Jesus’ Offer of Rest, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

04Mar  In John Bunyan’s classic analogy of the Christian life, Pilgrim’s Progress, the story begins with the character Pilgrim having a large and heavy burden upon his back. It weighs him down and makes everything that he does difficult.

The first part of the story centers

Around Pilgrim’s efforts to find

A way to get rid of the burden.

It is not until Pilgrim comes

To Jesus that he is freed.

The rest of the story describes

Pilgrim’s progress in the Christian life

After he is freed his burden.

The analogy of a heavy burden on your back is a good description of what life is like apart from Jesus Christ.  Even for the Christian, it can feel like the weight of the world is upon your shoulders when you are not walking with the Lord as you should or are striving to do things in your own power.

In today’s blog we are going to be looking at Matthew 11:25-30 and Jesus’ offer of rest to those who are burdened and heavy-laden.  But before we can understand the offer of rest, we must understand the setting of the offer.

Verse 25 begins the narrative by stating, “At that time Jesus answered and said . . . “  Some have tried to establish that Luke is repeating himself by pointing to Luke 10:21-23 where Jesus prays almost the same thing.  However, the two events are not the same.  The similarity of the two passages is only that Jesus prayed the same thing on both occasions.  Luke 10 is not the parallel passage.

This passage begins in Matthew 11:20, but Luke only gives the general time setting and not a specific one.  The general setting is that Jesus has been ministering in the region of Galilee (11:1). John the Baptist was in prison and was beginning to have some doubts.  He sent two of his disciples to Jesus, and the Lord gave John confirmation that his original message was correct.  Jesus is indeed the Expected One, (11:2-6) for He was fulfilling the prophecies concerning the Messiah including healing the sick and the lame, giving sight to the blind and raising the dead.  After John’s disciples left, Jesus gave a wonderful tribute to John saying that no human before John had been greater (11:7-15). Jesus then turned His attention to the critics of John and Himself in Matthew 11:16-19.

The critics were saying that John was demonized because of his austere manner of living while at the same time they were accusing Jesus of being a glutton and drunkard because He ate and drank what everyone else did.  So . . .

John was too ascetic for them

And

Jesus was not ascetic enough.

They also criticized Jesus for being a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners because they did not believe a man who was truly holy would have such associations.  They were blind to the fact that their prideful self-righteousness was a greater stench in the nostrils of God than the sinfulness of the publicans and harlots.

Jesus said that they were childish like the kids in the marketplace who would not play the game the other children were playing even when they switched games.  Nothing would satisfy them. These critics claimed to be the ones with wisdom, but wisdom is verified by its works, and their works proved them to be foolish.

Starting in Matthew 11:20, Jesus began a very strong reproach against the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum because of their apathetic response to all that Jesus had done in those cities.  Most of Jesus’ miracles had been done in those cities, yet the people did not repent.  Jesus’ words are stern and forceful.  They would be judged harshly because they had rejected the great amount of grace that had been extended to them.

Jesus’ denunciation of His vocal critics

And those that ignored Him is the setting,

But He now changes to the opposite tone

In presenting a wonderful and gracious offer.

The offer begins with a prayer.  Verses 25-30 state, “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes. Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son, except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father, except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son will to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus begins His prayer, “I praise You, Father.”  This opening statement teaches us two things: (1) Praise is a fitting beginning to prayer; and, (2) Jesus is the Son of God.

The tendency for most people when they pray is to jump right into petitions.  People usually start or very quickly move into asking God for what they want and often forget to praise Him.  The reality is that praise is the proper beginning of prayer for, as Jesus points out in the next phrase, God is “Lord of heaven and earth.”  God is the creator and master and so is worthy of our praise.  God is not a “cosmic vending machine” whose purpose is to satisfy man’s desires.

Too often people go to God

As if He exists

For their purposes

When the reality is

That God created man

For His purposes.

The particular word translated here as “praise,” gives emphasis to the importance of praise as part of prayer.  This is not one of the more common words for praise, but is the one used in the Septuagint in the Psalms of thanksgiving and praise.  It is a compound word that has a basic meaning of “to agree with” or “to say the same thing” and came to be used to express praise to God for what He has done.

In this passage we get the sense of Jesus’ praise of the Father rising out of His agreement and unanimity to what the Father has done.  The same thing becomes increasingly true in the believers  own life as we grow in our faith and have a greater understanding and agreement with what God has done and is doing.

Notice that Jesus does not begin with the phrase, “Our Father,” as He did when teaching His disciples a model of prayer in Matthew.  Neither does Jesus refer to God as Father in the universal sense as the Creator since He addresses that in the second phrase of the prayer, “Lord of heaven and earth.”  When Jesus prays to God the Father, as He does here, Jesus simply addresses God as “Father.” (See Matthew 11:25,26; Luke 10:21; 22:42; 23:34, 46; John 11:41; 12:27, 28; 17:1, 5, 11, 21, 24, 25). Jesus uses the phrase, “My Father” twice (Matthew 26:39,42) and “Abba!  Father!” once (Mark 14:36) in speaking directly to God the Father.  Jesus speaks to God the Father directly addressing Him simply as Father because of His unique relationship with Him that signifies His own deity.  Jesus calls God “Father” because Jesus is the Son of God.  The Jews of the time certainly understood what Jesus meant by this for Jesus’ enemies sought to stone Him for blasphemy for addressing God that way in John 10.

Jesus is the Messiah, God in human flesh, so it is no wonder that we find God the Son giving praise from a basis of unanimity to God the Father.  The specific thing which was well pleasing in the eyes of the Father (verse 26) and the Son was that “You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.”

What was hidden from some and revealed to others?  All that Jesus had been proclaiming and teaching to this point in His ministry.  That includes the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus presented His kingdom program and the characteristics of true righteousness necessary to be part of it.  Those such as the Scribes and Pharisees who only have the righteousness of an outward conformity to the demands of a religious system will not enter God’s kingdom.

That brings up the first prerequisite of receiving Jesus’ offer of rest.  In verses 25-26 we find . . .

The Prerequisites to the Offer – Only the humble of heart will hear and understand the offer being made.

We may wonder why Jesus is glad that the things of the kingdom were hidden from the wise and the intelligent.  Some would even claim it would not be fair to do this reasoning that the kingdom would then only be for simpletons and the stupid.  While there are plenty of intellectuals that claim that Christians lack intelligence to believe what we do, is having a low IQ a requirement for salvation?  Of course not, a fact demonstrated by the very high IQ of many Christians and their accomplishments in every field of science, health, art, business, and government.

The terms “wise” and “prudent” are used here in the same way that Paul uses them in 1 Corinthians 1:18-29, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.”

Jesus is using these words to refer to those who think they can do it their own way and so do not need a Savior.  They think they can figure it all out on their own and provide for themselves.  It is a reference to the foolish pride of mankind which schemes, plots and develops his own religion or philosophy so that he does not have to trust in God and His mercy and grace alone.  This was exactly what the religious leaders of Jesus’ time had done.  They modified the Mosaic Law to the point that they actually thought they were keeping it and therefore were pleasing God to the point that He would have to let them be part of His kingdom.  They ignored the warning of the prophets that even their righteous deeds were as filthy rags before the Holy God who created them (Isaiah 64:6).

That pride is still very much present today.  It is found in all the false religions and philosophies which includes Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, paganism, secular humanism and all the rest.  It is found in the many cults which claims some sort of tie to Christianity because they speak about Jesus and use New Testament terminology such as mercy, grace, faith, hope, salvation, etc., yet they often have different meanings for those words including having a different Jesus, and/or they achieve salvation by their own efforts.  Even Christian denominations that at one time held to the truth have lost their way in the same manner as the Jewish leaders of old.  They replace the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone with salvation in some system of works.

God has always resisted the proud while giving grace to the humble (Psalm 138:6; Isaiah 2:11-12;Matthew 23:12; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  Jesus’ reference here is to those who are proud because they think themselves to be wise and intelligent and so refuse to come to God on God’s terms.  God will resist such people.  At the same time, the humble, who are referred to in this text as “babes,” will be given grace and understanding of what the Father has revealed through Jesus’ preaching and teaching.

Tomorrow we will look at the second prerequisite of Jesus’ offer of rest.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Have You Found the Book?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

3Mar I want to tell you the story of a great leader, a man whose example can change our lives.  He was one of the greatest leaders of history, though you may not even know his name.

  • It isn’t Alexander the Great, who conquered the world and died at age 32.
  • It isn’t Napoleon Bonaparte, who tried to conquer the world and died in exile.
  • It isn’t George Washington, who was a Christian and the father of our country.
  • It wasn’t Abraham Lincoln, who most likely became a Christian before his death.

This is the story of the biblical king Josiah, whose story is told in 2 Chronicles 33-35. Notice the way chapter 33 begins – “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord …”

This chapter tells us about King Manasseh of Judah, who was the Adolf Hitler of his day . . . diabolical, savage, ruthless and brutal . . . evil in every way.  I don’t have time to describe the terrible atrocities he committed, but here’s the interesting thing – He was invaded and captured by the Assyrians.

The Bible tells us what happened to him after that – 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 says, “In his distress (Manasseh) sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors.  And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so He brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom.  Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”

In the Old Testament there is one man we never would have expected to come to faith in God – Manasseh.  In the New Testament there is one man we would never have expected to come to God – Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul.  We have these two great examples in the Bible to tell us that . . .

No one is beyond

The power of the grace of God.

If you’re worried about someone, don’t give up on them.  Keep praying.  The Lord is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.  The worst of sinners can become the greatest of testimonies.

After Manasseh came to faith in God, he had six years with his grandson, who was named Josiah.  I can’t prove it from the text, but I can infer that Manasseh poured his newfound faith into his grandson.

Don’t ever underestimate

The power of a grandparents faith.

How many people are servants of God today because of the influence or prayers of a godly grandmother or grandfather.

When Manasseh died, his son became king but was shortly assassinated, and little Josiah, who was only eight, rose to the throne of Judah.  2 Chronicles 34:1 says, “Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years.  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed the ways of his father, David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David.”

He was sixteen.  As he began to assume real power, he decided to do it as a spiritual man.  Where did he get that impulse?  There’s only one place I can think of – from his grandfather, who must have told him, “One day you will the king of this land.  Don’t do what I did or make the mistakes I made.  From your first day on the throne, serve the Lord Jehovah-Yahweh.”

People often ask me if there will be another revival in American history, and I believe it could happen with young people, as it often does.  Look what happened when Josiah was twenty-four.  2 Chronicles 34:3 declares, “In his eighth year of his reign, while he was sill young, he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.  Under his direction all the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars that were above them, and smashed the Asherah poles and the idols….

It’s very interesting how the inspired writer points out Josiah’s age at every point.  Look at verse 8: “In the eighteen year of Josiah’s reign, to purify the land and the temple, he sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and Maaseiah the ruler of the city, with Joah son of Joahaz, the recorder, to repair the temple of the Lord his God.”

Solomon had built the great temple of Jehovah, and there God’s presence dwelt in the Most Holy Place.  But during the half-century reign of Manasseh, the site had been desecrated.  King Manasseh had promoted satanic worship, child sacrifice, and he had built some kind of demonic image and placed it in the temple.  Manasseh apparently moved out the Ark of the Covenant and put in a demonic statue.  The entire complex fell into deterioration and dilapidation.

It’s easy for the work of the Lord

To deteriorate and become dilapidated

In a church or in a nation,

But the right person can come

In the power of the Holy Spirit and change things.

Verse 9 says, “They went to Hilkiah the high priest and gave him the money that had been brought into the temple of God, which the Levites who were the gatekeepers had collected from the people of Manasseh, Ephraim and the entire remnant of Israel and from all the people of Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  Then they entrusted it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the Lord’s temple.  These men paid the workers who repaired and restored the temple.  They also gave money to the carpenters and builders to purchase dressed stone, and timber for joists and beams for the buildings that the kings of Judah had allowed to fall into ruin …”

The Bible says in verse 14, “While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses. Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan.

Biblical scholars are uncertain about the exact nature of this book, but I have a theory.  I believe this might have been the original copy of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – the first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch or sometimes just as the Law. These books had been written by Moses during the forty years of wandering in the desert.

That original copy must have been carefully preserved. Copies of it had been made, of course, but they were few and far between because of Manasseh’s reign of terror.  I’m sure Manasseh had sought to destroy every copy of the Word of God.  But some brave priest had hidden the original copy in some ingenious place within the temple. I suspect this is what the builders found.

Verse 16 says, “Then Shaphan took the book to the king and reported to him: “Your officials are doing everything that has been committed to them. They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.’ Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.”

He broke out weeping and sobbing.  To see those precious scrolls, to hear the words, and realize how far his nation had sunk, to realize the judgment they were facing – it broke the king’s heart and he tore his robes and cried a baby for the sins of his people.

He gave orders to his aids: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.  Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because those who have gone before us have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.”

Hilkiah and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem in the New Quarter.

In the Bible, there were times when great women of God played a critical role, and here was the wife of the man who kept the wardrobe, either kept the royal wardrobe for the king or the temple wardrobe for the priests. This woman had a special relationship with God. Look at verse 26, “Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. Now I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place on those who live here.’”

So, they took her answer back to the king.  The king did something extraordinary.  He called together all his people and stood by one of the great columns of the temple and raised his voice as loud as he could and read from the ancient words. The people – from the youngest to the oldest – dedicated themselves to Jehovah-Yahweh, to love Him, to serve Him, and to obey Him forever.

Imagine if the President of the United States gathered the members of Congress together, and the governors, and the mayors, and all the people tuned in by television, and he said, “I have just discovered in my own life the power of the Bible, and this Book is at the heart of America’s story, and if we don’t rediscover it, our blessed nation will be judged like ancient Sodom, ancient Judah, ancient Rome.  And what if the entire nation began singing, “Have Thine own way, Lord, have thine own way.”

It may not happen exactly like that – but America needs a spiritual awakening before she sinks beyond recovery or redemption.  If it happened in the days of Josiah, it can happen now.

But the story’s not over.  In chapter 35, the entire nation followed up on their commitment by celebrating the festival of the Passover.  Verse 1 tells us, “Josiah celebrated the Passover of the Lord in Jerusalem, and the Passover lamb was slaughtered on the fourteen day of the first month. He appointed the priests to their duties and encouraged them in the service of the Lord’s temple. He said to the Levites, who instructed all Israel and who had been consecrated to the Lord: “Put the sacred ark in the temple that Solomon son of David king of Israel built….”

Apparently wicked Manasseh had taken the sacred Ark of the Covenant out of the Most Holy Place and replaced it with his vile image or statue.  Josiah had the Ark restored to its rightful place.

Verse 7 says, “Josiah provided for all the lay people who were there a total of thirty thousand lambs and goats for the Passover offering….”  This festival commemorated the night the Children of Israel escaped from Egypt because the blood of the slain lambs protected them from death.  The Passover Lamb is the Bible’s great preview of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.  On that day in Jerusalem, there were 30,000 reminders that Jesus Christ was coming into the world.

Verse 10 says: The service was arranged and the priests stood in their places with the Levites in their divisions as the king ordered. The Passover lambs were slaughtered and the priests splashed against the altar the blood handed to them.

This is predictive of the spilled blood of Jesus Christ, as the hymnist has said: “Would you be free from your burden of sin?  There’s power in the blood.”

Verse 18 states, “The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem. The Passover was celebrated in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign.”

Josiah was only twenty-six, but he had brought spiritual reformation to his people.  He had another thirteen years to lead his people politically and spiritually before he was tragically killed in battle at the age of thirty-nine.  From that point, the nation of Judah spiraled downward like airplane out of fuel. Josiah was their last, best hope – and he provided hope for his generation.

Let me close today’s blog with three propositions.  Our nation, our states, cities, our schools, and our homes are in trouble.  We need a revival like that of Josiah.  What were his secrets.

1) Rekindle the burden.

Even as a boy, Josiah was burdened for the Lord and His work.  He wanted God to use him.  We can’t do anything without a burden, and God gives each of us a different burden or set of burdens.  I’ve been reading a book by Jim and Shirley Combs.  They were serving as missionaries in Brazil when a little poverty-stricken boy named Marcos showed up at church to get a chocolate Easter egg.  Like Josiah, his heart was tender and he wanted to learn more about what he heard in church that day.  He found Jesus Christ as his Savior and was baptized.

One day Marcos didn’t show up at church, and Shirley went looking for him.  She found his ransacked home and went in.  He was standing there silent.  His mother sat in the only chair, covered with blood.  The boy’s father was in a rage, and Shirley had to leave. But Shirley said, “I have never been able to leave that scene.  It influenced personal decision and personal commitments” as it related to their future ministry.  Marcos was rescued and became the first of many.  That’s how God gave Shirley a burden.

Let God give you a burden for His work, and don’t bury your burden.  Without some kind of burden for this world, we can never change it. Josiah had the burden.

2) Rediscover the Book.

Everything changed with the rediscovery of God’s Word.  Without the Bible, there’s no revival – no global revival, no national revival, no personal revival.

The American Bible Society told of a man who was a patient in an American hospital in the nation of Turkey, and while there someone gave him a copy of the Bible.  He was released and went back to his home-town and showed it to his friends.  A Muslim teacher snatched the book out of his hand, tore out its pages, and threw them into the street.  A grocer was passing by, and he picked up the papers and started using them as wrapping paper for his produce, and in this way the pages of that Bible were spread all over town.  People read the pages they had and wanted more.  Sometime later, a Bible translator came into town and was amazed to find a hundred people lined up to purchase a copy of the Bible.

If our nation is going to experience an awakening, it will only come through the faithful, steady, accurate, piercing reading, studying, and preaching of the Word of God.

3) Rely on the blood.

After Josiah developed the burden and discovered the Book, he instituted the Passover where the blood of the Passover Lamb was shed, forecasting the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross and the redeeming blood that flowed from His back, His brow, His hands, His feet, and His side.  The Bible tells us that “without the blood, there is no remission of sins.” (Hebrews 9:22)

You cannot recover your life for God without going through the blood of Jesus.  We can never fully fathom the purpose and the power of the blood of Christ. It resides in the deepest mysteries of the counsel of the Triune God.  But this we know – His precious blood is . . .

  • A medicine that cures us from every everlasting ill.
  • An acid that burns away our deepest stains.
  • An ointment that heals our deepest scars.
  • Tt’s the fuel of our faith.
  • A liniment of life.
  • An elixir for joy.
  • A lotion for peace.
  • It’s a vaccine that immunizes us against all the diseases of the devil.
  • Most of all, there’s a foundation filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that blood lose all their guilty stains.  In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

When you combine the burden, the Book, and the blood, you have the blessings of God on your life, your family, your city, and your nation.

Is there one of those elements missing in your life?

If it’s the burden, ask God for it until He gives you the specific burden that reflects His will for your life.

If it’s the Book, make a renewed commitment to read and study it every day.

If it’s the blood, you can do something about that right now by asking God to forgive your sins, wash your inward stains, and give

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Walking in the Light

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

2Mar  Darkness.  Utter darkness.  That is what it is like in a deep cave where there is no source of light.  How many of you have ever been in that situation, maybe on a tour of a cave somewhere when they turn off the lights.  No matter how much you strain, you cannot see anything.  It is black.  There are no shades of gray.  It is a darkness you can feel.

Now imagine a community of people who are born into such a situation and they live in those circumstances all their lives. Suddenly, someone from the outside world comes in and tries to describe light and the ability to see things.  There is no comprehension.  They are led by the hand to the entrance of that cave, to where there is light.  At first, curious, they approach the light on the outside, but when they at last reach the outside world where the sun is shining brightly, it is too much.  Their eyes hurt. It is an unknown world and to them, perhaps even a fearful one.  A few stay and learn of this new world, but most quickly return to their cave and the darkness to which they are accustomed, the darkness in which they feel comfortable.

Such is an illustration of what Paul describes in Ephesians 5 regarding the difference between the true Christian and the non-Christian.  As Paul begins the chapter he calls on believers to “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Verse 1).

Salvation from sin

In Jesus Christ

Brings about a

Radical change.

That which was dead is made alive.  We who were children of the devil are adopted into God’s family and now His children.

True Christians have their “want to” changed.

We now long to grown in our relationship

And be like our heavenly Father

And so we seek to walk in true love as demonstrated by Jesus Christ rather than what the world calls love – which is in reality is anything but love.

The world is marked by immorality, impurity, greed, and language that is full of filthiness, silly talk and coarse jesting.  Christians are marked by morality, holiness, generosity and care for others.  The old adage that “if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and flies like a duck, its’ a duck!” is true.  If a person exhibits the characteristics of the world and not those of Christ, then they are not of Christ regardless of what they say (verse 6) and we should not be deceived.  We do not have to be cruel nor do we have to condemn.  Our love for God should lead us to speak the truth in love.  This might mean that we need to talk with honestly about . . .

  • Whether their life matches their talk.
  • That if it does not, that is a serious problem.
  • To talk about whether they really know Jesus Christ, what He has done, and what that is supposed to mean in their life?”
  • To spell out the gospel and challenge them to examine themselves to see whether they be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Christians are to be like God, not like the world.  In verse 7 Paul says, Therefore do not be partakers with them.”  The word “partakers” means, “Do not be like them, do not do what they do, do not participate in what they do, do not share in what they do. We used to be like them, but now we are different.”

Verse 8 describes this change, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light.”  Notice that it does not say we were “in” or “of” darkness but that we “were formerly darkness” with no qualifier.  That was our nature – dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1); our minds were darkened (Ephesians 4:1), our hearts were darkened (Romans 1:21), and our deeds were those of darkness (Romans 13:12).

Throughout the Bible darkness is used to describe that which is opposite of God, that which is evil and desires to conceal itself.  In Ephesians 6:12 Paul describes demonic power as “rulers of the darkness of this age.”  In 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul contrasts righteousness describing it as light and lawlessness describing it as darkness.  The prophet Isaiah (5:20) used darkness as a description for evil as does Proverbs 2:13.

God and righteousness are often described as light.  1 John 1:5  states, “that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” John 1:4 and 5 describes Jesus in these same terms saying that “in Him was life and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it.” The descriptions of God and His angels by the prophets and apostles generally include a bright light around Him and coming from Him – consider . . . His manifestation to the children of Israel as the pillar of fire which gave them as light during the exodus from Egypt; Moses’ face glowing after meeting God on Mt. Sinai; Isaiah’s and John’s visions of heaven; Daniel’s vision of the angels that spoke with Him; Peter, James & John seeing Jesus transfigured before them; or the Apostle Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.

We were once darkness, by nature evil and enemies with God, but Jesus came to be a great light to those sitting in darkness (Matthew 4:16).  Jesus came to transfer us from the “domain of darkness” to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13).  He called us “out of darkness and into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  Jesus came “to open [our] eyes so that [we] may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that [we] may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Jesus Christ]” (Acts 26:18).  He said Himself, ““I have come [as] light into the world, that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness.”

The great tragedy is that most people prefer the darkness to the light.  The Bible says in John 1:19-20, “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  

As verse 8 of our text says, “we were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.”  John 1:21 adds, “But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”  Again we find that true Christians are a complete contrast to non-Christians because their nature has been changed.

Those who love the darkness

Shun the light, while

Those that love the light

Shun the darkness.

True Christians now are light in the Lord and are to walk as children of light.  What does this mean in a practical sense?  Verse 9 gives us three practical ramifications: “for the fruit of the light [consists] in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Walking in the light means walking in goodness, righteousness and truth.

“Goodness” is also listed in Galatians 5:22 as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  It indicates the quality of moral excellence.  It is a character trait that results in positive action toward others.  It is one of the means by which we bring glory to our Lord (Matthew 5:16; 2 Thessalonians 11:11-12).

“Righteousness” is the fruit of being a child of the light.  It is an extension of the righteousness that is given to us in Christ at salvation.  We are justified by God’s grace (Titus 3:7) and clothed with His righteousness (Philippians 3:9).  But righteousness is not just a theoretical position before God; it is the practical outworking of being a new creature in Christ.  We are righteous before God through Christ, be we also will demonstrate righteousness by seeking to live daily for God (Romans 6:18-19), and this affects our relationships with others.  We do what is right before God in our dealings with other people and this brings glory to God.  We treat others as we would have them treat us (Matthew 7:12).

Righteous is a mark of the Christians life.  Paul has already mentioned the evidence of righteous in Chapters 4 & 5 –

  • We walk worthy of our calling,
  • We find our place of service in the church
  • We give it our all so that the whole body will be strengthened
  • We walk as a “new man”
  • We lay aside our old ways of living.
  • We speak the truth and do not lie.
  • We deal with our anger properly.
  • We do not steal, but rather seek to give.
  • We are careful about what we say
  • We are careful in how we behave and talk so that we might encourage others in having faith in Christ and offering His grace to all.
  • We imitate Christ by loving others the way He loved us.

All this is practical righteousness.  It is the fruit of being a child of the light and being made righteous by God through Christ.

A third fruit is “truth.”

Goodness reflect our relationship with others,

Righteousness reflects our relationship with God

And truth our relationship with ourselves.

Evil is associated with darkness.  It wants to remain hidden, while that which is good and righteous wants to be exposed.  We were once darkness and as a result characterized by lying, deceiving, and living hypocritical lives in an effort to make others think we were something we were not.

As children of light we are honest,

Upright, reliable and trustworthy –

Not because we are trying to impress others,

But because it fits our new nature.

Jesus told us in Matthew 7 that we would know who are true and who are false followers of His by their fruits.  The fruits of the children of light are goodness, righteousness and truth.

Verse 10 gives an overall characteristic of those who are children of light . . . they are “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” The fruit on a tree does not have to be well developed for us to figure out what it is, but it needs to be there.  In the same manner, if the fruit does not continue to grow so as to reach maturity, then the tree is worthless and is cut down and cast aside (John 15). True children of God strive to do what is pleasing to Him, and that takes some time and effort to learn.

God does not leave us in ignorance, but has given us the Bible so that we will know what is His will.  He has given us the Holy Spirit to prompt us on and He sets us in the various circumstances of life so that we can practice our lessons and learn to do what is pleasing to Him.  That was why James says we are to rejoice when various trials come into our lives because they are the means by which we learn our lessons and grow into maturity.

The person who is a child of God desires to learn those lessons and do what is pleasing to the Lord.  A person who does not know Him does not want to learn the lessons because their interest is pleasing themselves, not the Lord.

The natural difference between the Christian and non-Christian is seen here again.  Paul extends the practical aspects of this in verse 11 and 12, “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”  To put it simply . . .

Christians are not to be involved

In the evil deeds that

Are done by non-Christians.

Paul comments on this more thoroughly in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, saying, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Christians are to pursue holiness, not evil, and we must be careful about our associations with those who are still living in the darkness.  We have to be sure that we are separate enough so that we are not pulled in as participants in their evil nor that we bring shame on the name of Christ because of our affiliation with those that do evil.

Paul is not calling for absolute separation from the world as some groups have advocated.  The Bible reminds us in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 that, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters; for then you would have to go out of the world.

The lines of separation are not always easy to define, but we can make those choices as we pursue learning what is pleasing to the Lord instead of ourselves, striving for holiness and rely on the Holy Spirit.  The separation is not made based on what other people think, but on what makes you a participant to their evil, and much of the evil that is done is so disgraceful that it should not even be talked about, much less participated in.

Some issues of separation are easy.  Should a Christian work for or promote in any way any of the following: An abortion clinic? The Mafia? Illegal drugs? Prostitution? Pornography?  Those are all easy.  I went to lots of revival meetings and such growing up, and frankly, the way some of the people gave their testimonies you would get a sense they were reveling in telling about how bad they were before they became Christians, often giving titillating details to pique interest in their story.

The cause of Christ

Is never advanced

By glorifying sin!

While we should be diligent to make every effort to refrain from any participation in evil there is a sense in which such separation occurs naturally.  Why?  Because verse 13 states, “But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.”  When you live righteously those who are evil do not want you around.

While we should never be obnoxious, verse 11 states our exposure of evil should not just be passive.  Our righteous presence exposes and deters evil, but it’s also active.  We should never be afraid to state the truth.  Sin is sin, and righteousness exposes it, and we who are children of the light should not be participants in it.  Instead we are to uncover it and lay it bare.  This extends to our involvement in our nation’s political process.

Romans 13:4 states that God’s purpose for government is to be “an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.”  Our nation has again elected a host of people who advocate great moral evils – abortion, homosexuality, lying, disobedience to parents, etc. (1 Corinthians 6/Romans 1), things that are an abomination against God. Let’s not be afraid of stating what the Bible makes clear – “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” – Proverbs 14:43.

We must call our fellow Americans to repentance and to be humble themselves before the Lord.  We need to pray for our elected officials – whether we like them or not.  There will be a day they will stand before the Lord and give an account of the stewardship entrusted to them and that will not be a pleasant scene unless they have come to salvation in Jesus Christ.  Don’t be afraid to speak up and expose the darkness, call people to repentance and to receive forgiveness in Christ.

Paul concludes in verse 14, “For this reason it says, ‘Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.’” This is adapted from Isaiah 29:19 and 60:1 – The dead will “arise, wake and sing,” and “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.”

The statement here is the gospel in a nutshell . . .

  • “Awake, sleeper” is God’s call to those lost in the darkness of sin to take notice of their plight. The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin.
  • “Arise from the dead” is the call of the Holy Spirit to regeneration. Those dead in trespasses and sin are made alive in Jesus Christ.  Christ shining on you is His continued work in conforming you to His image.
  • We are “learning to please the Lord” in all that we do, with goodness, righteousness and truth marking our path.

We were darkness, but God radically changed us.  We are now light in Jesus Christ.  Let that light shine to all those around – proclaim God’s grace in attitude, word, and deed to all – that those seeking the light may find it and be changed too, and that those committed to darkness might run away.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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How Do You Witness to Those in Cults and Other Religions?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

28Feb  All cults and manmade religions are based in “works righteousness.”  Their adherents believe they have to do something to earn their way to heaven – pray five times a day, lie on beds of nails, do good works, fast, repeat certain prayers, etc.

They do this because

They are ignorant

Of God’s standard

Of righteousness.

This is why they need

The Law of God

To show them

That the leap they

Are trying to make

Is infinitely wider

Than the Grand Canyon.

However, before you take them through the Law to grace, help them see that they are indeed trusting in “works” for salvation.

I have a pastor friend who used this illustration to drive home this point: Let’s say there are a couple of cult members at my door.  I warmly ask for their names, and then say, “I have a knife in my back.  I am dying and have only three minutes to live.  What do I need to do to enter heaven/paradise/the kingdom of God?”  They look concerned.  One says, “A lot.” I ask, “What do you mean ‘a lot’?  I have only two minutes to live. Help me.”  They will normally say they cannot help someone who has just a couple of minutes to live, because their salvation is based on gaining knowledge and doing “good works.”  The fact that they must do things to be saved reveals that they are trusting in their “self-righteousness.”

He then asks them if they think they are “good” people, they almost always say they are, and that is the root cause of their deception.  While they know they are sinners, they believe their sin is not so bad that they cannot earn their own way out of it and “merit” heaven.  So . . .

  • They must be taken through the Law and made to understand that they are criminals in the sight of a holy Judge, and are guilty of countless crimes.
  • They must be taken through the Law and made to understand that they are criminals in the sight of a holy Judge, and are guilty of countless crimes.
  • They must understand that God is perfect and holy, that He considers lust to be adultery and hatred to be murder, and He will see to it that absolute justice is done. That means adulterers, murderers, liars, and thieves will be damned forever.
  • They must understand that their “good” works are not good at all, but are in reality a detestable attempt to bribe the Judge of the universe.

Hopefully they will see their need to

Trust In God’s mercy alone to save them.

That is how the thief on the cross was saved – through mercy alone.  He didn’t go anywhere or do anything to save himself.  He couldn’t, because he was nailed to the cross.  He had no other avenue but to humbly turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42).  In doing so, he acknowledged Jesus as Lord, and believed that He would rise from the dead (Romans 10:9).

That is all that any who are involved in “works righteousness” religions need to do to be saved.

They are condemned by the Law.

They cannot go anywhere or do anything. Al

l they can do is turn to Jesus and

Trust in Him alone for their salvation.

We are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves; “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  So. plant that seed in the hearts of those who think they can be saved by their own works, then pray that God causes it to grow and produce fruit.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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When We Doubt the Faithfulness of God

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

27Feb  Fear has been a constant, albeit unbidden, companion of humanity since the fall. Concerns can range between the jitters from seeing many-legged creatures to the debilitation of a doctor’s diagnosis.  We could take up several blogs considering the prevalent fear, even among Christians, of our own faithlessness.  And yet, this fear of faithlessness is not the one that keeps us awake staring at the ceiling in the dark night of the soul, or when hopes are dashed or finances dry up, or relationships crumble, or persecution bites.

If we allow ourselves a moment of honesty, in times of trials and suffering, there tends to be a voice that does not strive against our faithlessness but calls into question the faithfulness of God.  Will He come through?  Will He do what He has promised?  Will He provide?  Will He heal?  Will He save? Will He strengthen? He will hold me fast.  Will He?

The soul-crippling fear of the Lord’s faithlessness is worthy of a heated battle.  Indeed, we must strive against the fear of the Lord’s faithlessness.  How shall we fight against it?  The key overcoming this fear begins with an understanding of this biblical principle:

My obedience to God is

An obedience that occurs second:

God keeps His word.

He always remains faithful.

Our obedience is certainly required in Scripture.  We are to “be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).  In a real sense, a person’s assurance, comfort, and hope hangs in the balance regarding his glad-hearted obedience or soul-deluding disobedience. As crucial as hearing God’s word is, the testimony of Scripture is that the end of proper hearing is action.

What James wrote propositionally,

Jesus painted pictorially through

The image of a constructed house.

Jesus states in Luke 6:46-49, “Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock.  And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.  But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

When we are hearers only of God’s Word, we become deceived and in as much danger as a beautiful home without a solid foundation.  By grace, resolve to be like the owner who built his unshakable house on the firm foundation by being a doer of the Word.

But . . .

There is a more significant and

Fundamentally firmer foundation.

All of reality rests on this foundation.

Creation, redemption, sanctification,

And glorification rests on this foundation.

Our God is a keeper of His word.

Our God is faithful to keep what He has promised because He is righteous in His character.  It is the testimony of Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 that our God will do what He said He would do.  The Bible proclaims in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he might lie, or a son of man, that he might change his mind. Does he speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill? Did he say it? Won’t he do it?

Woven into the very fabric

Of the nature of God

Is His faithfulness.

In the proclamation of His name to Moses, loyalty is no minor trait.  He abounds in faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).  The song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:4 captures Who the Lord is through the picture of a reliable rock. “He is the Rock, His way is perfect, for all His ways are justice.  A God of truth and without iniquity, just and upright is He.”

Would there be any greater dismay in the entire universe than an unfaithful God who failed to keep his word?

As Joshua’s final charge to Israel included the reminder that not one word had failed of all the good things that the Lord promised – all had come to pass (Joshua 23:14).  The Psalmist gives us good soul food for our hearts to feast upon every time we step outside and look up at the vastness of the sky in Psalm 36:5, “Your mercy, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds.”

A beam of hopeful light pierces through the dark exilic clouds of Lamentations 3:21-23, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  Gladly we sing, “There is no shadow of turning with Thee.”   We discover Him to be, “The Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to turning” (James 1:17).  Mightily we can stand against the fear of a faithless God.

Romans 3:3-4 tells us that human unbelief has no bearing on the Lord’s faithfulness. “What if some were unfaithful?  Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?   By no means! Let God be true though every man were a liar, as it is written, ‘That You may be justified in Your words and prevail when You are judged.’”  The Bible tells in 2 Timothy 2:13 there is a good reason why this is so, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.”

The supremely tremendous

And continual declaration

From the Word of God is

That above all things

Our Triune God is

Faithful to Himself.

There is profound encouragement in knowing that our God is faithful to His own.

Spiritual fortitude in the face of fear

Finds its source in God’s

Deeper commitment to Himself.

His faithfulness to us

Is the fruit of

His allegiance to Himself.

Here is where hope in the most challenging circumstances finds fertile soil to grow and flourish.  Here is the battleground where the fear of the Lord’s faithlessness is fought.  The Bible declares in Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.  In God (I will praise His Word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear …”

The ground of our hope is

Our Lord’s faithfulness

To His Word.

He has promised us great things.  Won’t He do them?  Do you think He wouldn’t follow His own rules?  If we are to be doers of His word and not hearers only, it rests fundamentally on the fact that God is a doer of His word.  The fear of God’s faithlessness is an irrational fear.  By grace, like Job, make a covenant with the eyes of your faith to keep them locked on the facts of God’s faithfulness.

We can then, “Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Being A Believer That Honors God And Furthers His Kingdom

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

26Feb  As we study the New Testament and particularly the difficult topics dealt with in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, 9, and 10:23-33, we find that . . .

Christians tend to fall into

Five different categories depending

On how they understand and respond

To their liberty in Christ.

I want to look at these areas in my blog today.

(1) The Weaker Brother

An analysis of these passages reveals four weaknesses which define the weaker brother.

He is weak in faith (Romans 14:1-2; cf. 22-23).

Faith as used here means “a firm, intelligent agreement and conviction based on Scripture that something is okay or not okay.”  The Greek text has “the faith” which refers to the body of truth which is to be taken in faith, but due to context (verses 2 and 14), the article should be taken as a personal pronoun, “his faith.”

The biblical definition of faith

Does not apply only to salvation.

It is equally applicable to

The rest of the Christian life.

Faith, as taught in the Bible,

Means we are to not only believe

What God says in the Bible,

We are also to obey it.

We are not only to believe the promises of God,

We are to live by those promises.

We are to agree with the truth of God’s Word,

And

We are to allow ourselves

To be transformed by it (Romans 12:2).

Why is this definition of faith so important?  Why must acting on the truth accompany agreeing with the truth facts?  Because “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6); because without faith, we cannot be saved John 3:16); because without faith, the Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be (John 10:10).

He is weak in knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:7; cf. Romans 14:14).

This is the reason for his lack of conviction – a lack of biblical understanding of God’s grace.  His faith is either misinformed or lacking in biblical content which included three issues:

  • He did not realize the idol was nothing.  He had not seen the implications that “there is only one true God” (1 Corinthians 8:4-5).
  • He did not know that food offered to “a nothing” would not spiritually affect him and that it could not be unclean in itself (Romans 14:14).
  • He do not understand that food cannot commend us to God, that food in itself has no spiritual bearing on our spiritual lives (1 Corinthians 8:8).

He is weak in conscience

This means his conscience is based on human standards and norms and is overly sensitive, condemning him for things the Biblee does not (1 Corinthians 8:7; 10, 12).

He is weak in his will

He is weak in his will because he can be influenced to do something contrary to his conscience, or to act without becoming fully convinced by Scripture that something is either right or wrong.  In this case, the weaker person acts on the example of the stronger believer without biblical conviction and faith.  This violates his conscience, and so causes him to sin against the Lord (1 Corinthians 8:10).

The weaker brother is any believer who, because of the weakness of his faith, conscience, knowledge, and will, can be influenced to sin against his conscience by the example or life style of a stronger brother.  The weaker brother is not just a new or immature believer; he is not a Christian who happens to differ with you or me on some issue, but he or she is one who can be influenced to act contrary to their conscience or personal convictions (Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 8:9-12).

(2) The Stronger Brother

Conversely the stronger brother of Romans 15:1 is the one who is strong in his faith (conviction) (Romans 14:22), knowledge of grace, and what is truly right or wrong (1 Corinthians 8:7, 10; Romans 14:14) in his conscience (Romans 14:22), and will (1 Corinthians 10:10; Romans 11:14).  The stronger brother is the believer who is certain of his biblical convictions, understands his freedom in Christ, and exercises his liberty without doubting and without being improperly influenced by differing opinions or behavior.

(3) The Pharisee Believer

Warnings in the Bible regarding being judgmental of others such as Matthew 7:1-3 undoubtedly had in mind the Pharisees.  The Pharisee mentality is a problem among all people, and God’s people are not exempt because we still have old patterns that need to be dealt with along with a sinful nature that wars against the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

Not understanding God’s righteousness in Christ, this type of believer works to gain God’s righteousness or to be accepted of God (Romans 14:1-10).  The tendency is for such believers to look down on those who do not do and believe as they do in regard to debatable issues.  This was one of the problems for the church at Galatia (Galatians. 5:1-15).  Romans 16:17 warns about those who cause dissensions, and a critical spirit is associated with such people.  Those involved in the fan clubs mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:3 were critical of others in an effort to promote their favorite teacher.  In fact, Paul warns of this in 1 Corinthians 4:3 (cf. also 2 Corinthians 10:7-12; 4:6).

This believer is characterized by a number of things.

  • He lacks in biblical understanding of the believer’s freedom in Christ and his deliverance from the works of the law, or from human works as a means of salvation or spirituality.  So he is a legalist.  Legalism is not simply the conviction certain things are wrong, nor the avoidance of certain things; rather it is an observance or an avoidance done in order to merit favor with God.
  • He has very strong convictions about his list of taboos, but his convictions are based primarily on his own background and prejudices rather than the teaching of the Bible.
  • He is often strong willed.  He is able to resist pressure from others to conform to their standards.  He tends not to be influenced by the example of others and often takes religious pride in his taboos, for to him they are a sign of his super-spirituality.
  • Above all, he tends to be hyper-critical and judgmental and seeks to get others to conform to his opinions.  Those who will not conform he rejects and refuses to accept.
  • He is usually not too hungry for the in-depth study of Scripture.  He tends to be superficial and an externalist.

(4) The Stumbling Block Believer

This believer (cf. Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9-13) may have all the characteristics of the stronger brother, only he uses his liberty without regard to biblical guidelines for the use of liberty,( i.e., the biblical principles which govern behavior in the questionable things).  The majority of 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 and 15 are aimed at this type of believer, or at keeping the stronger believer from misusing his or her liberty.  This is a believer who is weak on LOVE and concern for the One Another responsibilities laid out in the New Testament.

(5) The Servant-Type Believer

This believer (cf. Romans 15:1; Galatians 5) too has all the characteristics of the stronger believer, but he is not in bondage to his emancipation.  He forgoes his liberty, out of love, for the sake of others, whenever it might harm another believer, hurt his testimony with unbelievers, or in essence break any one of the cardinal principles necessary for exercising our liberty, and for guiding us as to when we should or should not do certain things.  The servant-type believer is strong on love and follows the model of His Savior.  He pursues the things which make for peace and the edification of one another.  Rather than becoming a stumbling block, he seeks to be a stepping stone.

What type of believer are you?  What is God showing you that you need to become so that you can be the type of believer that will honor Him and further His kingdom?

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

Where To Turn In A World Of Competing Narratives

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

25Feb  In Psalm 73. Asaph reminds us why it is so important to be in church on Sunday mornings.  He begins this Psalm bewildered by the conflict of what he believes to be true in his heart and what seems to be true in the culture.  In verses 1-3, He writes, “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

While Asaph knows in the depth of his soul that God is good to the pure in heart, everything around him seems to proclaim – from the workplace, magazine racks , the news, the movies, Facebook, and politics – a contradictory truth: “The wicked prosper.”

He describes his bewilderment in verses 4-9, “For they have no pangs in their death, but their strength is fir.  They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.  Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment.  Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish.  The scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily.   They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth.”

The horrifying story unfolding before Asaph’s eyes seems so true, and it threatens to override the truth hidden in his own heart.

What are we to do

When the narratives

Playing out in society

Are a direct affront

To our Christian faith?

We are surrounded by conflicting stories; how do we keep our feet from stumbling into false narratives?  Asaph shows us the way.

Postmodernism and False Narratives.

I remember the first time I encountered the word postmodernism.  It was in the early 2000s, and Christians were certain postmodernism was going to be the downfall of society.  At the time, postmodern thought in my limited understanding boiled down to one basic tenet: Truth is relative.  It was a dangerous truth claim to be sure.

What I realize now is how I failed to comprehend the point of a postmodern perspective.  Someone has rightly perceived, “postmodernism was descriptive before it was prescriptive.”  The mantra, “Truth is relative” . . .

Was not necessarily

The way Postmoderns

Wanted the world to be;

It was simply the way

The world already operated.

Postmodernism sought to remove the masks and reveal the power struggles beneath the surface.  What was really happening when individuals, political parties, genders, races, classes, or religious organizations claimed to have the truth on their side?  From a postmodern perspective, truth is never really about truth.  Truth is about power.  To the postmodern world . . .

Truth is easily refashioned

To fit whatever narrative

One’s team is pushing.

And whoever controls

The narrative

Controls the world.

Certainly, we cannot deny this is often the case today.  Everyone is pushing a narrative.

  • Network and Cable News push narratives.

You will hear two totally different accounts of the “facts” depending on which network you choose.  That is because each has a story it is telling, and that story is aimed at expanding the power of their team.

  • Politicians push narratives.

The strange thing is that we all know this.  Pundits perform fact checks after debates and town halls, and we are never surprised to find that a politician has stretched the truth – or even fabricated the truth – in order to further the story he or she is trying to sell to the public.  And why?  It’s all aimed at election. It’s a vie for power.

  • Social media push narratives.

Instagram and Pinterest are telling tales about what the good life looks like. Twitter is weaving together stories to shape the narrative of social justice and to control whose voices deserve to be heard.  Facebook – well, who knows what Facebook’s narrative is these days.  But all stories being told by these platforms aim at one thing: maintaining the power, status, and importance of social media in society.

  • Hollywood pushes narratives.

Whether through award shows, celebrity activists, or the content of its art, television and movies are weaving together narratives through the telling and retelling of stories.  They are telling us something about the regal place of entertainment in society.

We Need a True Story.

The point is, we live in a storytelling world.  And that is . . .

Why you and I need

To be in church

On Sunday morning.

Asaph wandered around

Wearied and discouraged

By the narratives of this world,

Until he entered

A space shaped

By a different narrative.

A space –

And a people –

Shaped by God’s story.

He writes in verses 16-17, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end.”

It was when Asaph entered the sanctuary of God . . .

When he entered

The presence

Of God’s people,

When his ears were

Filled with God’s Word,

That the narratives

Of this world

Lost their power.

He was comforted

By the narrative

Of the unbending,

Unshakeable truth –

God’s truth.

We spend six days moving about in a world that seems to proclaim, “The wicked prosper! The wicked prosper! The wicked prosper!”  And if we are not careful, we grow to envy the proud.  We become jealous of co-workers who succeed by clawing their way to the top.  Our appetites and desires are shaped by daily scrolling through social media.  We begin to believe that politics will save us.  And for six days, our hearts grow sick with worry, anxiety, doubts, and temptation because we begin to believe the false narratives the devil proclaims in an effort to exercise power over us…

Until . . .

  • We enter the sanctuary of God.
  • Until we hear God’s people singing about the wonder of God.
  • Until we are still before God, stand His honor, kneel in prayer, and sing praises to God.
  • Until we read aloud the truths of God’s Word.
  • Until we confess our sins and hear afresh the grace of God given to us in Christ.
  • Until we lay our treasures at His feet.
  • Until we taste and experience His presence.
  • Until we hear the eternal Word of God and our hearts are kindled afresh by the only true story in all of the universe.

This is why we so desperately need Sunday mornings.

Sunday worship among the gathered people of God is a rehearsing, a retelling, and a reliving of God’s story – the narrative of salvation history.  We live the story together of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Re-creation.

It is a reminder

That despite the narratives

Around us that proclaim,

“The wicked prosper,”

Jesus Christ,

The Crucified and Risen Savior

Is still on His throne.

When we stand in the sanctuary, the story is reset.  The truth reigns!  And we proclaim with Asaph, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:24-26

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Held Captive By A Church Cliché

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

24Feb  In Exodus 33:15 Moses says to the Lord, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”  Perhaps there is no more insidious church cliché that holds Christians captive than this one:

You will know you are in the center of God’s will

When you sense a peace about your decision.”

There may be times when you sense a peace about a decision you are about to make, but make no mistake, the Bible is full of examples of those who did not and yet followed God’s leading into His perfect plan for the “peaceless” path they were to travel.  In my blog today, I want to consider several biblical principles about this unbiblical cliché.

To begin with, I believe we need to clear up the matter of “peace” as it is presented in the Bible.  Peace is promised to the people of God, but . . .

That peace is rooted

In an objective fact,

Not an emotional feeling.

When Paul wrote in Romans 5:1 that “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” he was telling us about an objective fact.  The first fruit of justification is peace with God, because we have been brought back into a right relationship with our heavenly Father.  This peace is a result of the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus performs in the life of every believer, not a result of making right decisions.  So . . .

To assume that a decision is right

Simply because you have

A peace about it is wrong.

When God called Moses to be the deliverer of His people, a sense of peace was as far from him as the east is from the west.  Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) – this was Moses’ first attempt to dismiss God’s call on his life.  After God assured Moses that He Himself would go with him, Moses came up with objection number two: “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” (Exodus 3:13).  The Sovereign Lord dismissed that excuse with His great declaration that “I Am Who I Am,” but Moses was still troubled. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” he asked (Exodus 4:1).  God dismissed that excuse with the “staff into a snake” and the “hand as white as snow” illustrations. Moses had no other excuse available to him, so he simply asked God to pardon him from his peaceless calling because he was not an eloquent speaker.

At no time did Moses experience any sense of peace about the decision God was calling him to make.  It was just the opposite!  And remember this . . .

God not only made it crystal clear

What He wanted Moses to do

Through His spoken Word,

He accompanied His command

With supernatural miracles.

Yet none of that gave peace to Moses.

God was calling Him to do what he could not justify with a sense of peace about his decision.

What about you?  Are you facing any decisions today where God seems to be calling you to walk a peaceless path?  You are in good company!  Seek godly counsel and continue praying about it, but know that the key to understanding what is God’s calling will often not be found in peace, but rather in His presence – the place to which God ultimately brought Moses.  And when Moses sensed God’s presence, he could then say sincerely, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15).

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

 

 

Salvation Is About The Savior, Not About The Saint

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

21Feb   The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:6, “There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”  The benefits of salvation for the believer are far too many to number – for the Bible teaches us that we have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3).  Now, here is a truth that needs to be declared over and over today . . .

Salvation is not

Primarily about the saint;

It is about the Savior.

We have been saved by Jesus and for Jesus.  We are not our own; we were bought by the incomparable price of the precious blood of the Lamb of God.  Therefore . . .

Because we are His,

The life we live

Must be lived

For the honor

And glory and praise

Of His name.

It is vitally important that we understand the difference between being saved for service and being saved by service.  Far too many in the church today wrongly believe they are saved by their service to God – that is, by their good works.  They believe that God will grade their lives “on a curve” of some sort, and that those who perform enough good works will be allowed into heaven.  But the Bible knows nothing of this pernicious error. The Bible clearly teaches in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  You see . . .

If we were saved by service,

Salvation would indeed be

All about the saint,

But it is not . . .

Which is why

No one can boast.

On the other hand,

Being saved for service

Frees us to find God’s

Plan and purpose

For our lives,

So that we are able

To live in a way

That demonstrates our

Love for God and

For our neighbor.

A person who has truly been saved by God’s grace is a person who lives for serving God.  Think about it this way: God doesn’t need us for anything. He is capable of accomplishing His will all by Himself. He hung the sun in the sky just by speaking a word!  Yet God wants us, and the proof of that truth is the fact that you are reading this right now.  Unlike the good thief on the cross, who went to Paradise mere moments after being saved, you are still here, which means God has work for you to do in this world.

How does knowing that salvation

Iis all about Jesus and not about you

Impact the way you use

Your time, talent, and treasure?

Are you allowing God

To use you for His glory

. . . Or are you striving

For your own glory?

Are you spending the lion’s share

Of your time expanding the cause

Of His glorious kingdom . . .

Or are you trying to

Build your own kingdom?

The choice will always be yours, and please don’t forget this: Even though God does not need your service, everyone else does.  If you fail to give yourself in service to your Lord, we are all diminished.  Keeping in view that your salvation is about your Savior will keep you in the center of His plan and purpose for your life, and there is absolutely no better place to live in order to find the meaning and significance we all crave.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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 WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH BE DEVOTED TO?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

19FEb  On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.  Suddenly the sound of a hurricane rocked Jerusalem. The overpopulated city was drawn to the epicenter of the sound.  There they met one-hundred and twenty disciples of Jesus, praising God miraculously in unlearned languages.  The people assumed the disciples were drunk.  Peter addressed the crowd.  He declares that they were not drunk – they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  As Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the crucified but resurrected Messiah, the people were cut to the heart.  They repented of their sins and trusted Christ for salvation.  Acts 2:41 notes: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”

Acts 2 records the birth of the church.  It also records the growth of the infant church in verses 42-47.  Acts 2:42 is a summary statement: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  “They” refers to the three thousand who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. They devoted themselves “steadfastly.”  This is a word that speaks of fidelity, intensity, and consistency.  These new believers forsook whatever would hinder them from following Jesus.  In John 8:31-32, Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Acts 2:42 is clear . . .

These new disciples were

Devoted to Christ

 And the church.

Their devotion to Christ

Was expressed by

Their devotion to the church.

The church increasingly struggles to address the modern epidemic of unchurched Christians.  An analysis of the New Testament reveals that they should be considered “unchurched non-Christians.”  I know it is not popular today, but I believe the Bible teaches that real Christian are devoted to the church.  But not just any church.  Real Christians are devoted to real churches.  One characteristic of the genuineness of the early believer’s faith was their commitment to the local gathering of the church.

What does a real church look like?

The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  

 The devotion of the day-old church

Should be the devotion of the church today.

A church can do more than these four things

And still be the church.

But a church cannot do less

Than these four things

And be the church.

Acts 2:42 records four Christian essentials the church should be devoted to:

1) THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING

Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine…”  It is not accidental or incidental that “the apostles’ doctrine” comes first in this list.  It always comes first.

  • Precept must come before practice.
  • Doctrine must come before experience.
  • Instruction must come before application.

Acts 2 recorded the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the church. Yet . . .

These Spirit-filled Christians

Did not think

Their Pentecostal experience

Exempted them

From doctrinal teaching.

The work of the Spirit

And the truth of Scripture

Work together.

In John 16:13, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”  Ephesians 6:17 exhorts Christians soldier to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  The first Christians were open to divine empowerment and divine instruction.  But . . .

These Spirit-indwelt disciples

Did not seek only direct revelation.

They submitted to the apostles’ teaching.

The first mark of a Spirit-filled church

Is its appetite for biblical teaching.

The apostles were with Jesus throughout His earthly ministry.  They were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus said to the apostles, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  On the day of Pentecost, Peter witnesses for the risen Christ to those who crucified Him.  3,000 people were saved.

The proof they were saved

Is that they did not seek

More sounds from heaven,

Cloven tongues of fire,

Or miracles of languages.

They wanted to be

Taught by the apostles.

  • They did not crave a new experience with Jesus.
  • They craved sound instruction about Jesus.

So, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine.

John R.W. Stott wrote: “One might perhaps say that the Holy Spirit opened a school in Jerusalem that day; its teachers were the apostles whom Jesus had appointed; and there were 3,000 pupils in the kindergarten!”  In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.”

Jesus taught the apostles.

The apostles were to

Make disciples by

Teaching them to obey Christ.

The apostles’ teaching was anchored in the Word of God.  Faithful churches are teaching, learning, studying churches.  If you are looking for a church, this should be your first question: “What does this church teach?” 

 A true church

Is unapologetically

A teaching church.

A congregation is

A Christian church

To the degree

It is confronted by

And shapes its life

In response to

The Word of God.

Spirit-filled churches are Bible-teaching churches.  What is true of a local church is true of an individual Christian.   If the Spirit who inspired Scripture lives in you, it is impossible to have no desire for studying, learning, and living by the Scripture.  Either you are not saved or you are not filled with the Spirit.  Ask God to change your heart and make you devoted to the apostles’ doctrine.

2) FELLOWSHIP

The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship”  The word “fellowship” translates the Greek word “koinonia.”  It is the most famous New Testament Greek word after “agape.”  It is just as misunderstood.  We use “fellowship” to refer to being together at the same place, having a good time together, or performing religious activities together.  But fellowship is more than that.

  • It is to hold something in common.
  • It is to be in business together.
  • It is to be partners with one another.

This commercial term became

A Christian term on the day of Pentecost.

Fellowship is what it means to be a Christian.

The Bible says in 1 John 1:3, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

We have fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  We also have fellowship with one another.  We can test our fellowship with God by testing our fellowship with one another.  If there is no fellowship with one another, you are not in fellowship with God.  If there is only fellowship with a select clique, you are not in fellowship with God.

Genuine conversion is evidenced

By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

And love for all the saints.

You cannot have one

Without the other.

In 1 Timothy 3:15, the Bible describes the church as “. . . the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and ground of the truth.”  I know people who claim they can be fully-devoted Christians without being participating members of the church. I do not know one person who actually is.

The gospel does not make sense,

Without the church that

Makes it make sense.

A pastor visited a member who did not regularly attend church.  The member greeted the pastor, led him to his living room, and offered him a seat near the fireplace.  It was a cold day, but the fireplace warmed the room.  As they talked, the pastor challenged the member about his participation.  But the man was unmoved.  Then the pastor took the tongs from beside the fireplace, opened the screen, and separated the glowing coals until none was touching another.  Then he sat down and watched in silence.  Soon the coals cooled, and the fire died. The man got the message.

Acts 2:44-45 illustrates Christian fellowship at work, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongs and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”  This is not communist socialism.  It is Christian fellowship.  True Christians are generous people.  There is nothing wrong with Christians gaining, possessing, or enjoying material wealth.  It is wrong for Christians to have wealth without sharing with those in need.  The Bible tells us in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  Preachers think they are being prophetic by denouncing the government failure to help the poor.  But it is foolish to expect unconverted people to practice Christian generosity.  The church can make a difference if Christians would find a need and meet it.

3) THE BREAKING OF BREAD

The Bible continues in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread…”  The meaning of the phrase “in the breaking of bread” has been the subject of vigorous debate.  It is grammatically connected to fellowship.  But it is not a parallel for fellowship. “Breaking of bread” is used at times for eating a meal.  But Luke could not simply mean they ate meals. That would be out of place, alongside the distinctively Christian acts of teaching, fellowship, and prayer. The three thousand ate meals before they became Christians.  And they ate meals after they became Christians.

The phrase ‘breaking bread”

Was uniquely Christian.

In the ancient near East,

Sharing a meal was

About fellowship, not food.

This is why the religious leaders grumbled against Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them.  Luke presents eating together as a mark of a united church.  Acts 2:46 says, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  In the early church, the church ate together every day.  They called it “the love feast.”  This daily meal became a weekly meal.  As a part of their corporate worship meetings, the saints would break bread together.

These common meals had a special element.  As they broke bread, they ate bread and drank wine in remembrance of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:23-26 says: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

 “Breaking bread” points to the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Table is a regular reminder

That Jesus is our all-sufficient

Prophet, Priest, and King!

The call to remember

Is a call to worship.

A devoted church is

A Christ-centered church,

A Christ-focused church,

A Christ-exalting church.

The Bible says in Colossians 1:18, “And He is the head of the body, the church. Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”  

 Jesus is the supreme One

Who has first place, full control,

And final authority in everything.

He is to have first place

In all creation.

He is to have first place

In the church.

He is to have first place

In your life.

The Bible says in Colossians 2:9-10, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in His who is the head of all principality and power.”

 4) PRAYER

Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”   

 The verse begins with

The church’s devotion

To the apostles’ teaching.

The verse ends with

The church’s devotion to prayer.

Devotion to both is essential

To be a healthy, growing,

And fruitful church.

 What was the church doing in the Upper Room between the Ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit?  Acts 1:14 says, “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”  During this vulnerable time of transition, the disciples did not call a business meeting.  They held a ten-day prayer meeting.  Even the important decision about who would replace Judas as the twelfth apostle was made in prayer.  Acts 1:24-25 says, “And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the heart of all, show which  of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.””

Acts 2:1 says, “When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.”  The church was born in a prayer meeting.  But they did not stop praying after they received the power of the Spirit.

These early Christians knew

That they could not meet

Life in their own strengthen

And that they did not need to.

They always went to God

Before they went out to the world;

They were able to meet

The problems of life

Because they had first met Him.

A real church is devoted to prayer. Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” 

Why pray?

  • We pray to obey the command of God.
  • We pray to enjoy the presence of God.
  • We pray to claim the promises of God.
  • We pray to experience the power of God.
  • We pray to advertise our dependence upon God.

Believing prayer invokes

Divine intervention that

Exalts sovereign glory!

Raymond McHenry wrote, “May we never experience success without prayer.”   A tour guide led tourists through Westminster Abby.  After he boasted about the classic architecture, expensive appointments, and famous celebrities who had worshiped in the cathedral, he asked, “Are there any questions?” One old woman said, “Yes, sir. Has anyone been saved here lately?”

The success of a church

Cannot be measured by

Buildings, budgets, and bodies.

It is measured by changed lives!

Acts 2:42 says, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”  

And Acts 2:47b says, “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

  • The Lord did not add anyone to the church without saving them.
  • The Lord did not save anyone without adding them to the church.

Luke does not say the church did evangelism.  But we can assume the church witnessed for Jesus.  The Bible says in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Someone had to be telling sinners about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  But Luke does not give the saints any credit.  The Lord added to the church those who were being saved!

Jonah 2:9 says, “Salvation is of the Lord.”  This is called monergism.  Synergism is when different elements work together to produce a different or greater result than they can produce separately.  Monergism means only God saves.  Pray to God for the salvation of the lost.  Praise God for the salvation of the lost. Psalm 115:1 “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to You name give glory because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.”

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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