Friday, September 02, 2011
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1).
Psalm 23 is one of the simplest yet loveliest poems ever written. Its lines are as simple as childhood rhymes, yet its meaning is as deep as an archangel’s anthem. We could well afford to deprive ourselves of some of earth’s most magnificent libraries rather than deprive ourselves of this precious little poem. Psalm 23 is the reflective thinking of an aged man who had been forgiven and who had discovered some wonderful truths about God. It is a confession of faith, a profession of faith, and a proclamation of faith. It is an anthem of grace. It is a shout of joy-an exclamation from the heart of a man who is overflowing with love and gratitude for his God.
Let me point out three distinct themes in Psalm 23. In verses 1-4 our God is the Shepherd. The scene is a pasture, and we are his sheep. In verse 5 the scene is a banquet, and God is the Host and his people are the guests. In verse 6 the scene is our eternal home, and God is the Father and we are his children. The Shepherd becomes the Host, and the Host becomes the Father. The pasture becomes the table, or the banquet room, and the banquet room becomes the eternal home of the heavenly Father. The sheep become the guests, and the guests become the children. It is wonderful for our Savior to be pictured as a Shepherd. It is better to think of our God as a Host. It is even more wonderful to think of him as being our eternal, loving, heavenly Father. The pasture scene is beautiful, the banquet room is even more beautiful, but the eternal home of the redeemed is beyond compare. It is very fruitful and productive to think of ourselves in terms of the sheep, and it is a greater privilege to be a guest, but it is even more wonderful to be a child in the home of the heavenly Father.
In the New Testament we read about the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, and the Chief Shepherd. As the Good Shepherd in Psalm 22, Jesus gives his life for the sheep. As the Great Shepherd in Psalm 23, he lives to guide, nourish, protect, and help the sheep. In Psalm 24, as the Chief Shepherd, he comes to receive unto himself those who have trusted him, those who love him and have followed him.
Psalm 23 is in some respects a theological treatise, for it talks about God. It gives us a man’s experience of God. This psalm is not about man. It is not man-centered; it is God-centered. You can discover much about the greatness, the goodness, the character, the nature, and the purpose of God in the psalm.
In this beautiful psalm we find that there is progression or advance from one scene to the other. The psalmist is trying to get across to us the same thought that our Savior labored to plant in the hearts of his disciples when he taught them to think of God in terms of a loving, devoted, merciful heavenly Father. Only in one recorded instance did Jesus ever address God in a different manner. That was when he was on the cross with the sin of a needy world bearing down on his soul. When he was dying under the penalty of our guilt, he cried, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
In every other instance, Jesus addressed the Creator, the Eternal One, as Father. He is a Father who is infinitely wise, bountifully good, and perfectly kind. He sees the end from the beginning, and his purposes toward us are always purposes of love. The psalmist was trying to get across in prophetic symbolism that which Jesus was to teach explicitly during his earthly ministry.
Evidently Jesus was using Psalm 23 as a text for his comments recorded in John 10.
1) The Good Shepherd and his sheep.
The Good Shepherd leads his sheep.
He is not a driver. He is a leader. He is always out in front.
The Good Shepherd feeds his sheep.
The Good Shepherd protects his sheep.
One day when David was a shepherd boy, a bear came out of the wilderness to attack the sheep. With his club, David stood between the sheep and the bear and finally was able to slay the bear. On another occasion, a lion came out of the thicket to attack the sheep. Instantly, David, with his club, was between the sheep and the lion and was able to slay the lion.
Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, took his club, the cross, and stood between his sheep and sin, Satan, death, and the grave. He literally died for the salvation of his sheep. The Good Shepherd gave his life completely for his sheep. Oh, how he loves us! How he wants to protect us! How grateful we should be that though he had the power to lay down his life for us, he also had the power to take it up again.
The Good Shepherd understands his sheep. He died for his sheep and rose again to lead his sheep.
2) The sheep of the Good Shepherd.
In the Good Shepherd chapter, John 10, Jesus makes seven remarks about sheep.
The sheep know their Shepherd.
They know his voice.
They hear his voice.
The good sheep follow the Shepherd.
They love the Shepherd.
They trust the Shepherd.
They obey the Shepherd.
Each of us who names the name of Christ should pray that we might be good sheep, even as he is a Good Shepherd.
3) Do you know the Good Shepherd?
There is a tremendous difference in the way people read Psalm 23. Some read it and say, “The Lord is a shepherd.” Others read it and say, “The Lord is the Shepherd.” Some can read it and say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” There is a great deal of difference in saying, “There is a car,” “There is the car,” and “This is my car.” And it makes all the difference in time and all the difference in eternity if you can read this psalm and from the heart say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Now in Conclusion
Jesus Christ has a shepherd’s heart, and he loves you. He has a shepherd’s eye; he sees your needs. He has a shepherd’s strength; he is able to deliver you. He has a shepherd’s faithfulness; he will never leave you nor forsake you. He has a shepherd’s tenderness; he will give you personal attention if you will trust him in your heart. If you have not yet trusted him, give your heart to Christ today. Jesus said, “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” So come to him today.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Thursday, September 01, 2011
“Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11).
Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-13
People are born excuse makers. They have been such since the beginning of time. Adam blamed both Eve and God for his fall into sin (Gen. 3:12). His descendants have followed his example by blaming someone else when things go wrong.
While some excuses are perfectly legitimate, it should be recognized that the development of the habit of making excuses is very dangerous. Most excuses contain an element of dishonesty. If we develop the habit of always making excuses, we can rob ourselves of the habit of correcting our mistakes, which always leads to further failure. Making excuses is a form of escapism in which we refuse to accept responsibility for either our actions or our decisions.
When you are brought face-to-face with an opportunity to render some Service to God or to be helpful to others, do you instinctively seek an excuse to avoid, postpone, or escape?
If you find that you have developed the habit of making excuses, you can be both comforted and disturbed. You can be comforted by the fact that you are not alone, but you should be disturbed, for this habit can prove to be extremely dangerous to yourself and detrimental to others.
Our Scripture reading for today concerns a man who at first traveled the road of excuse making. Moses repeatedly offered excuses as to why he was not the proper person to do what God was calling him to do. Are we imitating his example? It would be wise for us to reexamine our excuses. Are they ac-ceptable to God? Are they acceptable to us personally when we give them serious thought? Would they be acceptable in the eyes of friends?
1) God needed the help of Moses to set his people free.
God appeared to Moses at the back side of the desert in a bush that burned with fire but was not consumed.
When Moses approached, God spoke to him:
I am the God of thy 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 upon God. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exod. 3:6-8)
Not only did God declare his intention of delivering the oppressed Israelites who were being treated cruelly as slaves, but he revealed the role that Moses was to play in this deliverance. “Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Exod. 3:10).
The words of God to Moses reveal the intention that the Lord Jesus had for his disciples as he commissioned them to serve as his witnesses in a sin-enslaved world.
Jesus needs the cooperation of his disciples to deliver people from the slavery and waste of sin.
Jesus continues to look to his followers in leading the unsaved out of the slavery of sin and into the freedom of sonship and faith.
2) Moses began to make excuses.
Moses replied to God as many modern people respond to their spiritual opportunities and responsibilities.
In today’s language he said, “You can just count me out. I have sheep to care for. I have my own family to consider. What you are proposing would be exceedingly difficult and inconvenient. I am not at all disposed to do this thing at this time.”
Moses knew his own limitations.
He carefully evaluated his own abilities and provided a list of his disqualifications.
He first pled his lack of fitness for the task: “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exod. 3:11). Moses was saying, “Anybody but me. I am just not cut out for that job. It’s just not my cup of tea.”
Moses next pled his lack of an exhaustive knowledge of God: “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Exod. 3:13). Moses was declaring that he had not been to Bible college or seminary. He had no experience as a Sunday school teacher or deacon. He was pleading inexperience and immaturity.
Moses next pled his lack of authority and prestige: “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee” (Exod. 4:1). Moses was forgetting God as he offered these excuses. He was assuming that his success was going to be determined by his own human ability rather than by the power of God. Many people today make this same fatal mistake and offer the same silly excuse that Moses offered.
Moses also pled a lack of speaking ability. “O my Lord, I am not eloquent. . . . I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exod. 4:10). Many people today offer the excuse that they are not public speakers. They declare that because they do not have the ability to sweep an au-dience off its feet with their oratory, they are automatically eliminated from responsibility as the servants of the Lord.
3) Moses’ excuses provoked the anger of God (Exod. 4:14).
Moses’ excuses were an insult to the truthfulness of God, for in each instance God promised to make him adequate for the task to which he was being called. Moses’ excuses were actually declarations of his lack of faith in the promises of God.
God was angry for Moses’ sake.
God was just as interested in Moses achieving his greatest possible potential as he was in delivering the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God was unhappy with this man who was staggering back in unbelief and depriving himself of the opportunity to achieve his divine destiny. God is angry with us when we make excuses, for we also stagger around in mediocrity and nothingness when we could achieve something really worthwhile in the Service of God.
God was angry with Moses for the sake of the suffering Israelites.
Moses was uniquely equipped by virtue of his personal knowledge of the court of Pharaoh and by virtue of his forty years in the wilderness to be the deliverer of these downtrodden people who were so dear to the heart of God. A loving God could not stand by in impassive unconcern toward a man who was refusing to assist in a noble venture. Neither will God be happy with us if we refuse to become involved in meeting the needs of our present world.
4) Moses finally, rather grudgingly, faced up to the responsibility and opportunity.
“And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send” (Exod. 4:13). In modern terminology Moses was saying, “If there is no one else to do it and if I can’t get around it, then I’ll go.”
There are at least two truths from this early example of Moses that can be inspiring and challenging to children of God in today’s world as they face up to the fact that God needs them and that God wants to use him in delivering others from the slavery of sin and leading them to the promised land of abundant living.
The first truth is that one does not have to be perfect to serve God effectively. Moses was far from perfect, yet God used him in a mighty way. God can use each of us and will, particularly if we voluntarily commit ourselves to cooperative activity with him.
The second thrilling truth is that God uses those who are available.
While one’s ability is of tremendous importance, one’s availability is the matter of supreme importance to God. God has chosen the simple things to accomplish mighty and wonderful things (1 Cor. 1:26-29).
Now in Conclusion
One of the most powerful parables that fell from the lips of our Savior concerned those who made excuses. He tells the story of a man who prepared a great supper and invited guests (Luke 14:16-24). One offered the excuse that he could not come because he had to attend to a piece of property. Another offered the excuse that his occupation stood in the way of his coming to the banquet. A third declared that he could not come because he had an obligation to his family. If a man develops the habit of making excuses, he can always find an excuse for saying no to God.
It would be wise for us to quit making excuses. We should be honest with our Lord, with ourselves, and with others. Let us cooperate with God. Let us face our responsibilities and quit blaming others for our failures. Let us quit living under a list of excuses.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Thursday, September 01, 2011
“And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6).
Scripture Reading: Acts 9:1-16; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
The passages of Scripture that we are considering today contain Paul’s first recorded statement as a child of God and one of his last utterances as a veteran soldier of the cross.
Paul’s ability to make the triumphant statement in his letter to Timothy is a direct result of his making the earlier statement, at the beginning of his discipleship, in utter sincerity. The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” not only expressed the sentiments of Paul at the moment, but it is a description of his continuing attitude throughout the balance of his life.
Paul’s question is appropriate for each of us under all circumstances and all times.
1) The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” acknowledges the absolute lordship of Jesus Christ.
The term lord does not have the meaning today that it had during the days of Paul. For a man to be lord meant many things. Lord was the normal address of respect in everyday Greek during those days. It was also a title of authority that distinguished between a master and a slave.
Lord was also used to describe absolute possession or ownership. It could refer to ownership of a house, a piece of property, an animal, or a slave. It was also used in legal terminology to designate one who served as a guardian for those who had no legal rights, such as women and children. This term was also the standard title of Roman emperors. The highest use of this term is found in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible where the Greek word Kurios, translated Lord, was regularly used as the name of Israel’s God. It was in this context that Paul addressed the risen Christ who confronted him as he pursued his mad career of persecuting the church.
During his earthly ministry nature had recognized and responded to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
The winds and the waves obeyed his command.
The animal world recognized and responded to his lordship.
In Mark’s gospel there is a statement in the account of Jesus’ temptation experience that is often overlooked. Mark says, “He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him” (Mark 1:13).
Why did Mark call attention to the fact that Jesus was “with the wild beasts”? The passage implies that Jesus was in their favor and that their normal fear of man was absent. It is also significant that when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem that he rode on a colt that had never been ridden before (Luke 19:30-37). Those who have had any experience with riding colts know that this would have been unusual. Is it possible that even the colt recognized the lordship of Jesus?
The demons recognized the lordship of Jesus.
Repeatedly throughout the New Testament, we observe Jesus commanding evil spirits to surrender their sovereignty over the lives of those who had been enslaved by evil. They recognized him and resented him, but they also obeyed him (Mark 5:7-13).
Jesus accepted recognition as Lord by his disciples.
He said, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13:13). On another occasion he rebuked them because they did not assume the responsibilities of his lordship. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
In writing his epistle to the Philippians, Paul declared that everyone should recognize and respond to the lordship of Jesus.
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
2) The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” was the expression of a surrendered heart.
By this question Paul was giving voice to his inward repentance toward God and the beginning of his faith toward Jesus Christ as Savior.
While there are many factors that contributed to this change of attitude toward God and new openness to Jesus, there came the decisive moment when Paul responded with the surrender of his heart to Jesus.
Henceforth the will of Christ was to be sovereign and supreme in every area of Paul’s life.
Unreserved and unfaltering allegiance to the will of God as he understood it was to be the dominant passion of Paul’s life.
3) The question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” was the beginning of a great career.
Paul actively identified himself with the greatest person and with the greatest cause on earth.
The person was Jesus Christ, and the cause was the kingdom of God, which was to find spiritual visibility in the establishment of churches in many different cities and countries between this moment and the moment of Paul’s martyrdom in Rome.
Have you found some great person with whom you can identify?
We cannot live our lives in isolation from others. Life is made up of relationships, and relationships are created by choice. Each of us would be wise to choose to identify with persons who can challenge us to become what God would have us to be.
Have you chosen a cause in which to invest your time, energy, and financial resources?
Life is made up, not only of relationships to persons, but to institutions. What place have you given to the church? Dr. M. E. Dodd once said, “A dollar invested in a New Testament church will rise higher, sink deeper, spread wider, go farther, and last longer than a dollar invested in any other institution on earth.”
If this is true concerning dollars, it is also true concerning energy, effort, and time. Many are making the sad mistake of giving first-rate loyalty to third-rate causes and giving third-rate loyalty to the church, which is a first-rate cause. Because Paul was responding to the will of his Savior, the church was foremost among all institutions in his concern and in his effort.
4) The question “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” opens the door so that the will of God may be known.
The will of God is not something to be feared. It is something to be discovered and grasped. The will of God is not that which a cruel, compassionless fate would impose upon us; rather, it is the high and holy plan of the loving God.
Our life is at its highest and best when it is lived in the circle of the divine will.
Paul described the will of God as good and perfect (Rom. 12:2).
If we are willing to do God’s will, it is possible for us to know God’s will.
God’s will can be discovered by reverently reading the Word of God.
God’s will can be discovered in the closet of prayer.
God’s will can be discovered through worship.
God’s will can be discovered by counseling with devout and mature Christians.
God’s will can be discovered through serious, prayerful thought.
Now in Conclusion
“Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” is everyone’s question, and it should be your question. It is urgent because you need to know what the Lord would have you do today.
If you do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, it is the will of God that you be saved. If you are here as a negligent follower of Christ, it is the will of God that you rededicate your life and become a devout follower and servant. Let his will become your will today. Let his way be your way today and always.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” (2 Tim. 1:5).
Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-12
Sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, law enforcement officers, educators, and social workers are reminding us repeatedly of the importance of the home. The influence of the home for good or bad has been the subject of many books, countless articles, and innumerable speeches.
While the family unit is made up of a man, a woman, and children, the woman is at the center, and the lives of others are good to the degree to which the woman takes her calling seriously, making their welfare her major concern. In the twenty-first century, mothers face myriad complex problems and chal-lenges. Although the mothers of yesterday faced some problems that are practically nonexistent today, the modern mother faces problems undreamed of a short time ago.
1) If you would provide for your children a Christian mother, consider motherhood as a Christian calling.
There is a call to the ministry of preaching.
There is a call to the ministry of religious education. There is a call to the ministry of sacred music. And there is a call to the ministry of missions at home and abroad.
Let us recognize the high call to Christian motherhood-the fulfilling of God’s plan and purpose for you.
With Paul, press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).
Eunice and Lois are still recognized today because they did an outstanding job in training a son and grandson.
The Christian mother should be a leader in worship.
The Christian mother can be a professor of biblical knowledge. “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).
The Christian mother should be a teacher of Christian ideals.
The Christian mother should be an example of Christian graces. “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14).
2) If you would provide your children a Christian mother, recognize your need for help.
You need the help of God.
Make much of the Bible in your personal life.
Be familiar with the closet of prayer. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6).
Walk by faith, claiming the promises of God.
Follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
You need the help of your husband.
He should be a Christian.
He should be a good steward.
He should be a servant of Jesus Christ.
You need the help of the church.
There is no substitute for public worship.
Yours should be a wholesome and enthusiastic participation in the church’s program of education, training, missionary activities, and worship.
3) If you would provide for your children a Christian mother, dedicate yourself to God.
Eunice and Lois sent Timothy forth as a servant of Jesus Christ.
He was a man of immeasurable unselfishness.
He had the capacity for gentle devotion.
He was warmhearted and loyal (1 Cor. 4:17).
He possessed charm and gentleness with tenderness and patience.
He was willing to sacrifice himself without reservation to the cause of Christ (1 Cor. 16:10).
These qualities are such that only a consecrated mother and grandmother could bestow them upon a son.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God . . .” (Matt. 6:33).
Now in Conclusion
Perhaps the greatest contribution that you as a parent will make to the kingdom of God will be in the child or children you raise for his glory. May God bless you with the faith and grace that you need for serving him day by day through the years at this post of duty.
There can be no question concerning a mother’s need for Christ as Savior. If you have not trusted him, then today would be a good day to decide to let him come into your life. And there is no question that for a mother to be the best possible mother, her husband needs to be a devout Christian. As the husband of your wife, you are the only man who can bestow this blessing upon her and upon your children. If you are not already doing so, then let today be the beginning.
Probably some here today have forsaken the devout teachings of a godly mother. The best way you could honor either your living mother or your departed mother is by renewing your vows to her Lord and begin serving him. Today would be a good time to begin.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Thank you all for sharing your love towards me while I was away on vacation. I love each and everyone of you my dear brothers and sisters ! You mean alot to me !! Pastor Mike
Thursday, August 18, 2011
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:7-9).
Scripture Reading: Philippians 3
That your life be a life of Christian joy is God’s intention for you. If you are not a joyful Christian, you are something less than God wants you to be.
Having clearly shown that the cause of Christian joy is our fellowship with other Christians, the apostle goes on to point out that the life of Christian joy can be lived regardless of the place we are in or the people we are with.
In Philippians 3 a disturbing fact is set forth-that the person I am has a tremendous bearing on my living the life of Christian joy. Paul even suggests that the reason I am not living the life of Christian joy may well be explained by the person I am!
Some Christians will never live the life of Christian joy simply because of the level on which they are content to live their Christian lives. The plain truth is this: if you are to live the life of Christian joy, you must be a certain kind of person.
Three words suggested in Philippians 3 must characterize my attitude toward the person I am if I am to live the life of Christian joy. The first is a rather unexpected word-bankruptcy.
1) Bankruptcy (Phil. 3:1-19).
The apostle contends that bankruptcy in the spiritual sense is one of the prerequisites for happiness. “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ” (3:7).
As Paul reviews his rich traditions and the triumphs that characterized his Christian service, he declares that they are of no value. He sees himself as bankrupt in the presence of his Lord. He seems to be saying, “If you and I are going to be truly happy, we must acknowledge that we have nothing and that we are nothing apart from Christ.” Our Savior said something close to this: “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (see Matt. 5:3).
We must admit our spiritual bankruptcy regardless of our cultural, social, or religious heritage.
Paul recalls how he was part of all that was best in the heritage of the Jewish faith. But after knowing Jesus, he considers all his rich heritage as worthless and himself as bankrupt (Phil. 3:1-8).
Like this apostle, you must no longer rely on your unimpeachable character, your family background, or even your religious affiliation. They are of no value at all in making things right between you and your God. You must humbly receive salvation as a free gift from God, not as just payment for your works or your heritage.
Regardless of the victories in your Christian service, you must see yourself as bankrupt (3:13).
Paul’s victories had been amazing. He had established churches, traveled scores of miles, suffered much for Christ, won men and women to his Lord, and gained a vast knowledge of Christian doctrine. Yet as he looked back, he said, “I count not myself to have apprehended [arrived]” (3:13).
A real danger for us is that we will rely on our past victories to satisfy us for today-and we go stale. We strive to get the fun and sparkle of the Christian life by living on stale grace.
Is your Christian experience stale? Is it moldy like old bread? We are called to walk in “newness of life,” and to do this we must have new victories and new experiences with Christ each day.
Regardless of the hypocrisy that is prevalent, you must remain undisturbed by it and continue to see yourself as bankrupt.
Do not give up and give in by joining those who so twist the truth that it leads them into a life of hypocrisy, indulgence, and shame (3:18-19).
Paul says that you won’t find any real joy in that kind of life. To live that way is to become an enemy of the cross, and no enemy of the cross ever lives the life of Christian joy.
If we must admit our bankruptcy, we must also experience a blessed intimacy.
2) Intimacy (3:10).
The word translated “know” is not the “know” of the intellect; it is the “know” of intimacy. We see the intimacy of this word in its usage in Matthew 1:25 where it is said of Joseph that he “knew [Mary] not till she had brought forth her firstborn son.” Here as in other places this word “know” is used to describe marital relations. This verb indicates the closest and the most intimate and the most personal knowledge of another person. So then, it is not Paul’s aim “to know facts about Christ” but personally “to know” Christ.
You must share an intimacy with the person of Jesus Christ-“That I may know him.”
How often we get things out of order. Sometimes we put power first; sometimes we put blessings first; sometimes we put success first; and sometimes we put the fullness of the Spirit first. But if we put any of these first we are wrong! “That I may know him.” This is a corrective we can apply to much of our thinking and to much of our praying.
If you have your spiritual priorities out of order, then get them straightened out and put the person of Christ first, for this is the way to “the life of Christian joy.”
Yours should be an intimacy with the power of the Lord-“That I may know . . . the power of his resurrection.”
The Reverend L. F. Wilkinson of England told of a Frenchman who became an Englishman because he so admired the British way of life. He had lived in England for so long that he decided to take out his papers and become an Englishman. Someone asked him what difference it made. “Well,” he said, “among other things, I find that now instead of losing the battle of Waterloo I’ve won it!” He had stepped into the heritage of all that Britain had fought for and all that Britain had won, and it was now his. When you and I step into Christ, we step into a new power, a resurrection life; and all that Christ has achieved and won becomes ours if we care to use it.
An intimate knowledge of the sacrificial love of your Lord is part of the secret to the life of Christian joy. “That I may know . . . the fellowship of his sufferings.”
What does the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ mean? He bore the sins of the world, and you and I will never come to know him unless we get under the burden of our world’s need. That is why some Christians do not know Christ intimately. It is not that they do not know their Bible, for they know their Bible well enough. But they do not know their Lord in the fellowship of his sufferings. They never will know the joy of Christian living until they know the sacrificial love of Jesus Christ.
In the life of Christian joy, if there is a bankruptcy and an intimacy, there also must be an expectancy.
3) Expectancy (3:12, 14, 20-21).
Some Christians are not expectant. But Paul was. There is always a tomorrow; there is always something new and exciting. This is why he was always rejoicing. In this joyous expectancy, three things play an important part.
“The high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).
This is the voice of God, and that is all that really mattered to Paul. The one voice that kept on calling him to scale the heights was the “high calling of God in Christ.”
Scores of voices call you today-the voices of friends, foe, society, self. But only as you give heed to the voice of God alone will you know the happy expectancy that the life of Christian joy can bring.
The dream that God has for his child (3:12).
Most parents have a dream for their child, and God has a dream for you. You must press on, or you will disappoint Christ and cause his dream for you to go unrealized.
The prize to be won and our anticipation of gaining it.
“I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).
What is this “prize” that held Paul in such expectancy? It is certainly not an earthly prize. It is the thrill of hearing our Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Whether I hear these words and win the prize that crowns the life of Christian joy depends on the person I am.
Now in Conclusion
My work for the day is almost through;
Was it all as in His sight?
Would Jesus be able to say, “Well done!”
Supposing He came tonight?
There’s a tiny sin on my soul today,
And I can’t make my face look bright.
Would Jesus ask, “Aren’t you glad I’ve come?”
Supposing He came tonight?
Lord Jesus, I want more grace each day,
To help me walk aright,
So that my heart may gladly welcome You
Supposing You came tonight.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
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