Friday, September 23, 2011
“So Abram went, as the Lord had told him” (Gen. 12:4 RSV).
Scripture Reading: Genesis 12:1-8
The hymn “Trust and Obey” could well be the theme song of the life of the patriarch Abraham, for he is well known for his trust in God and obedience to him. Today we will look at his life to learn how we too can honor God with our trust and obedience.
The flood is over. Humankind has started again with Noah’s family. Sin, however, does not cease its ugly work! Once more the world is in trouble. The Tower of Babel causes the populated world to be scattered in various directions. Idolatry has become the order of the day. What will God do? He has promised that he will not destroy the world by water again. The first worldwide judgment did not change things: man is still a sinner and must be redeemed to live righteously.
God begins a new approach: he will take a man and start a new race. Through this person’s descendants, God will do two things. First, he will reveal his character as holy. This would be in contrast to that of the false gods who have no life and, therefore, no moral qualities to challenge humankind to proper conduct. Second, in the fullness of time, he will send a Redeemer to bring salvation and forgiveness to all people regardless of who or where they are.
Where can God find such a person? All the world is contaminated by sin. Here is a man named Abram in Ur of the Chaldees. Abram’s father, Terah, is a moon god worshiper (Josh. 24:2), but Abram has not adopted this terrible habit. An old Jewish tradition tells us that Terah ran a store where idols were sold. His son Abram did not like the idols and protested often to his father. One day when the boy was left in charge of the store, he took a metal stick and broke the idols into pieces. When his father came home and saw the ruins, he asked his son what had happened. The boy replied, “They all got in a fight and destroyed each other.” The father insisted, “But they can’t fight. They have no life.” The boy replied, “Then why do you worship them?” This is the kind of man God needed to begin his redemptive program, and he called Abram to a new job and gave him a new name-Abraham.
1) Get into a new environment.
Though one’s surroundings do not always determine his Service, there are times when we need to get into a new location to start a new work.
God had reserved the land of Canaan for the place he would put his new people.
He, therefore, relocated this man who would begin the new program. From secular history we know that there was a general migration westward of a number of Semitic people about this time. The Hyksos, a group from the same ethnic background as Abram, went as far as Egypt, where they were successful in taking over the throne and holding it for several centuries. The call to Abram, however, was personal. Although he went with his father and other kinspeople, he knew it was only a matter of time before he must go out on his own.
God reveals himself to all people, but he selects certain ones at certain times for certain tasks.
He had chosen Abram but knew Abram must make a break with the old land. Too many memories remained there, and the temptation to yield to the customs of that environment might be too strong. Abram needed to move to a new area to serve God best. We, too, must leave the old behind.
2) Learn that life is for being a blessing.
To do what Abram did required an awareness that God was with him.
How long he pondered the decision, we do not know, nor can we be certain of how his father Terah and the others fit into the scheme of things. Despite these questions, one thing is certain. Faith and obedience played a major role in the starting event and all that subsequently took place.
The writer of Hebrews chose Abraham’s faith as an illustration of his definition of this glorious trait that he calls “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). Future things do not have an existence for someone unless he believes in them. Faith makes eternity as real as today. Why? Because it gives a reality to the new and limitless future where we will have time to forget the sorrows and live past the losses of our present world.
As great as faith is, we need, however, to ask an important question about it. Faith in what? The answer is simple: God’s provision. What, though, did God offer Abram? This promise at first reading sounds fabulous, for God offered him so much; but look closer and see that the material things offered were not the most important.
God offered Abram an opportunity to bless the world. The superficial reader emphasizes that God promised to make of Abram a great nation, to bless him, and to make his name great. The perceptive reader, however, sees something more. God said, “Thou shalt be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). In fact, the literal Hebrew is imperative: “Be thou a blessing.” Read a little further. The immature reader only notices, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee” (v. 3). The dedicated Christian emphasizes, “In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (v. 3).
Which is more important, to be blessed or to bless?
Unfortunately, too many of us become Christians for the wrong motivation or at least for a lesser one. Initially, we want to escape hell and go on to heaven. Though this is a legitimate motive, it is not the highest one. We should come to Jesus because of who he is and because of the life of Service he offers. Usually, however, we must grow much before we make this the supreme motive of our lives. Abram did receive blessings, but most of all, God chose him as an instrument. Through him the world would be blessed. This is the meaning of life, for it is the one thing Jesus emphasized above everything else.
3) Serve where you are.
Although we emphasized at first the necessity of leaving home to gain a new identity, the time comes when we must settle down where we are and serve God in that place. We cannot be constantly moving every time things get tough.
Abram served God where God put him.
At first, God willed that Abram stay in Haran for a period of time. Perhaps it was to care for his father who may not have shared Abram’s vision to go on to Canaan. For whatever reason, Abram waited patiently for a further word from the Lord. In the book of Acts we learn that after Terah’s death Abram heard a new command from God. He then left Haran and went to Canaan. Notice that Abram “went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came” (Gen. 12:5). Nothing stopped Abram from doing God’s will as he understood it.
One thing that characterized Abram was that wherever he went, he built an altar and called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 12:8).
We need to worship where we are. The other side often looks better, but we must adjust to where God puts us.
Now in Conclusion
Why has Abraham gone down in history as such a great person? He had faith! He trusted God and obeyed him! Abraham’s faith was proved by his faithfulness. God counted this faith as righteousness, and through his seed salvation has come to the world. We, too, can be a blessing if we trust and obey.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Thursday, September 22, 2011
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:24-27
By using the title “If Life Caves In, What Then?” I am not encouraging you to believe that life is going to cave in on you. Many people live in terror of what may happen, and that is heathenish. They waste a great deal of energy worrying about that which is not going to happen. Someone has said, “Today is the tomorrow that we worried about yesterday.”
Some of us have made such an idol out of happiness that we do not know how to deal with unhappiness. Occasionally it does seem that life is caving in on us.
I have seen life cave in on many people. When a young man’s fiancée was killed in an automobile accident, it seemed to him that life had caved in. A couple’s youngest son greatly disappointed them with his irresponsible attitudes and actions, which led to the accidental death of one of his classmates. For them, life had caved in. A young wife was injured in a diving accident and was almost totally paralyzed. In addition to this tragedy, her husband forsook her and their child. For her, life caved in. A fifty-year-old man lost his job and because of his age was unable to get another job to support his family. For him, life had caved in. A young soldier, while rescuing a wounded buddy, was horribly and irreparably disfigured. In spite of the best efforts of the plastic surgeons, they could not restore a nose and ears and fingers that had been burned away in an explosion. For him, life had caved in.
What will you do when death comes to take away your dear and beloved companion? How would you react if you were to find yourself suffering the heartbreak of knowing that your companion had been unfaithful to the marriage vows? If your children bring heartaches, disappointments, and possibly disgrace, how will you pick up the pieces?
We have often heard it said that it is too late to buy insurance after the house has burned down. As the farmer said to his boy, it is too late to close the gate after the cattle are out and gone. And so we need to make some preparation in case life should cave in upon us.
Each of us should face up to the fact that we can individually be responsible for causing life to cave in on ourselves. Many of the tragedies and troubles that plague us are but the consequences of errors in our judgment or faulty choices that we made without considering the destiny to which the choice would lead. Today we will concentrate on preparing for troubles that may come over which we have no control.
1) Face life with real faith.
Paul, the author of our text, declared, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” He believed and demonstrated that a man can be victorious over the circumstances that befall him provided he faces life with a courageous and steadfast faith. We need to have a faith that will sustain us and strengthen us in the time of crisis. We should not be satisfied with a faith that needs to be defended and propped up. A complete faith is a faith that recognizes that genuine piety does not provide us with an immunity against pain and sorrow. We must recognize that life may cave in on us even if we are some of the very best of God’s children.
We must have faith to believe that God is a good God and that all of his purposes toward us are purposes of love.
“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The Devil will win his victory over us when life caves in if he can cause us to believe that God is not a good God. He has sought to deceive people in this manner since the beginning of human history (Gen. 3:4-5). We must believe that God is a good God in spite of the fact that at times he appears otherwise. God is not our enemy. He wants to shower upon us the abundance of heavenly love.
We must have faith to believe that God is at work for our good in all things that happen (Rom. 8:28).
Many have misquoted and misunderstood this verse. Some have interpreted it to say, “Everything happens for the best.” That just is not so. Many things happen for the worst, for they shatter and wreck and ruin and bring awful agony into human lives. There are others who interpret this verse to say, “Whatever happens is the will of God,” and this is not so. This would mean that God is responsible for evil, and God is not responsible for evil. We should not blame him for the fact that life caves in on us at times.
This verse expresses the faith of the apostle to the effect that God will be at work in everything that happens to those who love him in order to rescue and to restore and to bring every possible good out of that which appears to be a complete disaster. We can count on God to help us with our burdens, our problems, our questions, and our sufferings. Someone has jokingly said, “If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” The apostle is declaring that if life hands you a lemon, then God will be there to help you make the best lemonade that can possibly be made!
We must have faith to believe that God will not permit impossible burdens to come upon us (1 Cor. 10:13).
The Bible provides a continuing testimony that God will be with us to provide us with strength and wisdom and grace that are sufficient to bear the burdens of life. Nowhere in the Bible are we promised complete immunity from trouble if we have faith. Instead, we are promised the strength of God’s presence through which we can be adequate. Paul believed that God would provide for all of our needs through Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:19).
We must have faith to believe that there may be a redemptive purpose in some of our sufferings.
Paul spoke of a thorn in the flesh that was a continuing source of agony to him. With all his heart he prayed at least three times for the removal of this thorn (2 Cor. 12:7-8). As he struggled he discovered that there was a benevolent purpose behind this hardship (2 Cor. 12:9).
It is altogether proper that we seek to learn everything possible through the experiences that come to us. Hosea is a case in point. His contribution to the divine revelation came through the wound that was inflicted upon his heart by the moral and spiritual breakdown of his wife.
Only by means of a genuine faith in the greatness of God can we hope to overcome the world and be triumphant even amid tragedy.
2) Avoid faulty ways of facing tragedy.
Sometimes tragedy can be compounded by the fact that we use faulty methods of dealing with the tragedies that befall us. There are certain ways of facing tragedy that need to be avoided.
Feelings of guilt and self-condemnation overwhelm some people when tragedy comes.
In many instances we have to face the fact that we are at least partially responsible for life caving in on us. To accept proper responsibility is a wholesome thing, but we must not permit feelings of guilt and self-condemnation to destroy us.
It is impossible to change or even to alter the events of yesterday. We can only deal with the consequences of yesterday. Instead of cultivating our sense of guilt with continuous self-condemnation, we need to enter into the forgiveness of God. Also, we need to forgive ourselves. It is neither Christian nor logical to continue to condemn oneself for past mistakes.
We must not react to tragedy with bitter resentment and hatred.
It is easy to hate and to hold resentment toward someone who has been responsible for tragedy or disappointment in our lives. We need to recognize that hate is a corrosive force; it is a malignant thing that distresses the heart if we permit it to remain in our lives.
It is normal to experience some self-pity and moods of depression when tragedy strikes.
All of us have felt sorry for ourselves at times. All of us will feel sorry for ourselves at some future time, but we need to recognize that this is not the best way to deal with tragedy. We must gain the victory over self-pity and depression.
Some resort to an artificial escape from tragedy through alcohol or drugs.
We need to be on guard lest our emotions deceive us. Instead of giving way to some faulty way of facing tragedies, we need to look to God. The psalmist said, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).
3) Grow a faith that can sustain you.
We must become doers of the Word as well as bearers of the Word (Matt. 7:24-27).
Living the life of faith provides one with inward resources that are adequate for the time of testing.
We should face the daily trials of life with joy (James 1:2).
This kind of joy is possible only to one who has faith to believe that God is present in any circumstance to provide an opportunity for growth and Service.
Face your problems on your knees (James 1:5).
Most of us are short on wisdom, so James encourages us to ask God for divine insight and understanding. Wisdom is available to those who trust God and ask for his guidance.
Enjoy God’s blessings day by day in the present.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Deliberately look for that which can bring joy and thanksgiving into the heart.
Live life one day at a time.
Do not worry about tomorrow. The sparrows could preach us a powerful sermon at this point. They work and do not worry. Life may never cave in on you, so do not worry about what may not happen.
Now in Conclusion
The secret key to the door of happiness is in the capacity, disposition, and determination to be a giver of joy and happiness to others in all circumstances. You can face life courageously and victoriously if you will determine with God’s help to always be a giver. Some of God’s richest blessings to the world have come through those for whom life caved in.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29).
Scripture Reading: Matthew 11:27-30
Exam week is often a painful experience for both parents and pupils. I would suppose that the grading of papers is at least sometimes painful for teachers. A time of testing reveals something not only about the learning achievement of the pupil, but also about the effectiveness of the teaching methods used by the teacher. Let me challenge the students of Spark People to face up to the question of grades. What kind of grades are you making in school? Your grades will be determined by how you respond to the teacher and by how you apply yourselves to your learning opportunities.
Today I challenge each of you to think of Jesus Christ as the great Teacher for your life. We think of him as the divine Son of God, the Redeemer who came to die on the cross for the sins of the world, the conqueror of death and the grave, the coming one who will raise the dead and judge the wicked and reward the righteous. But today let us consider Jesus as heaven’s infallible, inherent Teacher, who came to teach the truth about God, life, and eternity. As we think of a teacher, we must also think of students. We must recognize learning opportunities and responsibility. Let us disturb ourselves with the question, “What grade will I make in the school of Christ?”
As we study the life of Christ, we may be surprised to discover that Jesus was generally recognized as a teacher. His disciples and his contemporaries considered him to be a teacher. He was called Teacher, Master, or Rabbi. All of these titles contain the idea expressed by Nicodemus when he said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). Jesus is never addressed as a preacher, but at least 45 times in the four Gospels he is called “Teacher.” The title “Master” occurs 66 times in the King James Version, and in 54 of these instances the Greek word means teacher or schoolmaster.
Jesus said, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13 NIV). Jesus’ choice of the term “disciple” to designate his followers indicates that he considered himself a teacher. They were not called “subjects,” “servants,” “retainers,” or “comrades.” “Disciple,” meaning “pupil” or “learner,” is used 243 times.
How have you responded to the Teacher? Have you been listening attentively? Have you given attention to reading the text from which he would instruct you? What grade are you making?
1) The invitation to enroll.
In the gracious words of the text, Jesus would invite the entire world, one by one, to experience conversion. While he may have been referring to the yoke worn by oxen, it is more likely that he was thinking in terms of himself as a teacher with a group of students. To accept the yoke or to bear the yoke was to describe the teacher-pupil relationship. The gracious words of the invitation and the text must not be limited to a simple call to conversion, for these words of invitation include the opportunity to learn and to grow and to experience the fullness of God’s great salvation. This will be the experience of each person who interprets the Christian life as an opportunity for continuous growing and serving.
Learning must not be limited to listening.
While it is important that we listen attentively, it is a proven fact that one can hear and grasp all that a speaker says by using only 20 percent of his mental capacity. If the rest of the intellect and the emotions are not concentrated on the subject that is being considered, the potential learning experience is almost completely nullified.
Learning must not be limited to looking.
Priceless, indeed, is the capacity to see. One good picture is said to be worth more than a thousand words, but one can look and observe without reaching the highest level of learning. We need to observe the Christ in every phase of his life, but if we do nothing more than look, we will not be fully responding to his gracious invitation to enroll in the school of Christian discipleship.
Learning must not be limited to a pleasant emotional experience.
Many of us go to church or to a Bible class and thoroughly enjoy the songs or the sermon or the lesson. We experience a spiritual uplift. This type of experience is of great value, yet we may not learn anything of real significance from it.
2) The invitation to continue in learning.
Luke, the writer of Acts, comments that the enemies of the early church “took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Jesus’ personality and teaching had placed a distinguishing mark upon them. Later on in the book of Acts, the enemies of Christ again observed conspicuous results in those who enrolled and then continued in the school of Christ, for the record says, “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:25).
We learn through identification.
Parents have a profound effect on every facet of a child’s life because of their identification with each other. The family is the first school that the child knows anything about. Here there is an identification between the teacher-parent and the child-pupil.
In high school a boy learns how to play football, not by reading a textbook, but by identifying with a coach in a learning-working relationship.
The crowd with which we identify, whether we are young or old, creates a learning experience.
If we would respond to Jesus Christ, heaven’s Teacher of the heavenly way of life, we must be solidly identified with him. This requires more than a confession of faith and church membership. A regular exposure of our mind and heart to him in worship is essential as is careful, attentive listening to his words of truth and wisdom.
We need to observe and contemplate both the character and conduct of Jesus Christ in his relationship with others if we would truly consider ourselves his disciples, his followers, students in his school. What grade are you making?
We learn through participation.
Not only in the public school system but in the church school as well, hands-on, activity-based teaching is recognized as an effective method for communicating truths to the minds of children.
When Jesus said, “Come unto me,” he was inviting us to participate in a learning experience. He instructed the man out of whom he had cast a legion of devils to “go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee” (Mark 5:19). This was an invitation to a laboratory experience in which the man would relate what God had done. In so doing he would discover also what God could do with him in the lives of others.
If we are to learn, we need both to identify and participate. What grade are you making?
3) The invitation is still open.
College catalogs contain a paragraph that gives the time limit for enrolling in courses of study. They specifically state that beyond a certain date the opportunity to enroll is closed. Today we can thank God that the opportunity to enroll in the school of Christ continues to be open to those who are among the living. You do not have to wait until next semester; you can come to Christ today and begin to learn.
Now in Conclusion
A tragic mistake made by many is that of assuming that conversion automatically produces spiritual maturity, but Jesus tells us that we need to learn. You must not delay coming to Jesus Christ because of immaturity or fear of failure. You must come as one admitting your spiritual poverty and ignorance and your desire to learn and become rich in spirit.
Neglecting to enroll in the school of Christ is costly. Enroll today. Let him be not only your Savior and Redeemer but your Coach and Teacher too. To do so is to make a wise decision that you will never regret.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Sunday, September 18, 2011
“The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).
The title Christian is a fallen term. It has been cheapened by common usage. It is now an expression that covers a multitude of religious ideas, error as well as truth, paganism as well as the revelation of God’s divine truth. This term Christian has been stretched to the extent that it covers rationalistic modernism on one hand and a frothy sentimentalism on the other. It is ascribed to that which in some instances is gross worldliness and in other instances to that which is anything short of pharisaic self-righteousness. The term Christian is used to describe that which is coldly ritualistic and also that which is nothing more than heated emotionalism. Is it possible that Christianity is failing to make a distinctive impact due to our failure to understand what it means to be a Christian?
Some apply the term Christian to all who have high moral standards and believe in the existence of God. Others claim this title simply because they are members of a church. Still others claim the privilege of wearing this title because they have had a conversion experience. Ideally, they have a right to do so. However, the great test comes in what others think of our witness. When they see our lives, are they able to call us Christian? Do they see the evidences of the presence of Christ in our lives? If so, only then should we apply or claim this title for ourselves.
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch. This was probably a term of derision because they were followers of the crucified Galilean. Evidently they thought and talked and acted in a manner that reminded their contemporaries of the Christ. What would your neighbors say about you? Is it possible for them to see features and characteristics in your life that resemble Jesus Christ? A government official in India once said to some Christian leaders, “If Christians would act like Jesus Christ, India would be at his feet.” It is time for us to cease being satisfied with a low level of Christian living. We must demonstrate that genuine Christianity is something more than cushioned pews, enjoyable music, a comforting sermon on Sunday, and business as usual during the week.
1) To become a Christian, one must be saved.
It is absolutely impossible for one to be a Christian who does not have a personal redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). A person must repent-change his or her mind about the nature of God, sin, self, and others. Inseparable from genuine repentance, sincere faith must be placed in Jesus Christ as the Lord of life (Acts 20:20-21). As a person responds to the gospel with repentance and faith, the Spirit of God brings about the miracle of the new birth within the soul. The believer becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26). He or she is now a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
The new birth alone does not produce Christlikeness. The new birth makes possible a growth and development into Christlikeness. It is impossible for one to be genuinely Christian who has not had an experience of commitment and conversion.
2) To be genuinely Christian, one must be surrendered.
Jesus was surrendered completely to the will of God. “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). His surrender led to Gethsemane and Calvary. He prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus said to the Galilean fishermen, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him” (Matt. 4:19-20). As they forsook their nets, they began the journey that would lead them to the place where others would be able to bestow upon them the title of Christian.
To be considered Christian, a convert must be identified with Christ through baptism. This is a visible symbol of an institutional relationship to Christ in which the individual accepts the demands and discipline of his lordship. To be genuinely Christian, the convert must be sincerely committed to the task of living the teachings of Jesus Christ. There will be a deep concern about keeping God’s holy law. The Sermon on the Mount will be something more than just a beautiful passage of Scripture.
Commitment to the will of God will express itself in the home, throughout the community, within the business, and in every other area of life.
3) If a person is genuinely Christian, he or she will serve.
Jesus said, “My father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (9:4). Someone has said that the best biography of Jesus is that which describes him as one “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). There are many inactive church members, but an inactive Christian is a contradiction of terms, for when we cease to serve, we cease to be truly Christian.
Genuine Christians deliberately give themselves to doing good and do so with humility and gratitude and without display. “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
Now in Conclusion
Who is sufficient for this ideal? It is impossible for the convert to be fully surrendered and graciously serving without the leadership and the assistance of the Holy Spirit of God. A part of the wonder and the miracle of the new birth is the coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell within the heart of the believer (Gal. 4:4-6). The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart to produce the fruit of a Christlike spirit and a Christlike life (5:22-24). An old spiritual expresses the sincere desire of every believer:
Lord, I want to be a Christian
in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian
in my heart.
We must become Christlike within our hearts and minds before we can be called Christians.
Now, one last and final thing!
A Christian is born of God, engrafted into Christ, and an inhabitation for the Holy Spirit. His nature is renewed, his mind illumined, his spirit changed.
He is not what he was, for grace hath made a difference; he is not what he desires to be, for grace is not yet perfected; he is not what he shall be, for grace shall be consummated in glory.
The knowledge of Christ is his treasure; the mind of Christ his evidence; the love of Christ his song; conformity to Christ his life; to be with Christ his preeminent desire.
By faith he rests on Christ, receives Christ, and looks to Christ. He heareth Christ’s words, treadeth in Christ’s steps, and seeketh Christ’s approbation.
He speaks the language of the Savior’s kingdom, reveres the Savior’s statutes and laws, obeys his ordinances, wears his costume, and lives to his glory.
The life of Christ within him is the principle of his being, and because Christ ever lives, he shall live also. In the Christian, Christ lives and speaks and acts.
He is Christ’s representative on earth, his witness before men, and his follower before God. The Christian hearkens to Christ’s teachings, rests on Christ’s sacrifice, avails himself of Christ’s meditation, and cheerfully obeys Christ’s royal laws. He inquires what would Christ have me know, what do, and what enjoy.
To know Christ, is Christianity intellectual; to obey Christ, Christianity practical; to enjoy Christ, Christianity perfected. As bread to the hungry, as water to the thirsty, as the rock in the sultry day, is Christ to the Christian.
The Christian is in the world but not of it, among the world yet separate from it, passing through the world but without attachment to it.
The Christian is a man and may err, an imperfect man and may sin, but a renewed man and shall have his fruits unto holiness and in the end everlasting life.
The Christian is a warrior and must fight; but he is a conqueror and must prevail.
The Christian sojourns on earth but dwells in heaven; a pilgrim in the desert but an enrolled denizen of the skies.
The Christian is the impress of Christ, the reflection of the Father, and the temple of the Holy Ghost.
Contrast him with the infidel in his faith, with the profligate in his life, with the merely moral in his heart, and with the Pharisee in his spirit. His pedigree, from Jehovah; his nature, from heaven; and his name, from Antioch. O Christian, great is thy dignity, refulgent thy glory, interminable thy blessed hope. All things art thine; thou art Christ’s and Christ is God’s.
God Bless You, Pastor Mike
Friday, September 16, 2011
“Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord” (John 21:7).
Scripture Reading: John 21:1-14
In every age the scientific minds of humans have searched for logical explanations for the mysteries of life. This was true two thousand years ago when Christ our Lord conquered death and the tomb. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, reveals that the Lord responded to the desire of his disciples for proof. “To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
Today we can be grateful that Jesus Christ completely convinced his disciples of his victory over death and the grave. We can be assured that it took absolute concrete evidence to convince them that Christ was risen, for he was confined to the tomb by at least five different powers. The cold hand of death gripped him firmly. Linen grave clothes were wound tightly about his body. There was a great stone rolled before the entrance to the tomb to prevent entrance or exit, and the official seal of the Roman government had been affixed to the tomb. Roman guards were posted near the tomb to make certain that no one came to retrieve Christ’s body.
The first piece of evidence that was presented as proof that Christ had conquered death and the grave was the empty tomb. Many testified that the tomb was empty. The women found it empty. The disciples found it empty. The angel declared that it was empty. The Jewish Sanhedrin admitted that it was empty.
The evidence of the empty tomb is not all that proves Christ had conquered death and the grave. The New Testament mentions at least ten different appearances of our Lord to his disciples. In these appearances he gave to them absolute assurance of his living presence. He gave them an apprehension of the purpose for his death on the cross, and he gave them a divine authority to go to the ends of the earth proclaiming the significance of his death and resurrection.
Today we examine one of the appearances of the risen Savior to see what it has to say to our lives.
1) The risen Lord manifested himself deliberately (John 21:1).
Jesus showed himself “again.”
This was not his first appearance, and neither was it to be the last. He deliberately chose this occasion to convey a message to his followers.
“On this wise showed he himself.”
John, the writer of this gospel, was impressed by the special manner in which Jesus showed himself. He receives the impression that something is to be remembered from the manner in which the Christ revealed himself.
2) The risen Christ came to the disciples on the level of their experience. This is very significant, and we should take note of it.
There was nothing unique or significant about the place where Jesus appeared. There were thousands of places similar to this. It was not necessary for the disciples to travel to some shrine or some historical place to have an audience with the Christ.
Christ appeared while the disciples were doing what they had previously done to earn a living.
Are we to assume from this that the risen Christ may approach us while we are busy with the common tasks of life? Does this mean that Jesus might visit your home or place of business? I believe it does.
The risen Christ does reveal himself at unique times and places.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). We can expect the Lord to be present in the classroom. We can expect the living Lord to be present in the place of prayer and worship when God’s people come together to praise him, adore him, and worship him. As we become more experienced and mature in the Christian life, there are certain places where we have had experience with God. To return to one of these places is to encourage the faith and response that makes it possible to have a fresh experience with the living Christ.
Christ comes to all of us on the level of our own experience.
It would be discouraging to think that the risen Christ could come to us only on the level of the highest possible spiritual experience. The truth is that it is his coming to us on the common road of life that lifts us to these high experiences of spiritual awareness.
3) The risen Christ was concerned about the disciples’ well-being.
From this we can assume that he continues to be interested in the welfare of his disciples.
Have you caught any fish?
Jesus stood on the shore at a distance from where the disciples were casting their nets after a night of futile effort. They were exhausted and depressed because they had caught nothing. Through the fog they observed someone standing on the shore who shouted, “Have you caught any fish?” Their negative reply probably expressed the weariness of their bodies.
Jesus prepared a hot breakfast for his disciples.
“As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread” (John 21:9). While they were dragging in the fish they had caught as a result of following Jesus’ suggestion, he rekindled the fire and began to prepare breakfast with some of the fish that had been caught previously and were in the process of being cured for sale. He also suggested that they bring some of the fish they had caught (John 21:10).
From the thoughtfulness of the risen Savior, we can assume that he comes to us with purposes of love.
He is always concerned about that which is best for us. Life would be much more beautiful and satisfying if we would recognize and respond graciously to his every suggestion instead of foolishly resenting his presence on the basis of a false assumption that he is an intruder.
4) The risen Christ made a suggestion to his disciples.
They had labored through the night and were weary and exhausted.
In spite of their efforts, their nets were still empty.
Life can be an empty net. Have you failed to achieve your potential? Have you neglected or refused to do God’s will?
A command was given.
“Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find” (John 21:6). On a previous occasion Jesus had advised his disciples to “launch out into the deep, and let down your nets” (Luke 5:4).
Have you been casting your net on the wrong side of the ship of life?
Is it possible that this explains why you have an empty net?
Do you need to cast your net on the other side of the ship of life as far as your home is concerned?
Do you need to cast your net on the other side of the ship as far as your business is concerned?
Do you need to cast your net on the other side as far as your church is concerned?
5) Obedience to the risen Christ transformed failure into success.
There is no substitute for obedience, whether that obedience be to God or to the laws of the state.
Obedience needs to be taught and learned in the home.
Obedience to the living Lord produces harmony in life.
To be disobedient is to create tensions that can know no peace.
Obedience to the living Lord brings fruitfulness and good success.
The disciples discovered that their net was full when they responded immediately to the command of the Savior.
Now in Conclusion
The living Lord appeared to these disciples and met their immediate need both for fish and their need of food for their stomachs. He had a hot breakfast waiting for them when they arrived on the shore. The richest gift that he gave to them was his own companionship and the continued commission to communicate the gospel of God’s love for a lost world.
What is your need? Is it salvation from the penalty of sin or salvation from the power of sin? Do you need guidance and wisdom or self-confidence? The risen Christ comes to you repeatedly on the level of your own experience. May God grant to you the eyes to see him and the faith to respond to his gracious invitation and loving commandments.
God bless you all, Pastor Mike
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