, these verses are called the "Great Commission".
We should call them the "Great Command". Jesus wasn’t suggesting that we do this. It is the purpose statement for His Church. If you are following Jesus Christ, this command is for you. We are to make disciples and teach them to obey Christ’s commands.
In Matthew 4:19
And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Jesus didn’t come into this world so that we could be comfortable. He didn’t come here so that we could live a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. I know that there are some preachers out there who preach that false gospel, but it isn’t the truth. Jesus stated His purpose for coming in Luke 19:10
Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."
Unfortunately, a lot of Christians and churches aren’t concerned with reaching the lost. Now, they would never admit to that. If you asked them, they would say, “Sure we are concerned with reaching the lost. It’s our hearts desire. That is why we try to attract people by offering food, entertainment, and fun activities.”
A lot of time and money is spent with this kind of evangelism, resulting in very few genuine conversions, even though the building is packed. To keep unbelievers from leaving, a perverted gospel must be substituted for the truth, and the entertainment must be constantly updated.
Such churches may make church members, but they are not making disciples of Jesus, because they don’t teach them to observe all that Jesus commanded and they don’t prepare people to be treated like Jesus was treated.
Jesus proved the ineffectiveness of appealing to people’s flesh in John 6. After He fed a huge crowd with a few loaves and fish, they followed Jesus. But when He closed the “all-you-can-eat” buffet and offered Himself as the Bread of Life, all of them walked away.
Reaching the lost and discipling the saved should be the two main purposes of any church activity. But when a church or Christians lose their focus, that’s when they get into trouble.
1 Timothy 6:3-5
If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
How many times have you seen Christians focus more on getting blessed than blessing others? How many times have you seen Christians strive for power or prestige rather than reaching the lost?
Part of this is due to what a lot of preachers are preaching: that you have a right to wealth, power, and prestige. But the fact is none of us deserve anything but an eternity in Hell. It’s only because of God’s mercy and grace that we have anything or can do anything.
We are called to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. The purpose is to witness to the lost and bring them to a full knowledge of who Jesus really is! The goal is NOT to fill the church building, but to fill people with God!
But there are too many Christians with “I” problems: I need, I want, I think. They are missing their opportunity to share the good news of God’s grace with others, because they are focused on themselves.
When a church or Christians lose their focus, they become afraid to speak the truth. Fear can cause us to back down on critical issues that face our world today; such as, homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, co-habitation. Many Christians and churches are afraid that they will offend someone and that person might not come to church, so they avoid these issues.
Instead, they let them slide and it’s not long before you can’t tell the difference between the church and the world. Instead of influencing the world, the world is influencing the church. The progression goes like this:
First, evil is overlooked.
Then evil is permitted.
Then evil is legalized.
Then evil is promoted.
Then evil is celebrated.
Then those who still call it evil are persecuted.
Psalm 97:10
O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
When Christians lose sight of their purpose and fear those who do evil, they lose their grace to endure adversity and persecution. But, if we remember our purpose and observe all that Jesus commanded, we will look at problems differently and will not run from evil! We will be ready to suffer or die for Jesus Christ and His Word.
Therefore, we must keep our focus on Jesus and what He said. We must take the Gospel the lost, those who do evil. At the same time, we must disciple those who are already believers, teaching them to love the Lord, hate evil (not people who do evil), and to obey everything Jesus taught.
When a church and Christians lose their focus, not only do they strive for the wrong things, and not only do they give into fear and persecution, but they forget what the Lord has done for them. As a result, they have no peace or joy. They are filled with anxiety and depression. They start trusting in other things. (i.e. themselves, the economy, the stock market, the government, or other people.)
All of these things will fail us. Expect them to fail, and expect the Lord to prevail!
When we take our focus off Jesus, it is easy to forget His Commission.
We forget that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son. And that Son, Jesus Christ, willingly stepped out of glorious Heaven and was born in a smelly, dusty manger.
We forget that Jesus overcame everything the devil threw at Him.
We forget that He was persecuted, mocked, and crucified by the very people that He came to save.
And we forget that He took us, who were dead in trespasses and sins, and made us alive unto God.
We forget that He redeemed us, bought us back from the devil by His precious blood.
We forget that He made atonement for our sin, that He justified us, and that He is to this very day interceding for us at the right hand of His Father, not because He has to, but because He loves us.
Instead, we like to think of ourselves as self-sufficient, pillars of strength and achievement. And sure, there are a lot of people and churches who do a lot of things. There are a lot of people who amass great wealth and possessions. There are a lot of people who achieve fame and fortune. But all that they did, and all that they achieved and gained in this world will mean nothing when they die.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
God knows your motivation. God knows where your focus is. You can’t fool Him, you can’t manipulate Him, and you can’t play games with Him.
If we were honest, some of us would admit we are not motivated to actively fulfill the Great Commission, and it would be hypocritical act otherwise. And if that’s you today, I want to commend you for your honesty and sincerity, because most Christians would never admit that.
But I also want to tell you that you don’t have to stay where you are. The Holy Spirit can restore your joy, and desire to obey Jesus and share His life with others.
You may have to do a lot of back tracking to find where you lost your first love, you may have to ask forgiveness, or even give forgiveness to someone who has wronged you. You may have to repent of some sin that’s infiltrated your life.
Or it may be that you’ve just been playing at being a Christian and have never been truly born again of the Holy Spirit. If that is the case, it is impossible share about someone you don’t know, or about a life in Christ that you do not possess.
Maybe you were born again, but currently, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, you are unable to be effective as Christ’s witness and ambassador.
That is why the last thing Jesus said to His disciples (that includes us) before ascending to the Father was to wait for the Holy Spirit’s baptism before beginning to obey the Great Commission.
Acts 1:4-9
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
The Great Commission was not the last words of Jesus. These were Jesus’s last words!
We often forget this and try to fulfill the Great Commission without obeying His last words. If the disciples could not fulfill the Great Commission without the power of the Holy Spirit, neither can we. We need to get focused on repenting of our sin, seeking the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit, and then go and share the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is NOT, “You are going to Hell if you continue to sin!” It is NOT, “You need to join a church.” It is NOT a five-step salvation plan.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what Jesus has done for you! Has He done anything for you? If so, act on it and tell others about it! People are not interested in the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but they are interested in the Gospel according to you.
If Jesus has not done anything in your life, you have nothing to share except religion, and people are not interested in religion. They want something real.
People will argue over theology if you try to be theological, but no one can argue about what Jesus has done in your life. That is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon us.
When the Spirit is in us, He transforms our thinking, our attitudes, our character, and our actions. Then we can be witnesses of Jesus Christ wherever we go—telling people about Jesus and acting like Him. Then people can see Jesus living in us! That is reality, and people will either hate you or desire what you have.
You can start a conversation, especially this time of year, by asking people what the birth of Jesus means to them, or what will happen to them when they die, or what do they think it means to be a Christian.
Caution: You should know the Biblical answers before you ask any questions.
Our world is becoming crazier and more evil every day, with war looming on the horizon, with the economy worsening, with corruption in government, with plagues and viruses, not to mention the regular hazards of life.
With all that is going on, there is not a better time to get right with God than right now. There is not a better time to seek the Holy Spirit, and when He fills you, to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
And if you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then today is your day of salvation. If you feel the Holy Spirit tugging at your heart, I invite you to come forward, whether it’s to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or to get back into fellowship with God, or just to receive prayer about something specific. Whatever it is, I encourage you to obey the Spirit and come.
I encourage the rest of you to recommit yourselves to the Great Commission and Jesus’ last words by asking the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit every day so that you have power to be witnesses of Jesus Christ wherever you go.
Jesus said in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
 
 
12/10/23
THE LAMB OF GOD SPEAKS FROM THE CROSS
During His unjust trials, Jesus was silent, like a lamb before its shearers. While He hung upon the Cross, the Lamb of God made seven statements. Initially, we might consider them just to be the last words of a dying man. However, the statements from the Cross, like all of Jesus’s words, are God’s answer to our basic needs. We do well to remember His last statements.
The first statement is recorded in Luke 23:34, And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
"Forgive them." Who, was Jesus referring to? Closest to Him were the Roman soldiers. They had the ghastly task of nailing people to a cross. But, perhaps they were the least guilty of all the people responsible for putting Jesus to death. After all, they were under the strict instructions of the Roman governor. Failure to co-operate in the execution would have meant death for themselves. Still, they were directly involved. They crucified the Son of God.
Nearby were the religious leaders, who accused Jesus of unjust crimes, and were now mocking Him. Also present was the crowd who had cried "crucify Him". And in the palace was Pilate, trying to ease his conscience by blaming others for his decision.
All these people either actively or passively helped to crucify Jesus. They were all guilty, but they are only representatives of those responsible for crucifying Jesus, because it is everyone’s sin that necessitated the crucifixion of Jesus.
Hebrews 9:22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
Therefore, everyone (you, me, every sinful person who ever lived) caused Jesus to be crucified. Every one of us is equally guilty.
God humbled Himself and became a man. Mankind had become so blinded by evil, so corrupted by sin, that it reacted violently to the purity and holiness the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not believe He was God, so they cried, “Crucify Him!”
And so it is today. Mankind is still blinded by evil, corrupted by sin, and does not believe Jesus. People still slander and mock Him. And if it were possible, they would crucify Him, too!
The wonder of this first statement from the Cross is that there is forgiveness. Forgiveness for every person who has ever sinned. Forgiveness for you, and for me, if we will believe Jesus and make Him the Lord of our life.
The second statement Jesus made from the Cross was addressed to one of the thieves on an adjacent cross, in Luke 23:43, “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
With the second statement, Jesus addresses one single, needy sinner. God not only sees the whole world but He also sees individuals.
Something must have convicted this thief of his own wickedness when contrasted with the righteousness of Jesus. Instead of curses, as the soldiers hammered in the nails, he heard Jesus utter a prayer of forgiveness. Evil man though he was, this thief believed that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews, but also the King of Heaven! That faith, coupled with a fear of God, was the beginning of his confession of sin and prayer to Jesus for forgiveness and salvation.
No man is beyond hope of redemption in whose soul still lingers some fear of God. And as he defended Jesus from the other criminal’s mockery, faith rose in his soul and he shouted out his confession and prayed, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." It was a prayer that Jesus immediately answered, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” It was more than eternal life that Jesus promised the penitent thief. Jesus promised him companionship in the courts of paradise. "You will be with me,” Jesus said.
This statement from the Cross illustrates that the way of salvation is wondrously simple. The devil has blinded the eyes of men and women to thinking that it is hard to come to Christ and be saved. But this clearly isn’t true. Here we see that salvation doesn’t depend on religious ceremonies, good deeds, cleaning up your life, repeating a prayer, or any contribution from man. We do those things because we are saved, not to be saved. There was no time for the thief on the cross to do anything. He was saved simply by believing Jesus is the Son of God, confessing his sin, and asking the Lord to save him when He entered His Kingdom.
This statement also teaches us that the worst sinner can be saved. There can be no doubt that the man was a criminal. He had broken the laws of God and man, but the measure of his sin did not alter his chance of being saved one bit. Let no one despair in thinking they are too bad to be saved.
There is one further point to mention before we leave this statement. You see, there were two thieves crucified with Jesus—one repented, but the other did not. One believed and wanted a relationship with Jesus—the other did not believe and mocked Jesus as a phony. Each of us will do one or the other, and that will determine our eternal destination.
Thank God for the Holy Spirit, who tells us that we have sinned, who convicts us to a point of godly sorrow for the sins that we have committed, and who gives us faith to believe in Jesus as our Savior. It is by this grace of God that we, too, can believe and pray, "Lord, I have sinned. I believe you are the Son of God who suffered for my sin. Forgive me, and lead me into your Kingdom.”
The third statement Jesus made from the cross was spoken to His mother and to His disciple, John.
John 19:26-27, When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
It is easy to imagine the tortured thoughts passing through Mary’s mind as she saw her son in such pain and agony. Very likely she would recall the words uttered in a prophecy when the infant Jesus was presented in the Temple.
Luke 2:34-35, And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
The crucifixion was the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy. It was tremendously painful for Mary to see her child suffer so cruelly.
In the midst of His suffering, Jesus is mindful of Mary’s suffering, but He refers to her as "Woman", instead of "Mother". Have you ever wondered why? He was not disrespectful.
The reason is that Mary must no longer think of Him as her son. Mary must begin to look upon Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Even then she will suffer, but this suffering will be of a different nature. She will then begin to appreciate the redemptive purpose of His suffering. Mary’s emotional suffering as a mother must be replaced by something higher; that is, the redemption of mankind, including her own soul.
This third statement from the Cross also initiated the family of Jesus. The question might be raised, "Why was Mary not committed into the care of one of her other sons, such as James or Jude?" The answer is they hadn’t as yet believed in Jesus as the Messiah. They were not there, comforting their mother. They may have been afraid to be related to someone who is being crucified. Their faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, came later.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:50, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
The family of Jesus is related by faith in Jesus, and they obey His commandment to love one another. John was at the Cross, fully convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, and comforting Mary as a son would do. It did not require a long explanation for John to know what Jesus meant. We read that from that hour, John took Mary into his own home.
The fourth statement Jesus made from the Cross is recorded in Matthew 27:46, And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
We cannot imagine the depth of feeling in this cry, as wave after wave of evil swept over Jesus. All the sin of the world, throughout the ages, was laid upon Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Only the night before, in John 16:32, Jesus told His disciples, "Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.”
But now, at the climax of His crucifixion, at the moment of making atonement for our sin, it was necessary that even His Father should turn aside, for God has no fellowship with sin. Just as a scapegoat of the Old Testament had to be banished into the wilderness, so Jesus had to bear the sin of the world alone. He, who was made sin for us, was feeling the punishment of the sinner—being completely separated from God.
Never before had Jesus stood alone, forsaken by His Father. Yet, although He was forsaken, He never ceased to be His Father’s beloved Son, for He was carrying out His Father’s will and purpose in becoming our atonement for sin. How Jesus felt, we cannot know. But those in Hell know, for they are eternally and completely separated from God, bearing the punishment for their sin alone.
The fifth and sixth statements are recorded in John 19:28-30, After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
First, He said, "I thirst". The hours of torture on the Cross took a tremendous toll on the body of Jesus. Execution by crucifixion was not a sudden death like being electrocuted. It was a long drawn out, lingering death. The body becomes dehydrated. The prophetic 22nd Psalm speaks graphically of His condition.
Psalm 22:14-18, I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet; I can count all my bones; they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
Yes, our Savior’s sufferings were real. He felt everything we would have suffered on that cross. Remember: those sufferings were our punishment. He did it for us. We don’t have to suffer our punishment unless we choose not to believe Jesus.
Next, He said, "It is finished!" What was finished? Was He referring to His sufferings or His life’s work? Certainly, those things, but it was even more. Jesus’ statement proclaimed His victory over the evil one!
In the gigantic struggle between good and evil, the Son of Man had suffered grievously, but He had finished the work of redemption that His Father had committed to Him. He didn’t say "I am finished" but rather "It is finished." It was a declaration of victory over sin, death, and Hell! He had done all that was required to reconcile mankind unto God.
This statement, "It is finished,” tells us there is nothing left for man to do, but to believe the results of Christ’s finished work. It is like the message of a rubber stamp bearing the words “Paid in Full” when stamped across a bill.
That is what Jesus was proclaiming from the Cross, "It is paid! Man’s account with God has been settled, the debt is wiped out! That is the very essence of the Gospel. The Redeemer has paid the price for our redemption. Salvation has been obtained for all who believe and rely upon the finished work of Jesus on the Cross!
The seventh statement from the Cross was spoken immediately after His mission was finished. Luke 23:46, Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
These words tell us that His life didn’t just ebb away. In fact, Jesus had previously said that no one could take His life.
John 10:18 “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” So, Jesus purposefully gave up His Spirit on the Cross after His mission was finished.
"Father, into your hands I commit my spirit," also tells us that when the body takes its last breath, our spirit is released into God’s hands. Our body remains here. Our spirit goes on living, either with Jesus in paradise, or separated from God in Hell. Since we don’t know when we will take our last breath, we need to dedicate our life to the Father every day. We need to be ready to spiritually leave this place when our task is “finished”, and He calls us home.
The Cross meant death for Jesus, but it is the place where life is given to us. Jesus gave up His life on earth so that we can have His life living in us now and forever. Therefore, remember His statements from the Cross.
1. "Father, forgive them" – Jesus obtained forgiveness for you on the Cross.
2. "Today, you will be with me" – Jesus prepared an eternal place for you on the Cross.
3. "Woman, here is your son" – Jesus initiated your adoption into His family on the Cross.
4. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" – Jesus atoned for your sin on the Cross.
5. "I thirst" - Jesus suffered for you on the Cross.
6. "It is finished" - Jesus was the victor over sin for you on the Cross.
7. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" – There is life after death.
Where will you live eternally after your body dies? You can know for sure, by confessing your sin and believing in Jesus and His atonement for your sin on the cross. And if you believe, you demonstrate your faith by repenting of your sin, and being born again of the His Spirit when you die to your old life in baptism.
 
12/03/23
 
The Silence of the Lamb
John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Lamb of God spoke all of creation into existence. He came from Heaven and taught us on many topics of life. For nearly two years, I have been sharing the words of the Lamb of God from the Gospel of Matthew. Only when we believe His words and obey them, are we blessed with the promises He made. He also warned us of the consequences of unbelief and disobedience.
However, today we will learn from the silence of the Lamb of God during His unjust trials. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.
If you have ever been unjustly accused by someone of doing something you didn’t do, or they misjudged your motives, then you know how difficult injustice is to endure. Maybe you are going through some injustice right now. Accusations can come at us from coworkers, family members, friends, unsaved people, and yes, fellow Christians.
Some people have the attitude, “Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.” This is an ungodly suspicion. Where there is smoke, there is not always a fire. Sometimes it’s just a liar!
Jesus knows how it feels to be unjustly accused and how to respond.
Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor…Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
After Jesus’ illegal trial before the Sanhedrin, He was carried before the Roman governor, Pilate. Notice the irony: sinful people charging the sinless Savior of wrong doing.
People don’t make accusations for no reason at all. There are underlying issues at work in their heart.
1. Envy – Pilate discerned this reason in the heart of the religious leaders.
Matthew 27:18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.
Envy is a feeling of resentment toward others because of their possessions, position, or good qualities. People envy them, so they fabricate something about them to make them look bad and to feel better about themselves. It is a work of the flesh. (Galatians 5:21) An envious heart leads to slander and many evil deeds.
1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
2. Anger and hatred – Envy turns to hatred if one does not quickly repent.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
The Pharisees envied Jesus, for He understood the Scriptures better than them and He pointed out their hypocrisy. This made them angry, and led them to say untrue things about the Lamb of God.
3. Bitterness – Bitterness is also associated anger and hatred, causing the bitter person to slander others with false accusations.
Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Jesus said the world will treat His followers just like they treated Him. Therefore, we can expect to be falsely accused. So, we need to know the right way to respond to accusations.
1. The first response is to be silent while you search your heart and honestly evaluate whether any part of the accusation could be true. If the accusation is true, admit it and confess it. Repent and receive God’s mercy. Ask Him for grace to do better. Also, ask the offended person to forgive you and thank them for making you aware of your fault.
Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
If someone comes to us with a truthful charge, even if they have the wrong attitude, we should confess guilt and seek their forgiveness. Don’t get defensive—it will only make matters worse. By confessing wrong and seeking forgiveness, God can use the accusation to accomplish good.
If the accuser then refuses to accept the apology and continues to use the offense to try to hurt you, then pray for him. Above all, when accused truthfully, learn from the sin and don’t repeat it.
2. When confronted with unjust accusations, simply tell the truth. There is no need to run from the situation, or hide from your accusers, or dodge them. Look them straight in the eye and tell the truth. Continue to do what is right. Jesus never let lies and criticism deter Him from His mission. Don’t let false accusations discourage you to the point that you quit doing what is right.
When falsely accused, act like Jesus. He told the truth and then refused to say anything more. Jesus had such a peace under these accusations that Pilate was astonished.
3. Resist the temptation to seek revenge. Pray and let God handle the situation. Overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
4. If necessary and appropriate, use the court system to protect yourself. Paul found it necessary to appeal to a worldly court when there was a religious conspiracy that threatened his life.
Acts 25:7-12 When he [Festus] had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
5. Ultimately, you must forgive your accusers and leave it with God. The truth is, you have no control over unjust accusations. God will be the final judge and will vindicate you in His time. The verdict of eternity stands above the verdict of man.
The high priest declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy because Jesus truthfully said He was the Son of God. However, the religious leaders could not sentence Jesus to death because only the Roman governor, Pilate, could sentence someone to death.
Matthew does not tell us exactly what the charges brought against Jesus were, but we can deduce from Pilate's question that Jesus was charged with claiming to be a king. Their intent was to paint Jesus in the worst light possible, so they tried to portray Jesus as a threat to Pilate, the Roman governor. So Pilate asks Jesus, "“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” (In other words, you are correct. John records that Jesus also said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”)
To all the other accusations, the leading priests and the elders made against him, Jesus remained silent. Again, He fulfills what is prophesied about Him in Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Pilate has certainly heard of Jesus prior to this encounter, but he is not prepared for the sovereign silence that Jesus maintains in the middle of these threatening accusations. John's gospel gives a better understanding about this matter.
John 19:9-12 He [Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate thought he was in control. What Pilate didn't understand was that Jesus was actually the one in control of this situation. The greatest truth in all the world is that our God is always in control. We know that He is watching over us and protecting us. We know that we can put our trust in Him. We know death is not the end of life. Therefore, we can stand in the face of false accusations because we know God is in control.
Romans 8:31-33 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
It doesn't matter what others might think of us. It doesn't matter what they might say about us. It doesn't matter what they might do to us. Because if God is for us, no one can defeat us, even if they kill us! Don't be afraid to stand against the crowd if the Sovereign Lord is on your side.
To Pilate's credit, he really does try to let Jesus go. He sees right through the religious leaders and knows that Jesus is no criminal.
Matthew 27:15-23 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate assumed that the crowd would choose a harmless messiah over a murderer. Pilate knows that the high priest and Sanhedrin have not indicted Jesus because they care about the potential threat to Roman rule. Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin’s religious rule.
In addition, something unusual happens to Pilate at this time. Matthew says, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” This troubled Pilate as much as it did his wife. He wanted the people to ask for the release of Jesus. But the religious leaders were determined to get rid of Jesus. Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
It wasn't Barabbas's reputation that caused the people to choose him, but rather the influence that the religious leaders had over the people. The same religious leaders who plotted Jesus' arrest, conspired his betrayal, manipulated his Jewish trial, and bound him to Pilate are now at the Roman trial to persuade the crowd to ask for Jesus' crucifixion.
Pilate still wanted to do the right thing. So again he asks, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, Barabbas.”
Pilate finds this astonishing, so he tries again. Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate tries to get them to think rationally about Jesus' innocence by asking, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate does not even get an answer to his question. Now, the crowd is becoming so emotional that finally, he gives in to the mob’s decision.
Matthew 27:24-26 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
As we see here, it is easy to follow the crowd. However, following the crowd can have disastrous eternal results.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
It's easy to do what everyone else is doing. It's easy to follow after those who do the wrong thing and call it good. The road to Hell is broad because there are so many people on it. The road to Heaven, on the other hand, is narrow, difficult, and there are few people on it. But it is the only road worth taking, because all the other roads lead to destruction!
As followers of Christ, we have been called to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, God is calling us do what is right even when it hurts to be falsely accused! God requires that we do what is right, simply because we love Him, for that is what glorifies Him. God requires that we love what is right so much that we are willing to suffer for it. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, for what He offers is much better than what the world offers and our sacrifice will be worth it!
Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What road are you on today? Are you willing to suffer for the Name of Christ, or will you do what crowd is doing and take your chances of missing Hell. The odds of winning Heaven without obediently following and loving Jesus are zero.
If you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, who came to take away our sin, confess Him as LORD and the Lord of your life. Repent of your sin and die to your old life by being baptized. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you grace to follow Jesus, and when the occasion arises, to victoriously suffer for His Name.
 
11/26/23
The book of Acts, chapter 2. I can’t preach the excitement this chapter deserves. We’ll cover it anyway, by reading through the verses and you can go home and reread it and other commentary in order to better understand it.
The book of Acts is the bridge between the events recorded in the Gospels and the events marking the beginning of the Church. The New Testament seems to break into a run as we begin the book of Acts. To understand Chapter 2, we must get context from Chapter 1. In Chapter 1, in a series of meetings with the living, resurrected Christ, the disciples become convinced about the resurrection and and are reminded of their coming power source – the Holy Spirit.
Beginning in verse 3: Jesus’ Last Days of His Mission to Earth
3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. [Think of what this means.] He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them the command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when they met together [possibly at another time since the question seems like a break in subject matter], they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” [Like the rest of the Jews, hey are tired of Roman rule.]
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Now, in chapter 2, we see the change the resurrection made in/on the disciples lives. At Jesus’ death, they scattered and were disillusioned. They feared for their lives. After seeing the resurrected Christ, they became fearless in spreading the Good News about him around the world.
ACTS Chapter 2
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
The “day of Pentecost”. It’s another name for “the day of Joy over the Harvest” or “First Fruits feast” which is described in Leviticus 23:15 and elsewhere. This feast takes place 50 days after the Passover – which is the timing of the following events.
Verse 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Where? A public place in Jerusalem. We’re not sure what building, but probably the Temple Courts (per verse 46).
Verse 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house (building) where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist says “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Verse 4 All of them (about 120) were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Verse 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under the heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
In Mark 16:17 Jesus says to his apostles “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; …”
Paul explained a version of “speaking in tongues” in 1 Cor 14, verse 2:
2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. …
It is apparent that the “speaking in other tongues”, mentioned in Acts chapter 2 verse 4, is not the same “gift” described by Paul in 1 Corinthians. Jesus’ speaking of “new tongues” may refer to both methods.
Verse 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own language?
9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Isn’t it interesting that these verses record the geographic regions the people are from. Instead of speaking in generalities, Luke gives personally observed testimony that could be tested/verified/corroborated. Not the methodology of someone spinning a story.
Note that the impact on the visitors. God’s methods are the best.
Peter Addresses the Crowd – What an address!
Verse 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Remember the prophet Joel? We are reminded here that there is a book of the Bible named Joel. He was one of God’s prophets in Judah approximately 2800 years ago. He is the one who informed us that the nation of Israel would be restored before the end times – judgement day (see Joel chapter 3 – read as service scripture reading) The nation of Israel, as we know it today, was reconstituted in 1948.
For our message today, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-30, starting in verse 17 of Acts chapter 2:
17 “In the last days, [all the days between Jesus’ first and second coming] God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
The reason for reminding the Jews present about the miracles Jesus did among the people was to point out that they had missed that he was the Messiah. While they had expected the Messiah to appear with political power and glory, they missed the suffering Savior who was the sacrifice for their sins spoken of in the book of Isaiah chapter 59.
Now Acts 2 verse 25: Note that Here Peter is quoting from Psalms 16:8-11.
25 David said about him: “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.
See this promise in 2 Samual chapter 7:12-16 where Samual tells David that the Lord declares “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
Now verse 31 Seeing what was ahead, he [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Note … “… we are all witnesses …” : From Acts Chapter 1 verse 15 we know that there are about 120 disciples with the Apostles which he is referring to (and, for that matter, who were speaking in the different languages earlier mentioned).
Verse 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Remember Peter’s previous words from Joel (“I will pour out my Spirit on all people …”) and now also in John 14:26, where Jesus says:
“ But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I said to you.”
I’m sure the Holy Spirit is the means by which Peter spoke these powerful words and quotes the appropriate Scriptures to the vast assembly..
Verse 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
This quote is from Psalms 110:1.
Verse 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Some people have been confused by the wording of this verse “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” as if Jesus was not Lord until after his crucifixion. This is at least partially wrong since Luke (who recorded the book of Acts) and Peter (who is speaking here) both refer to Jesus repeatedly as their Lord throughout Jesus’ ministry with them.
Peter confesses he knows Jesus to be the Messiah (the Christ): “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In Mark 8:29.
But something of high impact is spoken hear that we should not miss. What?
Read Hebrews 5:7-10 …
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
Jesus became the Messiah when he completed the Father’s mission for him on earth. He had a choice and he made the perfect one, that was the Father’s will, for our sakes. POWERFUL! He could have called 10,000 angels.
Verse 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
To repent is to feel and express remorse for having done wrong things and to commit ourselves to not repeating such actions. We change the direction of our lives when we repent.
Verse 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
The promise is for all of us – ALL OF US.
The phrase “Save yourselves …” means each one of us, personally, needs to decide correctly. We must decide NOT TO live in harmony with the corrupted world view of things. We must decide TO accept Jesus as: (1) our Lord, and (2) our Savior.
Verse 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. WOW!
The Fellowship of the Believers
Verse 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (the men who Jesus selected to live with and be taught by him for years) and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This breaking of bread was patterned after the Last Supper. Matthew 26:26-29
Verse 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. (Empowered by the Holy Spirit)
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
We are to share and care for each other as close family.
Here we see that they gave resources to Beleivers in need (i.e., food and shelter) by selling possessions that were not needed. We know from verse 45 that some had more than they needed.
Verse 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
“… enjoying the favor of all the people.” Jesus was correctly seen, at this time, as the fulfillment of the old law (which he was).
Well, …..
This ends the chapter and today’s lesson. How exciting it is to see the message of Christ take off as we see it here in the book of Acts.
Let’s finish today with a relatable story:
One night a house caught on fire, and a young boy was forced onto the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, “Jump!. I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “I can’t see you.” The fireman replied, “But I can see you, and that is all that matters.”
Jesus can’t save us unless we trust him enough to jump and he can’t save us if we are too busy saving ourselves.
Each one of us finds ourselves in the same situation as the young boy on the roof. We will be destroyed unless we do something. If we stay in our current situation, we will be destroyed by fire. The biggest question in our lives is, what must we do to be saved. In the little boy’s situation, the answer was; jump. What is the answer in your life?
Is your life excited by Christ and the joy that comes from understanding what the joy of life can be like if we live according to the Word of God. He can peel off the burden the world wants to put on us and teach us to concern ourselves with thoughts of doing good, through love, for others—especially our Christian family.
 
11/19/23
 
The book of Acts, chapter 2. I can’t preach the excitement this chapter deserves. We’ll cover it anyway, by reading through the verses and you can go home and reread it and other commentary in order to better understand it.
The book of Acts is the bridge between the events recorded in the Gospels and the events marking the beginning of the Church. The New Testament seems to break into a run as we begin the book of Acts. To understand Chapter 2, we must get context from Chapter 1. In Chapter 1, in a series of meetings with the living, resurrected Christ, the disciples become convinced about the resurrection and and are reminded of their coming power source – the Holy Spirit.
Beginning in verse 3: Jesus’ Last Days of His Mission to Earth
3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. [Think of what this means.] He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them the command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when they met together [possibly at another time since the question seems like a break in subject matter], they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” [Like the rest of the Jews, hey are tired of Roman rule.]
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
Now, in chapter 2, we see the change the resurrection made in/on the disciples lives. At Jesus’ death, they scattered and were disillusioned. They feared for their lives. After seeing the resurrected Christ, they became fearless in spreading the Good News about him around the world.
ACTS Chapter 2
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
The “day of Pentecost”. It’s another name for “the day of Joy over the Harvest” or “First Fruits feast” which is described in Leviticus 23:15 and elsewhere. This feast takes place 50 days after the Passover – which is the timing of the following events.
Verse 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Where? A public place in Jerusalem. We’re not sure what building, but probably the Temple Courts (per verse 46).
Verse 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house (building) where they were sitting.
3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.
In Luke 3:16, John the Baptist says “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Verse 4 All of them (about 120) were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Verse 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under the heaven.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
In Mark 16:17 Jesus says to his apostles “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; …”
Paul explained a version of “speaking in tongues” in 1 Cor 14, verse 2:
2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. …
It is apparent that the “speaking in other tongues”, mentioned in Acts chapter 2 verse 4, is not the same “gift” described by Paul in 1 Corinthians. Jesus’ speaking of “new tongues” may refer to both methods.
Verse 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?
8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own language?
9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,
10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome
11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs – we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Isn’t it interesting that these verses record the geographic regions the people are from. Instead of speaking in generalities, Luke gives personally observed testimony that could be tested/verified/corroborated. Not the methodology of someone spinning a story.
Note that the impact on the visitors. God’s methods are the best.
Peter Addresses the Crowd – What an address!
Verse 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Remember the prophet Joel? We are reminded here that there is a book of the Bible named Joel. He was one of God’s prophets in Judah approximately 2800 years ago. He is the one who informed us that the nation of Israel would be restored before the end times – judgement day (see Joel chapter 3 – read as service scripture reading) The nation of Israel, as we know it today, was reconstituted in 1948.
For our message today, Peter quotes Joel 2:28-30, starting in verse 17 of Acts chapter 2:
17 “In the last days, [all the days between Jesus’ first and second coming] God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people, Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.
24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
The reason for reminding the Jews present about the miracles Jesus did among the people was to point out that they had missed that he was the Messiah. While they had expected the Messiah to appear with political power and glory, they missed the suffering Savior who was the sacrifice for their sins spoken of in the book of Isaiah chapter 59.
Now Acts 2 verse 25: Note that Here Peter is quoting from Psalms 16:8-11.
25 David said about him: “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.
30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.
See this promise in 2 Samual chapter 7:12-16 where Samual tells David that the Lord declares “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
Now verse 31 Seeing what was ahead, he [David] spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.
32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
Note … “… we are all witnesses …” : From Acts Chapter 1 verse 15 we know that there are about 120 disciples with the Apostles which he is referring to (and, for that matter, who were speaking in the different languages earlier mentioned).
Verse 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.
Remember Peter’s previous words from Joel (“I will pour out my Spirit on all people …”) and now also in John 14:26, where Jesus says:
“ But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I said to you.”
I’m sure the Holy Spirit is the means by which Peter spoke these powerful words and quotes the appropriate Scriptures to the vast assembly..
Verse 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
This quote is from Psalms 110:1.
Verse 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Some people have been confused by the wording of this verse “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” as if Jesus was not Lord until after his crucifixion. This is at least partially wrong since Luke (who recorded the book of Acts) and Peter (who is speaking here) both refer to Jesus repeatedly as their Lord throughout Jesus’ ministry with them.
Peter confesses he knows Jesus to be the Messiah (the Christ): “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” In Mark 8:29.
But something of high impact is spoken hear that we should not miss. What?
Read Hebrews 5:7-10 …
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”
Jesus became the Messiah when he completed the Father’s mission for him on earth. He had a choice and he made the perfect one, that was the Father’s will, for our sakes. POWERFUL! He could have called 10,000 angels.
Verse 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
To repent is to feel and express remorse for having done wrong things and to commit ourselves to not repeating such actions. We change the direction of our lives when we repent.
Verse 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
The promise is for all of us – ALL OF US.
The phrase “Save yourselves …” means each one of us, personally, needs to decide correctly. We must decide NOT TO live in harmony with the corrupted world view of things. We must decide TO accept Jesus as: (1) our Lord, and (2) our Savior.
Verse 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. WOW!
The Fellowship of the Believers
Verse 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (the men who Jesus selected to live with and be taught by him for years) and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
This breaking of bread was patterned after the Last Supper. Matthew 26:26-29
Verse 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. (Empowered by the Holy Spirit)
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
We are to share and care for each other as close family.
Here we see that they gave resources to Beleivers in need (i.e., food and shelter) by selling possessions that were not needed. We know from verse 45 that some had more than they needed.
Verse 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
“… enjoying the favor of all the people.” Jesus was correctly seen, at this time, as the fulfillment of the old law (which he was).
Well, …..
This ends the chapter and today’s lesson. How exciting it is to see the message of Christ take off as we see it here in the book of Acts.
Let’s finish today with a relatable story:
One night a house caught on fire, and a young boy was forced onto the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, “Jump!. I’ll catch you.” He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As you can imagine, he was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: “Jump! I will catch you.” But the boy protested, “I can’t see you.” The fireman replied, “But I can see you, and that is all that matters.”
Jesus can’t save us unless we trust him enough to jump and he can’t save us if we are too busy saving ourselves.
Each one of us finds ourselves in the same situation as the young boy on the roof. We will be destroyed unless we do something. If we stay in our current situation, we will be destroyed by fire. The biggest question in our lives is, what must we do to be saved. In the little boy’s situation, the answer was; jump. What is the answer in your life?
Is your life excited by Christ and the joy that comes from understanding what the joy of life can be like if we live according to the Word of God. He can peel off the burden the world wants to put on us and teach us to concern ourselves with thoughts of doing good, through love, for others—especially our Christian family.
 
11/12/23
 
The Miracle That Never Happened
We are in a spiritual war. Are you aware of it?
Sometimes we call it a bad day or blame it on mean people, but many times the cause is an assault from demonic spirits. The question is, how are we going to deal with it?
Ephesians 6:10-13
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Too often, we start our day without any preparation for what we may encounter.
Prayer is how we put on the whole armor of God in preparation for spiritual attacks. Praying is what Jesus did before His betrayal and arrest. Knowing the attack was imminent, Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. Then He was ready to face his betrayer and ultimately His crucifixion.
Matthew 26:47-56
While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.
Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.”
And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him.
Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”
Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”
At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Judas was one of the twelve apostles. Just a few hours before, he had been eating the Passover meal with Jesus and the other apostles. Now, he was taking the lead in betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Not only does Judas betray Jesus, but he also does it in a hypocritical way. Judas had given the temple guard a prearranged signal: “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.”
Proverbs 27:6
Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Nevertheless, Jesus was spiritually prepared and demonstrated love for His enemy when He addressed Judas as “Friend”, saying, “Friend, do what you came to do.”
One of Jesus' disciples, whom John, in his gospel account, tells us is Simon Peter, tries to defend Jesus by taking the sword he is carrying and striking Malchus, the high priest's servant. But he only grazes Malchus, cutting off his ear. Jesus heals the ear and tells Peter, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword."
Our fleshly nature is to respond to a personal attack or betrayal by defending ourselves physically, even with violence. If we do that, our attackers will retaliate against violence with violence.
The inevitable consequence is a war, or a feud, which often results in one's own violent end. Jesus was not going to use violence to fight this battle; instead, He was going to win the spiritual war for our souls on the cross!
We need to keep the objective of “winning the war” in mind and not respond in the flesh to attacks from people who are inspired by demonic spirits. They are a captive of the enemy and we need to win the war for their soul. We can do that by praying and obeying the Words of Jesus.
Jesus said in Luke 6:35-36
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”
There are also lessons to learn from Judas and Peter in this scene.
1. Judas shows us that we can kiss the door of Heaven and never enter in.
John 10:7-11
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
Judas shows us that we can have both a religious association and religious participation and not be saved. Judas was associated with the followers of Jesus, in fact, he was in the top 12! He was sent out on the same mission as the other disciples. He had an association and participation in the ministry of Jesus, but he didn’t have salvation.
Likewise, we can have an association with a church; be a church member, and still not be saved. We can have participation; we can work, preach, and serve but that doesn’t mean we are saved.
We must be born again of the Holy Spirit!
John 3:3
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Could Judas have been saved? Yes, but he didn’t think so. We read later that Judas regretted what he did. He went back to the religious leaders and said, “I have betrayed innocent blood!” He tried to give the money back, but they refused.
Then, instead of going to God in brokenness, contrition, and confession, asking God for forgiveness, Judas committed suicide. He kissed the door of Heaven, but he never got in.
2. Peter made three mistakes we can learn from.
First, he fought the wrong enemy. Malchus wasn’t his enemy; he was just a servant of the High Priest doing his job.
As Christians, we sometimes also think we are in a physical fight against physical foes.
But our battle is not against other people. Our battle is against the devil and his demons, who inspire people to do evil. They are a captive of the enemy and they need to see where they are headed and the alternative through faith in Jesus Christ. They need to see the Gospel and love of God in us by how we treat them; not by tolerating sin, but by exposing it with the Truth and praying for them to have grace to believe and to repent.
As I already mentioned, we prepare for this spiritual war by humbly drawing near to God in prayer and repentance, submitting to His will, and seeking His Spirit, wisdom, and power for resisting the devil and loving our enemies. The only way we can fight an unholy spirit is by the power of the Holy Spirit!
Therefore, Peter made a mistake by striking Malchus.
He made a second mistake when he used the wrong weapon.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. For the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.
The weapons of this world will not overcome our enemy in this spiritual war. We must use God’s mighty weapons to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning, to destroy false arguments, and to rescue those held captive by the enemy.
Romans 12:17-21
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
To win a spiritual battle we must fight with the sword of the Spirit. The Word of God is our battle plan. With it we know what to do and when to do it. With it we cannot lose; without it we cannot win.
Fifty days later, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up and used another sword—the two-edged sword of the Spirit and the Word of God. And when he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in Acts 2, here is what happened:
Acts 2:37-41
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Peter’s final mistake during Jesus’ arrest was not knowing the will of God.
He had slept while Jesus prayed. He was not prepared for what was happening. He did not realize Jesus was in control, so he angrily tried to defend Him. He didn’t realize he was outside the will of God.
James 1:19-20 says,
My dear brothers take not of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
In effect, Jesus said, “Peter, put away your sword. I’m doing something here today that goes beyond your understanding. Don’t mess it up!”
During His arrest, Jesus could have performed a miracle and saved Himself. He could have called on the Father to send 12 legions of angels to rescue Him. Legions normally had six thousand soldiers, so Jesus is saying that He could summon more than 72,000 angels.
Now, don’t imagine sweet little “angelic” beings.
To see the destructive power of just ONE angel, let’s go to 2 Kings 19.
Sennacherib was the King of Assyria and he had surrounded Jerusalem. The Israelites were vastly outnumbered and Sennacherib publicly taunted King Hezekiah and blasphemed the God of Israel.
2 Kings 19:15-19
And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord and said: “O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth.
"Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God.
"Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone.
"Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”
Here’s how God answered that prayer:
2 Kings 19:32-36
Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria:
He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there, or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it.
By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord.
For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.”
And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down
185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.
And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.
Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.
So based upon that episode, let’s do some "Angelic Arithmetic":
If one angel of the Lord could kill 185,000 soldiers, then 72,000 angels could kill 13.2 billion soldiers. That’s almost twice the population of the earth today! If Jesus had given the word, these angels could have literally wiped out the entire population of the planet.
So, if He had wanted to save Himself, Jesus could have done so.
That’s the miracle that never happened!
Instead of saving Himself, Jesus surrendered Himself, first to the Father in Gethsemane, then to the temple guard, then to the cross, resulting in an eternal victory for us. By fighting a spiritual battle according to the will of the Father and the Scripture prophesies, Jesus won the victory over sin, the devil, and death for us. Because He rose from the dead, we can have eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ!
Therefore, I urge you to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Confess to God that you have sinned and need a savior. Repent of your sin and die to your old life in water baptism. By that act of faith, you can be born again of the Holy Spirit and have a new life to live with Jesus as your Lord. His Spirit will be in you and He will remind you of everything Jesus taught and give you grace to deny yourself and win the daily battles with temptation and other spiritual attacks from the enemy.
 
12/03/23
The Silence of the Lamb
John the Baptist referred to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). The Lamb of God spoke all of creation into existence. He came from Heaven and taught us on many topics of life. For nearly two years, I have been sharing the words of the Lamb of God from the Gospel of Matthew. Only when we believe His words and obey them, are we blessed with the promises He made. He also warned us of the consequences of unbelief and disobedience.
However, today we will learn from the silence of the Lamb of God during His unjust trials. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words.
If you have ever been unjustly accused by someone of doing something you didn’t do, or they misjudged your motives, then you know how difficult injustice is to endure. Maybe you are going through some injustice right now. Accusations can come at us from coworkers, family members, friends, unsaved people, and yes, fellow Christians.
Some people have the attitude, “Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire.” This is an ungodly suspicion. Where there is smoke, there is not always a fire. Sometimes it’s just a liar!
Jesus knows how it feels to be unjustly accused and how to respond.
Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor…Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
After Jesus’ illegal trial before the Sanhedrin, He was carried before the Roman governor, Pilate. Notice the irony: sinful people charging the sinless Savior of wrong doing.
People don’t make accusations for no reason at all. There are underlying issues at work in their heart.
1. Envy – Pilate discerned this reason in the heart of the religious leaders.
Matthew 27:18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.
Envy is a feeling of resentment toward others because of their possessions, position, or good qualities. People envy them, so they fabricate something about them to make them look bad and to feel better about themselves. It is a work of the flesh. (Galatians 5:21) An envious heart leads to slander and many evil deeds.
1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.
2. Anger and hatred – Envy turns to hatred if one does not quickly repent.
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
The Pharisees envied Jesus, for He understood the Scriptures better than them and He pointed out their hypocrisy. This made them angry, and led them to say untrue things about the Lamb of God.
3. Bitterness – Bitterness is also associated anger and hatred, causing the bitter person to slander others with false accusations.
Ephesians 4:31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Jesus said the world will treat His followers just like they treated Him. Therefore, we can expect to be falsely accused. So, we need to know the right way to respond to accusations.
1. The first response is to be silent while you search your heart and honestly evaluate whether any part of the accusation could be true. If the accusation is true, admit it and confess it. Repent and receive God’s mercy. Ask Him for grace to do better. Also, ask the offended person to forgive you and thank them for making you aware of your fault.
Proverbs 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
If someone comes to us with a truthful charge, even if they have the wrong attitude, we should confess guilt and seek their forgiveness. Don’t get defensive—it will only make matters worse. By confessing wrong and seeking forgiveness, God can use the accusation to accomplish good.
If the accuser then refuses to accept the apology and continues to use the offense to try to hurt you, then pray for him. Above all, when accused truthfully, learn from the sin and don’t repeat it.
2. When confronted with unjust accusations, simply tell the truth. There is no need to run from the situation, or hide from your accusers, or dodge them. Look them straight in the eye and tell the truth. Continue to do what is right. Jesus never let lies and criticism deter Him from His mission. Don’t let false accusations discourage you to the point that you quit doing what is right.
When falsely accused, act like Jesus. He told the truth and then refused to say anything more. Jesus had such a peace under these accusations that Pilate was astonished.
3. Resist the temptation to seek revenge. Pray and let God handle the situation. Overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
4. If necessary and appropriate, use the court system to protect yourself. Paul found it necessary to appeal to a worldly court when there was a religious conspiracy that threatened his life.
Acts 25:7-12 When he [Festus] had arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him that they could not prove. Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.” But Festus, wishing to do the Jews a favor, said to Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem and there be tried on these charges before me?” But Paul said, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”
5. Ultimately, you must forgive your accusers and leave it with God. The truth is, you have no control over unjust accusations. God will be the final judge and will vindicate you in His time. The verdict of eternity stands above the verdict of man.
The high priest declared Jesus guilty of blasphemy because Jesus truthfully said He was the Son of God. However, the religious leaders could not sentence Jesus to death because only the Roman governor, Pilate, could sentence someone to death.
Matthew does not tell us exactly what the charges brought against Jesus were, but we can deduce from Pilate's question that Jesus was charged with claiming to be a king. Their intent was to paint Jesus in the worst light possible, so they tried to portray Jesus as a threat to Pilate, the Roman governor. So Pilate asks Jesus, "“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” (In other words, you are correct. John records that Jesus also said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”)
To all the other accusations, the leading priests and the elders made against him, Jesus remained silent. Again, He fulfills what is prophesied about Him in Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Pilate has certainly heard of Jesus prior to this encounter, but he is not prepared for the sovereign silence that Jesus maintains in the middle of these threatening accusations. John's gospel gives a better understanding about this matter.
John 19:9-12 He [Pilate] entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
Pilate thought he was in control. What Pilate didn't understand was that Jesus was actually the one in control of this situation. The greatest truth in all the world is that our God is always in control. We know that He is watching over us and protecting us. We know that we can put our trust in Him. We know death is not the end of life. Therefore, we can stand in the face of false accusations because we know God is in control.
Romans 8:31-33 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
It doesn't matter what others might think of us. It doesn't matter what they might say about us. It doesn't matter what they might do to us. Because if God is for us, no one can defeat us, even if they kill us! Don't be afraid to stand against the crowd if the Sovereign Lord is on your side.
To Pilate's credit, he really does try to let Jesus go. He sees right through the religious leaders and knows that Jesus is no criminal.
Matthew 27:15-23 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate assumed that the crowd would choose a harmless messiah over a murderer. Pilate knows that the high priest and Sanhedrin have not indicted Jesus because they care about the potential threat to Roman rule. Jesus was a threat to the Sanhedrin’s religious rule.
In addition, something unusual happens to Pilate at this time. Matthew says, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” This troubled Pilate as much as it did his wife. He wanted the people to ask for the release of Jesus. But the religious leaders were determined to get rid of Jesus. Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.
It wasn't Barabbas's reputation that caused the people to choose him, but rather the influence that the religious leaders had over the people. The same religious leaders who plotted Jesus' arrest, conspired his betrayal, manipulated his Jewish trial, and bound him to Pilate are now at the Roman trial to persuade the crowd to ask for Jesus' crucifixion.
Pilate still wanted to do the right thing. So again he asks, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, Barabbas.”
Pilate finds this astonishing, so he tries again. Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate tries to get them to think rationally about Jesus' innocence by asking, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate does not even get an answer to his question. Now, the crowd is becoming so emotional that finally, he gives in to the mob’s decision.
Matthew 27:24-26 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
As we see here, it is easy to follow the crowd. However, following the crowd can have disastrous eternal results.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
It's easy to do what everyone else is doing. It's easy to follow after those who do the wrong thing and call it good. The road to Hell is broad because there are so many people on it. The road to Heaven, on the other hand, is narrow, difficult, and there are few people on it. But it is the only road worth taking, because all the other roads lead to destruction!
As followers of Christ, we have been called to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, God is calling us do what is right even when it hurts to be falsely accused! God requires that we do what is right, simply because we love Him, for that is what glorifies Him. God requires that we love what is right so much that we are willing to suffer for it. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, for what He offers is much better than what the world offers and our sacrifice will be worth it!
Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
What road are you on today? Are you willing to suffer for the Name of Christ, or will you do what crowd is doing and take your chances of missing Hell. The odds of winning Heaven without obediently following and loving Jesus are zero.
If you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, who came to take away our sin, confess Him as LORD and the Lord of your life. Repent of your sin and die to your old life by being baptized. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you grace to follow Jesus, and when the occasion arises, to victoriously suffer for His Name.
 
11/05/23
 
THY WILL BE DONE!
This morning would you join me in reciting the model prayer, commonly known as “the Lord’s Prayer”? Let’s begin, “Our Father, Who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done...” Wait! Stop there!
Did you hear what we just asked God? “Thy will be done!” Do you understand what that means? Do you realize the implications of those words? Do you really want God’s will to be done? Unfortunately, we are not serious about God’s will when we recite that prayer. To see more clearly what is involved in “Thy will be done”, let us look at how seriously Jesus considered it.
The “Last Supper” is over. So, we are going to pick up where we left off in:
Matthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
In this passage, we find two statements that will help when we pray. After all, prayer is necessary for us to discern God’s will and to do His will.
Jesus took all His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, but He took three with Him further and asked them to watch and pray. It was late at night and they were tired. Consequently, they fell asleep while watching and praying. This did not happen once, but three times. Nevertheless, Jesus tells them that He understands, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” After all, Jesus is battling His weak flesh, too.
It is the same weakness we all have when it comes to prayer. We are willing, but our bodies are weak. Perhaps you have experienced one or more of the following examples:
* Some of us have tried to pray in the morning when we wake up. We do fine for a few days, but then the snooze button gets pushed… and pushed… and pushed. Our body wants to sleep a little longer and our prayer times become a little shorter. Soon, we sleep until we must wake up and there is no time for prayer at all in the morning.
* Some of us have tried to pray at night before we go to sleep. We lie in our beds and begin praying. Then one morning, we wake up and discover that we fell asleep praying. That is not a bad way to fall asleep, but the prayer time was short. We continue to battle sleep every night while we attempt to pray, and eventually, we abandon the idea of trying to pray seriously at night.
* Some of us have tried different postures of prayer, the most common being that we get on our knees to pray. The problem is that when we are on your knees for a while, they start to hurt. The pain becomes a distraction. So we stop praying when the pain begins.
In our spirit, we want to pray, but our bodies are weak. So, we are left with our prayers being offered at the dinner table, in the car, in the shower, and whenever we happen to think of it. None of those are bad times to pray; after all, we should pray continuously. But our concentrated, intimate conversations with the Lord are curtailed by the weakness of our body.
Therefore, how can we communicate deeply with our Heavenly Father so we can discover His will? Jesus’ actions have a suggestion for us. After praying a while, Jesus checked on His disciples and found them sleeping. Then He returned to His place of prayer.
Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.”
Notice that Jesus broke up His concentrated time of prayer into three separate sessions. During each break, He checked on His disciples.
Perhaps it would help us if we plan breaks during our prayer time. Pray for 15 minutes; take a short break, and then immediately return to the place of prayer. Also, we could change positions during our prayer. We could stand or sit for a while instead of kneeling. In this way, we can compensate for our weak bodies and develop a stronger prayer life that will enable us to discern God’s will and get grace to do His will.
In Luke 22:42-44, we learn more about the agony Jesus experienced as He prayed to align His will with the Father’s will. Jesus prayed, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours, be done.” Now an angel appeared to Him strengthening Him. And being in agony, He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood falling down upon the ground.
As we see in these Scriptures, the will of God may require us to go through pain, grief, and agony. When we pray, “Thy will be done,” we need to do like Jesus and also pray for God’s grace to deny our will, to endure suffering, and to accomplish His will.
Sometimes we suffer from battles with Satan. Jesus experienced this. So did Job and Paul. It is imperative that we pray during those battles so we can continue to stay in God’s will and glorify Him by overcoming Satan. God has promised to give us His strength when we are under attack, for He is glorified in our weaknesses when we depend upon Him.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
If we are like Jesus and doing God’s will, we can expect to suffer persecution, because there is an essential difference between us and the world, which rouses the contempt and hatred of the spirit that is in the world. Therefore, we can choose to get grace to do God’s will and suffer the affliction common to God’s people, or we can avoid this type of suffering by choosing to deny Jesus and be like the world. For example:
Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Doing the will of God may involve going outside of our comfort zone and cause us to go where we don’t want to go.
For example, God’s will was for Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah 1:2-3 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.”
Likewise, God’s will was for Abram to move to another country. Genesis 12:1-2 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
For Abram to receive the promised blessing, he had to break out of his comfort zone and leave the things, people, and place with which he was most familiar.
Doing the will of God, may destroy some of your most precious relationships. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34-39, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Now that you know some of the potential ramifications of praying, “Thy will be done”, will you still pray that way? Will you glorify God by yielding your will to His lordship no matter what it costs you, no matter what you must endure?
I hope you will continue to pray this way, for the alternative is to be outside of God’s will. Doing what you want to do is easy and places you in allegiance with Satan.
Doing God’s will is not easy. Like Jesus, we need to ask the Father for grace to do His will. And, God is faithful. He will give us grace to battle the desires of our flesh and the temptations of Satan, so we can endure suffering and accomplish His will.
So the first statement, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” has taught us that prayer is not easy, but we can remove obstacles and have a deep prayer life. Most importantly, we can earnestly seek God for His grace to overcome our weaknesses be led by His Spirit do His will.
The second statement will be just as helpful. It occurs twice in our passage. Jesus says in verse 39, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” In verse 42, He says something similar, “your will be done.”
These statements reflect the end of trying to be in control, the end of your own vision, the end of your dreams, and the end of self-rule. You finally submit totally to the Lordship of Almighty God over your life. At that point, you enter His rest and you are at peace. You now have His grace to do His will no matter what happens. His will has become your will.
There was no doubt that the road ahead for Jesus was torturous. He was checking with His Father to see if there was another way, but He knew what had to be done. It would be hard, but it was why He was sent. Jesus knew the will of the Father for Him. His arrest, humiliation, beatings, and death were the plan from the beginning and no changes would be made. Therefore, Jesus prayed that the Father’s will would be done, and not His own. At that point, the Father sent angels to strengthen Him.
Jesus’ time in prayer allowed Him to deny Himself, accept God’s will, and completely submit to it. Afterwards, Jesus had strength and grace to do the will of God. Now He could leave the garden and face the arrival of His betrayer.
In the same manner, prayer will help us to submit to God’s will and to receive grace to do His will wherever it leads.
However, prayer will be very difficult if you have never given your life to Jesus. It is hard to talk seriously and deeply to someone you don’t know well. But, you can begin a relationship with the Father if you believe Jesus is His Son, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Confess to God that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. Repent of your sin and give your life to Him in water baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit and you will be part of the family of God with an open invitation to pray to the Father anytime. He will also speak to you. So listen to Him and pray for His grace to do His will.
 
 
10/29/23
 
THE PRIORITY OF PRAYER
If God knows everything in advance, is there any reason to pray?
Prayer is not just telling God what you want or what is bothering you. Prayer includes listening to God. Jesus had a lifestyle of prayer. He talked to the Father and He listened to the Father in order to know His will. As a result of praying, Jesus said He only did what the Father was doing and spoke what the Father gave Him to say (John 5:19 and John 12:49).
John Chapter 17 records a prayer that Jesus prayed openly at the end of the Last Supper.
In verses 1-5 Jesus prays for Himself:
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Vs 6-19 Jesus prays for His disciples, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Vs 20-26 Jesus prays for all believers, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
There is a lot in this prayer that we could talk about, but Jesus makes it clear that the priority of prayer is God’s glory. The very first thing Jesus prays is that He would glorify the Father.
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
Likewise, we should ask the Father for His grace to glorify Him in our lives. That is why we need to ask the Father to fill us with the Holy Spirit every day. The Holy Spirit is Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
In addition to glorifying God, Jesus prayed that we would be protected from the evil one, be sanctified by the Word of God, and walk in its truth as a testimony to the world.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
In the United States, we have no excuse to not read the Bible. But it is not enough to read the Word, we must OBEY WHAT IT SAYS! That sounds elementary, but we need to be reminded of this truth, for it is easy to deceive ourselves by just reading the Bible.
James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Therefore, we glorify God as we walk in obedience to His word, and secondly, we glorify God when we walk in unity and love one another.
Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Jesus prayed that we would be perfectly one by His Spirit in us so the world will know God sent Him. This oneness is not uniformity. It does not mean we will always agree on everything, but we will continue to love one another while God conforms all of us to His will and thinking.
Philippians 3:15-16 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
A church that is divided has evil spirits in it that oppose the Holy Spirit. Nothing causes people to turn away from the Gospel more than Christians fussing and fighting. Let us briefly look at some of the causes of division and then come back to Jesus’ prayer.
1. Pride. Pride is an ugly sin, and proud people are ugly. Pride in the church ultimately leads to division. If you think highly of yourself, delight in providing your opinions, expect to be consulted about your opinions, and get angry when they are not adopted, then you probably struggle with pride.
2. Heresy. Many times, Christians label other Christians as heretics because they disagree with them on some nonessential detail (i.e. music, dress, bible versions). That is not heresy. That is disagreement about preferences. A heretic is someone who does not believe in the essentials, such as: one God in three persons, Jesus is God’s Son, Jesus lived without sin, and died on the cross in our place, and He rose from the dead as our Savior. These, among other essential beliefs, must be adhered to if you are a Christian. The tolerance of heresy will divide, and even destroy a church.
3. Legalism. Legalists love to make rules. They also use rules as weapons to divide the church body. Instead of honoring Jesus in their personal convictions, legalists despise and even pass judgment on those who are not like them.
4. Distrust. When there is distrust among people in the church, especially among leaders, division is certain. Leaders and members must work diligently to ensure that they are relating with each other in an honest, trustworthy manner.
The worst thing that can happen is that you distrust leaders in the church and don’t pursue a resolution, but instead, go behind their backs and gossip about them. This creates greater distrust and division.
5. Traditionalism. Tradition by itself is not a bad thing, but when a tradition is elevated above its intended function, it becomes an idol that can divide people and churches.
Back to Jesus’ prayer. Jesus prayed for His followers to be perfectly one, so that the world may believe that Jesus is the Messiah sent from God. Let’s read it again.
Jesus prayed, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
We are to be united, so the world may believe in Jesus. For this to happen, Jesus must be in us. And for that to happen, we must be in Jesus (He is the vine, we are the branches). For Jesus to be seen by the world, we must be unified in Christ, filled with His Spirit, loving one another, and obeying His Word.
Jesus prayed that those who follow Him would be perfectly one, in just the same way that He and the Father are perfectly one. If we’re going to be one, we need to first understand how Jesus and the Father are one.
Perhaps I’m oversimplifying, but it’s like this: they are distinct individuals that share a common essence. Jesus is NOT the same person as the Father. They are separate, but Jesus teaches that the Father gives Him everything, and that He shares everything with the Father. This unity is so complete and perfect that Jesus could say to His disciples in John 14:7, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
If we think of marriage, which is God’s invention, it will help illustrate God’s oneness. When a man and a woman are married, they do not cease to be an individuals, but neither are they independent any longer. In marriage, they form a physical union, a financial union, an emotional union, a family union, in which the two become one entity.
Matthew 19:4-6 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Therefore, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are individuals with different roles but perfectly unified in everything, thus forming one God.
Likewise, although we are individuals, we all are part of one body—the Body of Christ. Each of us plays a part while staying connected to the other parts of Christ’s Body. We have different gifts and roles, but the same Spirit. We are to be unified in purpose, glorifying the Father and the Son through a Spirit of love and obedience.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For 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.
Jesus prayed for us to be unified with all believers, not just in our small groups, or our local congregation, or even our network of congregations, but His prayer was for His Church to be one, even as He and the Father are one.
So this brings up an obvious question. How do we get there?
Do we need to all come together and just rename ourselves the Church of Jesus Christ? That sounds good, but having a common name on church buildings does not mean unity in all things. There are as many types of churches as there are types of people. There are traditional churches. There are contemporary churches. There are liturgical churches. There are churches with no order of service. There are intellectual churches. There are emotional churches. The names on the buildings identify the type of church that meets there.
One reason there are so many types of churches is simply because no single church can possibly facilitate all the different people, cultures, and ways God interacts with us.
We need to celebrate the diversity of the Body of Christ, and the diversity of how God works among the different cultures, but at the same time, realize we are in essence ONE Body.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
So, how can we contribute to the unity of the Church?
• Stay focused on the essential things that unite us, not the non-essential issues which can divide us if we let them.
• Refuse to speak negatively about our brothers and sisters in Christ in other churches. Although we might not prefer their way of doing things, we must remember that God sees their heart and accepts their worship if it is in spirit and truth.
• Seek understanding of other Christian groups, but at the same time, beware of heresies being taught as truth. There are churches that add to or subtract from the clear message of Scripture.
How can we know the difference? By searching the Word of God and praying for wisdom.
The devil knows we are less effective when we are divided. That is why Jesus prayed that we would be one, as He and the Father are one. When Christians work together in unity we will accomplish much more than on our own. We will be much more effective in sharing the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ.
For example, there are many different churches ministering in the Sevier county jail (Assembly of God, Baptist, Catholic, Christian Church, Church of Christ, community Churches, Methodist, and Seventh Day Adventist). So far, there has been no conflict. The churches are united in purpose of preaching the Gospel and making disciples of Jesus Christ. If one church is unable to take their turn preaching, they ask other churches to fill in, regardless of the denomination.
The result has been a revival among the inmates. There have been baptisms several times a year (even jailers have been baptized). The inmates have Bible studies and they pray for one another. People are born again and many live transformed lives when they are released.
This is not the work of any individual or church. It is a work of God and He is the One glorified. We receive the joy of seeing His glory and being a part His work.
So, what is your attitude about other churches and believers? Do you see them as part of the Body of Christ, with whom you are to be one?
Before you can be one with other believers, you must first become one with God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Confess your sin to God and repent—that means stop doing it. Make Jesus the Lord of your life by putting your life to death in water baptism, so you can be born again of the Holy Spirit. This will make you part of the family of God and the Body of Christ. You will have Jesus in you and you will be one with every other born-again person who has Christ in them. Amazingly, we recognize each other by the Spirit in us, regardless of what church group we are in.
 
10/22/23
 
We Are in a World of Trouble!
John 16:16-33
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”
So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”
So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’?
We do not know what he is talking about.”
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?
Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.
You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name.
Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The disciples did not realize it when they sat down, but this was their last meal with Jesus. Think about what He talked about during the meal. He told them He is establishing a new covenant in His blood, that He is going to leave them and they cannot follow, for He is returning to His Father. He told them that one of them will betray Him. He told them that Peter will deny Him. And He told them the world will persecute them!
That doesn’t sound very hopeful, does it?
However, Jesus also spoke words of comfort. He promised that His absence is for their good, because He is going to send the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and equip them. But none of this made sense to the disciples. Jesus said many things that they just couldn’t understand at that time.
As the meal ends, Jesus says one more confusing thing to them, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Like a riddle, the disciples try to figure out what Jesus is talking about. Jesus knows what is on their mind and He takes the initiative by saying, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?
Then Jesus takes the time to explain it to them. In a little while, they won’t see Him anymore, and they’ll weep and mourn. At the same time, the world will rejoice over His death. But Jesus tells the disciples their grief won’t last long. Because in a little while, they will see him again! At that time, their pain and grief will turn into joy.
Jesus compares the transition from pain to joy, that they are about to experience, to that of childbirth. Those of you who have experienced childbirth know what He is talking about. Childbirth is hour after hour of suffering, pain, and exhaustion. And then, suddenly it is over. The baby is born! And in an instant, that pain is forgotten. The joy that new life brings completely obliterates the pain. You go from pain to joy in an instant.
Likewise, Mary’s tears at the empty tomb were gone the moment she realized she was talking to the risen Jesus. The grieving disciples rejoiced when they saw Jesus resurrected for themselves. Their fear and pain were forgotten; they were filled with joy over the new life Jesus has!
Jesus’ resurrection brings joy and hope in other ways. It brings with it the promise of a direct communion with the Father. Jesus said, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
Jesus assures us that when we ask for anything in Jesus’ name, God the Father hears us. It is not that we pray, directing our prayers to Jesus and then He delivers our prayers like a postman. No, Jesus says that our prayers go directly to God the Father.
And when we pray in Jesus’ name, we ask in accordance with His name, meaning in line with His will. The Father answers those prayers, not because we tack on a “in Jesus’ name,” but because He loves us, because we love His only beloved Son, and we obey His commandments.
The disciples think they now understand. But Jesus tells them they do not realize what is about to happen. They are all about to be scattered; their firm convictions are going to fade. The time for understanding hasn’t come yet. It will come after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father, because then Jesus will send the Holy Spirit, who gives us understanding and power.
The Holy Spirit makes all that Jesus has said plain to us. He is here with us today, speaking to us, and revealing things to us. The Spirit helps us to understand God’s plan and will, and other glorious mysteries, such as, Christ is living in us. That is why we have hope in the midst of an evil world that hates us.
Colossians 1:27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Although they were confused, Jesus gave His disciples hope for when it would appear there was no hope. But it was more than just hope for the next few days. The hope that Jesus was bringing is an ongoing hope that includes us! It was a hope the disciples would carry for the rest of their lives. It is a hope that we can carry for the rest of our lives, too.
Nothing can take away the hope that Jesus gives us. Why? Because of the joy that comes from knowing that Jesus is alive in us by the Holy Spirit! Those without the Holy Spirit cannot know this joy and hope.
But if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can have real hope and real joy that transcends whatever is happening to us. As we saw last week, Jesus makes it clear that following Him is not easy. Just as the world hates Jesus, the world will hate us. On account of Jesus’ name, we’ll face persecution and rejection. But, on account of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we will also experience hope, peace, and joy.
There are many Christians who find things happening in their lives that they have never chosen. Crisis in relationships, sickness, bereavement, financial difficulties, unemployment, and heartbreaking circumstances. Why do Christians suffer?
Jesus gives us an answer and a hopeful promises in verse 33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
First, Jesus promised peace. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.”
Jesus never hides the truth from His followers. He never painted a picture of discipleship that was only attractive without also displaying the cost. He told us the world will hate us and we will have tribulation in this world. However, He says peace is possible IN HIM if we live in an obedient and trusting relationship with Him. He will be our peace in this world. His peace is not the absence of trouble but His presence in our trouble!
Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Secondly, Jesus promised we will have tribulation. He plainly said, “In this world you will have tribulation.”
Jesus never used words carelessly. He never had to retract a statement because it had been ill conceived. He never had to apologize for words He had not meant to say. Jesus understood the power of what He said. After all, He is the Truth, and what He says will happen. Therefore, we will have tribulation in this world. We should not be surprised when it happens.
However, these words of Jesus are not an excuse for dwelling on our troubles, moping in our adversity, or using such things for our gain. If we are saved and filled with the Spirit, we will have hope, peace, and joy despite our tribulations.
There are two kinds of tribulation we will experience as followers of Jesus.
1. We suffer tribulation that is NOT unique. We will experience what everyone else experiences because we are living in a sinful world. We are not exempt, and yet, we have peace in Jesus at the same time we suffer. This peace will witness to unbelievers who suffer the same tribulations, which may result in their salvation.
Tribulation is also necessary for our growth in Christ.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The question is not WHY do we experience trials, but HOW do we behave, react, or talk amid our trials. Do our reactions glorify God or do they deny His power in our lives?
2. We also suffer tribulation that IS unique. We experience tribulation unlike the world because we love Jesus and follow Him. Jesus tells us to rejoice when we are suffering for His name, because that means we are like Him in this world. All of God’s prophets, who were before us, experienced this type of tribulation.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Finally, Jesus also promised triumph! He said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
These words of Jesus remind us of an important truth—we are not able to triumph, HE IS able to triumph! We must realize, when we are troubled, to quit struggling to escape our trial and turn to Jesus for direction and comfort. Life is continually troublesome and stressful if we try to control everything. That is why we need a SAVIOUR—a champion who gives us triumph over our tribulations!
Jesus overcame the world for us! His victory is not for Him, it is for us! He did not need to come to earth for His own benefit. Everything He did here is for US. His death on the cross achieved forgiveness of sin for us! His Resurrection overcame death for us, so that, those who follow Him have no fear of death. They will enjoy eternal life with Jesus!
1 John 5:4-5 For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
The greatest defeat we could ever experience is when we allow the tribulations we are having in this world to take our attention off Jesus. On the other hand, the greatest victory we can experience is when we refuse to allow whatever is happening to take our eyes off Jesus, and we continue to obediently follow Him on the pathway of triumph!
Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This is not motivational hype; it is a spiritual truth! Jesus honestly told us to expect trouble. Yet, we are also clearly told to expect Him to lead us through this world triumphantly while we share the Gospel with others.
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
The key to triumph is to ensure that our attention is not distracted from Jesus whatever is happening. Remember:
· Don’t lose sight of Him.
· Don’t lose contact with Him.
· Don’t lose faith in Him.
And remember what Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Do you lack hope and joy this morning? Is Jesus your Savior—your champion—and your Lord? Jesus came to give you victory over all the tribulations of this world. Therefore, believe He is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Repent and give Him your life. Begin following Jesus by putting your old life to death in baptism. You will be given a new life, born of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus will be in you. Then you will have His peace, joy, hope, and victory.
 
10/15/23
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
John 16:1-15 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Jesus told us to expect persecution if we follow Him. He told us, so when it happens, we are not discouraged, and we can rejoice over being enough like Jesus to be treated like Him. The persecution may be so intense that people will think they are doing God’s will by killing us. For example, Jesus was crucified because His persecutors thought He was blaspheming God.
Despite this dreadful forecast, Jesus encourages us with some wonderful news that we don’t understand until it happens to us. What is this good news? Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper [Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
Without the Holy Spirit, following Jesus is impossible. Unless the Holy Spirit is present and doing His work, nobody can be born again or grow in Christlikeness. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot accomplish the commission of Jesus. Attempting to live the Christian life without the supernatural grace of the Holy Spirit, is like trying to begin a cross-country road trip without any gasoline in the tank of the car.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t bring attention to Himself. He speaks to us in a still, small voice, reminding us of what Jesus said and preparing us for the future (example). He also speaks when we read the Word of God. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit and respond obediently.
Jesus explained, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, so that we can know Jesus and understand the Truth. Moreover, the Holy Spirit helps us to become more like Jesus, so others can see Jesus living in us. But, before we get into how the Holy Spirit does this, let’s remember how the Holy Spirit enters our lives.
First, the Holy Spirit is active before our conversion. Jesus said, “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” When the Holy Spirit brings us conviction of our sin, He also shows us the righteousness of Jesus, and that we are under judgment of going to Hell. When we hear the Gospel, the Holy Spirit gives us faith to believe in Jesus and His righteousness, and His atonement on the cross for our sin.
Acts 2:37-38 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit is a gift given to us at the time of our conversion to Christ. At that time, we are born again of the Spirit and He begins to guide us in the Truth. We must learn to obey to Him, for He is Christ in us. If we don’t obey Him, we will wither and fall away.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is essential. Without Him, we do not belong to Christ and we are not saved. The Holy Spirit will give us grace to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Jesus. Therefore, repent and ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit every day.
Romans 8:9-11 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
The Spirit helps us to put to death the deeds of the flesh and to live in obedience to God.
Romans 8:12-14 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
The pull of the flesh can be very strong, but the pull of the Spirit is even stronger, giving us grace to deny our fleshly desires. The good news for us is that there isn’t any temptation we face that can’t be overcome by the power of God’s Spirit in us.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.
The way out is through the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Obeying the Spirit is not automatic or easy. Denying self is a spiritual battle we all have. But we can ask the Father for grace to deny our flesh and walk in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
After our conversion and baptism, the Holy Spirit helps us to become more like Jesus. This transformative process is called sanctification. It comes in at least two ways, and these two ways are not instantaneous. Sanctification is a life-long process.
The first of those ways involves a disciplined and habitual approach to walking in the Spirit. This includes things like: prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, worship, and service. By practicing these disciplines, we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit’s transformative power. He steadily and gradually renews our mind and changes our character.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces, all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The second way that the Holy Spirit helps us to become like Jesus is through suffering. Suffering is a baptism of fire and it is necessary for our sanctification and transformation.
James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy, when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
1 Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has been given us.
At some point, all of us are going to face suffering. It may be persecution because of our faith, or it may be the suffering that comes from living in a broken and corrupt world. We might experience the physical suffering that comes from cancer, chronic illness, or life’s accidents. We might experience emotional suffering from childhood trauma, sexual abuse, or domestic violence. We might experience relational difficulties that pierce our hearts; such as, betrayal, insults, or gossip. Some of the suffering we face can be the result of our own sinful or foolish choices, and some of it comes because of the sinful and foolish choices of others.
We do not get to choose our baptism of fire. Some very ugly, horrid, and evil stuff may come our way. When it comes, the fire exposes the ugly, horrid, and evil stuff in us so we can repent and die to self. Then the Holy Spirit comforts us, refines us, gives us joy and peace, and provides us grace to persevere, grow, and mature to be like Jesus.
Even Jesus benefited from suffering. Hebrews 5:8-9 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
And so, just like Jesus, we can be made perfect (or complete) through our suffering. The suffering is a baptism of fire that exposes our weaknesses (i.e. grumbling, fear, worry, selfishness). This baptism of fire refines us, if we confess our sin and repent.
Luke 3:15-16 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Many of us want to be healthier physically, and we realize that it will require a change in eating habits and exercise, which will initially cause some pain and discomfort.
And the same is true for spiritual health. We might excitedly pray, “Father, make me like Jesus.” But the only way that God can make us like Jesus is to bring us through the refining fires of pain and suffering. But in the end, it is all for the good, for this pruning fire will make us more fruitful—more like Jesus. The most important thing is that we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
No one bears the mature fruit of the Spirit in a day or a week, rather it is an ongoing growth process. It will take time, but it will happen, because the Spirit will help make it happen if we do not give up and wither on the vine.
Remember, we cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit by our own strength and ability. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing! Therefore, we don’t have the ability to follow Jesus, to be like Jesus, nor to make disciples of Jesus. We need the Holy Spirit to do these things in us. Jesus knows that, and so He said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
In summary, the Holy Spirit is God. He is a gift, given to everyone who believes and makes Jesus their Lord. Receiving the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with your education, or lack thereof. You can be a professor of theology and still lack the Holy Spirit. But if you have received the Holy Spirit, you and everyone else will know it. It will be evident that something powerful is at work in you. When the Spirit goes to work in your life, He will change your personality. He will produce the fruit of the Spirit in you. He will make the insecure person secure, the fearful person courageous, and the selfish person generous. He will not do it to glorify you, but to glorify Jesus.
The key to the Spirit’s power in our life is obedience. When we obey, the Holy Spirit empowers, because through obedience, we join the Spirit’s agenda of glorifying Christ. Therefore, ask the Father every day to give you His grace to yield to the Holy Spirit.
Jesus did not leave us alone. He is always with us by His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to everyone who sincerely believes in Jesus Christ as their Savior and makes Jesus their Lord and Master by dying to their old life in water baptism. When we are born again of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit gradually transforms us into the image of Jesus, produces the fruit of the Spirit in us, and also gives us gifts of the Spirit (but that is another sermon for another time).
If it is your desire to be saved from Hell, believe in Jesus as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Repent of your sin (stop doing it) and make Jesus your Lord by following Him in His death through baptism. You will be born again, forgiven of your sin, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will remind you of what Jesus said transform your life to glorify Jesus Christ.
 
10/8/23
Popularity or Persecution
We have been learning about abiding in Jesus the past couple of weeks, using Jesus’ allegory in John 15. He compares our relationship with Him to a grapevine. He is the vine, we are His branches, and the Father is the vinedresser. The fruit resulting from this intimate relationship is the character of Jesus in our lives, produced by the Holy Spirit. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. To abide in the vine, we must obey the commandments of Jesus.
Since Jesus is so loving and we love Him, we expect people to love us if we reflect Christ’s character. But Jesus tells us that we should not expect people to love us if we act like Him, because the world hates Him.
John 15:18-27 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Jesus warned His disciples that following Him is not going to be popular. He travels on a narrow road. It requires self-denial, picking up a cross daily, and we are going to create some enemies, even among our closest relatives.
The questions for us are these: Are we willing and ready to become like Jesus and be His ambassador in this world that hates Him and His righteousness? Are we willing to say like Paul in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”?
People prefer being popular, and they often compromise their principals to be popular. They do that because popularity is more important to them than God.
To get along in this world, we tend to avoid talking about Jesus. The subject creates division, arguments, and even enemies if we state our view. We can be very nice and loving when we talk about Christ, and those who hate Him will still be offended and hateful.
However, if we please Christ, it matters not whom we offend. Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Jesus obeyed the Father and testified about Him. Therefore, the world hated Him, nailed him to the cross, and left Him there until He died. Now, Jesus calls us to obey and testify about Him, and warns us that we will not be popular for doing it. If popularity is what we desire, then we are on the wrong road. We will find popularity on the broad, easy road that leads to destruction.
Telling people about Jesus, Heaven, and Hell are often subjects they don’t want to discuss and don’t believe exist. We must show them that these exist before they will listen, and Jesus shows us how to do that. Jesus did several things to show the Father to the world. These things upset people, but we are to apply these same principles today to show Jesus to the world.
1. By being different.
Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
In the world, we are encouraged to blend in, not make waves, and just do our thing without being a distraction. But Jesus has called us to be different—to be like Him, so people can see Him. At first, we should expect hatred and persecution because the world hates Jesus. But we must persevere, so some will see and believe in Jesus. Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
We really do not know or understand persecution in the American church. For us, being called a “Jesus Freak” or intolerant bigots seems hostile, but greater persecution is coming. Jesus said we should expect hatred, even violence and death. Therefore, how should we to react to persecution?
Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Our reaction to persecution and hatred can be very convicting and convincing that Jesus exists if they see us act like Jesus. This difference will cause them to hate us more, or to insist that we be deprogrammed or re-educated. Others will desire to know the source of our grace.
So, remember who you are in Jesus Christ, what you were called out of, and what you have been called to do as an ambassador for Christ.
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Instead trying to fit into a world system that we do not belong in, we need to expect persecution and react to it like Jesus. The world likes to please its own, so they follow the crowd. We are different because we are not of the world. We are God pleasers. We follow Jesus.
Little things we do can show people our difference. For example, do not participate in gossip nor listen to nasty jokes. In response to the world’s hatred, choose to love. In response to their insults, choose to forgive and bless them.
Be careful that the cares and trials of this world do not distract your relationship with Jesus, and cause you to drift back to the ways of the world. We are reminded in Hebrews 2:1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
2. Secondly, we also show the world Jesus by removing the excuses.
Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”
Excuses are easy, because they don't require anything from us. The world hated Jesus because He removed their excuse for sin. He has shown us the Father. He has shown us what God’s Word means and how to obey it. His atonement on the cross has provided us with God’s forgiveness and mercy. And, He sent the Holy Spirit to give us power over sin, temptation, Satan, and our flesh.
Therefore, there is no excuse to live like the world in sin. If we choose to follow Jesus, we must repent of the excuses for our own sin; such as: “I can't help it;” “You don't understand, it was the way I was raised;” “Everyone else is doing it;” “I really intended to quit;” “I didn't know any better;” “I'm too busy.” On Judgment Day, Jesus will summarize all our excuses with one statement, “You disobeyed.”
Jesus also removed the excuse of ignorance of the truth.
Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
To testify about Jesus, the world needs to see us remove our excuses and repent before we can expect them to do the same. When we remove our excuses and repent, that does not mean we are perfect and never sin. It just means that when we sin, we admit it, instead of blaming it on someone else, or circumstances, or situations.
This accountability for our sin and reliance on Jesus Christ for our righteousness, shows the world that Jesus is the Savior and we have no excuse to continue living in sin. But those who love sin, will hate Jesus and His servants, who bring them this good news.
3. We show the world the Father through the Son Jesus Christ.
The world also hated Jesus because He said He came from the Father. Jesus said, “Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
Jesus showed the world that there was only one true God, the Creator of all things, and all other Gods were inventions in the minds of men, dumb idols that could not speak, hear, or move. Jesus showed that He and the Father were one, and that He loved the Father by obeying Him. Therefore, Jesus had the power and authority to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, raise the dead, and forgive sins. We should testify about these things and declare that Jesus is God!
Testifying to the world that Jesus is God includes refusing to bow at the altar of the Dalia Lama, or at a statue of Mary, or any man-made religious icon. Saying Jesus and the Father are one means refusing to say “Allah is God”, or the same as the Father.
On the other hand, those who have a false religion indicate they know there is a God. They are trying to worship Him. They just don’t know Him. They don’t realize it is Jesus. It is our responsibility to introduce them to Jesus, so they can see the Father. We can approach the subject like Paul did while he was in Athens, Greece. There, he proclaimed the Good News about Jesus, whom they were unknowingly seeking to worship.
Act 17:22-23 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
Start a discussion about God where a person’s faith exists. Find out what they believe and don’t believe. Then patiently take the discussion from that point, lifting up Jesus as the Way, Truth, and Life. Plant seeds of faith that may grow and produce fruit later. That leads into the next point.
4. Showing the world Jesus means bearing witness to the Truth. Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
We are living in a world that is best defined by pluralism and relativism, meaning there are many so-called truths, and it all depends upon the situation and the person. But for us, as born-again believers who are abiding in Jesus, there is one truth; it is singular, and it is found in one person, Jesus Christ, who declared in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The only way the world can see the Truth is by seeing Jesus living in us. They see His truth when we live obediently to His Word. Obedience shows that we love Jesus, and if we love Him, we will love one another. Remember, to be like Jesus, we must abide in the vine, be filled with the Spirit of Jesus, and live obediently to the Truth.
Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The world needs us to witness about Jesus, whether they like it or not. We are the life-line that God has thrown out to the world to bring them to Christ and His Kingdom. Consequently, we should expect to be treated like Jesus and not let persecution deter us from His commission.
Dr. James Merritt said, "We face a secular culture that is becoming increasingly strident and militant in its anti-Christian, anti-truth, anti-God mentality and I fear the danger of facing this spirit with a lackadaisical heart. More and more we are being told to sit down, shut up, go along and get along, be inclusive, be tolerant, be nice, and be quiet."
Merritt continued, "More and more I see pastors, churches, and denominations crumbling before this onslaught of humanistic, political correctness. Well, I’ve got news for the pornographer, the adulterer, the homosexual, the pedophile, and the abortionist. We are not going away! With love in our hearts, tears in our eyes, but resolve in our souls, we are not going to march under the white flag of compromise. We’re going to march under the bloodstained banner of the cross of Jesus Christ. Flying the flag of Biblical truth higher than we have flown it before, we will never give out, never give up, and never give in when it comes to standing up for the truth of the Word of God."
If we live by the Truth and stand up for it as Dr. Merritt declared, we should expect hatred and persecution. Let us remember, we are in the world, but not of this world. The world hates Jesus and they don’t want to hear His Name. But there is no other name by which man can be saved.
In this hostile world, God has chosen us to make disciples of Jesus Christ, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught. It is an honor to have been chosen for this task, but don’t expect the world to like you. Nevertheless, we are responsible for witnessing to this generation of people. They need to hear about Jesus and what He has done to save them.
Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
Therefore, we cannot compromise the Truth. People need to see Jesus living in you! Be patient with them as the Father is patient with you. They may hate you at first. Expect that and love them, so they can see Jesus and desire Him to save them, and give them what you have have—the Holy Spirit.
We are all preachers of the Gospel. If necessary, we use words, but our actions—our response to hatred and persecution—will speak the loudest and be the most convincing testimony of Jesus and the Truth.
 
OCTOBER 1, 2023
 
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Why would Jesus care about people who rejected Him, lied about Him in court, spit in His face, crowned Him with thorns, nailed Him to a cross, and mocked Him to come down? Why would someone so perfect love people so sinful, as you and me? Our text gives us an answer to these questions.
Jesus said in John 15:8-17, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” For all of eternity, before the world was created, God the Father loved God the Son in the family of the Triune God. There was never a moment when the Father did not love the Son. So, how do we explain the hours on the cross when the Father sacrificed the Son for the sins of the world? Did the Father love the Son then? Yes, but He also loved you, and you were lost. He sacrificed His Son to have a love relationship with you.
There was no other way for mankind to be saved from an eternity in Hell. So God, the Father, sacrificed His Son, not because He stopped loving Him, but because it had to be done. Did Jesus know that? Yes, He also knew it had to be done, even though He asked the Father if the “cup” of suffering could be removed from Him. Although His request was denied, Jesus never stopped loving the Father. So, Jesus obeyed the Father. He said in John 14:31, “But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father”.
Also, Jesus said, “Abide in my love.” How do we do that? How do we abide in His love?
Jesus explained, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
Mentally, we know that Jesus loves us because He laid down His life for us. However, when we suffer hardship, does our response testify, “I know that whatever happens to me, Jesus still loves me?” Or does our response testify that we doubt His love and goodness?
It isn’t easy for people to see our faith, especially when we grumble and complain. That is why we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then we can express love, peace, and joy in the midst of trials and tribulations. It is easier for people to see Jesus when we reflect the character of Christ during trials and obey His commands.
Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” When we obey Jesus and are filled with His Spirit, we will love others and do things, not because we must, but with the same joy that Jesus had.
Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus did what He did for you with joy. He was glad to do it, because He loves you and because you could not save yourself. When you are filled with the Spirit of Christ, you can joyfully show love to people in this world. You do it, not because you must, but because you are glad to do it.
There are many other things the world might think we HAVE to do, but really, we WANT to. For examples: I don’t HAVE to go to church, I WANT to. I don’t HAVE to give 10% to the Lord’s kingdom. I WANT to. I don’t HAVE to stand up for my neighbor when someone is gossiping about them, I WANT to. I don’t HAVE to pray for people, I WANT to.
Does that describe you? Do people see Jesus in you because of the loving things you do every day and for the joyful way you do them?
Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”
Jesus has chosen YOU to be His friend! What an honor! He desires you to experience His Joy! He has given you tremendous power! Power you can’t even comprehend! He has told you what He is doing and given you a role in accomplishing it!
Does that build your self-esteem a little? Does that elevate your self-worth a little? It should! But let me tell you a spiritual principle. With great power comes great responsibility.
Jesus said in Luke 12:48, “…to everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much will be asked.”
You have been tremendously blessed! You are fantastically privileged! Great honor has been bestowed on you! You have been CHOSEN by Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth to be Christ’s ambassador! What have you been chosen to do?
First, you have also been chosen to obey. Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.”
Jesus went on to say, “You are my friends if you do what I command you..”
Do you see that this relationship with Jesus is conditional? God’s love is unconditional; however, an intimate relationship with Him is conditional. No matter how badly one individual in a relationship may want that relationship – if both are not in agreement – it can’t happen.
Amos 3:3 Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?
We can’t even walk together unless we are in agreement – let alone be married or work together or do anything else together. Otherwise, we will be headed in different directions. Neither can we walk with God unless we walk in His direction. That is why Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
Jesus doesn’t sever the relationship! You and I do! We sever the relationship when we sin. Sin is conscience disobedience against the will of God. When we willfully disobey, we take ourselves out of friendship with God. Our relationship changes from friend to foe; from saint to sinner. We begin walking in another direction.
Jesus said, after telling us how much He loves us, to ‘REMAIN’ in His love. That means we can choose to NOT remain in it. We have that power. We have that privilege. We have a responsibility to keep ourselves in that love relationship.
How do we remain in a loving relationship with Jesus? By keeping His commandments. Jesus has chosen us to obey. He said in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
Did you catch the responsibility of love? If we love Jesus, we demonstrate it by obeying Him. Then the Father and the Son, through the Holy Spirit, will come and live in us.
Acts 5:32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.
God cannot reside in the disobedient. He has no fellowship with those who walk in darkness. Jesus is headed in the direction His Father has established and we cannot deter Him from it. We must follow Him! We have been chosen to obey.
Secondly, you have been chosen to “bear fruit”. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Jesus concluded His allegory about being the vine we are attached to by saying, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
The Father has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us to bear His fruit and be a witness for His Son in this dark, evil world. When we bear God’s fruit, He is glorified in us!
Nothing shows the glory of God like a changed life. A person that once was selfish and bitter and hateful – who is changed into a loving, tender soul – is more miraculous than heavenly creations. The fruit that is produced in our life, when we are born again, is the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. This fruit does God’s will, God’s way.
For examples: Bearing fruit that glorifies God is to love the unlovable. Even when we don’t LIKE someone, the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit gives us grace to love them and care about them. To have joy, when there is sadness, is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. To be kind when we have been mistreated, to be gentle when we have been abused is fruit we can only bear with the Holy Spirit’s grace.
We have been chosen to bear much fruit, but as we learned, we cannot bear fruit unless we remain attached to the vine—Jesus Christ.
Lastly, we have been chosen to make disciples. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We have been entrusted with the Gospel. We represent Jesus in this world. We have His Commission. Jesus is making His appeal to a lost world through us. What an awesome privilege and responsibility!
How are you doing at fulfilling Christ’s commission? Are you using the gifts and talents God has given you to represent Jesus? You have His Word. You know His will. You have eternal life! If God has given you the Holy Spirit, you have tremendous power to accomplish the job. Don’t let someone spend eternity in Hell because you neglected your responsibility to share what God has given you.
To summarize, you have been chosen to live in obedience. You have been chosen to bear fruit. You have been chosen to make disciples. All of these things are impossible in your own strength. Therefore, abide in the love of Jesus by denying yourself and obeying His commandments. Ask the Father every day for the Holy Spirit so you have His grace and power to obey, to bear fruit, and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, you are still lost in your sins and on your way to Hell. To change your destination, you need to believe what Jesus said and did. If you believe Jesus is the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross, you must act on it. Mental agreement is not an action; it is a deception!
Therefore, to act on what you believe, you must confess your sin to God and repent; that is, stop doing it! Give your life, your self-control, your self-determination, your will, your rights to Jesus and make Him Lord and Master of your life. You begin that process by being baptized in His Name. You will be forgiven of your sin, and born again of the Holy Spirit to live a new life. The Holy Spirit will teach you what Jesus said and lead you in obeying Him, bearing His fruit, and making disciples with the testimony of your changed life.
 
 
6/11/23
 
Filling the Measure of the Sin
This is the last lesson from Matthew 23. For several weeks, we have been trying to learn from the Pharisees mistakes. Hopefully, we are doing better than this example: A Sunday school teacher taught her class about the Pharisee’s hard heart, who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”(Luke 18:11) The teacher taught this was not an attitude for anyone to have. At the close of the class, she asked one of the students pray. Without any forethought, the student prayed, “God, we thank you that we are not like that Pharisee.”
If we are not careful, we could make the same mistake and unconsciously become a modern-day Pharisee. Hopefully, we have learned a lot from the mistakes of the Pharisees, and we are examining our own heart and motives.
The Bible records the sins and mistakes of everyone it mentions. The reason for this is for us to learn from their mistakes.
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Unfortunately, a lot of times we do not learn from our own mistakes, let alone from the mistakes of those in the Bible. We don’t learn because we ignore God’s Word, or we just regard it as a story, or we reject those who preach that we should apply it to ourselves. This can cause a lot of pain or hardship in our lives. And depending on what those mistakes are, it can lead to judgment from God Himself.
In today’s passage, Jesus concludes His lamentation over what the scribes and Pharisees have done in the past and warns them of the judgment upon them. As we have done throughout this chapter, we will examine ourselves to see if we could be a modern-day Pharisee by failing to learn from past mistakes and rejecting God’s Word and His messengers.
Matthew 23:29-32 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ’If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
Earlier generations of scribes and Pharisees had killed the prophets God sent to them. A prophet is one who speaks the Word of God, not just one who predicts the future. Jesus pointed out that they were no different from their ancestors, for they were plotting to kill another prophet—the Messiah—God, Himself. The scribes and Pharisees were so blinded by their own hypocrisy, they did not recognize the Messiah standing right in front of them.
And you know what? If we are not careful, we can become spiritually blinded, too. Like the Pharisees, we can become so engrossed in the religious wrappings of the faith that we lose sight of Christ Himself. We can go to church and fail to act like Jesus.
The trouble with the Pharisees was that very few of them could see outside of their doctrine, and it was causing them to repeat the mistakes of their forefathers, which was rejecting God’s prophets and even killing them. And because of this, Jesus tells them to go ahead and fill up the measure of the sin. That is a serious judgment! What does it mean?
If we won’t listen to Jesus and obey Him, He will let us have our way and suffer the consequences. The idea behind “filling the measure of the sin” is that sin will take you farther than you ever imagined. As your sin increases, it will cause you to do things you swore you would never do. In the Pharisees’ case, the sin of killing God’s prophets was about to be filled by killing the Messiah, the Son of God.
So, let us continue in verses 33-36, "You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.
In this passage, Jesus is saying, “Look, you evil men! You have not learned anything from your own history that you claim to be ashamed of. You are continuing in that grand tradition of killing God’s prophets.”
Not only will they kill the Messiah, Jesus said they would continue to persecute those who Jesus would send after Him. We see this in the book of Acts, and the persecution of Christians has not let up since that time. I am convinced that it won’t stop until Jesus returns and brings judgment upon all the persecutors.
Up to this point in the chapter, Jesus had been addressing the religious leaders. But here, Jesus expands His warning to include “this generation,” because the people, despite Jesus’ teaching and miracles, will follow their religious leaders and demand that the Romans crucify Jesus, the Messiah.
And this sets the stage for Jesus’ final words regarding Jerusalem, which we find in verses 37-39, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ’Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’"
Here we see the depth of Jesus’ feelings for lost people and for His beloved city that would soon be destroyed. Jesus took no pleasure in denouncing the religious establishment or in prophesying the coming destruction of the city and the people that rejected Him.
He had come to save them, but they could not see that. He had to go to the cross to atone for their sin and be resurrected before the Holy Spirit could come and give them grace to believe.
There is a famous quote, "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it."
The Pharisees had not learned from the mistakes of their past. And, we may be modern-day Pharisees if we do not learn from the mistakes of our past. The Church can learn a lot from the history of the Jews as well as from our own history. That is why the sins and mistakes of people are recorded in God’s Word.
Unbelievers will look at the sins in the Bible and condemn Judaism and Christianity. Therefore, we need to live a life that is contrary to the historical mistakes of the past, so unbelievers can see that the mistakes of the past are not the way, but the life and words of Jesus are the Way. Live like Jesus, so when they look at you, they see Jesus and His love. That is not something people expect nowadays, and it astonishes them when they see it.
The main reason why unbelievers reject Jesus is that they don’t want Jesus to be their Master, their Ruler, their King, nor Almighty God in their life. Therefore, they reject His Word. This is a rebellious sin. The Bible calls it witchcraft, stubbornness, iniquity, and idolatry. But, there are other ways that we can reject Jesus.
Mark 6:1-3 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
We can reject Jesus as our Lord by thinking Jesus is just like us. Or, thinking that Jesus is just like one of our ordinary friends with whom we can have different opinions but still accept one another. Jesus is not a buddy! HE is God! We need to submit to Him as God and obey Him! To disobey Him, is to reject Him as your Lord!
Mark 6:7-11 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”
According to these verses, Jesus’ disciples are to speak and act as Jesus would. If they are acting like Jesus and speaking His Truth, we better not reject them. We are to seriously consider the message they bring us in Jesus’ Name. That does not mean we blindly accept the message, but we search the Scriptures to see if it is the Truth.
Acts 17:10-12 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
If a message preached is the truth according to God’s Word, we should accept it seriously as a message from God. Disregarding it is the same as disregarding God.
1 Thessalonians 4:8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
So, how can we prevent becoming a modern-day Pharisee?
1. Learn from our mistakes and the mistakes of others.
Read and obey God’s Word for wisdom. Sometimes we do not understand the truth until we trust God’s Word and obey it. The truthfulness of it will be revealed when you do it.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
2. Confess God’s Word and repent.
Confession means to say the same thing about something that God says about it. Confessing our sin means more than just reciting the list of our transgressions which God is already aware of. Confession means seeing it the same way God sees it and repenting, which means stop doing it!
We need to see ourselves as God sees us, agree with Him, and depend solely on Jesus to make us a people through whom He works. When we see the gravity of our depravity, and God's evaluation of our situation, then we become grateful for His mercy. Gratitude leads us to repent, and to trust Him, and love Him by obeying Him.
Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
3. Respect those in authority.
Clark Clifford shares this story of his former boss, President Harry Truman. Every morning at 8:30 the President would have a staff meeting. One day the mail clerk brought in a lavender envelope with a regal wax seal and flowing purple ribbons. Opening it, the President found a letter from King Saud of Saudi Arabia, whose salutation began, "Your Magnificence." "Your Magnificence," Truman repeated, laughing. "I like that. I don't know what you guys call me when I'm not here, but it's okay if you refer to me from now on as 'His Magnificence.'"
Truman subsequently sent a message to the United Nations supporting the admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. Soon afterward, he received a second letter from King Saud in a plain envelope. This one simply began: "Dear Mr. President."
Those in a position of spiritual authority have a tough job. They cannot please everyone. They must please God alone and say what God says regardless of whether it is unpopular. For this reason, they deserve respect and encouragement.
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Do you want better teaching and preaching? Make your teachers and preachers work a joy and not a burden. Pray for them regularly. Encourage them often. Stand up for them when others criticize them. Share with them the good things God is doing in your life through their ministry. Doing that will bless them greatly.
Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share in all good things with the one who teaches.
Have you learned from your mistakes? Do you learn from the mistakes and sins of others? Don’t be like the scribes and Pharisees. Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Take Jesus’ warning seriously for yourselves.
The biggest mistake you can make in life is not believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and failing to make Him your Lord and Savior. You can prevent that mistake today by publicly confessing your faith in Jesus and privately repenting of your sin. Give your life to Him by dying to your self-rule in a watery grave of baptism. You will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will keep you from making mistakes if you obey His Word.
 
4/2/23
WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND SAY?
 
This Sunday is traditionally called Palm Sunday in remembrance of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. The people greeted Him with loud praises. Later in the week they shouted for His crucifixion. Here is Matthew’s account of what he witnessed that day.
Matthew 21:1-11
As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away."
This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'"
The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them.
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"
The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee."
It was time for the Passover, the greatest of all the Jewish feasts. Jews from all over Israel and surrounding nations made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate God’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage during the days of Moses.
"HOSANNA!! (Save us)," they shouted when Jesus entered Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. The Jews were hoping Jesus would save them from the oppression of Rome. When they shouted “hosanna” to Jesus, it indicated they saw in Him the fulfillment of their Messianic expectations.
But Jesus came to save them from greater oppressors than Rome, which are the devil, death, and damnation.
Jesus knew what would happen, how He would be treated, and how He would die. But He had a mission—to bring salvation and deliverance by becoming the Passover Lamb of God.
Just a few days earlier, Jesus made a profound statement found in Luke 19:10
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.”
The purpose of His mission was to save all mankind, not just the Israelites.
As Jesus rode into town, the people let loose with joyous, uninhibited praise, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
The Messiah (the savior) is here!
Hallelujah!
They were excited. By spreading their coats on the road, as well as freshly cut palm branches, it was their version of rolling out the red carpet.
What a scene that must have been. The Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke the people for saying such things. Jesus answered in Luke 19:40
“I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Jesus deserves praise. And if people will not praise Him, the rest of His Creation will continue to cry out. Majestic mountains, mighty oceans, the expansive stars of the universe, trees, hills, and yes, even rocks scream forth the praises of the Creator – the One God – I AM, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is The One who rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey—to face a cruel death—at the hands of sinful men.
Sadly, in just a few days, these religious leaders would convince some of these same people shouting “Hosanna!” to shout, “Crucify him!”
Now, imagine Jesus riding down your street. What would you lay down before Him? What would you cry out? Hosanna or crucify Him? Or would you say, "Who is this," and do nothing at all?
Praising Jesus can be done publicly and privately. It can be done in a variety of ways. Spoken words, printed words, words that are sung in a song. Praise can be painted, worn on a T-shirt, signed with hands, just about any mode of communication is an avenue for praising Jesus.
Praising Jesus is part of what we’ve been called to do.
1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
If we are followers of Jesus, part of our mission is to praise Him, to tell the world what Jesus has done in our life. Praise means to pay Jesus a compliment. Put in a good word for Him. Say good things about Him, and honor what He has done. Praise is a way to tell Him, “Thank you!”
So again, we need to ask ourselves this question: If Jesus came riding down our street, what would we lay down before Him? What would we say? Or would we do and say nothing at all?
To answer that best, we should consider how we praise Him in this church building. Where two or three are gathered in His Name, He is present. Right? This is a safe place. We are not strangers. Is there anything standing in the way of our ability to praise Jesus?
We may not want to admit it, but perhaps pride stands in the way of our praise. We say, “Well, I’m just not a very expressive person. My temperament doesn’t lend itself to the kind of praise that took place on Palm Sunday. I’m reserved.” That may be true, but I wonder how you act at a sporting event. If we don’t at least attempt to praise Jesus in church, the odds are very likely that we’re not doing it anywhere else.
So I ask again, if Jesus came riding down our street (Stilwell), would we be willing to lay down pride and praise Him? If we would be willing to do that, and if we believe in His Presence when we gather together, why do we hold back our praise for Him in here?
Perhaps it is fear of man that stands in our way of praising Jesus.
The classic example of someone who had an opportunity to put in a good word for Jesus and was just too scared to do it is Peter. After Jesus was arrested, Peter sort of lurked behind in the shadows to see how things would turn out. Someone said to him, “You were with Jesus, weren’t you?”
What a perfect opportunity for Peter say, “I sure was. And let me tell you about Him. I saw Him heal a deaf man, give sight to a blind man, and make a cripple walk. One time, I saw Him stand up in a boat during a storm, and when He commanded the wind to cease, the storm stopped. I saw Him walk on water. I’ve even seen Him bring people back to life. Why, just this past week He raised a guy named Lazarus, who had been dead four days. I tell you, Jesus is innocent. He’s the Son of God! Yes, I follow Him and I proudly call Him the Messiah.”
But of course, Peter didn’t say any of that.
He said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know Him!”
Within a few moments, he denied knowing Jesus two more times. He could have praised Jesus, but he was afraid he might get arrested if he acknowledged Him.
Presently, we don’t have to fear arrest (but that day is coming.) Nevertheless, we fear what people might think of us if we praise Jesus too enthusiastically. After all, we don’t want to disturb anyone or make them uncomfortable. Well, we need some disturbing! We need to get our minds off ourselves. Your praise could help others to focus on Jesus and praise Him!
So if Jesus came riding down our street, and if fear of man is standing in your way of praise, would you be willing to lay your fear down before Him?
What if someone gave you a million dollars—how would you react?
Would it give you joy—would you thank him? Would you praise him around others? Of course, you would!
Well, Jesus died so that you can have everything He has! Because of what Jesus did and your faith in Him, you are a God’s child and an heir of God’s Kingdom! That should make you joyful and full of praise towards Jesus!
However, fear and pride will rob you of the joy of your salvation, because fear of man and pride are sins. Therefore, repent of those sins and praise Jesus, who saved you and gave you eternal life and all that heaven promises! Then the joy of your salvation will return.
Luke 1:68
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
Don’t be afraid of what people think. For example, at church – sing, clap, raise your hands, raise your voice, bow your head, kneel, or whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to do – just don’t confuse temperament with pride or fear of man! We are here to worship and praise Jesus! The Holy Spirit and Scripture will keep us balanced.
With a friend or co-worker, instead of saying, “That really worked out well,” exalt the Lord by saying, “Praise the Lord! God sure led us through that one!”
At home, sing a praise song to Jesus. Whisper it or sing it loudly. People will praise their favorite football team at the top of their voice. Why not praise Jesus the same way?
Begin your prayers with praise. Jesus taught us to say, “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name” That means “holy is your Name”. The angels continuously cry holy, holy, holy in God’s presence! If you don’t want to praise God here, then you won’t enjoy Heaven?
Perhaps you think exuberant praise is unbiblical; therefore, our tradition should be quiet reverence. Well, listen to this:
Psalm 150
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
Does that sound like quiet reverence?
Oh, there are times for solemn quietude, but it is not a requirement for worship. Neither is noise and chaos.
1 Corinthians 14:40
But all things should be done decently and in order.
We are to worship in spirit and truth. Such worship is decent, orderly, and respectful of God and others. But if people stop their praises and get quiet, Jesus said the rocks will still cry out! Jesus, the King of Kings, the Creator of all, is worthy of praise! Let’s not deny Him of praise and worship with our voices and everything we do!
Psalm 145:10
All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you.
Be one of His faithful people! Extol Him, exalt Him, worship Him, and express your love for Him—publicly and privately!
When I consider that first Palm Sunday, I am struck by the thought that a coat might not be worth much after a donkey and a crowd of people walk on it. In a crowd like that there was no guarantee that once you laid it down you were ever going to get it back. But the Word leads us to believe those people probably weren’t worried about their coats at that moment when Jesus rode by.
No, those people, many of them probably very poor, weren’t as concerned about coats as they were about praising and honoring Jesus. For the people on Palm Sunday, praising Jesus might have cost them the only coat they owned. But to them, it was a joyful sacrifice.
The Bible speaks of a sacrifice of praise.
Hebrews 13:15
Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Don’t you think exuberant praise is an appropriate sacrifice for someone who saved our lives by sacrificing His own? As a church, our gathering is first and foremost for worship—about celebrating and praising Jesus Christ!
Psalm 140:13
Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence.
Visitors looking for a good church, a place where they sense God’s presence and love, will discover the presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of a worshipping church.
So, what is worship—singing praises, taking The Lord's Supper, studying Scripture? Yes, partly. All of these different expressions of devotion are means of worship. But we can do all these things and still offer up empty expressions of love to God if our worship doesn’t yield a specific result: A LIFESTYLE OF DEVOTION TO GOD!
Romans 12:1
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Worship that pleases God is a worship that makes a difference in how we live. Exuberant praise combined with sinful living is not worship! In such a case, the appropriate worship would be a prayer of confession and repentance. Without a faith that leads to obedience, we are worshipping falsely, even if the service is lively.
Isaiah 29:13
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
What comes out of our mouth is another indicator whether we worship in spirit and truth. Is there heart-felt praise for Jesus on your lips, or are you grumbling, complaining, or gossiping?
You can tell whether you are daily worshipping Jesus in spirit and truth, by the fruit produced in you. Are you offering your body as a living sacrifice and producing the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) or are you doing what you please and producing the fruit of your flesh?
Do you even long for the fruit of the Spirit or do you want to remain in control? Do you even desire intimacy with God that expresses itself daily with uninhibited worship in everything you do and say? None of this is possible without being filled with the Holy Spirit! Without the Holy Spirit, we are just “playing church” and going through the motions!
And you cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit without first believing Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, the Savior and Redeemer of your soul, who is the Lamb of God that shed His Blood at Passover so that your sin could be forgiven.
To enter into an intimate relationship of praise, worship, and communion with God Almighty, repent of your sin, your self-determination, and selfish living.
Give your life to Jesus, making Him your Lord, by dying to self through baptism.
Then you will receive a new life, born of the Holy Spirit.
Worship and praise will come naturally to you when you have this joyful, intimate relationship with God, through Jesus Christ!
Your worship will continue as you deny yourself, pick up a cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Maybe you did this years ago and your worship has become dry, rote, and inhibited.
You realize you have been focused on self instead of Jesus, and fearful of what others think. I urge you to repent of your lack of praise and worship this morning.
Ask your Father in Heaven daily to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can praise Him every day by everything you do and say.
The Holy Spirit will make you a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
The joy of your salvation will return and you will praise Jesus again.
 
3/19/23
THE GREATEST QUESTION
 
The Book of Matthew contains many great questions. The first question in Matthew is:
“Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” (Mt 2:2)<