We all have been a skeptic at one time. We were unbelievers in regards to something. When we say, “I find it hard to believe,” we are being skeptical. The attitude of the skeptic is “prove it to me” or “change my mind”. Growing up in skeptical Missouri, our State motto was: “Show me.”
When it comes to God’s Word there are a lot of skeptics. Most people do not believe in the God of the Scriptures. They believe in a different god or no god at all. Most people today do not believe that the Bible is true. They believe it is ancient folklore.
Because people are skeptical, we often have to start our witnessing with evidence for God’s existence and for the Bible being trustworthy. It’s a long process when people are skeptical.
Compounding the difficulty, sin and the Devil have blinded the minds of unbelievers. Claiming to be wise, they intentionally suppress the self-evident Truth, which God displays everywhere as to His nature, power, and existence.
Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Romans 1:18-20
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.
Jesus had to deal with skeptics often. His main opponents were the religious leaders in Israel. Most of them refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the promised Messiah, spoken of in the Scriptures.
They also rejected His teachings and exposition on the true meanings of the Scriptures. They even rejected the supernatural proofs He gave—His miracles—and saying that it was the Devil working through Him.
The most skeptical were the Sadducees, the liberal elite of the priests. They were wise in their own eyes and proud of their rationalism. They tried to fit God into their own mold of reasoning.
What these rationalists couldn’t understand by their logic, they dismissed or explained it away. They had an elevated view of themselves and their intellectual capacities. They twisted what the Scripture said if it sounded unreasonable to them.
The same thing happens today. Rationalists try to fit God into their way of thinking. God is shrunk to fit into what they think God can reasonably do, or they declare that God has changed His mind, or that He no longer does miracles today.
In Matthew 22:23-33, the skeptical Sadducees came to Jesus:
The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’
Now there were seven brothers among us.
The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother.
So too the second and third, down to the seventh.
After them all, the woman died.
In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be?
For they all had her.”
But Jesus answered them,
“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?
He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.
What generally captures our attention is Jesus’ teaching that there will be no marriage in Heaven. We can be so captivated by this revelation that we miss the reality of the resurrection of the dead.
We have a lot of ideas of what will be in Heaven and what won’t be there. Many of them are not supported by Scripture, but are based on what we want Heaven to be like. Therefore, let’s set those ideas aside for now and focus on the Jesus’ main point, the reality of the resurrection of the dead.
The Sadducees considered the idea that those who had died, who were long decayed in the grave and later would come back to life, to be preposterous. So, they concocted a ludicrous, hypothetical situation based upon the Law, to make Jesus and the Resurrection appear ridiculous.
Deuteronomy 25:5 says,
If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger.
Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.
The Sadducees’ example of this happening seven times to one woman was an improbable situation, hardly worthy of an answer, and clearly a trap. Still, they thought the absurdity of their example was a perfect argument against a continued existence after death and the resurrection of the dead.
The Sadducees were students of God’s Word, but they were students who came to God’s Word with a fixed bias. They came to it with an agenda. They came to it with a set of beliefs about God and life which they elevated over God’s Word.
Since they were based in rationalism and logic, Jesus responds with a rational and logical rebuke. But Jesus answered them,
“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”
Regardless of their motive and ridiculous example, Jesus answers these skeptics, who claim to believe the Scriptures, and in particular, Moses as the authority and guide for life and doctrine.
They revered Moses and viewed themselves as his disciples. They would have considered Moses to hold the same beliefs as they did.
So, Jesus proves the Sadducees wrong in respect to the resurrection of the dead by referring them to Moses.
Jesus reminds them of the experience Moses had with God at the burning bush that they would have been very familiar with.
Moses recorded it in Exodus 3:6
And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
In this verse, God described Himself as continuing to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who lived before Moses. God didn’t say “I used to be the God of ….” God didn’t say “When they were alive, I was their God”. Rather, in His appearance to Moses, God said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The point being: they continue to exist and live, albeit absent from the body and yet present with God.
Jesus could have used any number of Old Testament verses to prove that people continue to exist after their physical death and that a future resurrection is coming.
For example: Daniel 12:1-2
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise.
There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then.
But at that time your people, everyone whose name is found written in the book –will be delivered.
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
God’s power has been repeatedly demonstrated in the past and it still is today. The problem we have in recognizing God’s power is our hard hearts and skeptical unbelief. People don’t want to believe in an all-powerful God, because to do so, would mean they should give themselves wholeheartedly in service to Him. That would require their repentance and confession of guilt, something people don’t want to do.
So, they ignore God and what He said.
They say God has changed, or He is dead, or is He not involved in our affairs anymore.
Sometimes believers are not as innocent as we think we are in this matter. Sure, we affirm God can do anything that is His will, yet our lack of faith betrays us at times and we doubt His Word and power.
When that happens, the fear of death begins to take hold of us again.
In respect to the power of God and the Resurrection, the Scriptures tell us in 1 Corinthians 6:14
And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
The Old Testament and New Testament repeatedly teach that on the day of Jesus’ 2nd coming, all those who have lived will be resurrected physically. It doesn’t matter that a person has turned to dust in the ground, been cremated, or been lost at sea. None of that matters, for God has the power to raise the dead back to life.
On that great day, the wicked in their resurrected bodies are judged and will be sent to an eternity in Hell to be punished for their wickedness and evil committed against God.
On that great day, we who are in Christ, will receive the long-awaited resurrection body—a body described in I Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 5 as imperishable, a glorious divine body that is totally different from the one we now possess.
The last reason the Sadducees were wrong is that they reasoned relationships in Heaven would be similar to our relationships on Earth.
Their example concerning marriage is one example. Jesus said the institution of marriage between a man and a woman will no longer exist. The rational Sadducees should have reasoned that the intended purpose of marriage is no longer needed in Heaven, for there will be no need to reproduce.
Those who have had a blessed marriage may find this sad at first; however, the one flesh unity of husband and wife will be perfectly transcended by the love and unity we will share with the Lord and all believers. Together, we will be the Bride of Christ.
How did the Sadducees and the people around Jesus respond to His teaching? We are told: “And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”
The people heard the words of God proclaimed to them that day. It was so different from the Sadducees’ teaching. Jesus spoke about faith in God and God’s power, instead of rationalizing God and fitting Him into man’s limitations.
In effect, Jesus’ teaching has been proclaimed to us as well. Here are some lessons we have heard:
1. When considering the POWER of God, it is no problem for Him to resurrect the dead and give us, who are His children, the heavenly and imperishable bodies the Scriptures promise.
2. We need to be continually searching, studying, learning, and meditating upon the Scriptures. They are the WORD of God. For us who desire answers in respect to life and life hereafter, and what God can do and who He is, the Scriptures are our only source of truth.
3. Be ON GUARD against your own biases and pre-conceived ideas. Scripture must shape our beliefs. We are not to shape the Scriptures to fit our beliefs.
4. Life in Heaven is going to be DIFFERENT than life here on Earth. It will be better. The only marriage in Heaven for us to ponder is that of Christ and the Church. We are to prepare ourselves to be the pure and spotless Bride of Christ, who is ready to become one with the Bridegroom when He returns.
5. There are always going to be SKEPTICS. There will always be those who mock the self-evident truths of God according to their own rationalism. We need to pray for those who are skeptical at this point. God overcame our skepticism about Him, and He’s not done working on them. He is patient and can overcome the skepticism of any person as the Holy Spirit does the work of conviction in a person’s life. Therefore, we need to be faithful and to present Jesus as Savior and Lord, as the only One who represents God on Earth, the only One who died for our sin and rose from the grave to give us hope of a future resurrection from the dead.
6. After we are resurrected from the dead, will it be to eternal life in HEAVEN OR HELL? We are warned by God that we will spend eternity in Hell unless we believe in Jesus as the Son of God, who atoned for our sin on the cross. If you believe that, you must repent of your sin and put your old life to death in water baptism to be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will lead you in living a new life by following Jesus. He is the way to Heaven. Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Life. Don’t miss Heaven for the world. Be saved today.


Matthew 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted ho
You Are Invited
Matthew 22:1-14
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
In this parable, the King represents God. Jesus is the Son. The Bride is not mentioned, but it is the Bride of Christ, the Son of God. The servants are His prophets, preachers, and teachers. Those who were first invited are the Israelites.
So God sent out His servants to tell Israel that the Kingdom of Heaven is here and the wedding feast of His Son and Bride is ready, but those who had been invited wouldn’t come. They were busy with their livelihood and paid no attention to the servants. Others took offense at the invitation and persecuted the servants, even killing some of them.
Imagine how the King felt. You work hard getting ready for something. Maybe it’s a party. Maybe it’s a Sunday school lesson or vacation Bible school. You send out invitations and spend hours getting everything ready. The big day comes. You planned for thirty and three show up. How do you feel? You may feel disappointed, frustrated, or depressed. If you have experienced this, then in some small way, you know how God feels whenever one of us rejects His invitation to be a part of the Kingdom that He has prepared for us.
The first guests invited were the Jews. The prophets, and John the Baptist, and God’s Son told them the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and to get ready, but they killed them. After Christ's Resurrection, the apostles were sent to tell them the Kingdom had come, and to persuade them to repent and accept the invitation to come the wedding feast.
The reason why people do not accept Christ’s invitation is not because they cannot come, but because they will not come. Rejecting Christ and His great salvation is the damning, unforgivable sin of man. Multitudes, who show no direct aversion to Christ, perish forever because they are careless as to their souls and they ignore God’s invitation.
Since the Jews rejected God’s invitation, He extended the invitation to His wedding feast to anyone and everyone who would to come. And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
In Acts 13:46
And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.”
It’s important to understand that the Jews unworthiness had nothing to do with their inherent qualities or lack of them. The Gentiles weren’t a morally better people; they were worse. But it was the Jews’ stubborn attitude and their refusal to repent that designated them as "unworthy".
What makes a person worthy of salvation today is the same thing that has always made a person worthy of salvation—a willingness to believe Jesus and therefore to repent, to commit our lives to Jesus and obey Him. Whether or not God judges us as worthy of His Kingdom is determined by our response to His invitation! And it’s not just our initial response to the invitation, but our continued response as an obedient follower of Christ.
Notice by the end of the parable, everyone is invited to the Son’s wedding feast. And that’s one of the main points of the parable. When Jesus atoned for our sin on the cross, no one was left out. The only thing that leaves us out of the wedding feast is our own indifference to that sacrifice, our own stubborn refusal to accept the invitation, our preference for worldly matters, and our lack of repentance. Therefore, it’s entirely our own fault. God’s desire is to fill His banquet hall with people. God is going to have a wedding feast for His Son and His Bride, and He’s invited whosoever will believe and respond to the invitation.
John 3:16-19
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 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.
So, it’s fairly easy to understand the parable to this point, but then there is this “incident”: “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
At first, we might think that what the man was wearing is an insignificant thing, because we are accustomed to people wearing a variety of clothing. Likewise, this man thought his clothes were acceptable. He did not consider what the King wanted, nor did he consider wearing what the Son had provided for the occasion.
Revelation 7:9-10
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their
hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
There is a difference between believing in Jesus and submitting to Jesus. Accepting God’s invitation means submitting to the terms of the invitation. If you go to eat at a restaurant which has a sign out front that says, “Coat and tie required”, you can’t get in wearing your jeans and T-shirt.
A lot of people want to accept the invitation to the wedding feast, but they don’t want to submit themselves to God’s terms. They think they can go to the wedding feast dressed as they are because they are just as good as other people; maybe, superior. However, we must take off the old garments of a worldly life and put on the new garments of Jesus’ righteousness.
Ephesians 4:22-24
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Those who are in Christ and filled with His Spirit have a renewed mind and are clothed with the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness. This is the required wedding garment, which Son has provided to us. The new self, clothed with Christ, acts like Jesus.
Revelation 19:7-9
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the
Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
In the parable, the invitation to the feast wasn’t important to any of those who were first invited; it had no priority for them. This reminds me of people who just don’t seem to have any interest in Jesus Christ. They aren’t antagonistic toward the things of God; they just simply have no interest in them.
Even those of us who are Christians need to examine our lives to see if we are responding to God’s invitation on a daily basis. Are we denying self, picking up a cross, and following Jesus? Do we still have that love for Jesus that we once had, the desire to do everything we can to serve Him? Or have things changed? Our initial enthusiasm for the Kingdom and following Jesus can grow dim unless we nourish it.
God’s invitation is extended to people who have lived moral, upright lives since the time they were little children, as well as to murderers, rapists, and prostitutes. Everyone is invited, "both bad and good". It’s one of the things that distinguishes the Kingdom of our Lord. But the King expects us to change, to put on the righteous robe of 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.
Even though salvation is by grace, the Kingdom of God involves living by God’s standards. It’s true that the door of salvation is open to all, but when we accept the invitation, we must put off the old man and put on the new man.
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 k
now 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.
A believer cannot go on living the life he lived before he became a follower of Christ. He must be clothed in a new righteousness by being born again of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen.” That’s another way of saying: Everybody is invited, but very few wind up at the table. Why? It certainly isn’t God’s fault. He’s prepared a feast for everyone who will accept the invitation.
He has provided a wedding garment—a robe of righteousness through faith in His Son, but He’s not going to force anyone to come. If you miss out, you only have yourself to blame. Everyone has the opportunity to enter the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ, but only a few will accept the invitation to enter the Kingdom and be serious enough to die to the old life and receive God’s righteousness by being born again of the Holy Spirit, and staying filled with the Holy Spirit by asking the Father for that grace every day.
The imputed righteousness of Christ, and the sanctification of the Spirit, are both necessary. No man has the wedding garment by nature, nor can he form it for himself. He must receive it by faith in the Son and submit continuously to the Spirit’s transforming grace.
Many are called to the wedding feast, that is, to salvation, but few accept the invitation. Fewer still put on the wedding-garment, the righteousness of Christ, the sanctification of the Spirit. So let us examine ourselves to determine whether we are in the faith, wearing the proper wedding garments.
Our response to God’s invitation is crucial. We cannot live in both kingdoms to avoid rejection. Rejection will come to everyone, either from the world or from the Kingdom of Heaven. The question is not whether we can avoid rejection, but whose rejection we most want to avoid. Trying to live in both kingdoms is not a viable option.
It would be terrible to hear the King say, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I would rather hear Him say what He said in Matthew 25:21
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’”
However, today Jesus is saying to us what He said in Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
If you hear His invitation, don’t ignore it. Accept it by believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God who atoned for your sin on the cross. Repent of your sin, remove the filthy clothes of unrighteousness, and be washed in the blood of the Lamb. Submit your life to Him in baptism to be born again of the Holy Spirit and clothed with His righteousness. Then cast off the old way of life and follow Jesus every moment of everyday. That is the abundant life He has promised us.
How Will You Be Broken?
Matthew 21:33-46
“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.
As usual, Jesus uses symbols in His parables that have a deeper meaning. • The Master is God and the vineyard is His Kingdom. He is expecting fruit. • The servants are the prophets.• The son is Jesus.• The tenants are Israel.
The parable is a proclamation concerning the Kingdom and Israel’s part in it. Because Israel killed the prophets and the Son of God, the Kingdom will be taken away from Israel and given to a new people who will produce the Master’s fruit. This new people will not be based on birth or race or religious standing or economic standing or even social standing. This new people are all those (Jews and Gentiles) who accept God’s Son as Lord, repent of their sin, and bear His fruit.
Jesus’ parables are just as relevant to our lives today as they were back then. Today, God is still the Master of the vineyard, the Kingdom of God, and Jesus is still the Son. But now His Church is the tenants in the vineyard and His servants are the preachers and teachers. The Master is expecting the Church to produce His fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Master prepared the vineyard for success. He planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower.
Likewise, God has made every provision for the Church to succeed. We have a copy of His instruction book, we all have gifts that we can use in His service, and we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to be His witness in this world. We also have each other for encouragement.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Furthermore, we read in 2 Peter 1:3-11,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue [goodness], and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So, we are in God’s Kingdom and He expects His fruit. How do we respond whenever God sends us a servant to get His fruit? Too often, we listen to the preacher or teacher as if he was talking to everyone else but me. We wonder who he’s preaching to this morning. Or we might think, “I wish Joe was here. He really needs to hear this.”
Sometimes we listen during the sermon and meditate on what the preacher is saying. At other times, we hear the preacher’s words, but we don’t remember the message. We couldn’t tell someone what it was about if they asked us.
The messages and lessons we hear will have no effect unless we meditate on the truth and apply it to our lives. Wisdom is not gained by passive listening. Hearing, understanding, and agreeing without application is self-deceptive. Something more is needed—action!
Occasionally, the preacher or Bible class teacher, or even a passage of Scripture that we come across while reading, will bring us a message that seems like it was directed right at us. Such a message may be hard to hear because it doesn’t fit in with our current lifestyle, or it convicts us of something in our lives that we’re not ready to give up.
When you heard that convicting message, what did you do? Did you get angry? Did you call for a new preacher, or go to a different Bible class? Did you leave the congregation to look for a more pleasing preacher? Did you reject God’s message and refuse to change the things in your life that need changing? Did you stop going to church?
Maybe sometime later God sent that message to you again, maybe by another servant, but just like the first time, instead of receiving that life-saving message, you again rejected it, and persecuted another of God’s servants with gossip and dissension.
Maybe you were too stubborn to admit that you needed to change, and too prideful to make any attempt to change. But God, in His infinite patience, sent a third servant to you, but just like the first 2, you rejected the servant, and in essence, you rejected God’s Son, Who is offering you the ability to produce fruit if you will only believe the message and repent.
Maybe you didn’t conspire to kill the Master’s Son like the tenants in the parable, but each time you reject God’s message, and every time you neglect to hear God’s message, you become just as guilty as the tenants were in the parable.
Maybe you don’t like this message!
Nevertheless, when we fail to let a message affect us because we’re not listening closely enough, or we refuse to repent, we become like the tenants in Jesus’ parable, rejecting God’s servants and ultimately, Jesus. You may have heard of preachers being fired because some of the members weren’t happy about his sermons, even though they were true to the Word of God. If he wasn’t fired, often many members leave or the church splits. What we must understand is that rejecting the Master’s servants and His message doesn’t hold back the Master’s punishment. When Israel persecuted God’s prophets, they still suffered the consequences of their sin. And we today stand in that same position.
Jesus said, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When we fall down in complete abandonment to Jesus who is the Cornerstone and the Word of God, we may be broken with conviction but we are never crushed. Our brokenness will lead us to genuine repentance and cause us to be born again of the Holy Spirit and produce His fruit. The amazing thing is that when we fall on the Cornerstone, Jesus takes the broken pieces of our lives and recreates us in His image so that His light shines through as a testimony to others.
However, those who ignore God’s Son and His Word will not produce God’s fruit, and they will eventually be crushed by Jesus no matter how long they have been in church or what tradition they believe.
So, we can either fall on the Cornerstone and be broken and made fruitful in the Kingdom, or the Cornerstone will fall on us and crush us eternally.
So how can we fall on Christ and produce the fruit that the Master is expecting? We can do like the first group of believers did after hearing the first sermon preached by Peter.
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.
When God sends messages (i.e. prophesy, which is God’s Word) through teachers or preachers, we have the responsibility to weigh what is said, and if their message agrees with God’s Word, we must repent and obey what God has said.
1 Corinthians 14:29-33
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
The Word of God can bring conviction and we must let it have its way with us. We must have hearts that are tender enough to break when we are convicted, and fall upon Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, for grace to repent. We must continually repent and get grace to deny self, pick up our cross daily, and follow Jesus.
In His parable, Jesus is expecting us to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit to glorify Him. He warns us that if we have been denouncing, ridiculing, degrading, and ignoring the very servants and messages that He has been sending us, we will be rejected and crushed.
You may be thinking, “I’ve been baptized and a church member all my life! I’m secure in the faith. This message doesn’t apply to me.” There is no security except what comes through the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, not baptism nor church membership. The Holy Spirit and His fruit are not something that we produce, but Someone we receive and continue to be filled with.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
It is so easy to get caught in false sense of security and ignore God’s Word. The only security for a believer comes by intimately knowing God’s Son, following Him every day, and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:9-17
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. 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.
The message today is plain but not pleasant. Don’t let yourself be deceived by pride as many in Israel were deceived. Humble yourself before the Lord or you will be humiliated. Let Jesus break you so that He can transform you, or one day you will be crushed by Him and thrown into Hell.
So the questions for you today are: How will you choose to be broken? Will you choose to fall on Jesus Christ with a tender heart of conviction and repentance, or will you harden your heart by rejecting God’s Son and His Word? You must realize that either way, you will be broken.
Therefore, consecrate yourself to love Jesus and devote your life to obediently following Him and being filled with the Holy Spirit.


JANUARY 29, 2023

Jesus left the withered fig tree and continued walking to Jerusalem. Upon arrival, He went directly to the Temple and began teaching the people there.
Matthew 21:23
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
Today, they might have asked Jesus, “Do you have a proper seminary education? Where did you get the authority to teach a doctrine different from our traditions? Who gave you permission to teach in the Temple? Why do you teach as though you are speaking on God’s behalf?”
If they hadn’t been so envious of Jesus and proud of themselves, they might have seen that His authority came from God because He is God. But that recognition would mean that Jesus had more authority than they did and they were not ready to give up their authority to anyone, especially an untrained carpenter!
So Jesus asked them a question that exposed the real issue.
Matthew 21:24-27
Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”
And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.
The people had accepted John the Baptist as a prophet, and if a prophet, then of the same authority as Isaiah, or Moses, or Elijah! They did not want to answer Jesus’ question, because if they answered incorrectly, then those listening in might question their authority.
Jesus’ question exposed their lack of faith. It became evident that they were not seeking Truth, only what fit their preconceived idea of truth.
Somewhere along the line they had replaced God’s Truth with a more comfortable truth of their own. Their faith was convenience based, pragmatic, comfort seeking, and ultimately closed the door to the Kingdom of God, because they rejected the Truth, Who stood before them.
We see the same thing all around us, and oftentimes within the Church and its seminaries. God’s revelation is clear, but people start on a deceptive path by doubting it, asking for scientific evidence to back it up. Instead of believing and obeying God’s Word, people form opinions and discuss opinions, eventually believing an opinion instead of God.
Since the priests were unwilling to answer His question, Jesus did not answer their question. Instead, He told them a parable.
Matthew 21:28-32
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’
And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.
And he went to the other son and said the same.
And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”
This parable has three characters. The Father is clearly God; the first son represents the sinful members of the Jewish nation; the second son represents the Jewish priests.
After getting the priests to agree that the first son is the one who did the will of the Father, Jesus drives the point home by saying the tax collectors and prostitutes, the most sinful and disobedient in the priests’ opinion, were more righteous than them because they repented after they heard John the Baptist preach. The Jewish priests hid behind outward and verbal obedience, claiming to be in authority and righteous, but their actions were unrighteous and disobedient to God.
Luke 3:7-9
He [John the Baptist] said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Remember the fig tree from last week's sermon?
Jesus’ parable may have reminded the priests of what John said.
Jesus was essentially saying to them, “You say you are going to obey God, and yet you don’t! You must bear fruit in keeping with repentance to be in the Kingdom of God.
The priests’ answer, “We don’t know” was inexcusable. For after the priests saw the mighty change that took place in the lives of the “worst” of sinners, they still refused to believe and repent.
They were stuck on the road of deception, but worse yet, they were content with the deception they believed.
And in a few days, they would be clamoring for the crucifixion of
God’s Promised Messiah, and cheering His death.
Then, when Jesus rose again, they would be desperate to hide the overwhelming evidence of His Resurrection.
As Jesus’ parable points out, being religious is not enough.
Believing the right things does not matter if we are not doing the right things! Being religious will not allow us to enter the Kingdom of God! We need to actually have God, the Holy Spirit in our life, leading us to do right things!
Here is the problem: We see this whole thing about God as a matter of keeping rules. What we fail to see is that God wants to have a relationship with us — even if we haven’t kept the rules. He wills to forgive us for not keeping the rules, but there is no forgiveness for not having a relationship with Him.
The Pharisees had reduced God to a set of rules so that they no longer heard God. They did not have the Holy Spirit in them, convicting them of sin, and giving them His power to repent. They could not accept Jesus as the Messiah because they would not believe He is the Son of God. Being the Son of God is what gave Him the authority to say and do the things He said and did, but they could not see it!
Jesus made the point that only those who do God’s will can enter His Kingdom. But true repentance is not a one-time act. It is a life-style, a continual change in actions.
The term “true repentance” implies that there is also “false repentance”. It is possible to feel guilty about sin and yet not repent. Some people are very sorry because of the consequences of their sin or because they have been caught. They equate this worldly sorrow with repentance, but this is definitely not the case.
2 Corinthians 7:10
For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation not to be regretted, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
We cannot change the meaning of repentance from what Jesus declares. Jesus Christ is the Truth whether we believe it or not. Our opinions do not change the Truth. When we rely on our opinions, we simply end up believing a deception. False repentance is often a result of deception caused by pride, tradition, and false teaching. A person can become very religious and believe that his behavior and life are righteous when he compares himself to others. Just saying you are sorry for your sin without changing is not repentance.
Pride is the biggest hindrance to true repentance. The chief priests and elders assumed they had more authority and righteousness than Christ! Their pride would not let them see the Truth and therefore, they had no grace to repent.
After all, how can someone repent when he believes he is already righteous?
False repentance occurs when people rely on self to resolve their sin problem. Many attempt to become better persons by changing their way of life on their own and in their own strength.
Any reliance on self denies the need for God’s grace to repent.
We can always rely on the Word of God. Jesus is the Word and therefore, the authority on the Word of God. We must rely on Jesus to redeem us, fill us with His Spirit, and give us His grace to overcome sin by denying self and obeying what He says. We must ask Jesus for power/grace to submit to His authority each moment of every day.
John 1:1-3, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made…
…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Therefore, Jesus Christ is the first and final authority. He is the only one Who can convict us of sin and lead us to the Truth. Christ’s personality, character, and words are clearly declaring the Truth, but it is only believed by those who are listening and who recognize that Jesus is God in the flesh, and therefore confess, “I am wrong and He must be obeyed”.
Repentance, when true and genuine, leads to confession and restitution.
For example, a repentant thief will admit he stole the money and return it.
A thief who confesses his crime, but keeps the money, has not truly repented.
True repentance is a continual turning from sin, and without true repentance, we cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. God knows those who are His, and He knows those who only claim to be His, but do not repent and obey Him. True repentance is not only turning from sin but also turning from the world. We cannot be in God’s Kingdom and live according to the standards of the world.
James 4:4
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
The chief priests and elders claimed to be the ones closest to God and therefore, they were the authorities. They had said yes to God, but like the first son in the parable, they did not obey Him.
The behavior of the second Son is a picture of the tax collectors
and harlots who believed the preaching of John the Baptist and repented. They had spent their entire lives saying “no” to God.
However, after hearing John’s preaching, they confessed their sin, believed the Truth, repented, and no longer walked in their sinful ways. They were the ones who did the Father’s will.
True repentance is necessary for salvation.
Repentance is finally realizing you have been going in the wrong direction, turning around, and continuing in the right direction by following Jesus. Repentance is a change of mind that leads to a change of life.
The Truth demands a response to the following questions:
Have you only said yes to Christ without meaning it?
If you really meant it, are you obeying His commandments?
John 14:23-24
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. [relationship]
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
Many of us here today are Christians.
Some of us assume we are Christians. Some of us are living without God’s blessings because of our failure to truly repent. Have you done what God has told you to do?
We can presume to have a relationship with God that we do not have and deceive our friends and ourselves, but it is impossible to deceive God. Just as the Jewish religious leaders presumed they had a relationship with God because of their position and authority, so many Church members today are presuming a relationship with
God on the basis of Church membership.
Church membership cannot guarantee our entrance into Heaven, but an intimate relationship with Christ can. We must be in Christ and He must be in us by the Holy Spirit!
Romans 8:9
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.
It is only an intimate relationship with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit in us that can enable us live a life of righteousness, holiness, and service.
Do you have a relationship with Jesus or are you presuming you have a relationship with Him? Are you so engrossed with the world that you are walking by your flesh instead of the Holy Spirit?
God is a merciful Father, who will welcome all those who truly repent and come to Him with faith in His Son.
Confess your sin to the Father and ask Him to forgive you based upon the sacrifice of His Son for the atonement of your sin.
Then repent, turn from sin, and be baptized. You will be born again, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have the gift to deny self, pick up a cross daily, and follow Jesus.


First Christian Church of De Queen

Jamuary 22, 2023 
Are You Fruitful or Withering?
A young boy in Sunday school had been taught by the same teacher for a couple of years. The teacher told stories and always ended by saying, "and the moral of the story is . . ."
When this Sunday school teacher retired and a new teacher began, the minister asked the boy how he liked his new Sunday school teacher. He replied, "She is great, but she doesn’t have any morals."
The message today has a moral. Beginning in Matthew 21, Jesus rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey and was met by cheering crowds waving palm branches. They looked upon Jesus as the deliverer of the nation of Israel, a king who could unify the nation and bring peace, freedom from Rome, and prosperity.
Jesus was bringing these things, but the peace, freedom, and prosperity that Jesus brought were not what the Jews expected, nor are they what most people want today. His peace is a peace far greater than anything the world can offer. His freedom is a freedom that does not depend upon who is the head of human government. His prosperity has little to do with worldly wealth.
Jesus came that we might have an inward peace that remains no matter what turmoil is going on in our lives! He came that we might have freedom from sin, guilt, and condemnation! He came that our spirit and soul would prosper as we serve the Lord and trust God to meet the needs of our body!
The first thing Jesus did in Jerusalem was to go to the temple. If there was any place in the city where He could find rest, it should have been at the Temple; dedicated to God; and therefore, to Himself.
But when He arrived at the Temple, Jesus found that this was not the House of God that it should be. Everywhere He turned, there were people making money off of those who came to worship God.
Matthew 21:12-13 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
I wonder how many churches, that were at dedicated to worshipping God, would today experience the same rebuke from Jesus as He casts out those who extort offerings from the people, those who preach a false gospel of worldly prosperity, those that have transformed the church into a marketplace for their books, CD’s, and DVD’s.
How many men and women today are selling the “gospel” to those who will pay their price? (Imagine Jesus charging an entrance fee to hear Him speak.) How many are selling cheap trinkets with the promise of greater returns? How are these things any better than the deeds of the money changers at the Temple in Jesus’ day?
Better yet, let us judge ourselves. What does Jesus see in our congregation? Are we focused on prayer and worship? Do we seek a life of ease rather than a life of sacrifice and service to the Lord? Do we see things from an eternal perspective, or from the current desires of the flesh? Are we more concerned about worldly causes and politics than having an intimate relationship with Jesus and obeying His Word?
Whether it was in the temple in Jerusalem, or in this building today, Jesus is looking for people who worship Him in Spirit and Truth! He is searching for the fruit of the Spirit, which glorifies His Name, leads people to know Him better, and makes disciples who will obey everything He commanded! The real test of a church is not in how big it is, but whether people are coming to know Jesus and are transforming into His image each day!
Matthew 21:14-16 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
Jesus cleansed the Temple and re-established it as a house of prayer. Those who were there to get rich were cast out. And those who were blind, lame, and in need of prayer were brought to Him. Once again, the miracle working power of God was operating in the Temple, because God was there. But they did not recognize Him.
Matthew 21:17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
Jesus left the Temple that day and walked to the little town of Bethany. Most likely, He stayed at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and then started back to Jerusalem early the next morning. On the way, Jesus taught a valuable lesson by using a fig tree that grew by the side of the road.
Matthew 21:18-20 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?”
What is the moral of this lesson? The fig tree represents the condition of Israel in that day, but it also can represent the condition of the church and of each of us individually right now. Again, Jesus desires a people who possess the fruit of the Holy Spirit and who worship Him in spirit and in truth. He desires a church where people are coming to know Him and serve Him. He desires a place where those who are lost in sin can come and surrender their lives to Him. All the things that we do as a church must be for that purpose, to fulfill the desires of Jesus.
Israel was a nation that was chosen to bring forth the knowledge of God to a world lost in the darkness of sin and idolatry. They had the Law of God. They were blessed when they obeyed the Law. From all outward appearance, they were like the fig tree, full of beautiful green leaves, well watered, and nourished by the Lord more so than any other nation. But there was no fruit. Therefore, Jesus cursed the fig tree and it immediately withered and died, fit only to be pulled up and burned.
When the blessings of God depart from a nation, from a church, or from an individual, they are cursed unless they repent! Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and when His Spirit departs, then no life remains. That’s the condition of every lost sinner, of every nation that forgets God, and of every church that does not preach the truth of the Gospel. They might all look pretty on the outside, but they are barren of the fruit God expects and under a curse. They are withering and dying. They just don’t know it yet.
When Jesus cursed the fig tree, He was passing that same curse onto the nation of Israel, because His chosen nation was fruitless and barren. This also caused Jesus to weep over it.
Luke 19:41-44 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Less than 40 years later, Jerusalem would be utterly destroyed and Israel would be dispersed throughout the nations, where for nearly 2000 years, the Jews would be persecuted and rejected: a people without a homeland.
Likewise, our nation is withering spiritually as people depart from worshipping the living God and turn to idols of riches, power, and “mother earth”. Our nation is already collapsing morally and financially. Sexual immorality, addictions, disease, death, and destruction are rampant.
We have a national debt that we cannot repay, inflation is rising, and the world is considering another currency for exchange instead of the American dollar. The threat of war is looming, but people are only concerned about themselves and a potential 1 degree change in the temperature! (They need to worry about a 1000 degree temperature!)
2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
As we are drawing ever nearer to the coming of Christ, the withering action is going to increase. The economies of nations will grow worse, recessions will grow deeper, and nation after nation will fall into bankruptcy. Disasters will increase in number and intensity. I’m not prophesying this, it is what Jesus tells us in Matthew chapter 24 and in the Book of Revelation.
During this withering, where is the Church, which is supposed to provide hope, light, and truth? All around the world today, there are dead churches preaching man’s philosophy instead of God’s truth. And the people in those churches are spiritually dead because the Spirit of the Lord has departed.
So, is there any hope? Yes, that hope is still found in Jesus! There will be a remnant church, but if we are going to be part of it, we must let the Father cut off everything in our life that is not producing His fruit.
John 15:1-17 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 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.
Does this describe your relationship with God? If not, confess your sin and ask the Father for grace to repent and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In these last days, God will raise up a people who will walk in absolute obedience; people who will believe Him and trust Him to the point that nothing will cause them to waver in their faith. They will be His witnesses and ambassadors in this withering, dying world, and they will be persecuted. To prepare us for this task, the Holy Spirit is cleansing God’s temple, which is our body, by convicting us of sin and giving us grace to repent.
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.
Not only will we be a part of God’s work, but we are going to see God move in miraculous ways. The true Church will not be erecting fancy large buildings. It will operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God is going to lead His Church by the Holy Spirit to tear down the very strongholds of Satan and bring defeat to the powers of darkness in the lives of individuals.
Matthew 21:21-22 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
If we have faith in God (not in prayer), God will answer our prayer. No mountain of financial need; no physical problem; no lack of resource; no governmental issues; no lack of anything; nor any limitation shall be able to stop us from accomplishing God’s will, even if our body must die while doing it. When we ask in prayer for the things that are in the will of God, then we will see the hand of God move to bring them to pass.
As Jesus looks at us today, what does He see? Remember, He is looking for fruit. What kind of fruit does He see in us—the fruit of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit?
Galatians 5:16-24 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Therefore, let’s continue to crucify our flesh and obey God! Let’s continue to be ambassadors for Christ and show for the love of God to others. Do not get weary in well doing! Keep pressing on towards the goal! Be filled with the Holy Spirit! Read the Bible. Pray continuously and give thanks in all circumstances. If we do these things, we will not wither away. We will grow in Christ, produce His fruit, and be victorious whether we live or die! If we follow Jesus and the Holy Spirit is in us, we cannot lose! Victory is ours in Christ Jesus!
Notice I said “in Christ Jesus”. If you are not in Christ Jesus, He is not in you, and you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. Without His fruit, you will be cut off, wither, and be gathered up with other dead branches to be burned in an eternal fire called Hell.
However, you can be saved from Hell by believing in Jesus as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus and follow Him. The first step is to publicly profess your faith in Jesus and be baptized. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will continue to transform your life and produce His fruit in you.
JANUARY 15, 2023
Privilege is a right or benefit given to some but not others. To be a person of privilege is to have an edge or advantage that avails you opportunities others do not have. Privilege is often associated with what a person has: wealth, power, and influence, such as members of our Congress, who have the power to legislate privileges for themselves that the citizens they represent cannot have.
People like privileges and will pay for them. For example:
• Passengers flying on a jet can pay extra for a first class ticket and enjoy a larger seating area, constant service, better meals, and the privilege of being first on and off the plane.
• Motorists can pay for access to the HOV lanes so they can go faster than those in the regular lanes.
• Patients can have their doctor’s cell phone number and same day appointments for annual fees ranging up to as high as $25,000 annually.
Seeking privilege is a fleshly desire everyone seems to have. Even as children, we wanted to be first. Jesus had to deal with this sin several times with His disciples. Our text today involves two of the disciples and their mother, who sought privileged positions for her sons in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 20:17-28 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus had just shared an illustration about the Kingdom of Heaven where a landowner hired some helpers, and no matter how long they worked for him, they all got paid the same wages. Prior to telling that parable, Jesus had assured His disciples that they would be rewarded for leaving everything to follow Jesus.
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Now He tells them that they are going to Jerusalem, where He will be condemned to death and rise from the grave on the third day. This impending event caused Mrs. Zebedee to request the privileged positions for her sons when Jesus sat on His throne. When the other disciples heard about this, they were indignant.
This isn’t the first time the question of privilege arose. In Matthew 18:1, as a group they approached Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” In Luke 9:46, the disciples were arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest. So selfish ambition and privilege were issues for all the disciples, but they were incensed at John and James because their mother actually had the audacity to ask Jesus for the most privileged positions in His Kingdom!
We have all heard things like, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” And we are always a little irked when we know someone has gotten an opportunity, not necessarily because they were worthy, but because of who they were or who they knew.
Jesus did not grant Mrs. Zebedee’s request, but He did not deny it either. He simply reminded all of his disciples of the cost of being seated on the right or left, and that only the Father could grant such positions of privilege.
Obviously, the disciples did not understand the Kingdom of God. They imagined it was like a worldly kingdom and would operate the same way with some people having privilege. They did not realize that the Kingdom was already in their midst.
Luke 17:20-21 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”
The Kingdom is in our midst and it has a King, the King of Kings, Jesus Christ! The source of power and authority in this Kingdom is not in ourselves but in the Holy Spirit, who the Father sent to be in us and to empower us to be His witnesses. We must believe in Him and what He can do through us to glorify Jesus when we obey Him.
The Father opposes the proud, but lifts up the humble. The more we trust in Him, the less we trust in ourselves. The more fruit of His Spirit in our lives, the more useful we become to Him.
To deal with the vanity and ambition of their request, Jesus asks James and John, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said they were able, but at the time, the disciples did not understand what that cup is. It is a bitter cup of suffering. Jesus said they will drink from the same cup that He will drink from. Jesus had to drink from this cup to accomplish the Father’s will, and so will every follower of Jesus. That includes us.
Matthew 26:39 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.”
No doubt with great tenderness and compassion, the Lord assured the brothers, “you will drink my cup.” He knew they would suffer greatly for the Kingdom, but it would not be of their own choosing or power, but for the purpose of the Father.
For instance, James was the first apostle to be martyred. Acts 12:1-3 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
And John ended his long life as a condemned exile on the island of Patmos. Revelation 1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
Jesus said in verse 25, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.”
Jesus indicates that “lording it over others” leaders are not what He has in mind. Leaders in His Kingdom will be servants. He went on to say, “It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.”
Slaves did the most degrading, demeaning, distasteful, and undignified things. Jesus told His disciples then, and He is telling us today, that we are to willfully and voluntarily assume the roles of a servant and a slave.
This is not the life of a public servant who runs for office. It is not a place of honor on the governing board in the church. Jesus calls all of us to the roles of a servant and a slave, where we do not do our will but the will of the Father and we serve others. Such followers of Jesus are the greatest in God’s Kingdom.
Jesus is requiring His followers to be humble in a world that does not value humility as a virtue. Humility is more likely to be regarded as a vice rather than a virtue. In this world, we do not generally get to the top by serving at the bottom.
Jesus used Himself as a model of humility and service when he said, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus’ motive was simply to wholeheartedly and selflessly serve the Father and give His life as a ransom to rescue us from the dominion of Satan.
Jesus said in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
Our Lord speaks of His death in the terms applied to the sacrifices of old. His death on a cross is a sacrifice for the sins of men to satisfy the Law of God forever. It is a salvation for every person who believes and calls on His Name.
Romans 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The role of every Christ follower is to serve in ways that glorify Jesus and to help others to believe in Jesus and follow Him. Unfortunately, most “Christians” have an oversized sense of personal importance. They are mostly concerned about having and exercising their rights. They are interested in health, wealth, and success, not suffering. They are like James and John who wanted choice seats in the Kingdom of Heaven.
However, let us judge ourselves. The questions for us are: “Are we willing to be like Jesus, choosing to serve rather than be served? Are we willing to suffer for being like Jesus?”
The believer who labors most diligently, and suffers most patiently, seeking to do good to his brethren, and to promote the salvation of souls, most resembles Christ, who is the greatest.
However, we cannot serve God nor others unless we have been born again of the Spirit into the family of God. Until then, we are only concerned with ourselves. The new birth happens when we believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we confess our sin, and we repent. That is, we stop being our own god, doing as we please, and we give our life to Jesus by dying to self in baptism and denying self every day.
Baptism is an act by which we are joined to the Lord in covenant, death, life, and born again of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. And so is suffering for Christ!
Therefore, we have been granted the privileges of believing in Christ and suffering for His sake! Not everyone has the privilege of believing in Jesus and going to Heaven. Not everyone has the privilege of suffering for His sake in this world. Only those who follow Jesus and surrender to His Spirit have those privileges!
Philippians 1:29-30 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
You say suffering is not for you? There must be another way? Well, there is! You can choose to go your own way and avoid suffering for Christ in this world. You can compromise and not fully obey God. You can even deny Christ when faced with a decision that will cause you to suffer. If you do these things, you will avoid suffering in this world, but you will suffer for eternity in Hell! Which is better? You get to choose.
Romans 8:16-18 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. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Jesus mentioned the blessings and privileges of His followers in Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
So, let me ask again, “Are we willing to be like Jesus—choosing to serve rather than be served—willing to drink of the cup of suffering and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others? We can’t do it without the grace of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit in us. So, if you don’t feel willing to serve and suffer, ask the Father to make you willing, like Jesus did in Gethsemane. Ask the Father to fill you with the Holy Spirit so you have grace to do His will.
January 8, 2023
Grace is not well understood and often it’s not really believed. It is often confused with mercy.
God’s mercy and love are what causes Him to give us His grace.
Grace is God doing for you and in you what you cannot do for yourself.
God’s amazing grace is not something we can earn or develop; it’s a free gift given by a merciful God.
Without God’s grace, we cannot believe in God, whom we cannot see, nor have faith to be saved. After receiving this grace to believe, then God, the Holy Spirit, continually gives us grace to follow Jesus, to renew our mind, to deny our flesh, and to obey His Word.
Ephesians 2:8-9
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.
Part of our problem in understanding grace is in the nature of grace itself. Grace is not of this world, nor of man. Grace is of God; it does what man can never do.
We are amazed by what God’s grace does for sinners. Grace is God’s gift that costs the giver everything and costs the receiver nothing. It is given to those who don’t deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. That’s why God alone gets the glory in our salvation.
Jesus did all the work when He died on the cross. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness. The Father gave you grace to believe it. Why? Because He loves you.
John 3:16-17
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
By the power of God’s grace, no one is too sinful to be saved.
On the other hand, some people may be too good to be saved.
That is, they may have such a high opinion of themselves that they think they don’t need God’s grace.
God’s grace cannot save you until you are humble enough to admit you need it, and you seek God for mercy because your sin is so great. Then God will grant you His grace to believe, to repent, to be saved, and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Today, we will look at a parable that puzzles us the first time we hear it, because it strikes at the heart of our sense of fairness and justice. It is a good example how God’s grace works in His Kingdom.
Jesus said in Matthew 20:1-2
For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
These workers were promised the pay of a denarius, the common daily wage for unskilled labor. The equivalent today would be about $50.
Verses 3-7
And going out about the third hour he saw oths standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’
So they went.
Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same.
And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing.
And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’”
The Jewish workday began at 6:00 AM. This was called the first hour. The third hour began at 9:00 AM, the sixth hour began at noon, the ninth hour began at 3:00 PM, and the eleventh hour at 5:00 PM.
So we see that there are two groups of workers: those hired early who went to work after negotiating a wage; and those hired later who went to work without a wage agreement, choosing to trust the fairness of the master.
Verses 8-10
And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’
And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius.
Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
We can imagine how the laborers who worked all day felt when the workers hired last got paid a denarius. Naturally, they thought, “If the owner gave them 50 dollars for working one hour, those of us who have worked twelve hours stand to make a bundle!”
However, their hopes were dashed. They received the same pay.
Jesus tells us how they responded in verses 11-12
And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’
We can sympathize with these workers. We can understand their complaint. Their joy turned to anger as they realized that they received the same pay as those who had worked for only one hour.
However, this is only a symptom of the real problem, which was they were upset that the landowner had made the other workers equal to them.
Verses 13-15 give us the owner’s response—
But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
At 6:00 that morning, they “agreed” with the owner on a wage for their labor. Both sides lived up to their end of the bargain. What the landowner paid other laborers, or what he did with his own money was no business of theirs.
Jesus brings the parable to its puzzling end in verse 16
“So the last will be first, and the first last.”
In the kingdom of God, our perceived position makes no difference because God shows no partiality. That impartiality is a characteristic of God’s amazing grace.
Now, how do we apply this to our lives? Do we simply accept the fact that others may be saved later than us, or will do less work than us in the Kingdom of God, and receive the same reward?
Yes, but there’s more in this parable about God’s grace.
FIRST, God’s grace is a GIFT. Remember the “problem” in this story is not the injustice of a mean and cruel master. The master is honest and generous. In verse 15, the master asks the question, “do you begrudge my generosity?”
One of the most harmful sins that we can commit as God’s children is accusing our Father of being unfair or unjust.
If we want God to be just with us, then He will send us to Hell.
That would be fair and just because that is what we deserve.
Verse 10 says that those who worked all day expected to receive more than was promised because they felt their labor merited a bonus over those who worked one hour. But, in the Kingdom of God, there is no such thing as merit! God’s grace and gifts are granted according to His will to accomplish His purpose.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7,11
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
So, let’s not miss the point of the parable:
God dispenses gifts, not fair wages to individuals.
If it’s a fair wage that we want from God, the Bible says that our salary is already determined. If we want to be rewarded for our merit, if we want to be compensated for our work, then Romans 6:23 spells out how we will be paid—
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Death is the fair and just wage.
If we want to receive what God desires to freely give us, then the last part of this verse offers us something far better than fair wages.
Since God’s grace is an unmerited gift. The only thing we can do is to receive it with thanksgiving.
SECOND, God’s grace keeps us from looking down on ourselves.
Have you ever struggled with feelings of unworthiness because of your sinful past? Have you ever felt inferior to others in the church and thus less important?
Think about those who were not hired until 5:00 p.m. They watched and waited while the other workers were hired. Usually, the best and strongest were the first picked. These were the least qualified.
Actually, these workers represent each one of us.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
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.”
Let our confidence and joy in this life be based not on what we have, or do not have, nor on what we do, or don’t do. Rather our confidence and joy are in the Lord and Who He is! For on the last day, when we stand before our Savior, there will be no distinctions between preachers, prisoners, and prostitutes.
No one is worthier than another to receive salvation because we’re all unworthy. Not worthless, but unworthy. By God’s grace, we can quit looking down on ourselves and look up to the One Who gave us grace to believe and to become a child of God in His Kingdom.
Jesus has made us worthy. To Him be the glory!
THIRD, God’s grace makes us equal to everyone else. The workers’ complaint in verse 12 was, “you have made them equal to us”.
The all-day workers were upset because they received the same wage as those who worked less. They didn’t say, “You have made us equal with the late-comers.” Instead, they grumbled, “you have made THEM equal to US.”
They emphasized that they bore the burden of the work in the sweltering heat of the day. They felt their reward should be superior to the others. But Jesus teaches that in the matter of grace, we are all equal, regardless of how long we have served Him. We find it hard to believe, but God’s grace makes us equal to the Apostles, Paul, and all those martyred for their faith. So don’t look down on yourself, and don’t consider yourself better than others.
Romans 12:3
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
FOURTH, God’s grace offers us a fresh start. It is new every day.
Notice what Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” He said something similar in the last verse of chapter 19, in the verse immediately preceding this parable; verse 30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Jesus changes the order, doesn’t He? The firsts and the lasts, lasts and firsts all blur together. Jesus is making the point that first and last don’t matter in the Kingdom of God. Grace is not about finishing first. It is not about finishing last. It’s about not counting at all. It’s about not keeping score. It’s about having a fresh start every day.
Psalm 86:3-7
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.
We all need God’s amazing grace. If we can’t earn it, how do we get His grace?
As we see from the Word of God, we must humble ourselves, confess our sin, and ask God for His grace to believe and to be forgiven on the basis of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Jesus Christ is the only One who can earn the Father’s grace for us.
Hebrews 4:14-16
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
The more you feel your need for grace, the better candidate you are to receive it. The proud and self-righteous cannot receive it.
God listens to the pleas of the humble and contrite in spirit.
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.”
Today is the day of salvation when God listens to those who confess their sin and repent. God wants to give you His grace, His Holy Spirit, to be in you and empower you to live a new life. He will give you grace to die to self, pick up a cross, and follow Jesus.
Do you hear Jesus calling you, “Come follow me, and I will give you
rest”? If so, that is God’s grace unto you, giving you faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t ignore it.
We, who have believed and served the Lord for years should rejoice and be thankful today. When we look back and see what we were before, when we see the pit from which Jesus rescued us, when we recall how confused we were, when we remember how God gave us grace to believe and be born again into His family, and how He guided us with His Spirit, and when we see Jesus, who loved us and gave Himself for us, the only thing we want to say is, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”
There is so much more about God’s amazing grace for us to understand, but we know enough to be saved today. If God is giving you grace to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross, respond by confessing your sin to Him and repent by giving your life to Jesus. Follow Him in baptism and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit. This is God’s doing, God’s amazing grace.
January 1, 2023
Now Is the Time
So here we are, on the first day of 2023. I wonder what will happen this year. Whatever happens, there is a passage of Scripture that can help to us live this year without regret.
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.
To be wise, we must “be very careful” how we live, because our time on this earth is limited. Afterwards, we will live eternally somewhere, either Heaven or Hell.
Psalm 39:4
Show me, O LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.
Psalm 90:10
The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
However, neither you nor I have a guarantee of even one day more to live. All we have is right now. Therefore, we must make "the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." People are on their way to Hell. We are responsible for telling this generation about the Gospel. Opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ abound all around us, but Satan will distract us from making the most of those opportunities if we are not careful.
Jesus said in John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Satan is a robber and a thief of a joyful productive life. Just think of the time wasted in sinning. Think about all the time wasted from the consequences of the sins we have committed. Satan makes us ineffective, self-centered, guilt-ridden, joyless, afraid, and unable to speak about the Good News.
But it is not just sin that robs us of our time. Sometimes even good things can cause us to spend our time unwisely. For example, Jesus went to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He sat down to teach, and Mary was sitting at His feet soaking in every word He said. Meanwhile, Martha was out in the kitchen preparing dinner.
Luke 10:40-42
Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Now was Martha committing a sin by fixing a meal in the kitchen? No, of course not! But here’s her problem: She was so preoccupied with what she was doing that she didn’t realize that God was in her living room! She was choosing the temporal over the eternal.
That’s the same mistake you and I make almost every day. We get so caught up in the here and now that we fail to listen to the Holy Spirit. We are overloaded with good things. We spend our time with the good and we fail to spend time with God, which is the better. For instance:
1. We’re overloaded with commitments. We’ve committed ourselves to go here and there, to take part in this activity and that social function. Sometimes, we need to be in two places at once. To reduce our commitments, we are tempted to stop going to church, quit reading our Bible, and cease praying.
2. We’re also overloaded with possessions that we must care for. Our closets are full, and our garages are overflowing. We have too much debt, so we work overtime or take a second jo
b. This situation creates stress and our relationships with God and others suffer.
3. There is also an information overload from television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the internet, and social websites. We can’t possibly absorb all the information. Nevertheless, we feel we must stay informed and keep up with people’s websites. If only we felt that way about God’s Word. It is the only information that is needed. Choose what is better.
There are just 8,760 hours in this year, and we’ve already used 11 of them. The Word tells us to make the most of every opportunity, so what are we to do?
The next verses tell us.
Ephesians 5:18-20
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is what our priorities should be:
Be filled with the Spirit
Worship God
Give thanks to God for everything.
If God were our top priority and we did these things, stress and anxiety would be replaced with God’s peace and contentment. The Holy Spirit would affect our decisions, our scheduling, our relationship with others, and our whole outlook on life.
To maintain this relationship with God, we must schedule some definite time each day to pray and to read His Word. If you don’t have that time scheduled in your day, do it today.
Our second priority should be to spend time with our family. Spend time with your spouse—just the two of you—no one else. Do this often, make memories. Don’t put it off.
Spend time with your children, too. They grow up so fast. These are precious moments. Soon they will be gone. Make sure that you spend quality time with your children. Now is the time to do this. Later they will want to spend time with their friends.
The two greatest robbers of time are regrets for things we did in the past, and anxiety about what will happen to us in the future. Many of us are living either in the past or in the future and we miss living today. We need to learn how to live in the present. How do we do it?
Psalm 118:24
This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Rejoice and be glad today! Too many of us are focused on our fantasies of, "I wish it were next week," or "I wish I was retired," or some such thing. Someone said, "Life is what happens to you while you’re making plans to do something else." Enjoy God and what He wants you to do today, for we do not know what tomorrow will bring.
James 4:13-17
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.
What is your life?
You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.
Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
This does not mean there are not goals to pursue. No, Paul set goals. Here is an example:
Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
This should be our goal, too.
Yes, we all have an imperfect past. Irreparable things happened to us. We have lost opportunities, which will never return. We still suffer the consequences of past sin, but God can transform our losses and regrets into constructive lessons for the future.
Therefore, don’t let the past define you. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. God allows the memory of the past to teach us and give us a ministry to others who have experienced similar things.
So “forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead”. This only happens by intentional, determined effort. Now is the time to move forward. The goal is worth the effort. God has promised a prize when we reach the end—Heaven.
Let me suggest three things that will help us “press on toward the goal” this year.
FIRST, develop an intimate relationship with Christ. Spend time in the Word and continually pray. Talk to God and listen to Him throughout the day.
Spend a quiet time with the Lord every day. Pick a time and commit to it, letting nothing else interfere. It may mean rising earlier in the morning to allow time before other things must be done. After your quiet time, do what the Word tells you. Obedience to Christ’s Word will keep you abiding in Him and Jesus abiding in you.
John 14:23-24
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
SECOND, forgive. When we choose to forgive, we are the one set free. We may not think we can do it, because the hurt is so great, but with God’s grace it is possible. We all need the grace of God Almighty to forgive. And forgive; we must, for our sake. Otherwise, God will not forgive us.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
THIRD, repent of THAT sin. What do I mean by “that sin”? “That sin” is the something we personally struggle with, and maybe have given up on conquering. You know what “that sin” is for you.
Maybe it’s lying, gossiping, or anger. Maybe it’s looking at inappropriate material on the internet, TV, or the DVD player. Maybe it’s coveting. Maybe it is an addiction. Maybe it is selfishness. Whatever it is, we can begin repenting of “that sin” this year to make it a thing of the past.
Maybe it’s just plain laziness or not taking responsibility for what’s under your care. Mediocrity is the default position of life. Anybody can be mediocre, and most people are, especially when it comes to living for Christ and serving Him. Excellence, on the other hand, is rarely achieved without intentional effort. When we work toward excellence, we glorify Christ.
Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
As we continue go through a personal inventory, repenting and changing, we will improve as a body of believers and reflect the excellence of Christ. Let us surrender ourselves, our time, and our lives to the Holy Spirit, so that we may accomplish God’s will and purpose for us. There is room for improvement and ways to perform our service to God more excellently.
It is exciting to anticipate the changes God will make in us this year. However, if you have never made Jesus your Lord and Savior, you remain in your sin without much hope for improvement. Worse yet, you face an eternity in Hell.
What better way to begin a new year than starting your life anew with Jesus Christ. Now is the time to do it. Today is the day of salvation. Give Jesus your past and your future, by repenting of your sin and self-determination. Then be baptized. Jesus will give you forgiveness and a new life in His Spirit. You will become a new creation and the Holy Spirit will continually transform your life.
Now is the time.
December 25, 2022
For a few days, folks will be frequently asking us, “What did you get for Christmas?” In response, we usually describe the presents we received. When we do that, we fail to acknowledge the greatest gift we have received—a Savior and grace from God to believe in Him.
2 Corinthians 9:15
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Why does Paul call this gift "indescribable?"
First of all, Jesus is "indescribable" because of His nature. How would you describe Jesus? What words would you choose to describe someone Whom the Bible says is the Beginning and the End? He is both holy and yet still human, the Son of man, yes, but also the Son of God—Who leads His flock like a shepherd and yet is also called the Lamb. How could the healer be the wounded One? How could a Holy God die for any reason, let alone for our sins?
Since He is beyond our understanding, God gives us His indescribable grace to believe, not that Jesus Christ represents God to me, but that He is God! If Jesus Christ is not God, then we have no God! Because Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are One and the Same! (In the same way, being spirit, soul, and body—each of us is one person.) We can’t explain it adequately, but we have God’s grace to believe it!
Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Immanuel means "God with us." Jesus Christ is not a man who became Divine. He is God who descended to become a man! He emptied Himself of His glory, to become one of us, and experience everything we experience—even birth, by being born of a virgin—even obedience and death, death on a cross.
So, how do we describe Almighty God, who is Spirit, now appearing in flesh as a weak baby in a manger—how do we explain that to people and make sense? We can’t. You see, His nature is indescribable!
Second, Jesus is indescribable because of His unique purpose in coming to earth. No one else has this purpose. Jesus Christ became Man to atone for sin and bring the whole human race back into oneness with God by dying on the cross. Never separate the birth of Jesus in a stable from the Atonement on the Cross! Jesus Christ is God Incarnate for one purpose, to bring back the whole human race into oneness with Himself. How that is done?
Jesus is God and Man in one body. God is brought down to man in Christ, and Man is lifted up to God in Christ. The two, God and man, are made one flesh in Jesus Christ. God does this in the same mysterious way when He makes a man and a woman one flesh in marriage. That is why marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. It is God and man dwelling together in oneness.
That is the mystery of the Gospel, the New Covenant—man’s oneness with God through Jesus Christ! When we are born again of the Spirit, we are in Him and He is in us by His Spirit! God makes us one with Himself. It is indescribable, even after it happens to you!
Philippians 2:6-8
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Jesus Christ came to the earth where Adam was created, and He lived in our world and showed us what God’s normal man was like before he sinned. Then Jesus did what no man could ever do—He made the way for man to get back to the position he had lost. By Jesus’ obedience and the sheer power of His Blood Atonement, we can be reinstated in God’s favor like Adam had before he sinned. Jesus gave us His righteousness—by becoming our sin—and sacrificing Himself, effectively atoning for our sins.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
How do we explain this Gift of righteousness to sinful people? How do we describe God who has all knowledge when all we have is limited knowledge? How do we describe God who is all powerful and eternal when we have no concept of omnipotence and eternity? How do we describe the indescribable? Paul says that we can’t. Words aren’t adequate. Therefore, faith is required to understand the indescribable, and God gives us the faith to believe! That grace, too, is indescribable!
Luke 2:10-14
And the angel said to them [shepherds], “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
“Where’s the peace?” you may be wondering. The peace declared by the angels is peace that Jesus restored between God and man.
There will never be peace between men until men repent of their sin, and their hearts and minds are changed, because the Holy Spirit has come into their lives. When men become one with Jesus Christ first, then they can be one with each other.
Jesus, God’s gift, is indescribable because of His nature, because of His purpose in coming to earth, and thirdly, because of the mercy and love by which Jesus is given.
You know, almost every gift that we give at Christmas is given because the recipient of that gift has some claim on us. Now you might not like that idea, but let us be honest. We buy a gift for our spouse because they are our spouse. We buy gifts for our children because they are our children. We buy gifts for our grandchildren because they’re our grandchildren. We buy gifts for family members because they are family.
I’m not saying that is wrong, but God’s indescribable gift is different. He doesn’t owe us anything. Indeed, we are His enemy and in constant rebellion against Him.
With that in mind, Paul says something remarkable in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God gives a gift, not because He feels obligated to give a gift, but because His love is so overwhelming. Jesus is a gift of mercy. We don’t deserve it and we didn’t earn it. On top of that, God gives us grace to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
When we are saved by God’s grace and born again by His Spirit, our minds and eyes are opened. Then we begin to understand the Scriptures and the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We realize Christianity is not a creed or a religion, but a relationship with God that illuminates us and causes us to declare, “I see Who Jesus is! I know Him! And He knows me! I can’t describe Him, but I know Him!”
This brings us to the fourth reason Jesus is indescribable. When we receive Jesus—the indescribable gift of God—we will never be the same again, because of the effects He has on our life. Psychologists may try to change people’s behavior, but only God can change a person’s personality so that he behaves differently.
The first effect of receiving the gift of Jesus is: we are forgiven of our sin. Now, you may have heard that so many times you think, "So what else is new?" However, if you have ears to hear, hear what I am about to say!
Because Jesus Christ came to forgive for our sin and dwell with us, anyone can be made a child of God according to the pattern of Jesus Christ! Think about this. This refers to you! (Repeat the statement) This is the Gospel and it is indescribable. Those who believe and are baptized will become like Jesus, from one degree of glory to another, by the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives!
2 Corinthians 3:18
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Jesus simply says, “Come unto Me.” When a person does come to Jesus, he is born into another domain—the Kingdom of God—and his whole outlook is altered!
Forgiveness of sin is only part of the benefit of being born from above. The reason it is so important to us is that we are sinners on our way to Hell! But the purpose of the new birth from God’s point of view is that the believer becomes like Jesus! God took on the life of a man, so that man can take on the life of God! That is amazing and indescribable!
The second effect is: when we have faith to accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, we are born again into His family and we are guaranteed citizenship in His kingdom. Before Jesus came, we were foreigners and aliens, separated from God. But now, the new birth makes us children of Almighty God; therefore, heirs of God. Now, everything that belongs to Jesus also belongs to us! We are privileged children in God’s family because we accepted His indescribable gift—Jesus.
Romans 8:16-17
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
The third effect when we give our lives to Jesus is: we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit, the fullness of Christ abiding within us. The Holy Spirit guides us, counsels us, convicts us, corrects us, protects us, and empowers us to be like Jesus Christ.
Jesus said in Acts 1:8
“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.”
The fourth effect when we receive Jesus is: we are given His peace—not the peace of the world, but the peace that passes all understanding. It is indescribable. It is peace with God that allows us to cope with everyday situations.
Jesus said in John 14:27,
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
The fifth effect when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior is: we have an indescribable dwelling place in Heaven with God and it is eternal.
Again, Jesus said in John 14:1-2,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”
To summarize, the apostle Paul looked at Jesus and said, "I can’t describe Him”.
I tell you today, I can’t describe Him either.
Only by the grace of the Holy Spirit can we understand what we cannot describe. But the good news is that we don’t have to describe Jesus to believe in Him!
Today, the Holy Spirit is extending to each of us the opportunity to see with eyes of faith the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is not in a manger, nor is He on a cross at Calvary, neither is He lying in a grave.
Today, He sits at the right hand of the throne of God, interceding for us, and awaiting the Father’s command to return to earth to bring judgment to mankind and gather His Bride.
You see, His birth in Bethlehem 2,022 years ago, was only the first of two visits Jesus will make to earth. On that first visit, He came to purchase our salvation and reconcile us to the Father. He came to live, and die, and rise from the grave to pay for our sin and offer all of mankind eternal life through a second birth of His Spirit.
Just as Our Lord came into human history from the outside and was formed in Mary, so He must come into us from the outside and be formed in us. Our bodies are to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Have we allowed our bodies to become a ‘Temple’ for the Son of God? Has the Spirit of Jesus been born in us?
We cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless we are born from above by a birth totally unlike a natural birth. It is an indescribable birth!
Jesus said in John 3:5-8,
"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
“You must be born again” is not a command that you must obey. It is a foundational fact! You cannot “obey” it; it is the work of God, the Holy Spirit! How it happens is indescribable, but you can, by faith, believe in Jesus Christ, put your old life to death through baptism, and be raised unto a new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. You can ask the Father to fill you with His Spirit (Luke 11:13)
The question then arises, “How do we know we have been born again?”
The characteristic of the new birth is that you desire to yield yourself so completely to God that Christ is continuously formed in you for the rest of your life. His character and His personality, called the fruit of the Spirit, begin to work through you by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God living in your body and you are changing! He changes your thoughts, desires, and actions. You love God and hate evil. It is a life-long transformation. It is indescribable, but it is made possible—for you and me, by the Gift of Jesus Christ.
God wants to give you this indescribable gift this morning. Will you receive it? His gift is for you to be reconciled to Himself by trusting in the work that Jesus did on the cross and repenting of your sin, self-will, and self-righteous. If you are willing to receive His gift, publicly confess your faith in Jesus Christ and put your old life to death in baptism. Then you will be born again by the Holy Spirit and you will have a new life to live!
December 11, 2022
What Do I Still Lack?
Matthew 19:16-30
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
He said to him, “Which ones?”
And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”
Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
The rich young ruler was keeping the commandments of God, but he sensed there was something missing for him to have eternal life. Fortunately, he had come to the missing link, Jesus Christ. Without faith in Jesus Christ, no one will have eternal life in Heaven. A saving faith in Jesus means we trust in His atonement on the cross for our sin, we obey Him as Lord, and we follow Jesus instead of leading our own life.
However, many religious people are like this young ruler. They lack something because their faith is faulty. Let us look at nine errors people commonly make.
Jesus told the rich young man, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” If we want to enjoy the abundant life of Christ now, and have fellowship with God, we must keep His commandments, for He does not fellowship with sin. The Law is important because it identifies the sin in our lives that prevents our fellowship with God. The Law causes us to feel like the young man—that there is something lacking in our faith.
Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
We need God’s Law to teach us what is right, but also to help us see that we need a Savior from the wrath of God. Many who believe in Jesus as Savior still lack something—the power to keep the Lord’s commandments. They lack this because they have not repented of their sin, nor asked the Father to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that they have grace to keep the commandments.
The young man asked Jesus, "What good thing must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus replied, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” Everything we do is stained with sin. All of our righteousness is as “filthy rags”. Only God does things in purity and goodness. We need the Holy Spirit to do good, for the fruit of the Spirit includes goodness.
Titus 3:4-7
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The Lord is pleased when we are trusting Him for His free gift of forgiveness and righteousness through Christ’s atonement for sin. In addition, the Lord is pleased when we are walking by the Holy Spirit, whom He gives to us, instead of the desires of our sinful flesh.
The rich young ruler kept the commands of God, but Jesus pointed out the area of his life that he omitted because he considered his riches the proof of his righteousness. However, God is the standard of righteousness, not possessions.
1 Peter 1:14-16
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.”
Our passions can be good or evil. In this young man’s life, his passion was his wealth. He kept the commandments, but his sin of omission was failing to give up his wealth and follow Jesus.
4. PRIDE, SELF-MERIT AND VAIN CONCEIT ARE DESTRUCTIVE. The rich young ruler’s sense of security, pride, and hope were rooted in his possessions. Even though the young man was convicted that he lacked something, still he was not willing to gain what he lacked by giving up his possessions, which had become and idol to him.
Jesus said, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
Pride, self-merit, and conceit often hinder people from surrendering their life to Jesus Christ and following Him. They are proud of their accomplishments, status, or personal morality. Self-image is often based on who we think we are and what others have to say about us rather than by the Lord’s standards of perfection, which begins with humility and surrender to God.
1 Peter 5:5-7
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Only when we are willing to surrender everything for Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, will He save us and use us as His ambassador in this world.
Jim Elliot, the famous missionary to the Auca Indians of Ecuador, wrote, "He is not a fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
1 Peter 4:1-2
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Otto Konnig wrote the Pineapple Story to describe how it took nine years before he learned how to surrender his rights to possessions, health, and security completely to the Lord.
Until he did, Otto said, "I was on tranquilizers, nearly got kicked off the mission field, and could not sleep because I felt so angry and hurt. Finally, when I surrendered my rights, the natives said, "Toowan, you have become a Christian, because you do not get angry when we steal your pineapples from garden."
Otto said, "When I gave God my pineapple garden along with everything else, only then did I experience the blessings of life from Him. I suffered needlessly because I held on tightly to things the Lord wanted complete control of.
“Finally, when the natives saw that I gave whoever stole the pineapples to God, they developed a fear of God and a desire to know Him as Savior and Lord. They saw the demonstrations of God’s wrath on the thieves through failure to catch fish in the stream, that sickness came upon them, and unhealthy babies were born in their families.”
As a result, Otto was able lead more than half of the tribe in Irian Jaya to Christ, and he exported an abundance of pineapples throughout this province in Indonesia.
The Lord often uses disappointments, deficiencies, and personal failures to point out our sin and to draw us closer to His all-sufficient grace. It is only when we are willing to repent and ask the Lord for His Holy Spirit that we can be made whole, happy, and renewed.
Billions of people are turning away from the Lord as they give in to the feelings that it is too difficult to follow Jesus. Actually, it is IMPOSSIBLE to follow Jesus unless we completely surrender to the Lord, repent of sin, and are born again of the Holy Spirit. Repentance and the Holy Spirit are often what we lack for an intimate relationship with Christ.
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!”
Ask the Father for grace to repent and for His Holy Spirit so you can be filled up with His love, purpose, perspectives, and overcome the evil forces that seek to destroy you.
Most people believe the illusion that human success will satisfy. Even though the rich young ruler had nearly everything, he was still unhappy. The joy of the Lord, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is true success in this life and many people lack it because they do not abide in Christ’s love and obey Him.
Jesus said in John 15:10-11
“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.”
The old hymn summarizes it best: "Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
The young man assumed there must be another commandment to obey that would assure eternity in Heaven. What he needed was grace to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and to repent of his self-righteousness.
Many people will miss Heaven because they have faulty assumptions of how to get there. Jesus is the Way and we must follow Him.
Jesus said in John 14:1-7
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
And you know the way to where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
The rich young ruler thought that if he demonstrated sincere obedience to God’s commandments, he would earn his way into Heaven. Too many people think that if they join a church, tithe, and are sincerely trying to do good that all their efforts will cleanse them from their guilt, shame, and the penalties of sin. Sincerity is not enough to please God. We must die to our old life and ways and be born again of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Whether we are rich or poor, it is impossible earn our way into Heaven. No one can be saved from the wrath of God other than by God’s grace, giving us faith in the work of His Son, who is the Savior. Once we receive this faith, we are to repent and be baptized, so that we may be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will transform us continuously into the righteousness of Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
Every follower of Jesus comes to some point in life where they ask a similar question. Sometimes it does not appear worthwhile to follow Jesus when we see the ungodly flourish and we are persecuted for our faith. Often, we cannot see past our own flesh, trials, and cross, and we mentally ask, “Where is the benefit of following Jesus?”
Psalm 73 addresses this discouragement and then ends this way, in verses 21-28
When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you.
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
Jesus assures us that anyone who gives up something valuable for His sake will be repaid many times over. Jesus told His disciples, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
One of the best benefits of following Jesus is He changes us constantly into His image. We gradually become whole and complete in Christ. We do not mind what others say about us as long as we are enjoying an intimate relationship with our Father in Heaven.
If you wonder whether it is worthwhile to serve the Lord in this life, Jesus assures you today that it really does pay to follow Him. Come Judgment Day all will know this truth. Many will learn it in damnation, while only a few will see the truth of it in Heaven. However, you can know the Truth today.
We are not saved by our works of righteousness. We are saved by God’s mercy through faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ on our behalf. By faith in the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross, we are cleansed of our sin and born again of the Holy Spirit. All this is the grace—the work of God—justifying us and giving us eternal life. This grace is what we lack, but we cannot earn it.
If you want to be saved from the wrath of God that is upon you because of your sin, believe in Jesus as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross. Surrender your life to Jesus as your Lord and Master. Repent of your sin and die to your old life in baptism. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit. However, that is just the beginning of a new life.
Luke 9:23-24 And he [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Will you be saved today? Will you give up all the other gods that occupy space in your life, believe in Jesus as your Savior, and obey Him as the Lord of your life? Will you be filled with the Holy Spirit? Will you deny yourself, take up a cross daily, and follow Jesus?













1. Wonderful blessings come to those who respond to the gospel of

Christ in baptism...

a. They receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit

- Acts 2:38-39

b. They experience a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy

Spirit - Titus 3:5-7


2. Indeed, by God's grace they are "saved"...

a. Saved from their past sins - cf. Mark 16:16

b. With sins washed away by the blood of Jesus - Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:7

c. Becoming heirs according to hope of eternal life - Titus 3:7


3. Yet in another sense, they are still to be "saved"...

a. They must make their call and election sure - 2Peter 1:10

b. They must be careful to save themselves - cf. 1Timothy 4:16

c. They must remain faithful to receive the crown of life - Revelation 2:10


[What is one to do after baptism that will ensure remaining faithful

to the Lord? There are some...]





1. By virtue of being in Christ - 2Corinthians 5:17

2. Having been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life - Romans


-- God has given you new potential for living!



1. We begin our new life as "babes in Christ" - 1Corinthians 3:1

2. We start with spiritual "milk" - 1Corinthians 3:2

-- God allows you time to grow! - cf. Hebrews 5:12-14



1. As a babe, you can be easily "tossed about" - cf. Ephesians 4:14

2. Satan often strikes hardest at the beginning of our service

- e.g., Matthew 4:1-11

-- Satan would love to see you fail! - cf. 1Peter 5:8



1. If you allow yourself to hardened by the deceit of sin - Hebrews


2. Especially when you think you are strong - 1Corinthians 10:12

-- God can be trusted to help us through temptations - cf. 1Corinthians

10:13; 1John 2:1-2



1. An example of those who believe - 1Timothy 4:12

2. An example in both deed and word - Titus 2:7

-- Others should be able to look to you as to how to live for

Christ - cf. Philippians 3:17


[Remembering such things will certainly help keep one strong in the

faith. Also helpful are...]





1. Love Him with all your being - Matthew 22:37

2. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness - Matthew 6:33

-- This will ensure that you do all that is necessary to remain




1. Long for the Word, like an infant longs for milk - 1Peter 2:2

2. Emulate the Bereans in their attitude - Acts 17:11

-- Receive the Word with meekness, and it will save you! - cf. James




1. Jesus has made it possible to approach God's throne - Hebrews


2. Wonderful blessings come through prayer - Philippians 4:6-7

-- Be devoted to prayer, with an attitude of thanksgiving - cf. Colossians 4:2



1. We are not to forsake our assembling together - Hebrews 10:24-25

2. It is a time for fellowship, prayer, and on the first day of

the week, the Lord's Supper - Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1Corinthians 11:23-26

-- Neglecting the assemblies is a symptom of spiritual stagnation!



1. The Lord wants His disciples to make more disciples - Matthew 28:19-20

2. Those diligent in saving others are more likely to save

themselves - cf. 1Corinthians 9:19-27

-- Lose your enthusiasm for saving souls, and you may lose your





1. While not meant to be exhaustive, these are just a few...

a. Things to remember

b. Things to do

-- That may be helpful for someone recently baptized


2. But not just for new Christians; for any Christian...

a. Who has left their "first love" - Revelation 2:4

b. For they should "repent and do the first works" - Revelation 2:5

-- These are some of the "first works" that one needs to do


Are you in need of doing the "first works"...? Perhaps you even need to

obey the "first steps" of the gospel of Christ... - cf. Mark 16:16; Acts

2:38; 22:16