Complete In Christ

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

22JuneTo have Jesus Christ is to have everything.  The preeminence of Christ is both a fact and a key to experiencing true life.  Lasting peace, joy, purpose, and meaning are found exclusively in Him.  In a word, Christians are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10).

I am going to use the next few weeks to consider the richness of this truth as we go verse-by-verse through the short New Testament Letter of Colossians. Today we will look at some introductory truths about this fabulous Book.

1) Consider The Place Of Colossae. 

Colossae is located in an area that was once called Phrygia, the greater area having been called Asia Minor.  Today we refer to that same area as west central Turkey.  Colossae is located on the Lycus River, very close to Laodicea.  As such, we’re not surprised that in the concluding words of Colossians, the Apostle Paul encourages that the letter also be read in Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).

So, what does Colossae look like today?  If we took a tour today of Colossae how much of the great city would we see?  Is there a great acropolis like in Athens, or a Colossaeum like in Rome?  All that is left today is a sign.  Unlike other biblical sites, Colossae has yet to be excavated.  The city of Colossae was destroyed by an earthquake in the years shortly after Paul wrote this letter.  He wrote the letter around AD 60 and there was an earthquake that occurred closely after that time.

But when Paul wrote the letter, Colossae was already becoming rather insignificant in influence, and here is why:  Do you know about Route 66?  There was a song written about it, “I get my kicks on Route 66?”  It was made popular by Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry, and others.  Written in the 1940s, the song talks about the highway Route 66, going through 8 states from Chicago to Los Angeles.   Route 66 was completed in the 1920s and it was the way to travel west and thousands of people drove along Route 66 making their way anywhere from Chicago to LA.  By the way, did you know that the working title of the animated movie “Cars” (2006) was “Route 66.”

Anyway, there were all these great stops on Route 66, lots of popular motels, diners, and other business.  But with the coming of the Interstate in the 70s and 80s, Route 66 was eventually removed from the US Highway System in 1985.  A lot of the businesses along Route 66 closed down or dwindled to insignificance.

What happened to those businesses when the roadway was redirected is essentially what happened to the city of Colossae.  Colossae had once been a great city of commerce on the trade route from Ephesus to the Euphrates River. But when the Romans changed the road system, Colossae became less and less visited. Over time, cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis became more important.

2) Consider The Person Who Wrote Colossians. 

The person who wrote to this letter is the Apostle Paul.  We learn that in the first word of the entire letter in chapter 1, verse 1: “Paul.”  I have always liked the way people wrote their letters 2,000 years ago.  They identified the writer of the letter at the very beginning.

Who is the Apostle Paul?  You probably know that Paul was originally a very antagonistic unbelieving Jewish Pharisee known as Saul of Tarsus.  God got ahold of Saul’s heart – the same way he got ahold of many of our hearts – and changed Saul through the power of the Gospel.  Someone said after that, “Saul became something of a “church planting machine,” planting over a dozen churches in his lifetime.

The Bible doesn’t say who planted the church in Colossae, but Paul is writing to the church from prison in Rome.  He had been imprisoned for his faith, a fact especially clear in the way Paul concludes the letter.  Among the last words of Chapter 4, he writes, “Remember my chains” (Colossians 4:18).

Colossians is one of four epistles known as the “Prison Epistles,” because they were written when Paul was in prison (the others are Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon).

People always want to know what Paul looked like and the Bible nowhere describes him so we really don’t know for sure.  There is, however, an interesting physical description of the Apostle Paul that dates to the latter part of the second century.  It’s found in a book called, Acts of Paul and Thecla.  This is book is not in the Bible, so it’s not to be considered totally trustworthy and it’s certainly not inspired in the sense of God-breathed.  But in this book, there’s this brief description of Paul: “A man small in size, bald-headed, bandy-legged (or bowlegged), well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace. For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel. (Acts of Paul and Thecla, vol.8, p.487.  Nobody really knows what Paul looked like– but that’s one popular description.

We also have no record in the Scriptures that Paul ever visited Colossae.  So how did the Gospel get to Colossae?  Colossae is close to Ephesus; only about 120 miles east of Ephesus.  And Paul had been to Ephesus.  In fact, Paul was in Ephesus for a total of 3 years (Acts 20:31), perhaps the longest time spent in any one city.

Acts 19 says that Paul spent 3 months teaching in the synagogue and then spent 2 years teaching in the lecture hall of Tyrannus; teaching every day for 2 years in this Ephesian school.  Acts 19:19 concludes the section by saying, “And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”

The point is that the Gospel was taught with such consistency that those who sat under Paul’s teaching would go to the surrounding areas and share what they learned – so that the Gospel reached out to every geographical location in what is now west central Turkey.

There were people there in that school in Ephesus, people like Epaphras who we will read about later in verse 7. Epaphras seems to be the evangelist who heard the good news in Ephesus and then took it to Colossae and neighboring Laodicea.

3) Consider The People Of Colossae.

I like the way they are described in Colossians 1:1-2, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Note that phrase in verse 2, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colossae.”   The Colossian believers are described as, “in Christ,” and then “in Colossae.”  Paul describes their identity before he writes of their geography.  They are “in Christ,” that’s their identity; and they are living “in Colossae,” that’s their geography.

Our position in Christ –

Who we are –

Is far more important

Than the place we live –

Where we are.

Position is more

Important

Than place.

In the weeks ahead we’ll be reading more about the Christian’s position in Christ, his or her blessed union with Jesus.

This is God’s 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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Christ Is Our Life – He Is To Be Preeminent

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

30June  Colossians has just four chapters.  95 verses.  What is this short letter all about?  In a word: Jesus.  This letter is all about the preeminence of Jesus Christ.  In yesterday’s post we considered the place of Colossae and the people of Colossae, and the person who wrote the letter.  Today we will look at the purpose of Colossians.  Why exactly did Paul write this letter?

If you’ve ever found a letter in a box in your attic, maybe a letter written years earlier by a great grandmother or grandfather (remember handwritten letters?!), you can read the letter and usually figure out what was going on in that person’s life at the time they wrote the letter; what the situation was or the occasion for writing.

The same is true when you read through a letter like this letter to the church at Colossae.  As we read the letter it becomes clear that Paul’s stress on the superiority of Christ is his correction for at least two false teachings surfacing in the first century:

  • One of those heretical teachings was rooted in unorthodox views of Judaism.
  • The other false teaching eventually became known as Gnosticism.

We won’t go into detail on these heresies at present, but just know that Paul has these two ruinous teachings in his mind as he writes the first two chapters of the letter.

As to overall structure, there are two verses in chapter 1 that really give a nice summary of the contents of Paul’s letter.  They are verses 9 and 10, “For this reason we also, since the day we heard it (heard of their faith and love), do not cease to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, full pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Here is a simple two-part outline of the letter as provided in J. Sidlow Baxter’s helpful resource: Explore the Book:

Chapters 1-2: DOCTRINAL – “That You May Be Filled” (verse 9)

Chapters 3-4: PRACTICAL – “That You May Walk Worthily” (verse10)

Note this . . .

Theology precedes living!

Paul gives theology before telling us how to live out that theology.  In Christianity, doctrine precedes duty.  If we reverse the order, we end up with nothing more than rigid legalism or religious moralism.

Christianity is truth

That is lived out.

So . . .

Paul gives two chapters of doctrinal truth

Before giving the imperative commands.

When we understand that

Our “duty” is based upon “doctrine,”

We will live out our Christian lives

As a “Thank You Note”

To God for His grace!

The same structure is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians: six chapters; the first three are doctrine, the following three chapters are duty.

The practical teaching makes sense

Only when it is built upon the doctrinal truth.

Christianity is not true because it works;

Christianity works because it is true.

So, in chapters 1 and 2, the DOCTRINAL section, we will be studying the fullness of Christ and what that means – all of this rich teaching on the preeminence of Christ – the greatness of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then, in chapters 3 and 4, the PRACTICAL section, we will be studying how we are to live out our lives.

How one lives is based

Upon what one believes.

Stated another way:

What we believe

Determines

How we live.

Theology matters!

For example: notice the past, present, and future tenses in the opening verses of chapter 3 (beginning of the PRACTICAL section), where Paul reminds the Christians of their union with Christ: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden with Chris in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

Then Paul writes about living out our faith in Christ.  He uses this great imagery in chapter 3 of “putting off” and “putting on,” like old clothing, Christians put off the old dirty clothes of the way we used to live – putting off the old behavior of things in verse 8 like anger, wrath, and malice – and then putting on new behavior like the things of verse 12, tender mercies, kindness, humility and so on.

Paul talks about the Christian home in verses 18 and following, how husbands and wives relate to one another biblically, and children relate to their parents, and employees relate to their employers.

And he writes about Christian graces in chapter 4 and how we are to behave around lost people.

This is all the practical living

That flows from doctrinal teaching.

Theology matters.

So . . .

Who Jesus Christ is,

And what He has done,

Affects who we are

And what we do.

I love the statement in verse 4 of chapter 3 where Paul describes Jesus Christ as, our life.”  He says, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

When we understand

That real life, true life,

Is a life found in Christ,

The all-satisfying Lord of everything,

Then we will know true living.

And we’ll be ready to meet Him either at death or when He returns.

This is God’s 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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Vision Correction: The Difference Jesus Makes

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

19JuneIt is often said that if a skeptic wished to be honest in his serious consideration of the historicity of the Bible, he would have to explain two historical facts: the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  Both events are difficult to dismiss out of hand if one takes seriously the historical record.

Today’s focus is on Saul’s conversion (recorded in Acts 9:1-22).  Saul, usually remembered as Paul, is the one who gave us close to two-thirds of the New Testament. What happened to this man . . .

That changed him from

A persecutor of the faith

To a publisher of the faith?

Here’s how Luke recorded Paul’s encounter . . .

Saul was on his way to Damascus, hoping to find Christians he could arrest.  He’s got warrants in his hand as he journeys along when suddenly he is blinded by a light from heaven and falls to the ground in an encounter that leaves him three days without sight.

We will read later that his sight is restored.  God will do that.  It is God who blinds him and God who restores his sight.  The irony is rich . . .

Saul believed he could see spiritually

But he was really blind to the truth.

So God blinds him physically

In order to help him see!

As we study this passage today, we must not miss this important truth – It is God who conducts this “operation,” this spiritual eye surgery, on Saul of Tarsus – and He does it upon everyone who comes to Him by faith in Christ.

From Paul’s conversion record we learn of no fewer than three “essentials” of true Christianity . . .

1) The Necessity of Conversion.

Jesus said in John 3:3, “You must be born again.”  We cannot be saved from sin without the new birth.  God gives us new hearts and we believe by faith in Jesus Christ.  This is conversion, we were once headed in one direction, but we have changed course.  We are now following Jesus Christ.  Paul described conversion as a new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

This was true of the Apostle Paul.  He was on his way to Damascus, living a life in opposition to Christ and God got hold of his heart and he was converted, turned around, saved, and he began living a new life in Christ.

One of the powerful truths I like about this passage is that . . .

It illustrates God’s taking

The initiative in our conversion.

He makes the first move.

He seeks us before we seek Him.

Remember Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one comes to Me unless the Father draws him.”  And that his happening here.

God Makes The First Move.

Don’t lost sight of what is happening here – Paul was not interested in Jesus.  And Jesus “knocks Paul down, gets his attention” and speaks to him.  One of the things Jesus points out is the statement to Paul in verse 5, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  That phrase is found later in Acts 22 and 26 where Paul tells this story of his conversion, so the translators included it here to bring a fuller accounting of the story.  But this phrase, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” is a way of describing “how hard it is to resist something that’s prodding you along.” 

A “goad” was a sharp stick used, for example, by a sheep herder.  Sheep are not real bright animals.  They may wander aimlessly towards a cliff or some other danger so the sheep herder would take a goad and prod the sheep and then the sheep would go in the right direction.

This is precisely what God had been doing to Paul and He does for us.  We are naturally going in the wrong direction and, in His love, He comes along and goads us in the right direction.  So, when we feel like God is “goading” us, prodding us, moving in our lives, we are wise to respond the correct way . . .

Not by resisting Him and

Kicking against Him,

But by surrendering to,

And following Him.

Apart From Christ We Are Spiritually Blind.

We cannot see the truth because we don’t yet have the ability to see the truth.  We are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and therefore blind to spiritual things.

I raise this point as a matter of compassion . . . compassion for those who are spiritually blind.  A person can be spiritually blind to the truth without realizing it.

It is like when you’ve been to a movie theater.  You sit inside that dark theater for a couple hours and you see quite well.  You can see the person next to you, see your drink, and see the popcorn that’s fallen onto your lap.  When the movie’s over, you step outside and the bright light causes you to squint and you have to get adjusted to the light.  What happened was that you had gotten used to the darkness without even realizing it.  You were just used to sitting in the dark.  You could see, but all you could see was affected by the dark.

The same is true in the spiritual realm.

People Can Be In Spiritual Darkness And Not Realize It.

It’s a call for compassion on our part.  We should not make fun of them or look down upon them as though they lack intelligence.  We should do as others did for Paul, take them by the hand as they are, and lead them into the light.

I love the way Jesus introduces Himself to Saul of Tarsus.  He asks him in verse 4, “Saul, Saul, why are persecuting Me?”  And Saul is like, “What?!  Who are You, Lord?”  Great question, by the way.  An honest skeptic will make an honest inquiry of the nature of Christ; Who He is.

But Jesus’ question is a reminder that an attack on Christians is an attack on Jesus Himself.  He asks Saul, “Why are you persecuting Me?”  To attack Christians – the church – is to attack Jesus.  So united are Christians with Christ that to attack the one is to attack the other.

Now this takes us to the next point.  The church.  We have learned of the necessity of conversion.  The second characteristic of true Christianity is:

2) The Necessity of Community.

I mean by this a community of faith, a community of believers.  Through the gospel, God unites people together so they may grow in their faith, growing in a healthier relationship with God and with one another.  Note what the Bible says in verse 10, “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, ‘Ananias.’  And he said, ‘Here I am, Lord.’”  That’s a great response!  God calls your name, you say, “Here I am.  Use me.”   But do we mean it when we say it?   Ananias said the right thing.  Let’s see if he means it.

Verses 11-14 tell us, “So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying.  And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.’  Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.’”

We can appreciate Ananias’ dilemma!  Ananias wants to do the Lord’s will, but he’s like, “Uh, God, are you sure about this?!  I don’t know if you have thought this thing through.  I mean, I know You know everything but, this Saul guy, he’s been persecuting Christians.  He has authority here in Damascus to arrest people!”

We are no different.  We say: “Lord, I trust You.  I believe in You.  I want to live Your plan.”  Then God unfolds His will and we are like Ananias here trying to make sure God has all the information He needs.

May God give us grace to just do what He says!

 He will always honor our doing the right thing.

Verses 15-17 say, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’  And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

I just picture Ananias gingerly approaching Saul, probably still thinking, “I don’t know about this!”  He enters the house and cautiously draws near him.  And then he gently places his hands on him, touching him.  And note the endearing way Ananias addresses Saul. He says: “Brother Saul.”  Did you catch that?   Brother. He’s family.

The gospel brings people together.

We can get along because

We are brothers and sisters united in Christ!

Verses 18-19 tells what happens, “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.”  Saul can now see!  Something fell from his eyes like scales, maybe like a film that had been over his eyes, and now he can see.

And then first thing he does is get baptized.  Throughout the Book of Acts you’ll read that as soon as people receive Christ, they are baptized.  Baptism is a word that means “to be immersed into water.”  It pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Baptism has nothing to do with our salvation but is a testimony of what happened to us when we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.  We have died to the old person and the old way of life and have been raised now to walk in a new way of life.

This part of the passage really stresses the need for community in the Christian life.  We are relational beings and we need one another.  Saul needed Ananias.  And Ananias blessed him by being the one to be there with him, to lay hands on him, to touch him, and to pray for him.

I can’t help but think that as Paul walks around in heaven today that Ananias is close by, reminding everyone: “Hey, I had something to do with this guy being here!”

We have read of the necessity of conversion and the necessity of community.  The third characteristic of true Christianity is:

3) The Necessity of Confession.

By confession we mean to confess our faith in Christ; to tell others about Jesus.  Paul is filled with the Holy Spirit so he is able now to say, “Jesus is Lord.”  He would later write in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”   Saul of Tarsus now has the Spirit of God within Him.  He is now a new creation.  He is especially remembered now by his second name, “The Apostle Paul.”  And, as a new creation, he has a story to tell to all who will listen:

Verses 20-21 tell us, “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’”

Everybody knows he is different now.

Something has happened.

He is changed!

If you are a Christian, do people see a change in your life?  Do people notice you are different – different in a good and God-honoring way?  You have a joy in the Lord that others see?

Verse 22 says, “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.”  Paul is changed and he naturally now confesses Christ, tells others about Jesus.  That’s what every believer does.  Every Christian confesses Christ.  It is just like ministry: every Christian is a minister.  Not every Christian is a pastor, not every Christian will preach to a congregation, but every Christian is a minister and will confess Christ, speak of his or her faith in Christ as one of His witnesses.

You Just Naturally Want To Share The Joy Of Jesus.

I find it really easy to talk about things that I like.  Things that give me joy.  Like if I go to a new restaurant and the food is good, I’ll tell all kinds of people about it – even total strangers!  I’ll say, “Man, you’ve got to go to this place!”  

In many ways, that’s all witnessing is – It’s just telling others about the One who has forgiven you, given you purpose, power to live, and gives you joy.  If you have that joy, you just want to share it with others.  Confessing Christ.  True Christians do that.

Tell someone today how you met Jesus.  Just tell them.  Tell them how He came to you, how you came to know Him, and the difference He has made in your life.

This is God’s 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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Found By God – Experiencing And Enjoying God’s Presence

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

18June  When I was a small boy growing up on our family farm in Northwest Missouri there was a dog that ran around our neighborhood whose name was Shadow.  The reason the dog was called Shadow was because, remarkably, it was aware of its own shadow.  Anytime it caught sight of its shadow, it would jump at it, or swat it, or try to catch or escape it.  It was one of the funniest sights I recall from my early childhood.

The Christian can say that God is like a shadow on a bright summer day.

He is right there with us.

He’s even there when

We are not aware of it.

 And He remains with us

No matter where we go.

God is always there.

In John 1:43-51, God reveals Himself to Nathanael as Nathaniel encounters Christ.  It is a remarkable moment that teaches us much about the presence of God.

We read about what happens beginning in verses 43-44, The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow Me.’  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.”  Don’t miss the important point makes in verse 43.  Jesus “found Philip.”   Right off the bat we notice that it is Jesus who does the finding.  The text does not say, “Philip found Jesus,” but “He found Philip.” From the vantage point of the Christian, it would seem that it is we who find the Lord, but it is actually He who finds us!

As John will record Jesus’ words later in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”  It is a remarkable thing, the fact that we come to Christ only to discover that He has first come to us.

It’s like the words from the old hymn:

I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew 
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me. 
It was not I that found, O Savior true; 
No, I was found of Thee.

So after Jesus found Philip, Philip goes and finds Nathanael:

Verse 45 says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

You sense something of Philip’s excitement here as he exclaims to Nathanael: “We have found Him!   We have found the promised Messiah!”  Faithful Jews like Philip were expecting the Messiah.  They were familiar with the Old Testament teachings about a promised, coming Savior.

Then Philip tells Nathanael who this Messiah is.  He says, “Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  What is Nathanael’s response?  Verse 46 tells us, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth’?”  You can tell from the way that reads that Nathanael is not impressed!  He’s like, “Nazareth?!  That’s a backward place, isn’t it?!  Not even mentioned in the Old Testament.  Only like 2,000 people.  What good can come of that place?!”

Philip’s reply is really is instructive.  How does Philip answer Nathanael’s scornful, skeptical question?  Does he argue with Nathanael?  Verse 46 says, “… Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’  Sometimes the best answer to a questioning skeptic is simply, “Come and discover for yourself.”  We are not always going to have all the answers when we invite someone to faith in Christ.  Many unbelievers, however, are open to exploring Christianity when invited to worship or Bible studies by sincere Christians.

By the way, Nathanael did respond positively to Philip’s invitation.  He went with Philip.  Don’t miss that.  Now what happens when Nathanael sees Jesus?  More to the point, what happens when Jesus sees Nathanael coming to Him?

Verse 47 tells us, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’”

The word “deceit” means “no hypocrisy or no deviousness.”  It doesn’t mean that Nathanael is sinless.   That’s not it at all.  A modern-day paraphrase would be something like, “Here’s an Israelite in whom is no phoniness, a real straight-shooter, a tell-it-like-it-is type of person!”

In any case, Nathanael is struck by the fact that Jesus knows him.  Note what he says in verse 48, “’How do You know me?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’”  That is just amazing, isn’t it?!   Jesus says, “Nathanael, I saw you long before Philip went looking for you.  You were standing there under the fig tree.”  Jesus could see as no other human eye could see.

How does Nathanael respond now?  Verse 49 says, “Nathanael answered and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’  In other words, “Okay!  I believe!”  Then Jesus replies in verse 50, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’”  It’s almost like a gentle rebuke, isn’t it?  “Nathanael, you believe because I told you I saw you before Philip went to get you.  Tell you what, Nathanael: if you follow Me, you’re going to see a lot more than that!”  This is sort of like, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”

Then Jesus “tips His hand” a bit in the last verse.  He gives an idea of at least one sense in which He means that there are “greater things” on the horizon.  Verse 51 says, “And He said to him, ‘Verily, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’”  It’s an interesting statement, isn’t it?  The context is Genesis 28.  That is the passage where we read about Jacob’s being in the wilderness and falling asleep one evening.  He had a dream, a vision, of a staircase, or ladder.  It reached from earth up into heaven – and angels of God were going up the ladder and coming down the ladder.  It’s was a powerful image of the very presence of God!

And in the dream Jacob hears God say to him: “I am the Lord, and I am going to bless you with land and descendants as numerous as the dust particles of the earth!  I am with you and will keep you wherever you go.”  Jacob wakes up excitedly and says, “Surely the Lord is in their place, and I did not know it!”  And he adds, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:17).

The writer goes on to say that Jacob named the place “Bethel,” which means “house of God.”  So Jesus alludes to this story in Genesis 28 when He says to Nathanael, in essence, “You haven’t seen anything yet!  Like Jacob was blown away, you will be blown away.”  

The God who sees Nathanael under the fig tree is the God who sees you right now exactly where you are.   He knows you.  Remember Nathanael’s question to Jesus?  He’s astonished and he asks Jesus in verse 48, “How do You know me?”  Jesus answered, “Well, I saw you.”

To the Lord,

To see is to know.

Our Lord Jesus sees us

And so He knows us.

He knows all about us.  He knows us inside and out.  We may rightly say that Jesus knows at least three things about us . . .

  • He Knows Who We Are.

Remember that Jesus is the incarnation of the eternal Son of God.  John reminds us of this truth in the opening of his Gospel, where he refers to Jesus as “the Word.”  John writes in verse1-3 of Chapter 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him…”

The eternal Son of God is the One through whom all creation comes into existence.  He knows who we are because of who He is: He is God, creator God, who has all power and all knowledge.

  • He Knows Where We Are.

Jesus not only knew who Nathanael was, but where Nathanael was.  Jesus declared, “I saw you,” specifically, “under the fig tree.”  Our Lord Jesus sees us right now sitting or standing as we read this post.  Right now at this very moment!  He always knows not just who we are, but where we are.

The Psalmist was overwhelmed by this truth as he pondered the impossibility of fleeing from God’s presence in Psalm139:1-4: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.”

He knows who we are and where we are. Therefore:

  • He Knows How We Are. 

That is, He knows how we’re doing.  It’s one thing to marvel at God’s omniscience, His all-knowing ways through Christ.  But it’s another thing to think about God’s care for us.

But before we consider God’s care for us, consider again God’s absolute and utter omniscience – that God knows absolutely everything.

  • He knows every single fact of knowledge: every math equation perfectly.
  • He knows the number of stars in the sky, the number of rocks on the ground.
  • He knows the problems inherent in man-made structures, and the problem in your automobile that no one can locate.
  • He knows exactly how many particles of dust are floating around you at this moment.
  • He knows the precise number of documents on your computer.  And exactly how many words there are in each document.
  • He knows how many keys you pressed when you typed each document.
  • He knows how many texts you send.
  • He knows how many times your heart beats in a given day.  How many times you breathed-in and exhaled in the last hour.

But most importantly . . .

He knows your concerns and cares.

  • He knows what worries you.
  • He knows your greatest fears.

So, it’s not just that He knows who you are and where you are, He knows how you are – how you’re doing, how you’re feeling, how you’re hurting.

And because He is God, our Lord Jesus knows just what to do if we take our cares and our concerns to Him.  Remember Peter’s encouragement in 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Jesus says in Matthew11:28, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  You may be worried about some particular challenge or burden.   It’s weighing on you.  You’re reading this post hoping to be encouraged.  Well, be encouraged!  Our Lord sees you.  He knows you.

Remember His character: He is always good and always does the right thing.  So, if you’re worried about that loved one, that job, that financial situation, that health scare, or anything else – hear God’s promise in Philippians 4:6-7, Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

He Sees Us. 

But the flip side is also possible.

Here’s the other side of the coin:

We May See Him . . . We Can Know God’s Personally Through Christ.

That is, we may know Him.  We may know Him in a very personal way.  This is why God came to us in Christ.  He came that we may have a personal relationship with Him.

This vision of Jacob’s ladder to which Jesus alludes is significant.  Jacob falls asleep and has this vision that there is a ladder between heaven and earth.  There is a realm above in which God resides.  It is a place of utter perfection and utter holiness.  Then there is this realm down here, this earthly realm, this world of sorrow and sin.

Jacob has this fantastic vision, or dream, where there is a “punching through” the realms.  A ladder appears.  It is as if God punches a hole in the sky and His presence is made known.   Angels are ascending and descending between the two realms.  Remember Jacob’s words?  He had said in Genesis 28:17, “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

And what has God done in Christ?  God has come down and enfleshed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ so that you and I can know Him personally.  God has punched a hole through the sky and entered into our world.  He has come to us as the gate of heaven.  Jesus says later in John 10:9, I am the gate. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,” and later in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one can come unto the Father except by Me.”  In John 1:51 Jesus declares, “Verily I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  Jesus is the way and stairway to heaven.

You can know God personally through Christ.  You must come to Him, believe in Him, believe He lived a perfect life for you and earned your righteousness by fulfilling all the laws you have broken. You must also believe that He died a perfect death of substitution, taking the penalty of your sin upon Himself, dying for you, and then rising from the dead for you.  Believe Him, turn to Him, and be saved from your sin.  You can know God personally through Christ.

And if you know God personally through Christ, remember this – always remember . . .

We May See Him . . . We Can Know God’s Presence through Christ.

This fact, to me, is one of the greatest and most glorious truths of the Christian experience!  The presence of God!!

Back in Genesis 28 Jacob had described that place in the wilderness as “Bethel,” which means, “House of God.”  But now, God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Gate, the Stairway, the Door, the Way.  Jesus is now the place where people meet God, know God, and discover the presence of God.  Surely God is in this place, this person, Jesus Christ.

That’s why to the Christian, buildings or the geography of so-called “holy sites” is really not that big a deal.  To be with Christ is to be with God.  Jesus is the new holy place.  He is the new “Bethel,” house of God, the place where God is present.

This week, remember that God has punched a hole through the skies and placed Himself there in the ladder of Jesus Christ.  You can know God personally through Christ and you can experience the joy and wonder of His presence by basking in the presence of Jesus.

Take time each day to get away quietly and open your Bible and listen to God as you read.  He is with you as you read!  And bow your head frequently through the day and say, “God, thank you for being right here with me, as close as a shadow on a bright sunny day, never leaving me, never forsaking me, but being with me always.”

This is God’s 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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In Our Right Minds – Transformed By Jesus

Grace For The Journey

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17June  In Mark 5:1-20, we read what is the longest, most graphic exorcism in all the Bible.  Before we study this especially dramatic encounter with Christ, it is helpful to recall C. S. Lewis’ warning in the preface to his little book, The Screwtape Letters.  Here’s what he writes about the study of demons: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors …

We may deny demons entirely on the one hand or be overly fascinated by them on the other.  The demons are pleased with both extremes.  They are happy if we do not believe in them and they are happy if we are utterly consumed with them.

It is absolutely essential that we appreciate the depth and complexity of evil as we read of it in the Bible.  Evil is systemic.  Evil is part of the fabric comprising this fallen world system.  Evil is all around us and the work of demons is ongoing.

While no Christian can be under the absolute control of a demon – as though by possession – Christians can, however, yield control of their lives to demonic influence and so allow themselves temporarily to fall under the power of the evil one.

So while we may be tempted to read this encounter as persons somewhat removed from the narrative, removed from the details and the events as though we were just standing on the outside looking in at something that seems so remotely fantastic, we must not separate ourselves from the very real possibility of falling under the influence of the enemy.

Let’s study the passage and let God teach us …

Verse one says, “Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes.

Jesus is traveling by boat with His disciples.  They are in the boat with Him and He has just crossed over from the Western side to the Eastern side of the sea of Galilee.  They had just been through the storm.  The previous chapter concludes with Jesus’ calming the storm and the disciples asking incredulously: “Who in the world is this guy?!” (Mark 4:41)

As soon as they get through the storm on the sea,

There’s another storm awaiting on the shore.

It’s a different kind of storm.  It’s this demon-possessed man.  He is described in verse 2 as a man with “an unclean spirit.”

It’s at times like these I wonder whether the disciples may have second-guessed their decision to follow Jesus!  Did they ever wonder what they had gotten themselves into?  They’ve just come through the storm at sea and no sooner than they climb out of the boat this crazy man comes running toward them.  Mark describes him in verse 3 as a man: “who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains.”  He lived there among the tombs, not a nice and neatly manicured cemetery as in our day, but tombs hewn out of the rock, a grotesque area of stench and uncleanness.

Notice The Isolation

Because he is dwelling among the tombs, he is isolated and alienated from everyone else.  The tombs are located in an area isolated from the townspeople, located on the outskirts of the city.

His condition was horrendous.  He had been bound, we are told, with chains.  Folks in the town had apparently tried to keep the man from hurting himself and others, but to no avail.  He would eventually break the chains.

Verses 4 and 5 tells us, “Because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.”

This is a sad picture, isn’t it?  This man is like an animal.  But we forget he was once a young mother’s child.  He was once a father’s little boy.  But the demons have gotten hold of him and he is reduced to a life of isolation among the mountains and the tombs.

The enemy, Satan; the evil one,

Will do everything he can to harm us.

Satan would love to see

This demoniac destroy himself.

This is why we read that

He is “cutting himself with stones.”

Man is created in the image of God and Satan will do his level best to destroy the image of God in us.  Satan wants us . . .

  • To harm our bodies,
  • To obsess over our bodies,
  • To abuse our bodies,
  • To destroy our bodies.

We may not harm our bodies by cutting, but we may destroy our bodies by drinking, by self-medicating, by overeating, and by otherwise abusing and defiling our bodies in any number of ways.

This man is isolated and alienated from God and others.  The truth is: Apart from Christ each of us is isolated and alienated from God and others.

Notice The Confrontation.

This demon-possessed man is confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He encounters Christ and talks to Christ in a conversation that is hard to follow – it’s hard to know whether we are reading of the man and his actions or whether we are reading of the demons and their actions.  So closely tied together is evil with this man’s nature.

Verse 6 says, “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him.”  The man literally falls before Jesus.  He falls before Him in an acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus.

By the way . . .

That’s the greater point Mark is making here in his Gospel.

 He has shown at the end of chapter 4

How Jesus is Lord over the storm and danger.

He will show here in the first part of chapter 5

How Jesus is Lord over Satan and demons.

Verses 7-9 state, “And he cried out with a loud voice and said, ‘What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.’  For He said to him, ‘Come out of the man, unclean spirit!’ Then He asked him, ‘What is your name?’  And he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many.’”

A “legion” was the largest force of the Roman army and, in Jesus’ day, a legion was comprised 6,000 men.  The point is that this man was plagued by many demons.  And again, note how closely tied to the man’s nature is the presence of evil.  It’s hard to tell exactly who is doing the talking in these verses – is it the man or is it the demons within him?

You see that especially in verse 9 where Jesus asked the man, “What is your name?”  And the Bible says that the man answered, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”  “My” – singular pronoun; “we” – plural pronoun.

Verse10 says, “Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.”  That is, the demons do not wish to become disembodied spirits.  They wish to inhabit the body of someone else if they cannot inhabit this man’s body.

Verses 11-12 state, “Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.’”  This is an interesting point to me . . .

It seems if demons

Can’t have us,

They’ll have swine.

So pigs are choice

Number two for demons.

They’d really rather have humans,

But they’ll settle for swine.

Verse 13 says, “And at once Jesus gave them permission. Then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.

This is a memorable picture.  We see Jesus’ authority at the beginning of verse 13.  “And at once Jesus gave them permission.”  Jesus gives permission.  He has authority over the spirit world.

So the unclean spirits enter some 2,000 pigs and the herd then ran violently down the steep place into the sea and drowned.  I’ve often wondered if this were to happen today, what PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would think about Jesus’ actions.

But . . .

It is helpful to remember

That Jesus did not kill the swine;

The demons did.

Verse 14 says, “So those who fed the swine fled, and they told it in the city and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that had happened.”

That had to be quite a story to hear!  These folks whose job it was to feed the pigs saw all of this happen and they ran to tell the people in the city.  The townsfolk hear about it and then they leave their jobs and their homes to come out to the tombs to see what happened.  And what did they see?

Verse 15 tells us, “Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.”  They saw a miracle!  The man was, “sitting and clothed and in his right mind.”

Notice The Transformation.

This demon-possessed man has been changed.  He is transformed.  He is in his right mind.  What a contrast!

To be saved is to be in our right minds.  We once were under the influence of Satan and not thinking correctly – but when God gets hold of us through the Lord Jesus Christ He changes us.  As the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone  is in Christ he is a new creation.”

Verse 16 says, “And those who saw it told them how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed, and about the swine.”  The eyewitnesses had told the townsfolk what they had seen, “how it happened to him who had been demon-possessed,” how he had been delivered.  They also told the others “about the swine.”  Their response?

Verse 17 tells us, “Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.”  Years ago when I first studied this passage I had concluded that these folks didn’t care much for the economic impact the Lord’s actions had upon the swine industry – and that this was why they pled with Jesus to depart from their region.  I mean, 2,000 pigs had just died.  That’s a lot of ham and bacon!

But while the economic impact is likely a great concern for these folks, I really think there is more than that going on here in their pleading for Jesus to leave them.  I think it may have more to do with their inability to fully understand all that has just happened – after all . . .

With the inability to comprehend

Comes an inability to be in control.

I think fear exists anytime w e are in a situation where we feel we have no control.  If we are honest there is a fear in coming to Christ.  There is loss of control.  I’m talking about really coming to Christ, savingly, coming to Him as Lord of our lives.

Remember . . .

We don’t just add Jesus to our thinking

The way we add a side item to a combo meal.

Jesus has not come simply

To “complement” our life.

He is our life.

He is Lord when we bow before Him and yield control to Him.  That can be a frightening thing when one is unwilling to relinquish control.  There is trust involved.

If you have ever ridden a roller coaster you know what I’m talking about.  I mean, what control do you really have when you get into one of those little roller coaster cars?  They fold that bar down on you and it clicks a few times and they walk away.  And you’re like, “I think I’ll see if it clicks again.”  And you push it down even more securely.  Why?   Because that roller coaster is getting ready to take you on a ride and in the space of some 3 to 5 minutes you will have absolutely no control once it leaves the station.  And you would never get on that thing if you didn’t trust that someone was in control of it.  It’s a trust issue.

Living for Jesus is a trust issue.

You are literally yielding yourself,

Trusting yourself, to His Lordship.

At least that’s what being a biblical Christian is all about.  I’m not talking about those who say they are Christians, but are not.  I’m talking about those who are genuinely born again, living under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  I’m talking about those who allow Jesus to have complete control over all decisions, following Him according to the Bible, His Word, living for Him, yielding to Him.

I think these townsfolk were frightened by Jesus.  They had not seen this kind of thing before.

Notice The Proclamation.

This newly transformed man; formerly demon-possessed, has a story to tell; He has something to proclaim:

Verse 18 tells us, “And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him.”  He wants to go with Jesus!  A natural response to those who have been changed by the Gospel.

But notice what verse 19 says, “However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’”  Jesus points this man to a powerful truth – He has a story to tell, a truth to proclaim.  The people here want Jesus to leave so He is leaving him as a witness.  Jesus couldn’t stay, but he could.  He can tell everyone what happened to him!

By the way . . .

At its core,

This is what

Witnessing is all about,

about Telling others

“What great things

The Lord has done for us,”

And

“How He has had compassion on us.”

That’s at the very core of sharing the Gospel.

Verse 20 states, “And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis (the 10 cities) all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”  Imagine this fellow going through all these towns.  He goes to the towns nearest the tombs first.  He is clothed and in his right mind.  They think he is the same person as before, but when He met Jesus he was changed, he “once was lost but now he is found, he was blind and bound but now he can see and is free!”

Does This Story Really Apply To Me?

You know, you may not identify exactly with this demon-possessed man.  After all, you were not once bound in chains and isolated in some graveyard.  You may, however, be experiencing a similar kind of isolation.  Your chains and shackles may take a different form.

Your separation and alienation may occur in an office with the door shut and the computer turned on.  Website after website glows in your face as you look at things you don’t want to see – and yet you do want to see – the influence of Satan is strong.  It seems both to empower you and enslave you.

And with every moment spent there, the influence grows stronger.  Like the demoniac, you could once break free from the power, but it’s growing stronger.

The demon possessed man could once be shackled but, now no one could shackle him anymore.  This was a gradual slide into evil.  And that’s just how it works in your life and mine.

We allow Satan to get a foothold.  We open the door to evil just a little ways and Satan sticks his foot in the door and then, little-by-little, we allow him more and more “room” until he is finally welcome to come in and move freely about.

No one suddenly falls into alcoholism.  No one suddenly falls into drug addiction or suddenly falls into adultery.  He slides.  He cracks the door by flirtation.  By an inappropriate smile or glance or embrace.  One slip leads to another and, before we know it, our careers are over, our families shamed, our influence lost.

It all starts by

Allowing just a little bit

Of uncleanness into our lives.

The reason this man,

And all men and women,

Can be healed is because

Jesus exchanges places with us.

He Himself becomes the outcast.

This man is naked, his body cut,

And he is crying out,

Experiencing alienation from God and others.

And Jesus, soon – on the cross –

Will Himself be naked, His body cut,

And He will be crying out,

Experiencing alienation from God and others.

He will be among the tombs for us – actually placed in a tomb.

Jesus exchanges places with us and takes upon Himself

All of our wrongs, all of our sins.  He bears them.

And He gives to us all that is His –

Righteousness, perfect goodness, perfect obedience

All of this is credited to our account

And God sees us as though we ourselves

Are righteous, perfectly good, perfectly obedient.

All of this because Jesus exchanges places with outcasts—outcasts like the demonized man—and outcasts like you and me.

This is God’s 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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Our Gracious Shepherd Host: Pursuing And Keeping, Part 6

Grace For The Journey

9June  His close relationship with the Lord.  David has said “me” a total of six times, “I” four times, and “my” seven times.  In this beloved psalm, David writes a total of seventeen personal references in only six verses, making this song of trust intensely self-disclosing.

We expect this emphasis,

Because walking with

The LORD by faith involves,

First and foremost,

A close fellowship with Him.

At its essence, true spirituality

Is not about going through

The empty motions of bare religion.

Nor is it about the mere external

Activities of longstanding rituals.

Rather, a life with God

Is about knowing Him

And loving His Son, Jesus Christ,

In intimate, personal communion.

As we approach the last verse, Psalm 23 builds to this closing crescendo.  David writes, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (verse 6).  Here, he builds upon the vivid analogy that he used in the previous verse.  In this context, he sees himself as a special guest in a grand banquet hall, where he is being served a feast by the LORD Himself.  However . . .

This dining hall is located in a very special place.

It is found in a royal palace –

But not merely a worldly ruler’s palace.

It is found in the dwelling place

Of the highest of nobility –

In “the house of the LORD.”

“Surely Goodness and Lovingkindness”

David begins with this emphatic word, “Surely.”  This word could be translated as “indeed,” “absolutely,” “beyond any doubt,” or even “only.”  There is no place for any equivocation in David’s mind about what he says next.  He is deeply persuaded of what he is about to affirm.  This steadfast conviction should mark every believer.

David says that “goodness” will follow him.  This word speaks “of the abundant blessings and lavish benefits” God has bestowed upon him.  In this word is evidenced the spiritual prosperity that he has experienced in following the Lord.  All that he has needed, God has always provided.

David also confesses that the “mercy” of the LORD has followed him.  This is the Lord’s “unconditional, loyal love” for David – and for all who put their trust in Him.  This word comes from the Hebrew root (hasad) that means ‘to bend down, to bow down.’ This describes God’s “condescending love as He reaches all the way down to where David is.”

Could there be anything greater given to David’s life than the “goodness and mercy” of the LORD?  God has given him the very best portion in His great love.  His steadfast, covenantal love for His own people never wavers, even in the furnace of affliction.

“Will Follow Me”

David adds that the Lord’s goodness and mercy “will follow me.”  “Follow” means “to pursue after, to chase after, to run after.”

He knows that

God’s mercy and grace

Are in close pursuit of his life.

No matter wherever he goes, he cannot get away from these ever-following assurances. Regardless of whatever he does, he cannot escape them.  They will never let him go, even when circumstances seem to deny their reality.

These two attributes of God – “goodness and mercy” – actually represent God Himself, who is continually pursuing David.  It is the figure of speech known as personification, which assigns humanlike qualities to inanimate objects.  To be sure, these two attributes represent God, who is personally following David and caring for his every need.

By this testimony . . .

David states that God is relentless

In His love toward him.

David is assured that

Though he will falter and fail,

God will never give up on him.

Regardless of how he may

Disappoint the LORD,

He is persuaded that

God will never stop

Pursuing and caring for him.

Even if he trips and falls, he knows that God will never distance Himself from him.  Instead, God will pick up His servant and continue to walk with him.  David will testify later in Psalm 37:23-24, “The steps of a man or established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.”  This is an irrevocable promise that is firmly established in God’s own faithfulness.

“All the Days of My Life”

God’s grace and love for David will follow him “all the days of my life.”

This tender affection and

Unchanging allegiance of God

Will be a never-ending pursuit

Of David to the end of his days.

His devotion toward God will surely fluctuate.  There will be times when it will strengthen or subside.  But . . .

God’s love for him is ever strong and steadfast.

God’s loyal love for David

Does not depend upon his love in return.

God’s love for David depends upon God Himself,

Who never weakens or wavers.

This is why God’s goodness and mercy are always chasing after David.  Likewise, this same grace and love of God is always in hot pursuit of every believer.  This divine love never takes a day off.  It never rests, never sleeps, never stops (Psalm 121:4).  Even in the midst of trying times, the love of God never goes on sabbatical, never takes a vacation.  It is ever strong toward us, ever sure.

“And I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord”

The last line begins with the word “and,” which indicates . . .

That what follows

Is inseparably connected

With all that preceded it.

With great certainty, David knows that he will “dwell in the house of the Lord.”  “Dwell” means “to sit down and stay.”  It conveys the idea of making one’s own dwelling or home.  This simply says, “David will always be at home in the Lord’s presence, always in personal relationship with Him, no matter where he goes.”

David pictures this meal in which God serves him as taking place “in the house of the Lord.”  Of course, the temple in Jerusalem has not yet been built.  Instead, this “house” represents the intimate fellowship that David enjoys with the Lord as he lives in the very presence of God each day.  David is pointing to the close communion and interaction that he has with the Lord.

“Forever”

The relationship between David and the Lord will last “forever.”  What starts in this lifetime will never come to an end. The word “forever” means literally “for the length of days, for prolonged, never-ending days.”  Once David began this relationship with the Lord, he knew it would never be severed.

Simply put, David is saying, “Once I move into the house of the Lord, I will never move out, or be put out.”  This is the eternal security of every believer.  The Lord Himself is his dwelling place.   Once he dwells in the house of the Lord, he will always be living in the fullness of God’s grace and love.

David wants us to know that . . .

The Lord who pursues us

With goodness and mercy

Is He who keeps us forever.

The Lord who is ever

Chasing us is ever keeping us.

Once God begins His pursuit of us,

He will never let us go.

No believer can be separated from the presence, love, and care of God, our great Shepherd, Host, and King!

This is God’s 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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Our Great Shepherd Host: Serving And Satisfying, Part 5

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

9June  God is so vast and infinite that He presents Himself to us in many different ways.  No one word or phrase can convey the whole of who He is and what He does.  The Bible presents God as our powerful Creator, reigning King, and redeeming Savior.  Moreover, He is also our loving Father, strong Rock, and safe Refuge, and a myriad of other images.  Each of these word pictures communicates a unique and important aspect of our awesome God and our relationship to Him.

To this point in Psalm 23, David has represented God as his Shepherd.  This image conveys that the LORD is supremely devoted to caring and providing for him – guiding his steps, feeding his soul, and restoring his spirit.  As we come to verse 5, though, the picture suddenly shifts.  David portrays God in a yet different light:

As a gracious host

Who serves David

In His grand banquet hall

With a lavish meal.

David writes, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.”  Here, the scene shifts from the outdoor field to the indoor meal.  David transitions from a sprawling countryside to a grand royal hall, from green pastures to a dining table, from still waters to an overflowing cup.

Despite the shift in these vivid images,

These verses maintain the one dominant theme

That runs throughout the psalm.

David is portraying God’s care for His own people.

Whether God is pictured as

The good Shepherd or a gracious Host,

Whether David sees himself as a sheep or an invited guest,

The message is the same.

God is attending to the needs of David––and us.

Let’s see what this verse teaches . . .

“You Prepare a Table Before Me”

David writes, “You prepare a table before me.”  We would normally think of David rendering service to God.  But here, he states the total opposite – God is attending to his needs.  The setting is a large banquet hall, and God is preparing a lavish table in order to serve David a meal fit for a king.

The word “prepare” means “to arrange, to set in order, to set in place; to ordain.”  Here . . .

God is understood to be

Setting the table before David

And putting everything

Into its right place.

The dishes are perfectly positioned, the drink is poured, and the meal is cooked and served.

Every detail has been given the strictest attention.

Nothing David could possibly want

Has been overlooked or omitted.

This is how David sees the LORD caring for him.  God is feeding him the meat of His Word. He is pouring His truth into David’s soul to bring him much joy and peace.  Never has David been so satisfied.

The same service is available to all believers.  We are all given a place in the royal banquet hall and treated like a guest of the King.

Throughout this feast,

The LORD’s eye is upon us,

Anticipating our every need.

In His perfect timing,

He is bringing to our table exactly

What we need, precisely when we need it.

Here is His incomparable love in action.

“In the Presence of My Enemies”

Remarkably, David adds that God’s exquisite meal is served “in the presence of my enemies.”  He pictures himself as seated at a large banquet table with many people seated around him.  Among these other attendees are David’s “enemies” – notice David uses the plural form of the word.  These many adversaries are seated close to him, while the LORD is serving him.

Later, in Psalm 41:9, David speaks of his closest friends seated near him at a meal, but turning on him and becoming his enemies: “Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, who ate my bread has lifted up his heel against me.”  To “lift up the heel” pictures a foe turning against him in order to harm him or subdue him.  Surprisingly, these enemies are seated at the table next to him as his supposed friends.

David recognizes that the Lord ordains the dinner and sets the table.  He is in charge of the other invited guests and sets the seating arrangements.  These traitors who are betraying David are sometimes within his own family and royal cabinet.

In my ministry, the greatest hurts I have endured have been from those who were the closest to me.  Nevertheless, the Lord is the one who sets the table and ordains where they were seated around me.  God used it all for my greater good, to humble me and cause me to trust His grace even more.  You can surely give a similar testimony.

Some of you have family members or in-laws who have positioned themselves against you because of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  In this case, you can relate to what David is writing here.  Let me remind you that the Lord’s grace and encouragement are more than sufficient to sustain you to live in a way that will glorify Him, no matter the opposition.

“You Have Anointed My Head With Oil”

David continues, “You have anointed my head with oil.”  This may refer to the practice of the host receiving a weary guest who has walked some distance under the hot sun by pouring sweet-smelling oil on the head.  If so . . .

This pictures the refreshing graces of God

That revive his parched soul

In the midst of life’s heated trials.

This practice of anointing with oil could also allude to when David was anointed with oil in preparation for his coronation.  The oil poured upon the head of the king-to-be . . .

Represented the fullness

Of the Holy Spirit upon him,

Granting the wisdom needed

To fulfill his kingly duties.

In this case, this anointing pictures the empowering of the Spirit David needed to fulfill what God called him to do.

Such an anointing with the Holy Spirit is presently active in the life of every believer (1 John 2:20, 27).  It was even necessary for Jesus Himself to be anointed with the Spirit as He began His public ministry (Luke 3:22;  4:18; cf. Isaiah 61:1).  Likewise, the LORD has anointed you with power to live the Christian life in His presence.

“My Cup Overflows”

Finally, David adds, “My cup overflows,” referring to the continual outpouring of God’s fullness into David’s life.  He learned that God’s supply far exceeds His need.  He was not given mere mercy drops from heaven, but a deluge of grace – far more than he could ever comprehend.

God was so lavish in pouring out His goodness into David’s life that his cup could not contain it.  His heart was overflowing with divine provisions.  This speaks of the fullness of blessing that God has for him – and for all believers.  I want to remind you that God is not miserly towards you, but has opened His vast storehouse and is pouring out grace upon grace on your life.

This was David’s testimony, and may it be our experience as well.  May we know what it is to have a seat at the table in the Father’s house and be served by Him.  May we open our hearts and take in the fullness of what He has for us.  This is how great it is to know the Lord.

This is God’s 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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Our Great Shepherd: Calming And Comforting, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

9June  Some people think that when you become a Christian, all your troubles go away.  They naively assume that once you are saved, everything in your life will fall neatly into place.  In fact, they think if you have any problems, there must be something wrong with your faith.

But nothing could be farther from the truth.  It is not only foolish to think we will never face difficulties in the Christian life, it is downright dangerous.  If we think we will never encounter any trials, we will set ourselves up for a great fall and to be sadly disappointed.

The reality is, we all need a shepherd . . .

Someone to guide us through our many adversities,

Someone to protect us from encroaching evil,

And someone to calm our troubled souls.

That someone is the LORD Himself.

The author of this psalm, David, was a man after God’s own heart.  And despite his great devotion to Him, he often found himself walking through the dark trials of life.  He pictured these tough times as “the valley of the shadow of death.”  These were not imaginary dangers, but painfully real ones.

We can all relate to David.  None of us are exempt from encountering and going  through the storms of life.  We live in a fallen world with many threatening perils.  In these difficult times . . .

We must recognize

The Lord’s calming presence

And

Receive His comforting peace.

That is what we see brought out in this psalm.  Let’s see what God says . . .

1) “The Valley of the Shadow of Death.”

David begins this verse, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” This imagery depicts a shepherd leading his flock from one grazing place to another.  In order to guide them to the next grassy field, the sheep would often have to squeeze through a narrow pass that was surrounded by high canyon walls and jagged cliffs.

The tall mountains blocked out the bright sunlight so it could not shine into the valley. The dark shadows made it a dangerous place for the flock.  Lurking in the shade were threatening animals and ruthless thieves who would hide and attack the vulnerable sheep.

David envisions himself as one of these defenseless sheep, going through many life-threatening circumstances.  He is not spared from walking through these perilous places – and neither are we.  This is why we need a shepherd throughout our life’s journey.

2) “I Will Fear No Evil.”

In the midst of his most difficult trials, David says, “I fear will no evil.”  The word “fear” means “to suffer dread or terror.”  What would otherwise cause him panic does not trouble him in this hour of trial. Though surrounded by evil, David experiences a supernatural peace from God that grips his heart.  An inexplicable calm fills his soul.

The same is true for each one who knows the Lord.  We do not suffer dread in our difficulties, not as the world that has no loving shepherd.  We do not panic in our extenuating difficulties as those who have no hope.  We know that the Lord is in control of our lives.  He has already numbered our days.  Nothing will take our lives until the appointed time.

3) “For You Are With Me.”

This overruling peace comes because David can say, “For You are with me.”  He knew that God was with him every step of the way.  As he passed through “the valley of the shadow of death,” David believed God was with him, protecting and preserving him.

This calming peace distinguished David from the fearful unbelievers in the surrounding nations.  Even in his adversity, David did not act like the Lord had abandoned him.  Such a mindset would be practical atheism.

David believed that nothing

Could come into his life

Except either God

Sends it or He allows it.

But either way,

God soveriegnly rules over it.

When Satan spoke to God about Job, the evil one challenged Him to remove the hedge of protection around Job.  But God set the boundaries by which the devil could bring devastation into Job’s life.  Though Satan carried out his ruthless attack, it was within the boundaries that God established.  Even this hellish attack remained under the control of His sovereign will.

Jesus promised us in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  His constant presence gives supernatural encouragement when we find ourselves in the dark valleys of life.  Even on our deathbed, the Lord is with us to give us dying grace.  He gives us the assurance that on the other side of death is the outstretched arms of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive us.

While awaiting trial in Rome, Paul knew this peace when he said in Philippians 1:21, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  He knew that while he lived the Lord was with him, and to die would be the entrance into His immediate presence.

Only God can give us this composure in the midst of difficult circumstances.   This does not mean that we are never troubled.  But it means in the midst of the storm, we can know His calm.

“Your Rod and Staff.”

David adds another aspect of the Lord’s care, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  He was well-familiar with a shepherd’s “rod” through his earlier work with his father’s flock.  It was an oak club about two feet long that was used to defend the flock against vicious wild animals. Any beast would have had to come through David to harm any one of his sheep.

The “staff” is the shepherd’s crook that is hooked on one end and used to prod the sheep in the right direction.  It was also used to untangle and lift to safety a sheep that had become caught in a bush or had fallen into a hole.

These two instruments – a shepherd’s rod and staff – are emblematic of the Lord’s sovereign and protective care over David’s life.  These instruments brought him “comfort” as he walked through the dark valleys of life.

“They Comfort Me.”

This word “comfort” comes from the same Hebrew word (naim), from which the prophet Nahum and Nehemiah derive their names.  It indicates the inexplicable comfort they knew and ministered with during difficult times.  This is the same soothing reassurance that God alone could have given to David when dangers surrounded him on all sides.

This does not mean that David never experienced emotional trauma or sinking spells of depression.  The many lament psalms he wrote reveal the fear he often felt.  But in the midst of these turbulent times, David found steady comfort in his ever-present Shepherd.

The word “comfort” can also be translated: “to change the mind.”  The idea is that . . .

The presence of our Shepherd

Changes the state of our heart

In dangerous times.

He gives us the peace

That He alone can give

In the storms of life.

The best of us are still but sheep.  In our weakness, His strength is made perfect.  We must stay close to our great Shepherd as we walk through dark valleys.  We may not be able to see all the threatening dangers around us, but He can.  All we need to do is follow Him, and He will lead us home.

This is God’s 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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Our Great Shepherd: Restoring And Guiding, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

9June  Before he was king of Israel, David had been a young shepherd boy, caring for his father’s sheep.  Through his experiences, he gained firsthand knowledge about the characteristics of sheep and shepherds.  This picture became an apt metaphor for who he was – one of the LORD’s sheep.

Possessing all the weaknesses of a sheep, David knew he needed a shepherd to restore and guide him.  He too easily could lose sight of the path and wander away.  He could be drawn in the wrong direction where he found himself exposed to many threatening dangers.  In those times, the LORD had to go after him, like a shepherd, and bring him back into the safety of the fold – just like David had done with his father’s sheep.

In the 23rd Psalm, David draws upon this shepherd-sheep relationship as He describes his personal walk with the LORD. He writes in verse 3, “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  What David reflects about himself applies to each one of us as believers.

In the first verse . . .

We already noted that the LORD

Graciously cares for us and is

Unconditionally committed to

Meeting all our needs.

In the second verse . . .

We saw that He is lovingly

Feeding us in green pastures

And

Wisely leading us beside still waters.

Now, in verse three . . .

We see that He patiently restores our soul

And

Guides us in His chosen paths of righteousness.

Let’s break this verse down and see what God is teaching us . . .

1) “He Restores My Soul.”

David says in verse 3 that the LORD “restores my soul.”  The word “restore” means “to turn back, to return.”  The idea is for something or someone to go back to where it previously was.  For example, Noah released a dove from the ark and waited for it to return back to him (Genesis 8:8-11).  In like manner, the LORD “restores” David’s “soul,” meaning He brings him back to where he once was before he drifted away and suffered spiritual decline.

This restoration of David’s soul came through various means of grace.

  • It came by the Holy Spirit, who convicted him of sin.
  • It came by the LORD’s painful, yet loving discipline.
  • It came by the ministry of “the law of the LORD” which is “is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7).

In each of our lives, God works in similar ways.  He brings us back to where we need to be by reviving our hearts when we become spiritually sluggish or lukewarm.  Left to ourselves, we would wander away from the LORD and be slow to return.  But by His restoring grace, He brings us back to our first love (Revelation 2: 4-7).

Reviving and Replenishing.

  • When we are down, the Lord lifts us up.
  • When we are discouraged, the Lord encourages us.
  • When we are depleted, the Lord replenishes us.
  • When we are dry, the Lord revives us.
  • When we leave our first love, He brings us back to Him.

This is God’s continual work of sanctification in our lives.

Maybe you are feeling distant from the LORD.  Be encouraged to know that God is always at work within you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).  When we go astray, He is constantly pursuing us in order to bring us back to Himself.

2) God Guides Our Steps.

Further, David says in verse 3, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  This is to say, the LORD is directing David’s steps along His chosen path.  So personal is this divine guidance, it is as if David is the only sheep in His care.  God is that intimately involved in ordering his way.  In the same way, God is closely guiding us in our unique circumstances.

These “paths” are represented in the plural, indicating their comprehensive nature.  They include every area of David’s life, including his personal, family, social, and work life.

No part of his life is to be lived

Excluded from these “paths.”

Every choice he makes and

Every act he performs

Is to be conducted

On this clearly marked route.

The same is true for your Christian life.  Every step of life’s journey is to be taken on this divinely-prepared course.  There can be no sidetrack that you pursue; no shortcut that you take; no alternate route that you travel.  Whether you are at home, at work, or with your family, your Shepherd is guiding you on His chosen paths.

3) “In Paths of Righteousness.”

This guidance of the LORD is always onto paths of “righteousness.”  This represents practical righteousness or personal holiness.  David knows that the LORD will never lead him into sin.  Instead, he will be directed away from iniquity.  David could never lay blame on God for any moral failure in his life.  Such responsibility – and accountability – always lay at his own feet.  When David fell into sin with Bathsheba, his decision was certainly not the result of the Lord’s leadership.  That act of willful sin was David choosing to go his own way, departing from “paths of righteousness” that had been clearly designated by God.

4)  “For His Name’s Sake.”

David states that the Lord guides His sheep “for His name’s sake.”  In the Bible, a person’s “name” represents all that they are.  It is a summary of their character and reputation.  This says that all God does is for the magnification of His own “name.”  This self-exaltation of His own greatness is the highest of His motives.  Ultimately, everything that God does is to bring honor to Himself.

Specifically, the LORD is glorified when we follow His leadership on “paths of righteousness.”  

His “name” is elevated

When His character

Is manifested in our lives.

Seeing God’s holy character

Reflected in His people

Puts His glory on display.

At the same time, whatever most glorifies God results in our greatest good.  These two realities – God’s glory and our good – are never at odds or in competition with each other.  They work in perfect harmony with each other.  That which most glorifies Him is what works for our greatest good.

Our Shepherd Leads Us

What David says in this verse becomes a perfect guide for our prayers.  We should pray these words back to God: “Lord, make my way straight.  Do not let me wander from your path.  Do not allow me to be led astray by my own impulses.  Mark my path in the way that I should go. God, I want to do what most honors You.” 

This path is clearly marked out by Scripture.  Specifically, the way is shown by the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Lord’s Prayer.  It is marked by every godly example in the Bible, most of all by the manner in which Jesus walked.  It is revealed by every imperative in the Scripture, especially in the New Testament.

We should pray what David is praying here, “Lord, lead me in your righteousness.  Make your way straight before me.” 

Are You Following?

God is constantly guiding you in paths of righteousness.

The searching question is:

Are you following His path?

Are you obeying His word?

Are you pursuing His will?

Are you submitting to His leadership?

If you are one of His sheep, be assured that He will always restore and guide you, now and into eternity with Him.

This is God’s 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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Our Great Shepherd: Feeding and Leading, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

9June  All sheep need a shepherd – a sheep without a shepherd is lost and exposed to constant dangers.  Sheep have no sense of direction. They have no ability to care for themselves. They are easily frightened by the slightest disturbance. They are constantly dependent upon a shepherd to meet their every need.

Similarly, we are like sheep in need of a shepherd, the LORD Himself.  We need Him to make us lie down in green pastures.  Otherwise, we will be restless and empty.  We need Him to lead us beside still waters.  If not, we will be stressed and weary.

In this psalm, David explains what God is doing in his life.  He writes in verse 2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.”  This psalm is written in Hebrew poetry and uses a literary device known as parallelism.

This is where the two lines of a verse

Are to be understood as

Containing one unit of thought.

The second line builds on the first line.

Each of these two lines reveals a key aspect of what God is presently doing in David’s life – and in ours.

1) “He Makes Me Lie Down.”

David says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (verse 2).  He confesses that in the midst of the hectic pace of life, with all its pressures and stresses, God causes him to lie down in green pastures – the choicest place where sheep can graze.  But God must make him do so.

These “green pastures” can be understood to represent the Word of God.  Much like grass, the Scripture is full of life-giving nutrients and nourishment for our soul.  The lush meadows of biblical truth are always vibrant, never withered or wilted.  It is this spiritual food that gives David the inward strength and satisfaction that he needs.

How is God making David to lie down in green pastures?  The LORD is accomplishing this with two forces in his life – one is internal and the other is external.

He Creates My Hunger

First . . .

Internally within David’s soul,

God is creating a spiritual hunger

For the sustenance of His Word.

Only God can generate an appetite for this soul food.  Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”  We must feed on the Scripture daily.  Do you sense this hunger within you for the Word of God?

How sweet is the Scripture to the believer.  Concerning the precepts of the LORD, David writes in Psalms 19:10, “They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.”  He can never have enough of the Word.  Likewise, God puts the Holy Spirit within all believers in the new birth, who “causes” us to crave and keep His statutes.  The Bible tells us of this truth in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I will give you a new heart an put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  I will put MM spirit within and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”

If you are a true believer – if you are one of His sheep – then God is presently at work in your life, weaning you off of the bare husks of this world.  He is causing you to lie down in the green pastures of His Word.

David describes these “green pastures” in the plural.  It is not just one green pasture in which He leads this flock.  Instead, it is a vast expanse of many pastures.  Such an abundant supply pictures the sufficiency of the Word of  God to meet our spiritual needs.  There is the rich reservoir of truth contained in Scripture that is able to satisfy every hunger within us.  There is far more food in these lush grasslands than His sheep will be able to consume.

He Feeds Me His Word

Second . . .

There are external forces that God uses

To cause us to lie down in green pastures.

These are divinely-ordained times of trials and tribulations that He uses to humble us and bring us to our knees.  In such weakening times, we turn to His word and cling to His promises to sustain us.  These storms of life force us to lie down in the green pastures of His Word.

In Psalm 119:28, the psalmist testifies how his trials were causing him to cling to the law of the Lord. “My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to your Word.”  Only the Word could sustain him and bring him through his difficulties.  Again, he writes in verse 50,  “This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.”  The only comfort for his troubled heart was in the replenishing word of God.

Do you see the good Shepherd working in your life to create a greater hunger in you for His word?  Is He using a present time of adversity?  In His word, you will find rest for your soul.

2) He Is Leading Me.

In the second line of verse 2, David says, “He leads me beside quiet waters.”  As country streams flow through pastures, there are narrow places where the rocks cause the flow of water to back up – and be still and “quiet.”  That is where the shepherd would lead His flock.  He does not guide them where the swift currents make the sheep to be fearful.  They will not drink or be able to rest there.  Instead, he ushers his flock to places where the waters are peaceful and calming.

By this analogy, David states that God is leading him into His perfect peace.  Even when the circumstances around him were raging, he possessed a God-given tranquility of heart that only He can give.  Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.’”  Jesus, our good shepherd, leads us to experience His supernatural peace, something this world cannot give.

He Gives Me Peace

David certainly experienced this perfect peace.  It was much like what Paul describes in Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  This peace comes to our hearts as we commit our concerns to God in prayer.

On the outside, our turbulent circumstances may be like a raging storm.  But on the inside, we can know the peace that surpasses all human understanding.  This is what we experience as we follow the Lord and nourish our soul upon His Word.

Two Important Questions

I have two questions to ask you.  These are important for you to pause and give careful thought.

First – Are you feeding on the Word of God?  This psalm urges us to lie down in green pastures.  Make time in the busyness of your day to be in the Scripture.  Hunger for it. Read it.  Study it.  Memorize it.  Meditate upon it. Dig into it.  Devour it.  And it will satisfy and strengthen you as nothing else will!

Second – Are you following the leading of God?  Never stray away from your Shepherd. Stay close beside Him.  The most repeated invitations that Jesus gave was, “Follow me.”

  • He called to Matthew, “Follow me” (Matthew 9:9).
  • He summoned Philip, “Follow me” (John 1:43).
  • He said to Peter, “Follow me” (John 21:19).
  • To His disciples, Jesus pressed, “Follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

He is always calling us in the same way.

The Lord is leading you into green pastures where He will feed you an abundance of nourishment in His Word.  He will lead us beside still waters to give us His peace in the midst of trying and difficult days.  No sheep ever had a better shepherd than who we have in the LORD!

This is God’s 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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