Sunday, April 21, 2013
“We preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:17–23; 2:1–5
There are so-called experts today in the field of religious authority who believe that the day of preaching is gone. The sermon is looked upon as an uninterrupted and unchallenged monologue, and this is the day of the dialogue, we are told. To live and prosper in this day, some say we must swing our emphasis from preaching to ministry.
I say we must have both, for preaching and ministry are two arms of the same body. Jesus was insistent that he came to be a minister (servant), and he went about doing good. The Bible also says, “Jesus came preaching.” These are two sides of the same coin. I am pleased to observe that both of these roles are experiencing a resurgence of interest and response in our day.
Not only is there a renewed interest in preaching, but there has never been a greater response to the preaching of the cross. The apostle Paul could well have centered his preaching in philosophy, in the Old Testament Law, in the Prophets, in Jewish traditions and practices, or in a social gospel as an answer to the social problems of his society. Paul was a learned man, a scholar, but he chose to preach Christ crucified, and God blessed his preaching.
There are those who say, “Just preach Jesus.” But that is not enough. Satan is content with the preacher who proclaims Jesus as a good man, or even as the best man who ever lived. If the preacher leaves out the cross—the blood— his message is incomplete and impotent.
As we remember the death and resurrection of our Lord, I would like for this sermon to be a personal testimony to my own ministry of the cross.
1) I preach the cross out of gratitude.
A preacher named H. S. Kolb tells this story:
When I was a student pastor, a man in the church went to a physician who removed a skin cancer from his face. Few times in life have I seen a man so grateful. He told everyone who would listen how this surgeon had delicately removed the malignant growth from his face and he was freed from its terror. He would say to a person, “Do you have a cancer? Do you know anyone who has a cancer? I know a surgeon who can make that person well.” What would you think of a person cured of cancer who would withhold information and hope from another who was gripped with the same dread disease?
Christ, through his death on the cross, has provided a remedy for a disease far worse than cancer. No surgeon can remove this malignancy, and it is humanly incurable. It is called sin. The outcome of this disease, if not cured, is death, not only of the body, but of the soul. Out of gratitude to the Great Physician, I want everyone I meet to know about him. When I think of so many others still in the throes of this enslaving disease, I must not rest until they have all been warned of its consequences and informed of its cure. And that remedy is proclaimed in the preaching of the cross.
2) I preach the cross because it never grows old.
I want to preach a fresh gospel, and the story of the cross is always fresh news. You may read the account of the cross in any of the Gospels in just a few minutes, you may memorize parts of Scripture, and you may become familiar with the contents of the Bible; yet each time you read Scripture with your heart open to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, new truth will leap out of the inspired pages and new applications will be revealed for your life. If you wish to preach a gospel ever new, then preach the story of Christ crucified.
3) I preach the cross because of its adequate comfort to the human heart.
Pastor Kolb also told this story:
During the dark days of World War II, I was called to a home where grief-stricken parents had just received a telegram telling them that their oldest son had died in combat. As I sat with those parents, seeking to bring them comfort, I did not say, “We’ll get even with the enemy that killed your boy.” This would not have brought comfort. I told them that God understood, for he, too, had experienced the loss of his Son in the war against evil. I assured them that someday the war would be over and we could carry the message of the Prince of Peace to all the world with the hope that wars would cease.
One day a number of years ago, a young Korean exchange student at the University of Pennsylvania and a leader in Christian affairs on the campus left his room to stroll down to the corner to mail a letter to his parents. Eleven leather-jacketed teenagers came upon him, and without a word, they attacked him with their fists, blackjacks, and lead pipes. Then they fled, leaving him dead in the street.
The city where this heinous crime took place was shocked and incensed. An international incident seemed imminent as the story of this tragic, senseless murder was announced throughout the world. Then a letter was sent from Korea, signed by the parents and twenty other relatives of the student. It was addressed to the law enforcement authorities where the crime had taken place. It read as follows:
Our family has met together and decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given those guilty of this crime. In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released. We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins.
4) I preach the cross because it is the only means of salvation from
The night before Jesus died on the cross, he prayed, “O my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me.” In other words, he said, “If there be any other possible means by which people may be saved from their sins, then let this bitter cup of crucifixion pass from me.” God answered that prayer the next day when he allowed his Son to die on the cross. Forevermore it was declared, “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” The way is Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Now in Conclusion
In the center of downtown London is a famous landmark called Charing Cross. It is often called “The Cross.” The story is told of a little boy lost in the London fog. A policeman sought to assist him. “Is there any building or monument that is familiar to you that is near your home?” he asked. A light came over the boy’s face as he said, “If you will take me to the cross, I think I can find my way home from there.” And this is our message—the preaching of the cross that has guided multitudes through the ages into the safety of the Father’s house.
God bless you, Pastor Mike
Saturday, April 13, 2013
“And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: when I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it” (Josh. 7:20–21).
Scripture Reading: Joshua 7:1–26
The arrival of Israel in the Promised Land was a success story. The Israelites had crossed the Jordan victoriously, had met God at Gilgal, and had conquered Jericho. When we come to Joshua 7 we find Israel in retreat and in defeat and Joshua on his face before God, filled with dismay and crying out to God for an answer:
Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name? (vv. 7–9)
God answered Joshua’s prayer:
And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. (vv. 10–12)
Achan was the man who caused Israel to lose the battle of Ai. He is mentioned three times in the Bible and always with reference to the defeat at Ai (Josh. 7; 22:20; 1 Chron. 2:7). He not only caused Israel to lose their battle in the conquest of Canaan, but he lost his own battle with life.
God does not want his children to lose the battle of life. He wants us to be victorious. Why did Achan lose?
1) The man who is covetous loses the battle of life.
Achan said: “I coveted them” (Josh. 7:21). The tenth commandment is a prohibition of covetousness. Paul pointed out that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Covetous persons give themselves to wrong appetites, wrong desires, and wrong intentions.
Achan gave himself to covetousness, to gaining this world’s goods. He sought that which it was not right for him to have. He was a covetous man, and his covetousness is one of the reasons he lost the battle of life.
2) The man who disobeys God’s commands loses the battle of life.
Joshua had given to Israel God’s commands concerning Jericho (Josh. 6:17–19; 7:11). Jericho and all that was in it were to be devoted to the Lord. The people were to be put to death with the exception of Rahab and her family. The Israelites must have faced great temptation in having to destroy so many valuable things instead of taking them for themselves, but God had given his commands, and they were to be obeyed.
Achan disobeyed God and took of the spoils of Ai that were set apart by the Lord.
3) The man who transgresses God’s covenant loses the battle of life.
God had made a covenant with Joshua and Israel for the seizure and capture of Jericho. The covenant must be kept. Everything in Jericho was to be devoted to the Lord. All living beings were to be slain. The destructible materials were to be burned, and the indestructible materials were to be consecrated to the service of God. The sin was more than an act of disobedience; it was a violation of the divine covenant.
The sin of Achan was a sacrilege, a robbery of God, an impious seizure. The secrecy with which the sin was committed was a defiance of the omniscience of God. Achan violated God’s covenant with Israel.
4) The man who steals from God loses the battle of life.
Achan took that which belonged to God: “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I have commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen” (Josh. 7:11). The fact that God had condemned the property and consecrated the metals should have kept Achan from stealing the property.
Sin deprives God not only of silver and gold, but of honor, love, service, and talents.
What are you taking from God? Are you taking the tithe? Are you taking time set aside for the worship of him?
5) The man who is untruthful loses the battle of life.
The King James Version says Achan “dissembled.” The New International Version translates the word as “lied.” The word means “to act deceitfully, to play the part of a hypocrite.” Achan acted untruthfully; he acted a lie.
Victories in life are won by people who are truthful before God.
6) The man who serves self rather than God loses the battle of life.
The trouble with Achan was that he wanted to serve self rather than God. He was more interested in his own desires than the desires of God. What he wanted was more important than what God wanted. He was not fully committed to God and God’s way.
You will not win the battle in life as long as you serve self. God’s desires must be considered. The accursed thing must be taken away. Everything done must please God and must be done for God’s glory.
7) The man who dishonors God’s name loses the battle of life.
Joshua felt that what Achan had done would dishonor God’s great and precious name. “And what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (Josh. 7:9).
No person can sin and glorify God’s name. No person can sin without affecting others. No person can grow cold spiritually without lowering the temperature of those around. That person will either honor or dishonor the name of God.
Now in Conclusion
Are you winning the battle of life? Are you following God’s will for you and yours? Be an overcoming Christian and win life’s battle.
God bless you, Pastor Mike
Sunday, April 07, 2013
“The Lord hath need of them” (Matt. 21:3).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1–11
The last several decades have witnessed a steady succession of public demonstrations for special causes. A nonviolent demonstration in Montgomery, Alabama, in the mid-1950s began the civil rights movement and started Martin Luther King Jr., on a spectacular career as the movement’s leader. In more recent times, protests associated with the Occupy movement have sprung up in cities all across the United States to protest corporate greed and corruption. And throughout the years, protestors have held peace marches to call to end our participation in war.
Demonstrations are not a new means of expression of public opinion. The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the last week of his earthly life was an emotional demonstration. Jerusalem was crowded with those who had gathered to observe the Passover, the most important feast of the year. The crowds were keyed up with national expectations that God would raise up a king to deliver them from the power of Rome. Shouts of “Hosanna!” filled the air as the crowd acclaimed Jesus as King. The King came riding, not as an earthly king on a white horse, but as the Prince of Peace on a lowly donkey.
1) We marvel at Jesus’ courage.
Jesus publicly entered the hostile city. He could have skipped this dramatic entrance and slipped into Jerusalem after dark through the back streets. But his hour of coronation had arrived, and he willingly occupied the center of the stage. Every eye was on him, including the envious and vengeful eyes of his enemies.
2) We marvel at Jesus’ open claim for himself.
Jesus allowed the multitude to recognize him as God’s Messiah. Had he been satisfied to be just another prophet, he would likely have escaped death at the hands of his adversaries. But he could not deny himself. To be Lord of all and, surely, to be the Savior of humankind, he consciously and confidently traveled a road that would lead irrevocably to the cross.
3) We marvel at Jesus’ tears.
A strong man weeping is always a moving scene. But there come times and experiences when words are powerless and when the only release from an overwhelming sorrow is the flow of tears. At such a time, tears are the good gift of God.
Jesus stood above the beloved city of Jerusalem and saw its poverty, its materialism, its empty religious forms and practices, and its unbelief. He saw the hate and bitterness of those who plotted his death. He saw the calloused rejection of his spiritual claims by the multitude. He saw the impending doom that hung over the city. He saw people, teeming multitudes of people, as sheep without a shepherd. And he wept in his overwhelming sorrow as they faced the judgment of God.
4) We marvel at Jesus’ gracious lowliness.
Jesus appeared riding on a donkey. The unsympathetic witnesses were probably amused and perplexed and scornful at this ludicrous demonstration. They were too blind to see that he was teaching them a vital lesson. His kingdom is not of this world. His victory comes not through war but through peace. Those who would follow him are not the proud but the humble, not the self-sufficient rich but the poor in spirit.
Why did Jesus choose a donkey, so awkward, so stubborn, so lowly? If he could not do any better, why didn’t he walk? (This is the only time the Bible records that Jesus rode.) He was to teach us that whatever he touched, he dignified. He was to impress upon us that no matter how despised the object, Christ had use for him.
5) God uses average, ordinary people.
There was not a highly educated man among the original disciples. Not one was a scholar. Not one had wealth or fame. Four had been fishermen. One had been a noted tax gatherer. They were men with weaknesses and flaws like the rest of us. Some had a fiery nature. They stumbled and fell. Yet Jesus took these obscure men and through them turned the world upside down.
Christ will work with anyone who will give him a consecrated heart. He is not impressed with our pious, false humility when we say, “He cannot use me because I’m not clever, I’m not talented, I’m not articulate.” He could use a lowly donkey. He can use you. Praise him as you surrender yourself to him.
6) God uses dedicated people.
Among the greatest Christian people of history, there are many who had obscure beginnings. John Bunyan was not a polished writer. He was limited in his education. Scholars sneered at his writings. But the response of the multitudes established his allegory Pilgrim’s Progress as the greatest in the English language.
When William Booth founded the Salvation Army, the press ridiculed him. The London Times always put his rank of “General” in quotes. But he led and inspired an army for Christ that has spread around the world.
Dwight L. Moody was an unlettered man. He never went to college. His manner was crude, and his grammar was atrocious. Someone said he was the only man he ever heard who could say “Mesopotamia” in one syllable. English teachers came to hear him in order to condemn his grammar. But they left praising the Christ whom Moody proclaimed. He was the greatest evangelistic influence of the nineteenth century. He gave God everything he had, and God used him far beyond other more talented but less dedicated preachers.
At Carisbrooke Castle in England, a donkey works in a little roundhouse. His job is to go around and around and around in a circle. That is all he does. There is no starting place and no stopping place. “Is there any purpose in this endless circle?” we ask. Then we observe that he is drawing water from a very deep well in the heart of the castle. He is not walking in circles for nothing. On a hot day, he can give you a cool drink. A spirited horse would not submit himself to such drudgery and monotony. But even the most obscure and humble among us can draw water from the wells of the Spirit of God and give a drink to the thirsty.
Now in Conclusion
An impressive recruiting poster during World War II pictured Uncle Sam looking straight at you, pointing his index finger in your face. Beneath his picture were the words “I NEED YOU.” The poster dramatically expressed urgency. America was fighting for its life.
Not only do we need Christ, but Christ needs us. He has no hands but our hands to do his deeds of kindness and mercy. He has no feet but our feet to do his errands of world mission. He has no tongue but our tongues to proclaim the good news of his gospel. You may feel that you do not have much to offer. All he asks is the best of what you have. He does not even require success. All he requires is faithfulness. The Lord has need of you! He wants all of you right now and forever.
Sunday, April 07, 2013
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God” (John 20:26–28).
Scripture Reading: John 20:19–29
A minister once suggested to his music director that they sing “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” The director protested, “But this is the Sunday after Easter.” The minister replied, “I know, but every Sunday is an Easter.” The good pastor had not misread the calendar. He was quite right in saying that every Sunday is an Easter.
The music director was right too. This is the Sunday after Easter. Anyone can see that! Last Sunday the churches were crowded, chairs were placed in the aisles, and to accommodate the throngs at worship, many churches had to have multiple services. That was last Sunday. Last Sunday the minister read the resurrection story and the choir sang “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Then most of us went home to the same old kind of living. We became occupied again with the “cares of this world.” We were beset by frustration, fear, and fatigue. Did Easter really make any difference? So what that Christ the Lord is risen today?
It must have been a little like that the first Easter. The women had come back from the empty tomb with the wonderful news that Christ had risen, but that seemed like an idle tale. Peter and John, the investigating committee sent to check out the women’s story, returned with the disappointing news that the tomb was indeed empty, but they could not find the Lord. Officially, the report was that the disciples had stolen the body away. It is no wonder their hearts were filled with fear and doubt. What should they do now? It seemed best to call for a church meeting that night to hear all the stories and try to get at the truth. Many questions needed answering. Where is he now? Would he show himself again? Would we recognize him? What would he look like? It was a group of anxious disciples that met that Easter Sunday night in the Upper Room.
1) Easter Sunday night.
The risen Lord.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. (John 20:19–22)
Glory! Hallelujah! It is the Lord. He is risen indeed! What an unexpected blessing it was to experience the living presence of the Lord himself. He gave his blessing of “peace” and breathed on his disciples the Holy Spirit. You never know what may happen at church on Sunday night!
The absent Thomas.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24). I wonder why Thomas was not at church that Sunday night. Maybe he was sick, or maybe company came and he forgot about the meeting. Maybe he got tied up in some business matter, or maybe he stayed home to watch a movie. Whatever the reason for his absence, he missed a great blessing.
The witnessing disciples.
“The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
That whole week after Easter, Thomas was on the prayer and visitation list of the church. On Monday Peter and John visited Brother Thomas and shared their story of running to the tomb at the report of the women, of finding the tomb empty, and then of seeing the risen Lord in person. Thomas said, “I don’t doubt what you saw, but unless I see it too, don’t expect me to believe.” On Tuesday he was visited by Mary Magdalene. Mary related her story of the early morning visit to the garden, of seeing the empty tomb, and through tears and weeping for sorrow, of seeing the risen Lord also. Thomas said, “You’ve had a great emotional experience, Mary. I’ve just been reading The Motivational Psychology of Apparitional Experiences. You know, doctors claim that sometimes in the midst of a great emotional experience, you can see and hear just what you want to—real or not.”
Poor Thomas, see what doubts he had by missing church last Sunday night! But the story of “doubting Thomas” does not end here.
2) The Sunday after Easter.
The risen Lord appeared again (John 20:26–29).
Oh the blessed patience and grace of our Lord! He did not write Thomas off. He would not let him go on in doubting faith. How tenderly the Lord stooped to Thomas’s demands. Jesus allowed Thomas the very proof he had been demanding. He allowed Thomas the double proof of sight and touch. Jesus said, “Be not faithless but believing.” “Faithless” here means a state of contentment with disbelief—a settled condition of doubt. This is the danger of missing church! Your faith cools off. The joy you once knew in Christian service and fellowship is lost. You begin to deny and doubt and grumble. Do not let this happen to you.
Thomas’s confession of faith (John 20:28).
This is the cry of personal faith. Thomas is not quoting someone else. It is his own conviction: “My Lord and my God.” Being in church the Sunday after Easter had done something to Thomas. He had a fresh vision of the risen Lord. He made a rededication of his life. His faith was revived. What Thomas said became the pattern of confession for all believers. Others had called Jesus the Christ, good teacher, miracle worker, and the Son of God, but Thomas called him “Lord and God”—“Adonai and Elohim.” Condensed here in one utterance is the meaning of the person and work of Jesus. He is Lord; that means Sovereign, the Master of life. All is committed to him. He is God; that means he is divine, Messiah, Savior.
Jesus thou art my Lord and God.
I joy to call thee mine;
For on thy head, though pierced with thorns,
I see a crown divine.
Now in Conclusion
Jesus spoke a beatitude in John 20:29. He said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” It is what we do not see that is the strength of our hearts. The apostle Paul said, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). There is a danger in seeing—in making sight the satisfaction of curiosity—and then being content. Seeing and touching may help faith, but they can never produce it.
Years later the apostle Peter remembered that Sunday after Easter and wrote: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). I call you to such a faith and joy today—this Sunday after Easter.
Friday, April 05, 2013
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes” (Isa. 61:1–3).
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 61:1–11
The prophetic word found in the Bible was given by the Lord for one purpose—that people might listen. The preaching of “good tidings” is of no avail apart from the people who will hear.
Dorothy L. Sayers, in her play The Man Born to Be King, warns against treating God’s drama of redemption as though it were a dull, ordinary nursery tale. By and large, her warning goes unheeded.
At best our world is willing only to tolerate the preaching of the gospel. Like a domineering conversationalist who occasionally, with an air of polite indifference, pauses to allow someone else to speak but uses the pause to contemplate the next verbal onslaught, our enlightened age has little interest in hearing from God. Yet the hope of the world hinges on the few who do listen to the divine message.
1) They have freedom (Isa. 61:1–2).
People who hear God’s Word are set free. The immediate audience of Isaiah 61 is exiled Israel. The good tidings from God are that they are to be allowed to return to their homeland of Palestine (Isa. 40:1–2). The good news amounts to a proclamation of emancipation. God’s message comes “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (61:1–2).
To identify with the exiled captives is not difficult. Return from captivity is an experience needed by every person. The word captives literally refers to booty carried away by conquerors. What person is not enslaved by Satan’s devious allurements, by selfish pride, and by barren habits and empty activities? Such persons need to escape the kingdom of darkness but are unable to do so. If only they will stop toying with the chains that bind them and listen to the good tidings that set people free.
“The acceptable year of the Lord” alludes to the Year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25. It occurred every fiftieth year and was a type of messianic era. Commencing at the end of the Day of Atonement, it was heralded by the shrill blasts of the silver trumpets as priests in every hamlet from Dan to Beersheba announced the good news. In effect, the message was “You are free; all debts are canceled.” Those who had been forced to sell themselves as slaves to their creditors were set free. Family property was restored. God’s law decreed that an Israelite’s inheritance could remain “sold” only until the next Year of Jubilee. This was God’s way of periodically granting a new start for those defeated by circumstances of life.
Sadly enough, there is little evidence to show that Israel adhered to the requirements of the Year of Jubilee. For this reason, it became a shadow of the promised messianic era. The heart yearns to be set free, for all things to be made right. Jesus spoke to this yearning as he stood to read in the synagogue at Nazareth and selected Isaiah 61 (Luke 4:16–21). In that moment, he set himself before the world as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise of freedom. The eternal Year of Jubilee became possible in Christ. All of sin’s bonds are broken. People are set free.
2) They have peace (Isa. 61:1).
Those who listen to God have peace as well as freedom. Isaiah appeals particularly to the “brokenhearted.” Literally the word means “that which is shattered.” A broken arm can be set, and in time it will heal, but a broken heart is another matter. Only the grace of God can heal hurts.
But what kind of blow breaks a heart? Alas, there are many answers. Circumstances can pile one on another until the heart despairs. Anxieties can leave the heart empty. To feel oneself an outcast from the inner circle of things can break a heart. I remember reading somewhere about a preacher who said that as a young man, he worried about what the world thought of him. Later in life he came to the place where he did not care what the world thought of him. Then, toward the sunset of life, he discovered the world never had been thinking of him.
You diagnose a broken heart by looking for inner peace. As long as the heart has peace, it is not utterly broken. That which deprives the heart of peace is sin and the damning guilt that accompanies sin.
God’s offered peace is not a ticket to security away from all life’s raging storms. Rather, it is a calling to purpose. Nothing is quite so haunting as the fear that life is slipping away without anything being accomplished. Those set free in Christ are called to a purposeful labor that carries with it a certain inner peace that cannot be crushed by outward circumstances.
The rampant revolt and conflict sweeping today’s world has come in the absence of inner peace. Paul Tournier ably depicted our civilization in terms of a neurosis. Like a rebellious child, our world is asserting itself in a purely negative form. We are suddenly against all the past, all authority, and all values, without offering anything to replace what we would wreck. Tournier defined a neurosis as an inner conflict. Quoting Jung, he said that the neurotic suffers because he is unaware of his problems. Having thrown Christ and the gospel out the back door, our world now wonders why it is sick, never dreaming what the real problem is. Tournier wrote that when God is dethroned, fear rules us. He attributed much of the emphasis on scientific research to humankind’s desire to escape fear by banishing all mystery. Yet Harold Urey, one of the scientists who contributed to the development of the atomic bomb, said, “I write to make you afraid. I myself am a man who is afraid. All the wise men I know are afraid”.
Only the gospel offers peace. Only God can garrison the human heart and ward off Satan’s advances: “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7).
3) They have a crown (Isa. 61:3).
The promise of a crown is crouched in a poetic figure: “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes.” By divine decree, those who listen to God are promised “beauty for ashes.” To understand the promise, one must remember the customs for mourning among the Israelites. Ashes were put on the head as a grim crown. By God’s grace, the ashes shall be replaced by a royal diadem denoting the heritage of God’s people. “Beauty for ashes” is equivalent to “joy for mourning,” hope for sorrow, life for death, and heaven for hell.
Apart from God, every person’s life and works come at last to ashes. Ashes are but a useless form of what once was of value. Sin, like a gluttonous fire, consumes a person’s kingdom and dreams, leaving only ashes. Eternal mourning is one of the most frightening aspects of hell.
In Egyptian mythology a bird called the phoenix brought about its own destruction by fire every five hundred years and then rose anew from its own ashes. The phoenix was a symbol of the ancient desire for immortality. People have always feared coming to the end of life without any hope. Only God’s message offers anything beyond the ashes of human strength.
People who listen to God with a sincere desire to claim his promises have made a choice. The gospel presents both the glorious and the fearful. The prophet dares not speak of the “acceptable year of the Lord” (the day of God’s grace) without also warning of the alternative, “the day of vengeance of our God” (61:2). To offer good is to concede the presence of evil; to offer reward is to imply the reality of punishment; to present heaven is to acknowledge the alternative of hell.
Now in Conclusion
Jesus Christ promises to visit us in an hour we know not. This visit will be glorious for those prepared, ruinous for all others.
How strange, in the light of this, that people throw up every conceivable argument against making preparation to meet God. A few years ago the newspapers carried the story of a condemned killer living on death row. When news reached him that a pardon was being considered, he pled fervently against it. His action brought on additional psychiatric study, for no rational person would reject a pardon. So it is with God’s offer of salvation. It would seem that no rational person would reject it. The fact that multitudes argue against it is a monument to the power of Satan to blind people to their greatest need. There is hope only when people listen to God.
God bless you, Pastor Mike
Get An Email Alert Each Time PASTORMIKE7 Posts