Love For The Word, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017 

24Aug  In today’s blog, we come once again to Colossians 3 and Paul’s description of the manner in which a Christian should live.  The characteristics described are impossible to carry out unless there is a radical change in the individual.  The person without Christ, including those who have a false profession, might be able to carry out some of these commands with the people they love or want to impress, but they cannot do it to all people as is required of the Christian.  The believer has to live according to these virtues even with their enemies.

Those who place their faith

In the Lord Jesus Christ

And His atonement for

The forgiveness of their sins

Are radically changed by God.

They are redeemed,

Regenerated and

Reconciled with God

Though the sacrificial death

And resurrection of Jesus.

Their old self dies with Christ

And a new self is raised

To newness of life.

Here in Colossians 3, Paul describes that as “the old man” and “new man.”  The old man is dead and needs to be put off, and the new man needs to be put on.  The new man occupies the same old physical body of the old man and has to contend with a brain that has been trained to think in wrong patterns and view the world incorrectly, but those things will change as the believer is conformed into the image of Christ.

The old man is dead and Christian needs to quit dragging his old corpse around.  His previous deeds and attitudes are to be put to death – immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed along with anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive speech.  In their place . . .

The deeds and attitudes of the new man

Are being developed through

The cleansing of God’s Word,

The renewing of his mind,

And

The empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

The believer’s character is changed so that he is marked by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other and agape love.  These virtues are not limited to friends and loved ones, but are extended to all men.  The result of this is a disposition of peace and thankfulness.  Because the believer has peace with God through Christ, he can be at peace himself and extend peace to others.  A peace that is not just the absence of conflict, but a peace of harmony in relationships.  Obviously, such harmony requires both parties involved to work at being at peace and it may not be possible if one of them refuses to do so.  That is why God only commands us to be at peace with all men so far as it depends on you. Such an effort would include living out these Christian virtues.

Let’s look at how we can love the Word of God . . .

1) The Indwelling Word of Christ.

I feel a need to concentrate one more day on verse 16.  This verse shows us another area of the work of God in our hearts that arise out of the change of character in the Christian faith in the Christ brings.

Verse 16 says, “Let the word of God richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms [and] hymns [and] spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

This is the only place that this particular phrase, the word of Christ, occurs.  This is one of the used to describe the Scriptures.  Another common phrase is “the word of the Lord.”  Every time it is used it refers to the communication that God has given to man so that man may know Him and His will.  In short . . .

It is a reference to the Scriptures, the Holy Bible, and reinforces the fact that the Scripture, both the Old and the New, place the emphasis on their teachings on Jesus Christ.

This parallels the phrase “the peace of Christ” in the previous verse and it would be an important emphasis to the Colossians.  Remember that throughout this letter Paul stresses the superiority of Jesus Christ in correcting the false teaching that was occurring there.  The false teachers were claiming that they were speaking the things of God.  They advocated such things as religious rituals, keeping holy days, worship of angels, self-abasement, and ascetic practices as the way to God.  Paul makes it clear that . . .

It is Jesus Christ and Him alone

That shows us the way

To live for God and

Have life in Him.

The Bible teaches that God delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us in the kingdom of His beloved son, Jesus (Colossians 1:13).

  • It is in Jesus that we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14).
  • It is Jesus that created all things in the heavens and the earth, visible and invisible including thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities. All things have been created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15).
  • It is Jesus that holds everything that exists together (Colossians 1:16). He therefore is the architect, builder, possessor and sustainer of everything that has been created.
  • In addition, Jesus is the head of the church, the first born from the dead and preeminent in everything (Colossians 1:18).
  • It is in Jesus that the fulness of the Godhead dwells in bodily form (Colossians 1:19; 2:9).
  • Jesus is the one that reconciled us with God so that we have peace with Him (Colossians 1:20).
  • It is Jesus that makes us complete (Colossians 2:10) because it is in Him that we have been buried in baptism and made alive together with Him so that we are raised up as new men (Colossians 2:12-15; 3:1).
  • And finally, we will be glorified with Him when He returns (Colossians 3:4).

In view of all of this . . .

It is only reasonable

That His teaching should

Dwell in us so

That we will

Carry out His will.

The idea of “dwell” is for the teachings of God to reside within in us.

It is to live in us so that

We can live it out

In what we think,

What we say,

And in how we live.

Jesus Himself made the same point in John 15 when explained that He is the vine, we are the branches, so we must abide in Him to have life.  We are to abide in Him and His word is to abide in us if we are to prove to be His disciples.  David expressed this idea in Psalm 119:11 when he explained that the way to live a pure life was to hide God’s Word in his heart so that he might not sin against the Lord.

Paul adds here the adverb “richly” to describe . . .

The degree to which

This should occur

In the life of a believer.

It is to be within us

In abundance.

The word of Christ

Should direct every

Thought and decision

That we make.

We should be striving to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:15) so that we can make and live out decisions that will glorify Him.

The third part of the Great Commission is to teach believers to obey all of Christ’s commands (Matthew 28:20).  But . . .

None of this can happen

If you do not know the teaching

And truths of the Bible.

There is a knowledge base

That must be present

And that knowledge needs

To be present in abundance.

You need to know

God’s Word richly.

As important as this is, it is becoming increasingly hard to find professing believers that actually know even the basics of Scripture much less know it “richly.”  Is it any wonder then that there is little difference between the manner of life between most people who claim to be Christians and those that do not.  It is one thing to have little knowledge when you first become a Christian because it does take time to learn and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.  But what can be said for those who claim to have been believers in the Lord Jesus Christ for 5-10 years and they still have only read a very small portion of the Bible, they are ignorant of major portions of Scripture, the number of verses they have memorized is minuscule, and they can hardly find a reference during a sermon – if they even brought their Bible with them.

How sad that some true believers are in this condition because that is the model of the Christian life they have been taught in their church.  But for others, this is no longer just ignorance, it is passive rebellion resulting in active sin because they still do not know God’s will for their life.  Perhaps that is why they desire to remain ignorant, and if so, there is a question about what they really believe about Jesus and salvation from sin.

I don’t think I am being harsh here in the least, and I am glad that in comparison with other churches the percentage of folks in our church that do know their Bibles and are striving to live holy lives as a result is high.  However, we should never rest on our laurels or compare ourselves to others.

We must continually strive

To have the Word of God

Dwell in us richly

Because we want

To know and

Live for Him.

I hold no illusions or expectations that others in this church should know the Scriptures as well as I do considering I have been able to spend so much more time studying it over the past 53 years since I first read through the entire Bible.  However . . .

I do think it is reasonable for me

To think that other professing believers

Should have a similar desire

Of wanting to know

The Word of God better.

What is your desire toward the Scriptures?  Do you want the Word of God to dwell within you richly?  The fact that you reading my blog today tells me you have at least some interest of this for that is our focus here and I commend you for it.  But I also want to challenge you to go further.  While devotionals like the Daily Bread are helpful, go beyond just the printed verses.  Pursue reading through the entire Bible.  Get involved in a small group Bible Study where you can interact with other believers about what you are learning so that you can help each other live accordingly.  Don’t let the distractions of this world keep you from learning the Word and gaining its riches.

Paul continues on in the remainder of the verse to explain a practical way that believers can help each other know the blessings of the indwelling Word . . .

2) The Blessing of the Indwelling Word to Others.

Paul states in verse 16 that in having the Word of God richly dwelling within us then with all wisdom we are to be teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

Wisdom is the ability to take knowledge and apply it to life.  There are many people who suffer from having a lot of knowledge but without wisdom.  The Lord wants us to take the knowledge we gain from His Word and apply it to life.  Not just our life, but also the lives of others because we are part of His body and we are to help one another walk with Him.

Again, that is the third point in the Great Commission.  We are to help one another walk in obedience to the Lord’s commands.  We are to apply the knowledge we have gained from the Word of God richly dwelling within us and help one another walk in a manner worthy of our calling by Him.

The word “teaching,” is the word from which we get “didactic.”  It refers to “instruction in knowledge.”  It is telling someone the facts and their relationship with each other. This is the positive side of imparting truth.  We pass on to others the knowledge that we gain in learning from our own study and from others also.

The word “admonishing,” has a root meaning of “to put in mind.” It can also be translated as “exhort,” “teach” or “give instruction” though it is focuses on “pointing out things that are wrong and giving warning about them.

We teach someone how do right

And

Admonish them about doing wrong.

We actually already saw both of these words in our study of Colossians 1:28 in which Paul states the goal of his ministry was that he might “present every man complete in Christ.”

His means for accomplishing that goal

Was to proclaim the Lord while also

“Admonishing and teaching

Every man with all wisdom.”

The Scriptures were written down for our instruction (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) and Paul labored in teaching wherever he went (1 Corinthians 4:17).  While there are certain gifted men God gives to the church to teach and instruct as elders and pastors (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9), this responsibility also belongs to all those within the church.

Paul told the Romans that he had confidence in them because they were full of goodness and knowledge that they would be able to admonish one another (Romans 15:14).  He urged in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to, “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.” 

Our goal needs to be the same as Paul

In desiring to present every man complete in Christ,

And we are to accomplish it by the same means

Of teaching and admonishing one another

Based on the Word of God which is to dwell within us.

In that way we share with others the blessings we have received from having the Word of God dwelling in us.

3) The Expression of the Indwelling Word to Others.

What is somewhat unusual in this passage is the particular means that Paul states we are to use in teaching and admonishing.  Obviously those activities are normal parts of preaching.  As already pointed out elders / pastors are to be instructing from both the positive and negative sides and Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word; be ready in season [and] out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2).  Instructing and warning would also be normal parts of counseling someone.

But here Paul states that teaching and admonishing are to be done through the means of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  There are several ramifications in this verse to our use of music within the church and as individual Christians which I want to expand on, but first I want to make some general comments about music in the church and explain the general meaning of each of these types of music.

There is a wide variety of passages that mention music in the Bible.

  • Music is often a response of joy to salvation and all its ramifications. The Israelites sang after their escape from Egypt (Exodus 15).  The Christian sings in response over the joy of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ.
  • Music has been part of the church from its foundation and it will be part of our activities in heaven where we will join in the chorus of praise singing the song of the Lamb (Revelations 15:3).
  • The various Psalms clearly indicate that godly music includes a wide range of subjects. There are many that are prayers of trust (Psalm 3 & 4) or petitions for protection (Psalm 5) or mercy (Psalm 6).  There are Psalms that focus on the majesty of God in various ways including His greatness displayed in the heavens (Psalm 8 & 19), His mighty works in Israel’s history (Psalm 68, 77) and in answering prayer (Psalm 66).  Psalms extol various attributes of God including His goodness (Psalm 92), eternity (Psalm 90), power and dominion (Psalm 97), omniscience and omnipresence (Psalm 139) and faithfulness (Psalm 99). There are Psalms of mourning over sin (Psalm 38) thanksgiving for forgiveness (Psalm 32, 51).  There are various petitions for deliverance (Psalm 59) and punishment of evildoers (Psalm 58).  There are laments over suffering (Psalm 60, 79) and calls to worship (Psalm 100, 148).

Ephesians 5:19 has almost the same phrasing as Colossians 3:16 to describe what should be the normal expression of being filled with the Spirit.  Those who are controlled by the Spirit of God demonstrate that by “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

When we consider both of these verses together, we find five types of music: psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody.

Psalms refer primarily to the Old Testament psalms put to music.  But the term is also used of vocal music of any type and especially those accompanied by a string instrument.  We have already seen that Psalms has a wide variety of specific subjects, but primarily they are focused on God, His character, work, and petitions to Him.  Many of the Psalms as well as other Scriptures have been set to music in modern times.  In our hymnal I Will Sing of the Mercies is from Psalm 89, Thy Word is from Psalm 119:105, and Come Let Us Worship & Bow Down is from Psalm 95:6.  Others are adaptations of Psalms such as Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven based on Psalm 103 and A Mighty Fortress is Our God based on Psalm 46

Hymns center more on songs of praise and differ from the psalms only in that they specifically praise the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many scholars believe that certain Scripture passages such as Colossians 1:12-16 were used in this manner.  A Hymn would include songs such as May Jesus Christ Be Praised, Worthy is the Lamb, Our Great Savior and Majesty.

Spiritual songs were probably songs of testimony that covered a broad category of any music that expresses spiritual truth.  This would include many of our modern choruses as well as songs such as My Jesus, I Love Thee, He Touched me, Just as I Am, and Have Thine Own Way, Lord.

Singing simply means to make music with the voice.  You may sing well, you may sing poorly, but God wants you to sing.  It is to be part of your worship of Him. Ephesians 5:19 adds “making melody” to the types of music.  “Melody” comes from “psallo” and means specifically “to pluck on a stringed instrument” especially a hand harp.  The closest instrument we have to that now would be a guitar, but the word is also used for a wide range of other instruments.

As I close our study today, let me now expand on some of the ramifications of Colossians 3:16.  First, note that there is no mention about the quality of the music. While it is beneficial to have those with better ability performing special presentations for the congregation lest we drive people away, yet every believer is to be involved in singing whether you have perfect pitch or you can only carry a tune in a bucket.  The phrase “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” occurs seven times in the Psalms.  While there were special opportunities for the trained musicians and singers to make beautiful sounds as is detailed in the temple worship, there is also an important place for everyone to be involved.  This verse specifically states that music is to be used in teaching and admonishing one another which includes everyone, but this also points out the next ramification of this verse.

Secondly, a lot of new songs focus more on the “beat, rhythm, and volume of the music” and have no biblical content or message.  While there are new songs that are written in accordance with this passage, I am sure this verse would probably come as a shock to a lot of those involved with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) in its various genres for so much of it is just empty blather.  Many are repetitious phrases without any content.  Many others make allusions to something, but it is never made clear exactly what.  Todd Friel refers to one genre of these as “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs because you can’t tell if it is talking about Jesus or a boyfriend.  A classic example of this is You Light Up My Life which was very popular in CCM thirty years ago.  The song was supposedly about Jesus, yet contained the phrase, “how could it be wrong when it feels so right?”  That does not apply to Jesus, so the song is not about Him, yet the great ignorance of the Word of God gave cover for the delusion that it was a worship song.  It has only become worse since then.

Thirdly, I am amazed that a number of CCM artists are even called Christian considering that the use of any of the names of Jesus or of God the Father are very rare.   Who can tell what is really being sung about?  Why make allusions instead of telling it like it is?  You can sell a lot more recordings and become more popular if you write your lyrics in such a way that they can mean anything the listener would like it to be.  It is also the reason for such repetition of bland phrasing in so called “worship music.”  It is easy to “praise the Lord ” if nothing of substance is said about Him so that you can believe whatever you want.  Like tofu, which can be made to taste like nearly anything, much of CCM music has lyrics that can be flavored in any manner desired by the listener.  Such songs cannot offend because they say little and leave the truth about God and how He wants us to live to the imagination of the hearer.

Fourthly, added to this is the problem of Biblical ignorance on the part of the wider Christian community which accepts and propels songs and artists to the heights of popularity without discerning the actual message being presented.  “Christian” radio stations plays songs that are aberrant or even heretical in their theology, yet Christians of all stripes accept them as being Christian because they got air time on the “Christian” radio program.  The same thing happens with concerts because the artist is performing at a church.

Paul states here that we are to teach and admonish each other by the use of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

He is not referring to just

What is performed in a church

Or at a worship service,

But rather what should

Fill our days and

Fellowship with one another.

Before radio, smart phones, ipods, and the internet, people would sing to themselves and to one another while working and in gatherings for socialization and entertainment.

Paul makes the point here

That those should be seen

As opportunities to help

One another in

Walking with Christ.

The ability to fill our days with recorded music only adds to this command.  As a Christian you need to be thoughtful and careful about the music that you make part of your life.  I am not talking about the music you hear that you have no control over.  I am talking about the music you listen to and play for others when you do have a choice.  Do your musical choices help the Word of God to dwell richly in you?  Do they teach you about God, His character, His will, how to live a righteous life?  Do they warn you against straying from the narrow way that leads to righteousness?

I have observed within the greater Christian community that such discernment is increasingly rare.  Professing Christians freely listen to music that glorifies evil instead of warns against it.  The supposed “Christian” music they listen to is filled with tofu lyrics, have pablum for doctrinal content and may even have aberrant or heretical theology in them.  My fear, beloved, is that you can fall victim to this as well.  I challenge you to become and be discerning in your choice of music.

Now in saying all of this I hope you understand that this applies to all the types of music you listen to, not just what is supposed to be Christian music.  There is plenty of room in life for all sorts of music including happy songs, sad songs, ballads, instrumentals, songs about relationships, work, play and life in general.  There are even times when fun or silly songs can be appropriate.  Yet in all of them . . .

We must be discerning

That the message of them

Fits within the parameters

That God has set.

God is honored.

Righteousness is promoted.

Sin is admonished.

Songs that glorify sin or mock righteousness or disparage God are always out of bounds.

4) The Worship Arising from the Indwelling Word.

The final part of this verse brings in again the use of music in the worship of God.  We are to sing with thankfulness or grace in our hearts to God.  When the Word of God dwells richly within you, then there will be a proper response of worship to God for all that He has done.  The word “grace” here can also be translated “thanksgiving” because it is the response to God’s grace received that we respond with gratefulness in singing in our hearts to Him.

The idea of singing in your heart is not a reference to emotion or singing silently, though it is certainly fine to have a song in your mind that you do not express audibly.  This is rather a reference to a response of worship that arises from within your core of being with the heart being a metaphor for what you think and choose.  The origin of true worship is always internal.  Many people can sing with their lips or make skilled sounds on instruments, but if the heart is not included, it is not spirit filled music of worship and so will lack in its ability to truly praise God or be a spiritual blessing to others.  A non-Christian can sing a song about our Lord, as many of them do in singing Christmas carols or some popular gospel song, but it is not worship.  Only a true Christian redeemed, regenerated and reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ can fulfill this command to sing with thankfulness in their heart to God in true worship of Him.

Our motivation and protection against the subtleties of the world and the flesh is to have the Word of God richly dwell in us so that we are discerning about truth and error and what is actually edifying and what is detrimental.

Local bodies of believers can help one another become more knowledgeable about God’s Word and how to be obedient to all that Christ has commanded us.  However, it must be your own desire to have the Word of God richly dwell in you before it will actually happen.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

Love For The Word, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

24Aug  In our previous study, we learned that when God gives Christians new hearts that they are “let the peace of Christ rule” in their hearts and they are to have a continual spirit of thankfulness.  Today we will learn that when God gives us new hearts it will lead to another new behavior . . .

We are to “let dwell the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  This phrase is an imperative and is used only here in the New Testament.  The phrase refers not only to the teaching of Jesus Christ, but also of all the Bible.  God’s Word should permeate our whole being so that we God-honoring and God-pleasing decisions and plans in our lives.

My Greek professor in seminary used to say, “As the rabbis later pointed out, ‘he who dwells in a house is the master of the house, not just a passing guest.’  Thus, we are to submit to the demands of the Christian message and let it become so deeply implanted within us as to control all our thinking.”  Many saved people cannot honestly say that God’s Word dwells in their hearts richly because they do not take time to read, study, and memorize it.

This phrase is full of teaching (the imparting of truth), and admonition (warning against error).  The Word of God is the basis four our worship.  The “psalms” refers to the inspired Old Testament psalms.  The word implies that the believers sang them with musical accompaniment.  Hymns are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.  Spiritual songs probably refer to expressions of Christian truth set to music.  Thankfulness to God is to mark our singing too (cf. Colossians 3:15,16).

Whether with instrument or with voice or with both

It is all for naught if the adoration is not in the heart.

One of the first descriptions of a Church service which we possess is that of Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, who sent a report of the activities of the Christians to Trajan the Roman Emperor.  In that report he said, “They meet at dawn to sing a hymn to Christ as God.  The gratitude of the Church has always gone up to God in Christian praise and Christian song.”  It has often been noticed that the Colossian passage is parallel with Ephesians 5:18-20.  In the latter passage the hymns and songs are the outgrowth of the filling of the Spirit, while in Colossians they are the result of the deep assimilation of the Word of God.  In other words . . .

The Word-filled Christian is a Spirit-filled Christian.

An examination of the two passages would save us from a great deal of error on this subject.

Undisciplined emphasis on the Holy Spirit

Is accompanied too frequently by

Shallow grounding in the Word of God.

Christians with new hearts will follow the Bible’s teachings in Colossians 3:15-17, where we are looking at three actions in these three verses.  The first was that we Learn To End Strife And Be Thankful.  Today we will learn about how we will . . .

2) We Love the Scriptures. 

Christians love the Word of God!

Colossians 3:16 begins by says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . .”

The “word of Christ” is shorthand for the entire Bible: the Scriptures.  Jesus taught that the Scriptures testified of Him (John 5:39).  In this phrase, then, Paul has in mind the Word of Christ as well as the Word about Christ: “Let Christ’s Word – the biblical teaching that points to and presents the person and work Jesus Christ – let this very Word dwell richly within you.”

The word, “dwell” is a word that means “to make one’s home” or “to be at home.”  And the sense is present and active and suggests, “Keep making sure that the Word of Christ is at home within you.”  Or put the opposite way: “Don’t treat God’s Word like an unwelcome guest” … Or even “an occasionally visiting guest.”  See to it that God’s Word is at home within you and that His Word continually dwells within you richly.

What do you enjoy dwelling within you richly?   I can tell you that I am happy to allow a number of things to dwell within me richly: fresh air, good homecooked meals with plenty of vegetables, aged cheeses, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, beverages like water, kombucha, and teas, for example.   These are things I enjoy “dwelling within” me.

In a very real sense, this is the same way we are to enjoy God’s Word, the Word of Christ.  The Bible is God’s food for us – and it is great food!  It is meant to be cherished as a singular delicacy.

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly means “let it get down deep within, savor it, enjoy it.”  We are to get the Word of God into our minds and hearts for spiritual food every day and watch it change our life for the glory of God!

Read the Bible every day.  Whether you use a Bible reading plan or some other method, just be sure to take time to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”  Slow down.  Read a portion as carefully and slowly as you would eat something you really enjoyed.

Don’t eat without tasting it! Savor it.  You might start this morning with a psalm.  Slowly read Psalm 1.  Read it and re-read it.  Savor it.  Allow it to “get down deep” within you.

Paul continues in verse 16, “… in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  Christians share wisdom with one another by “teaching and admonishing one another.”  Christians not only teach, but “admonish,” which means “to caution, to counsel, to help by warning; to reprove gently.”  If we love each other, we will admonish one another, even warning one another when our behavior does not “match” our identity, when we are wearing the wrong spiritual clothing.

It is especially interesting in verse 16 that one of the ways Christians teach and admonish one another is through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”  Don’t miss the inference:

Worship music is to contain

Lyrics that teach Christians.

Christian hymns and Christian songs are to have a teaching quality about them; even an admonishing element about them.

I think this fact is more important than trying to figure out whether there is some kind of distinction between Paul’s understanding of psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs.  Volumes have been written on the supposed differences between and distinctions of these three musical offerings.

This much is clear . . .

While there is a variety of Christian music,

All of it should contain lyrics comprising the Word of God.

Songs should have words that teach the church

And songs that admonish the church.

Note also the “attitude of gratitude” in verse 16.  Just as verse 15 concluded with an element of gratitude, “and be thankful,” so verse 16 concludes with the statement, “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  “Singing with grace” is singing “with thankfulness in your hearts” or with “gratitude in your hearts.”  Thankful people can worship God meaningfully.

This “grace” carries the idea of “gratitude, favor, pleasure, and joy.”  Thus, God is telling us here that when we sing we should sing with an attitude of happiness and joy in our hearts because of our gratitude to God.  In other words, our songs should pour forth from a heart that is filled with happiness and thankfulness.

Consider how this melody, or grace, is to be directed toward the Lord. Paul says that we are to sing with melody, or grace, in our hearts “to the Lord.”  Too often it seems that people sing the songs of worship without any direction or feeling behind what they are saying.  The songs that we sing are not just words that we select and arrange so as to “sound good,” or to just “make a noise;” these are songs that are directed toward God.  We should sing them just as though they are being said directly to God, because that is exactly what is happening!  When you sing, sing it “to the Lord,” because He is the one who needs to know that we want to be there.  When you can truly sing to the Lord in a way that you mean it, you will have no problem teaching and admonishing one another.

If you have received God’s forgiveness and you know what it is to be forgiven of sin, then your heart will sing the praises of God.  Paul writes, “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  Don’t say you can’t sing.  You can.  You may feel that you do not sing well, but that is to compare yourself with others.  Don’t compare yourself with others … Sing with grace, sing with thankfulness in your hearts to the Lord.

Do you see the principle?  As we all the Word of God to dwell within us richly, we will have thankfulness and gratitude to God that others can see and be influenced and impacted by.

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.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture

 

 

Exploratory Heart Surgery, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

20Aug  The Christian life is a song of thanksgiving, a glad and joyous hymn of praise to God. “Be thankful,” Paul admonished the believers at Colossae in our text today.

How would you describe the Christian life?

The New Testament describes it in many ways and under a rich variety of figures. It is, for example . . .

  • A race: A long and arduous contest, like an Olympic marathon, that demands all of our energies and requires great powers of endurance if we are to reach the goal and win the victor’s crown
  • It is a spiritual warfare: A fierce, unrelenting battle with the forces of evil that seek to destroy us.
  • It is a crucifixion and resurrection, a death to sin and self and a supernatural rebirth to eternal life in God.
  • It is a discipleship: A rigorous process of training and growth in Christlikeness of character.
  • It is a stewardship: A responsible management of all our powers and abilities, our time, our money, and our opportunities for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom on earth.

But it is something else.

The Christian life is

A song of thanksgiving,

A glad and joyous

Hymn of praise to God.

Paul admonished the believers at Colossae in our text, “Be thankful.”  He counseled the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jess for you.”  In his letter to the Ephesians, he told his readers to in Ephesians 5:18, “Be filled with the Holy Spirit.”  Then he proceeded in Ephesians 5:20 to indicate that a prominent mark of the Spirit-filled life is thanksgiving, “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  A Christian should be thankful.

Let’s notice three things about this aspect of our life with Christ . . .

1) The Call to Thankfulness

We all like to be thanked.  When we give a gift to someone, when we help another person, when we perform an act of kindness for a fellow human being, we expect some expression of appreciation.  Our generosity or service may not be consciously motivated by any desire for recognition.  Our action may be prompted primarily by our love, or our compassion, or our genuine concern for the other person’s happiness.  But if there is little or no evidence of gratitude, we are hurt and offended, and at times grow indignant.

Our human desire for thanks is an echo from the heart of God.  He, too, wants to be thanked.  He expects us to show our gratitude for all His wonderful goodness to us.  The Old Testament, as well as the New, rings with the summons to thanksgiving.

Listen to the psalmist, as he cries out in Psalm 95:1-2, “O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us shout  joyfully to the Rock of our salvation!  Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with songs of praise!”

Again, the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 100:4, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name!”

In Psalm 150:1, the grand finale of the psalmist, is composed entirely of a chain of 13 commands to praise the Lord.  Verse 6 is a call to all living creatures to join together in a swelling chorus of praise to Him, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

In Luke 17:17-18, when only one of 10 lepers that He had healed returned to express gratitude to Him, Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed?  But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  That note of disappointment at human ingratitude is as much a revelation of the Father’s heart as anything our Lord ever said or did.

God looks for and delights in the thanksgiving of His grateful people.  Should not you and I, then, delight to give it to Him?  Should we not assign to thanksgiving a much larger place in our prayers?

Notice further . . .

2) The Cause of Our Thankfulness

Psalm 103:2 declares, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”  What a mighty impulse to thankfulness lies in those three words of the psalmist: “all his benefits!”  As the English poet Joseph Addison put it:

“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ.”

I know of no better way to stimulate the spirit of thankfulness in our hearts and in our homes, than the regular habit of giving thanks to God for the blessings he gives.  Any such inventory of God’s goodness will certainly include the common blessings of life most of us are privileged to enjoy: health and home, family and friends, food and clothing, work and play, laughter and happiness, and all the wonder and beauty of nature that God has created for our pleasure.

As citizens of this great land, we should remember how highly favored we are.  While not all of us are rich and some – an alarmingly increasing number – are poor, we know nothing of the appalling poverty, hunger, and disease that are a triple scourge to millions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Every minute 24 people, mostly children, starve to death or die of extreme malnutrition.  By the time the average worship service is over, 1500 of our fellow human beings will died simply because they didn’t have enough food to keep them alive and well.  Each and every day, 35,000 men, women and children – 13 million a year – vanish from our planet, devoured by the dragon of hunger.

We Americans enjoy an affluence never matched by any other nation or generation in history.

  • Our material resources are incalculable.
  • Our forefathers have bequeathed to us an unsurpassed heritage of political and religious freedom.
  • Educational benefits and opportunities for cultural enrichment are available to almost everyone.
  • In this century of unprecedented global warfare, we have been spared the horrors of devastation.
  • Our national blessings are the envy of the whole world.

Beyond these and a host of other things,

Each of us has his own

Special reasons to give thanks.

But as Christians we should be

Grateful most of all for God’s

Gift of salvation in Jesus Christ

And the wealth of spiritual

Benefits that are ours.

Paul was a master of the art of language.  Whether he was preaching a sermon, developing a theological argument, debating with opponents of the gospel, rebuking men for their sins, settling disputes among Christians, appealing for mercy on behalf of a runaway slave, or defending himself against bitter accusers before a Roman tribunal, he was never at a loss for words.  But . . .

When he reflected on

His relationship with Jesus Christ

And all he owed to Him,

Paul found human language

Hopelessly bankrupt,

And could only exclaim,

“Thanks be to God for

His indescribable gift!”

(2 Corinthians 9:15).

If by faith we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, then . . .

  1. We have forgiveness of all our sins through His blood.
  2. In Him we are reconciled to God.
  3. Through Him we may come boldly to His throne of grace and power.
  4. We are heirs of His kingdom.
  5. He is our Father and we are His children.
  6. He is with us always
  7. He will provide for all our needs.
  8. He will protect us.
  9. He guide us through all our earthly journey.
  10. And at last He will welcome us to glory in His presence forever.

Whatever else we may or may not have, with blessings like these, our life, indeed, should be one unbroken hymn of thanks.

“Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who, like me, His praise should sing?”

Consider also . . .

3) The Characteristics of Christian Thankfulness.

How do we express our gratitude to God?  How can you and I tell if we are really thankful? Obviously . . . We praise God with our lips.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:15 that through Christ we should, “Continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to Him name.”

Words, nevertheless, are notoriously cheap,

And the gratitude that contents

Itself with “Thank You’s” to God,

However piously and eloquently

Phrased, is cheap and insincere.

Real Christian thankfulness is a life-transforming dynamic.  What, then, are its marks?  Let us look at several of the most important ones.

If we are thankful to God . . .

We will obey Him.

In nothing does Christian gratitude reveal itself more clearly than in obedience.  We tend to forget that God’s great purpose for us is not merely to rescue us from hell.  His ultimate goal is to mold us into the image of His Son, to make us altogether Christlike.

If you were to sum up

The character of Jesus

In a single word, w

Wat word would you choose?

Love?  Trust?  Humility?

Purity?  Self-sacrifice?

He, of course, embodied them all,

And in perfect measure.

But the word that best sums up

The character and life of our Lord

Is the word obedience.

He said to His disciples in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to accomplish His work.”  That was His life-motto.  With absolute truthfulness he could claim in John 8 29, “. . . I always do those thing that please Him.”

In everything He ever did, our Lord perfectly and completely fulfilled His Father’s will.  He obeyed to the letter all the demands of God’s law, so that no fault or blemish could be found in Him.  Then, in that same spirit of obedience to His Father’s will, He offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.

God has redeemed us in order to make us like Jesus.

If we are grateful for all that He has done for us,

Especially for our redemption through Christ’s death on the cross,

We shall express that gratitude by our obedience to His will.

Out of our gratitude will be born the determination

To live a yielded life, the desire to please God in all things.

A thankful Christian is an obedient Christian.

If we are thankful to God . . .

Our lives will also be marked by thankfulness in service.

To be a disciple of Christ is to be a servant of Christ.  If we live under the Lordship of Christ, you and I will devote our whole lives to Him and will labor steadily for His glory by ministering to the needs of others in His name.

The supreme motive for this service

Will be our gratitude to God for His

Undeserved favor and goodness to us in Christ.

What a wealth of opportunities for service our Lord gives us!

  • It may be teaching a church Bible Study class
  • Or leading a children’s Bible club or youth group.
  • It may be working in a church day-care center or preschool ministry.
  • It may be delivering meals to the homebound elderly, or running errands for them, or visiting in hospitals and nursing homes.
  • It may be helping with the physically handicapped or the mentally retarded.
  • It may be ministering to alcoholics or drug addicts, or befriending prostitutes or prisoners.

The forms of service will vary according to our individual gifts and calling.  But if we are grateful to God, we shall be busy in His service, ministering to others in the name of our Savior, and always seeking as we minister to share with them the Gospel of His redeeming love.

After years of bondage, a slave was purchased by a stranger and set free.  Falling down at the man’s feet, he sobbed, “I will be your slave till death.”  Thankfulness is the spring of the noblest service.  That is why Christian service is the finest service in the world.

If we are thankful to God . . .

Our lives will also be marked with a spirit of giving.

Wherever you find a grateful heart,

You are sure to find a generous hand.

A fine Christian layman called me one afternoon. “God has been especially good to me this year,” he explained, “and I want to share that goodness with others.”  He then asked me to recommend several Christian ministries which I considered worthy of his support.

The Bible says in Psalm 96:8, “Give to the Lord the glory due His name, bring an offering, and come into His courts!”  How comfortable would you feel to think that God measures your gratitude to Him by the gifts you place on the offering plate each week?  He does exactly that.

The key to balanced church budgets,

increased missionary support,

And larger benevolences

Does not lie in bingo,

Bazaars, and bake sales;

Nor in high-pressure

Financial campaigns;

Nor in a legalistic

Emphasis upon the

Duty of tithing.

It lies rather

In the cultivation

Of the Christian

Grace of thankfulness.

Her gratitude for all that Jesus meant to her prompted Mary of Bethany to anoint Him with her jar of ointment, a gift that cost the equivalent of a laborer’s yearly wages.  Paul boasted of the Gentile Christians of Macedonia who, though desperately poor themselves, out of gratitude for their spiritual blessings, eagerly gave beyond their means to help the poor Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.  Poor and affluent alike give joyously and generously when their hearts are filled with gratitude to God.

If we are thankful to God . . .

Our lives will also be marked by the thankful spirit is contentment.

We are inclined to think that contentment depends on things and circumstances.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  If that were the case, those who have the greatest abundance and suffer the least misfortune would be the happiest.  But often these very people are miserable and are some of the worst grumblers and complainers.

In his classic Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe, a devout Christian, put these words into the mouth of his hero, “All our discontents spring from the want to thankfulness for what we have.”  Fanny Crosby, writer of many popular gospel songs, was stricken with blindness at six weeks of age. When she was just a child of 8, she wrote these lines:

“Oh what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be;
How many blessings I enjoy
That others people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.”

The psalmist declared in Psalm 103:2, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.”  Grateful Christians do not grumble.  They find a happy contentment in their experiences of God’s goodness and love.

The crowning feature of Christian thankfulness is the desire for . . .

Deeper fellowship with God.

It is natural when a friend has done a great kindness to us, that we should draw still closer to him with greater affection and devotion.  The love he has shown to us stimulates and intensifies our love for him, so that our friendship becomes richer, more intimate, more precious than ever.

God created us for fellowship with Himself.  Nothing in the Genesis story is so beautiful as the immediacy and intimacy of Adam’s original relationship with God.  And nothing is so dark and tragic as the disruption of that relationship through sin.  The rest of the Bible records the gradual unfolding of God’s amazing plan to restore that relationship through Christ.

When we think of all the goodness and mercy

God has shown to us who deserve nothing

But His wrath and condemnation,

The faithfulness of His providential care,

The gifts without number He has lavished upon us,

And above all, the salvation He has purchased

For us through the death of His own dear Son,

How can we fail, if we are truly grateful Christians,

To place Him at the center of our hearts and lives?

Surely, more than anything else . . .

We shall long to know Him better

And to live in glad and loving

Fellowship with Him forever.

“Would you know,” asked William Law the mystic, “who is the greatest saint? He is not the man who does most, or even prays most. He is the man who is most thankful.”

Judged by that test, what kind of Christian are you?

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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Exploratory Heart Surgery, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

20Aug Recently I discovered a medical journal entitled Chest.  It is a journal described as the “Official Publication of the American College of Chest Physicians.”  The journal contains an article entitled, “Exploratory Surgery of the Heart.”  In one part of the article the author asserts: “Exploratory surgery of the heart is logical, simple, and when performed along the lines indicated, a relatively safe procedure.  In most cases, fortunately, it not only establishes the anatomical diagnosis but permits the prompt carrying out of corrective operative measures.”

You might say in Colossians 3:15-17 the Bible is talking about “Exploratory Surgery of the Heart.”  And just like the article in the Chest journal, God would say that such exploratory surgery is a “safe procedure” and that, in every case, He not only correctly “diagnoses,” but also “permits the prompt carrying out of corrective operative measures.”

We will be dealing with the health and condition of our spiritual hearts in today’s blog.  As we study these verses, we will do some exploratory heart surgery, taking a look inside our hearts, seeing what we discover; and seeing whether there may be something that needs correction.

If you are a Christian, then God has given you a new heart because you are a new creation (Ezekiel 18:31).  The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  Christians with new hearts will follow the Bible’s teachings in Colossians 3:15-17, where we note three actions in these three verses . . .

1) We Learn To End Strife.

Christians will always endeavor to put an end to any division arising in the church.

We work for peace

In the fellowship.

This is the meaning of verse 15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” 

There are four imperatives in Colossians 3:15-17 identify the precepts believers must follow.  We will look at each one over the next few days and learn powerful truths that will impact how we think and behave in our daily lives.

The first truth God wants us to live by is

“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.”

That is, look inside your heart.  Do some exploratory heart surgery.  Do you see, “the peace of God” at work in your life?

When Christians need to make choices, the peace that Christ produces in our hearts should be a determining factor.  We should choose what will result in peace between us and God, and between us and one another, if such a course of action lies within God’s moral will (cf. John 14:27).

This directive forms,

With the Word of God

And the witness of

The indwelling Spirit,

One of the most important

Principles of guidance

In the Christian life.

When these three indicators line up, we can move ahead confidently.  Realization of the unity of the body and the peace of Christ results in thankfulness that should also mark our behavior.

You will remember from yesterday’s post that Christians must forgive one another.  Paul stresses this mandate by spelling it out for us in verse 13: “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  There is no excuse for a Christian’s not forgiving another brother or sister.  There is also no excuse for a Christian’s not forgiving a husband or wife.  If troubled couples spent as much time and energy on trying to save their marriage as they did on trying to separate from one another, there would be more saved marriages.

The key is that

We must let

The peace of Christ

“Rule” in our hearts.

The emphasis of this phrase is that we are to continually let peace rule. The background is the Hebrew “shalom” which carries with it the ideas “of wellness, spiritual wholeness, personal and community well-being, justice and equity.”  It is exercised in a spiritual society where everyone’s needs are met and all are cared for.

Paul addresses 2 facets of the peace of God that we are to put on . . .

1) Be controlled by peace.

The peace of Christ is to what?  “Rule.”  Where? “In your hearts.”  The word “rule” comes from the world of athletics and mean “to act as umpire, to arbitrate as the decision-maker.”  Paul says let “shalom,” the peace of God be the final word in your hearts.  Let it decide what is right and let it make the call time and time again in your life.

2) Accept the call to peace.

The peace of Christ is something to which we have been “called in one body.”  We are now family, one community, one body.  To fight and quarrel with each other is insane.  It can be suicidal.  How inconsistent is it for those of us who have experienced the peace of God to war among ourselves, draw battle lines in the sand, choose sides and take shots at one another. What a shame it is for the church. What a tragic witness it is for the world.

Adrian Rogers says, “When we are in the foxhole side-by-side we have no problem fighting against a common enemy that threatens our community.  However, when the war against the real enemy subsides and we are back in the barracks face to face, if we are not careful, and we are in the habit of fighting, we will begin to fight one another.”

It is important to remember that Paul is writing primarily about peace in the body of Christ, about getting along with fellow brothers and sisters in the congregation.

Christians who have been reconciled to God,

Who have peace with Him through Christ,

Should manifest peace with one another.

Strife is the inevitable result when men are out of touch with God who is the one Source of true peace; but there is no reason why those who have accepted the peace which Christ established by His death on the cross should have any other than peaceful relations among themselves.

Peace with God results in peace with one another.  One reason why there may be strife between two church members, may well be because one of them – or both of them – do not have peace with God.  That is, they may not actually be saved.

I think this may be why Paul adds the last three words in verse 15: “and be thankful.”

Gratitude is found in the hearts of those who have been given new hearts.  Christians are forever grateful to God for their new hearts and it causes them to be thankful, and to go on being thankful.  What a difference a heart full of peace and gratitude makes in our lives.

We will look further into the need of gratitude in tomorrow’s blog

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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Dressed Up And Obedient

Grace For The Journey


19Aug  For some reason, I the rest of our study in the Book of Colossians, and began the series we just completed on “The Questions Of Jesus,before we had gone through all the verses.  I want to use the next several blogs to go back and conclude the study of Colossians.  The last time we looked at this Book, we noted in the third chapter that the Apostle Paul is describing Christian living in terms of “putting off” and “putting on.”  Like discarding old clothes that no longer “suit them,” Christians are to discard or “put off” old behaviors.  We have previously examined some of the “old clothing” we are to remove from our spiritual closets.

In Colossians 3:12 and following, we now read about “dressing up” in new behaviors that bear likeness to Christ.

Verse 12 says, “Therefore…put on tender mercies.”  Other translations say to “put on compassion” or “compassionate hearts.”  Christians are to dress themselves up with compassion.  It is similar to the next item of clothing, “kindness.”  When people look at us they ought to see that we are “wearing” compassion and kindness.

If we are God’s elect, holy, and have the life of Christ in us we are going to look like the One who chose us.  We ought to look like the One who set us apart, and loves us with a special love.

We are going to look like our Lord –

And our Lord was compassionate.

Remember the place in Scripture where the Bible says that Jesus looked out at over Jerusalem and wept over the people (Matthew 9:36)?  He had a heart of compassion.

Because we are followers of Christ, He really is “in us.”  Consequently, we too have hearts of compassion.  Jesus fed the hungry, blessed the poor, and healed the hurting.  So as His followers we will do the same.  This will be our natural inclination when we “put on tender mercies.”

Can we feed every single hungry person?  Can we bless every single poor person?  Can we listen to every single person’s story and show compassion?  No, we can’t “be there” for everybody, but consider this truth:

“You can’t help everybody,

But you can help somebody

In a way that you’d like

To help everybody.”

Who among us can’t help at least one person today?

Verse 12 adds another virtue that should be obvious in our lives, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility . . .”  Humility is another characteristic of the new self, another item of spiritual clothing we are to put on regularly.  I like how Paul describes humility in Philippians 3:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” 

Taken together with these other virtues of verse 12 – these other kinds of spiritual clothing: “meekness, and long-suffering” . . .

We get a picture of a person

Who always remembers

His position in Christ

As the means by

Which to bless others.

Verse 13 says, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another ….”  “Bearing with” connotes the idea of “tolerating,” patiently accepting the varying personalities of our brother’s and sisters.”  It goes right along with the next character quality listed in verse 13, “… and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  This matter of forgiveness is as plain a teaching in the Scriptures as that there is a God.  There is no excuse for Christians’ failing to forgive another brother or sister.

Our Lord assumes we will do this. He has taught us as much in the model prayer in Matthew 6:12.  He said we are to pray this way, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Or, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”  He adds in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Remember later that Peter would approach Jesus and ask, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”   Jesus answered him: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22).

Going back to Colossians 3:13, note carefully exactly what the Bible says: “If anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”

Forgiveness is not an option.  

If someone offends you, you are to forgive that person.  Even if the person does not come forward and make it right, you must forgive.  The Bible says in Mark 11:25-26, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.  But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

And lest we be quick to lose our patience with others who are difficult to “tolerate,” let’s consider the lengths to which our Lord goes to tolerate us!  How has Jesus treated you insofar as “bearing with” you and “forgiving” you?  Has He set the example that He taught?  Does He forgive your offenses every single time?

Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must forgive your spouse, your wayward child, your mother, your father, your fellow brother, your sister, your pastor, your fellow church member.  Forgiveness is something we must “put on” all the time.

Then Paul calls for what is arguably the most important “article of clothing” the Christian is to “put on.”  And what is that?  It is love.  Here’s how the Bible puts it in Colossians 3:14, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”  Love is the glue that holds everything together.  Love is what “produces” and “completes” the outfit.  Love is the bond that brings perfection and completeness.

So put off the old and put on the new.  “Put to death” or “put off” the old self – and everything associated with the old self – and “put on” the new, put on those things that suit you, that match who you are in Christ.

Here’s a practical way to live out these verses this week . . .

We have noted before that when we are tempted to sin, we must remember to say, “I’m dead to that, but alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11).”  Right after you have said, “I’m dead to that” – and you’ve “put off” the thing that characterized the old you – then surrender to God and obey His Word to “put on” the opposite virtue.

For example, when tempted to lust or commit sexual immorality, “put it off.”  Kill it!  Say, “I’m dead to that, but alive to God in Christ” and surrender to God, obey His Word, and then “put on” sexual purity.

When tempted to be bitter say, “I’m dead to that.  I used to be bitter when I was not a Christian, but I’ve died to that old way of life.  And now I choose to surrender to God, obey His Word and “put on” contentment and peace and joy.”

When tempted to not forgive, remember who you are: “Elect, Holy, and Beloved.”  Then say, “I’m dead to unforgiveness, but alive to God in Christ, and so I now choose to surrender to God, obey His Word, and to forgive by ‘putting on’ forgiveness.  It suits me!”

When you put on these new spiritual clothes, you will not want to put the old ones back on. You will like the way the new ones feel and fit on you.  They were made for you.  They match who you are in Christ.  They look just right on you.  You will not want to put on those old sins anymore if you will but put on the new virtues of purity, compassion, kindness, humility, forgiveness, and love – because you find a satisfaction in them that you cannot find elsewhere.

God honors your wearing what suits you.  He blesses that daily dressing up.  He grants you a greater joy and peace when you obey His Word.  He shows you by your obedience that you are fully complete in Him.

Remember, the key verse of the Colossian letter is Colossians 2:10, “You are complete in Him,” complete in Christ!

Jesus Christ is the all-satisfying One in whom you are fully accepted and fully loved.  The Bible instructs us to, “Seek, then, the things that are above and not the things on earth” (Colossians 3:1).

Tony Evans tells about an unnerving flight experienced by Frederick Page, a pioneer of modern aviation.  Page was flying somewhere in the Middle East when he became alarmed by an unusual sound in the cockpit.  It was a “chewing” kind of sound, the sound a rodent makes when it is gnawing through something.  Knowing the sound might mean that a rat was chewing through the electrical wiring, Page grew concerned he might suffer sudden mechanical failure.  His instincts kicked in when he remembered something he had learned years earlier in flight school.  He remembered that rats cannot survive in high altitudes.  So, Page pulled back on the aviator stick and flew the airplane as high as he possibly could.  Having some trouble breathing himself, he listened carefully for the chewing sound to stop.  Thankfully the sound did stop.  Later, after Page landed his plane, he discovered the huge rodent lying dead behind the cockpit.

What’s the point of concluding my post with this story?

Many of us have some kind of “rat” gnawing in our lives.  The rat of sin takes many forms.  It could be a huge rat of sexual immorality, or pornography, or lust, or greed, or selfishness in a marriage, of fear, of bitterness or worldliness, or some other sin that incessantly chews and chews at us.  If we do not deal with the rat of sin gnawing in our lives, we’ll eventually fall into a tailspin, “crashing and burning,” bringing ruin upon ourselves.

Paul teaches that we can put those sins to death by “putting off” the old and “putting on” the new, all the while “seeking those things which are above” (Colossians 3:1).

So, pull back on the aviator stick and go up!  Set your mind on things above; get up their in the spiritual realm where you remember who you are and what you have in Christ …

and the rat of sin won’t be able to breathe and live.

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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What Is Your Concern?

Grace For The Journey

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18Aug  A pastor came home one day to find his daughter arguing with her friends in the bedroom.  From the front hallway he could hear them yelling and calling each other names, so he quickly made his way up the stairs.  “What’s going on in here?” he asked as he entered the room.  His five-year-old looked up at him and smiled. “It’s okay, Daddy. We’re just playing church!”

We laugh at such story, but the reality is much darker and far more serious that we often realize.  A sad but true fact is that the church is often thought of as being out of touch and insensitive to what is going on in the world.  Often, the church is seen as being so wrapped up within itself that it has no compassion on, or time for a world that is perishing.  In fact, there are many outside the church that would rather turn anywhere for help but to the church.

Philip Yancey tells about a friend of his who worked with homeless people in Chicago. One woman who was his friend was trying to help was a cocaine addict.  She was so desperate that she would rent out her two-year-old daughter to men so they could have sex with her.  The woman would get $100 per man which would be just enough for another fix.  She was homeless, she had bad health, and she had no one to care for her.  She poured out her story to a friend who is a Christian minister, and he was overwhelmed and amazed.  At the end he said to her, “As you went through all this, did you ever think about going to a church for help?”  He said that he would never forget the look of absolute naive shock that crossed her face as she said, “Church! Why would I ever go there?  I was already feeling bad enough, they would just make me feel worse!”

Why do people have this perception of the church?  Where did we go wrong?  Indeed, have we gone wrong?  I believe the honest answer is this, “Yes, like the disciples in this chapter, we have strayed from the Lord’s plan and we need to find the path back home again.”  Thankfully, God has given us some insight into what we need in this day in which we live.

In John 21, dealing with a time in the disciples lives when they became sidetracked, we are presented with three powerful lessons, that if heeded and implemented in our churches would changethem forever.  I don’t know about you, and I cannot speak for your church, but my heart’s desire for the church God has led me to pastor is that we become the kind of church where . . .

Is a place where lost folk

Can come and find help;

A place where the saints

Can come and a find home

And a place where we can all

Find hope for their lives.

I believe you want the same for the church you call home as well.  Therefore, we need to hear the lessons that are laid out in these verses.  We are going to go back over the verses in this chapter to learn how to be people who can be used by God to provide people help hope, and a home through our Lord Jesus Christ.  This involves . . .

1) DEPENDENCE UPON GOD.

This truth comes after a night of waster activity.

This is seen in two ways . . .

A Return To The Old Life.

Seven of our Lord’s disciples made a decision to return to the Sea to find that which they needed.  This is a picture of a life lived in the energy of the flesh.  They were in Galilee because Jesus had told them that He would meet them there (Matthew 28:10).

They were in the right place, but

They were using the wrong methods.

Instead of waiting on the Lord

To come and give them direction,

They began doing things their way,

Based on what and how they knew to do.

Aren’t we guilty of doing this at church?  We hear of a method that works over at this super church and we figure, “Well, if it worked there, it’ll work here!”  If the Lord leads you to implement a program that you read about or hear about then go to it, but unless the Lord directs it, then it will come to nothing.

We need to be more concerned

With what the Lord wants us to be doing

Than copying the latest church growth scheme.

A Reminder From The New Life.

They fished all night and caught nothing!  That must have been devastating for Andrew, Peter, James and John.  After all, these men were professionals.  They knew where the fish were and they knew how to catch them.  But since the were called to follow Jesus things have changed!  When these men were called to follow Jesus, they forsook their ships and their nets and followed Jesus.  They have been called to be “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).  They failed because they were walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit! There was nothing wrong with fishing, it just wasn’t the business Jesus wanted them to be about.

There is a word for us here as well.

We need to understand that in this

Modern day of fancy buildings,

Large budgets and good crowds,

Our resources will never be sufficient.

When we were saved, we were brought into a new relationship of total dependence upon Jesus Christ.  I personally believe that this is the Lord’s will for us not only as individuals, but also as a church.  We are to walk in utter dependence upon Jesus, realizing that without Him, we are nothing (John 15:5) . . . Knowing that in His power, we can do anything – Philippians 4:13).

The disciples experience a morning of wonderful abundance.  When Jesus showed up, things began to change!

A Challenge From The Master.

Verse 5 says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Children, have you any food?’”  This question was designed to bring home the reality of their failure.  They had fished all night.  They were probably tired and hungry and now this fellow shows up asking them if they have any meat. Their short answer is an indication of the reality they felt all too well.  At this moment, they felt like failures.

Aren’t you glad the Lord challenges us when we go about things in our own strength? When He does, it isn’t to rub our noses in our failures in an effort to put us down.

When He challenges our failed

Attempts at self-sufficiency,

His motive is that of

Awakening in us a renewed

Dependence upon Himself.

We need the constant reminder that “the just shall live by faith,” (Romans 1:17; “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” (Romans 14:23); and “Without faith it is impossible to please Him,” (Hebrews 11:6).

Our sufficiency

Will ever fail,

His supply

Will never fail!

A Command From The Master.

In verse 6 Jesus tells them to let down their nets on the right side of the boat with the promise that when they do, they will find the fish they have sought all night.  When they obeyed the Lord’s command, they were rewarded with a huge catch of fish.

What they had failed to accomplish

With their skill, knowledge and power

Had been brought to pass in a single moment

By their obedience to the will of God.

What a lesson for us in the church today!  We have programs, procedures, policies, etc. We have all the organization and the well-oiled machinery that we can use and still we are not catching fish like we should.  What is the problem?  Perhaps it is the same problem that the disciples had.  Perhaps we are trusting everything instead of Jesus to get the job done.  We can never expect to do the Lord’s work until we go about it in the Lord’s will!  Perhaps the hour has arrived for us to chunk the junk and get back to what works.  Perhaps it is time for the modern church to revisit the forsaken avenues of the protracted prayer meeting, old-fashioned preaching, door to door evangelism, and genuine love among the brethren.  When we learn to fish the Lord’s way we will catch what we are after!

The Capability Of The Master.

Did you notice that in these verses, Jesus took care of every need they had?  They were laboring ineffectively for fish and when they arrived on the shore, Jesus had fish and bread prepared.  They were attempting to catch a few fish for a little food, Jesus gave them a net filled with fish that would help them and others.  They were weary and cold from a night on the lake, Jesus had a fire prepared to warm and comfort them.

The lesson here is unmistakable . . .

Our need is the evidence

Of God’s supply in waiting.

When we lack, He has our supply!  He is able to meet the need of His people (Philippians 4:19).

In these verses, there are some truths revealed about Jesus that can and will change every individual here as well as your church and mine . . .

·         Jesus is alive from the dead.

There is no need to fear the task at hand.  Jesus lives and will never leave us nor forsake us, but He ever lives to make intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.

·         Jesus is able to control circumstances.

He changed in an instant what they had been unable to change in an entire night!  Don’t give up!  Learn to trust the power of our Savior (Matthew 17:20).

·         Jesus is able to control success.

The success of the Disciples in this instance was entirely in the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They would have continued in failure unless He had intervened!  When He did, they enjoyed enormous success.  Folks, this takes the pressure off of you and me! When we realize that the harvest is the Lord’s and our duty is to walk in His will and do what He tells us to, we come to recognize that He is also responsible for any measure of success that is obtained.  My job is to obey.  The duty of our churches is to obey. Success is in the hands of the Lord!

·         Jesus is able to direct from afar.

Jesus was on the shore, the disciples were in a boat out on the sea, still the Lord was able to direct them and intervene on their behalf.  What a lesson for the church!  While we sail the stormy seas of life, Jesus is seated in Heaven.  From that vantage point, He is able move in our circumstances, He is able to meet our needs, He is able to direct our lives and He is able to command His churches.  He is not out of touch; He is in absolute control!

·         Jesus is able to empower His people.

Jesus was able to accomplish in a moment that which they could not do in an entire night of self-effort.  So it is in the life of His church!  If we try to do these things in our own power, we will surely fail, but if we walk in the will of God, humble seeking His face and looking to His powerful hand to get the job done, then we cannot fail!

·         Jesus is able to supply all the needs of His people.

When the Disciples reached the shore, they found that their labor had been in vain. Their attempts at self-sufficiency has been wasted.  When they came face to face with Jesus, they found that He had everything they needed was already ready and waiting for them.  May I remind you this evening that He is still Jehovah-Jireh?

To learn how to be people who can be used by God to provide people help hope, and a home through our Lord Jesus Christ also involves . . .

2) DUTY BEFORE GOD.

Our Primary Duty.

We see in verses 15-17, that three times, the disciple who denied the Lord, is called upon to reaffirm his love for Jesus.  Much has been said about Peter’s confession and the word play that ensues between himself and the Lord.  It is true that the first 2 times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with “agape” love, and twice Peter answered that he loved Jesus with “phileo” love.  However, before we become to harsh toward Peter, let’s remember that this is the man who had made his boast to go with Jesus unto the death and had, before that night was ended, denied Jesus three times.  I see Peter humbled and honest before the Lord.

What is the word from the church from this passage?  Love Christ!  We, as a church, must move beyond the “phileo” love that says, “I am fond of you, I live you like a brother.”, and we must come to the place where we love the Lord with a genuine agape love.  That is . . .

We need a

Self-sacrificing,

Self-denying,

Unconditional,

Unchanging,

Unending

Love for Christ

That pervades

Every area

Of our lives.

When we come to this point, Matthew 22:39 will pose no problems for us. Then we will be in a place to demonstrate to the lost world around us that Jesus is all that He claims to be (John 13:35)

Our Perpetual Duty.

Genuine love for Jesus is manifested in what way?  Is it enough for me to say, “I love the Lord!”?  Is it enough for our churches to say, “We really love Jesus here?!”  No!

True love for the Lord

Always manifests itself

In obedience to

His commandments,

(John 14:15!_

Then, when there is obedience

To the commands of Jesus,

He has promised to manifest

His presence in the midst of His people!

In these three verses, we are shown the perpetual duty of the church . . .

To Supply The Saints.

Peter is told to feed “my lambs” (verse 15), the “little ones,” and “My sheep.” (verse 16). These would be those who are more mature.  The point is clear . . .

Jesus expected Peter to communicate

The mind and message of God to all ages.

Herein lies a problem that is ever growing in our churches.

·         We have men who communicate their opinions.

·         Men who communicate the course of politics and society.

·         Men who communicate the mind of the Convention or denomination.

·         There are those who communicate the mind of their favorite preacher.

However, if we are going to feed the lambs and the sheep, then we must open the Word of God and communicate the mind message of God to His people.  When they receive a steady diet of “thus saith the Lord,” they will grow!

Some might say, “That is the preacher’s job!  What does that have to do with me?”  I would answer, “Everything!”  The duty of the child of God in this matter cannot be over-stated.  After all, there are many of you who teach in the church.  When you stand before a small group Sunday morning Bible Study class or that Disciple class you have people there that need to have a word from God!  For the rest of the church, like Joshua and Aaron, the members need to hold up the hands of those who are standing forth and communicating truth to the flock of God.  Pray for God’s men and for those who teach in our churches.  May I remind you that it takes every member of the body functioning in its appointed place to get the job done for Jesus?  Let’s do our duty!

A visitor was being shown around a leper colony in India.  At noon a gong sounded for the midday meal.  People came from all parts of the compound to the dining hall.  All at once peals of laughter filled the air.  Two young men, one riding on the other’s back, were pretending to be a horse and a rider and were having loads of fun.  As the visitor watched, he saw that the man who carried his friend was blind, and the man on his back was lame.  The one who could not see used his feet; the one who could not walk used his eyes.  Together they helped each other, and they found great joy in doing it.

Imagine a church like that – each member using his or her strength to make up for another’s weakness.  That’s what should be happening in every congregation of believers.

To Support And Strengthen The Saints.

In verse 16, the word “feed” literally means “to tend, or to keep sheep.”  Peter is told that the sheep need more than food.  They are to be looked after and all their needs are to be supplied.  Again, there is a message to pastors here, but there is also an application to all the saints of God.  This thought reminds us that Galatians 6:2, “Bear ye one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  This verse needs to become a reality in the modern church.  When people enter the church they should know that they are part of a group that cares for them and that they are loved.  We need to take every possible step to ensure that Matthew 22:39 is fully realized in every church around the world.

A Zulu proverb says that “when a thorn pierces the foot, the whole body must bend over to pull it out.”  This kind of interdependence is a basic characteristic of the church.  That may mean putting aside petty differences and pointless squabbles, but when we genuinely love one another, the world will notice and God Himself will manifest His power and presence among His people once again.

To learn how to be people who can be used by God to provide people help hope, and a home through our Lord Jesus Christ also involves . . .

3) DEVOTION TO GOD.

A Word About Reality.

In verse 18, Peter is reminded that obedience to Jesus carries at a price.  Peter is told what kind of death he is to die for the Lord.  When we decide, whether as churches, or as individuals, that we will walk in the will of the Lord and will love Him and each other like we should, then we can expect to come under attack from Satan.

The Bible plainly tells us that all who live for the Lord can expect to be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  The reality is that there is a price to pay, but in the end, the payoff is worth the price!  What payoff?

The presence and power of God

Active in our lives and in our churches

Is plenty of dividend.

A Word About The Requirement.

Peter’s original call is reaffirmed (Matthew 4:18-19), and the Apostle is restored to his office.  In this, we are reminded that Jesus has certain expectations concerning our walk with Him.  It is simple, the requirements are the same for every person (Matthew 16:24).  When we genuinely deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, we will see our lives, our attitudes, our effectiveness, and our churches changed forever. Again, often the price is high, but the payoff is priceless!

A Word About Rivalry.

In verse 20, when Peter is told about his ultimate demise, he asks Jesus about John.  It is as if there is some sort of rivalry in the mind of Peter with John.  Jesus responds by telling Peter to tend to his own life and the Lord will take care of John.  What a lesson for the church tonight!

Competition should be eliminated from our vocabularies!  It isn’t about how much we have or how many we have as opposed to that which you have at your place of worship and ministry.  Our testimony to the world should be that we can worship together, that we are not out to get one another.  Bible-believing, Bible living believers, though they differ in worship styles, musical tastes, or on nonessential issues of doctrine, can come together for the greater glory of God and can work together to impact a world for Jesus. Therefore, instead of wondering how we can get more than those folks down the road, let’s begin praying for one another.  Let’s begin working together to advance the Kingdom of God in this world.

After this impromptu breakfast meeting, the disciples were never the same.  Peter became a powerhouse for Jesus, the others served with distinction and glorified God in their lives and ultimately by their deaths.  Why the change?  I believe the answer lies in the fact that they learned some lessons that were never forgotten that morning.  Some lessons that they took to heart and that were allowed to work in their lives.

Has the Lord spoken to your heart?  Perhaps on a personal level God has spoken to you and you realize that your walk with Him needs improvement.  Perhaps you are a church leader and you know that there needs to be improvement in your walk with the Lord and witness for the Lord.  Maybe God is speaking to another someone and you know that some of these lessons need to be heeded and implemented in your life. Perhaps, there is one who is reading this who has never been saved and God is calling you to come to Him.  Why not take care of all these needs right now.  God will move in response to the cry of His people! I trust that you will do as God would have you to do right now.

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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Children Have You Any Food?

Grace For The Journey

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13Aug  In this final chapter of John, we find a portrait of Jesus that is thrilling for the Christian to behold.  In these verses, Jesus is revealed as “The Friend Of The Fallen.”  As we study this passage we will notice . . .

1) PETER’S FAILURE.

 The Bible tells us about Peter’s fear and failure in Matthew 26:69-75.  Before we can see how the Lord restored this fallen preacher, we must first understand what happened to Peter and how he came to be fallen in the first place.

The Place.

Peter was in the wrong place altogether.  In the beginning, Peter had made his boast that he would never forsake the Lord, Luke 22:33-34.  Yet, when the time came and Jesus was arrested, Peter, like all the others forsook Jesus and fled (Matthew 26:56).  However, verse 58 tells us that Peter decided to follow the Lord and see what happened, but that he followed Jesus “at a distance.”  When Peter found himself surrounded by the Lord’s enemies, it became hard for him to stand by his earlier boast. He takes the low road and denies that he even know the Lord Jesus (verses 69-74).

Essentially, all backsliding begins in the same manner!  Instead of staying as close to the Lord as we should, we begin to follow Him “at a distance.”  It may begin as simply missing a few services here and there.  Maybe you just stop praying like you should. Maybe the Bible isn’t opened and read as frequently as it ought to be.

Wherever and however it begins,

It will eventually lead to the same place.

It will eventually lead you into

A backslidden and cold condition!

Peter’s problem was that he found himself in the wrong place!

The Pain.

When Peter denied the Lord that night, the Bible tells us that he went out and “wept bitterly.”  Peter was miserable in his new condition.  He knew that he had wronged the Lord.  He knew that he had violated something very precious and sacred.  He was a miserable man.

So it is with every child of God who decides to walk away from the will of God.  You will soon realize that sin brings with it pain, suffering and misery.  The Bible says in Proverbs 13:15, “Good understanding gains favor; but the way of unfaithful is hard.”

Gone will be the peace of God and

The sense of God’s presence.

Gone will be His power and that

Joy in the soul that is worth more than gold.

Sin is a thief and a robber!  It robs youth and beauty.  It destroys innocence and effectiveness. Sin has the ability to make you into a very miserable person!

The Price.

After Peter sinned, he felt a definite loss of fellowship, peace and joy.  He knew that things were different.  This is a powerful truth for believers to understand . . .

When a person decides to

Walk a different way

Than the Lord intends,

Your decision carries with it

A very high price tag.

If you are saved, then you can expect to lose much when you walk away from the Lord. You can never lose your salvation, but you will feel like you have.  You can most certainly lose your fellowship with the Lord.  There will be the loss of peace, joy and contentment.  There will be the loss of blessings and rewards.  Sin is a cruel taskmaster and it will beat you silly.

Peter failed and he failed big!

2) PETER’S FOOLISHNESS.

Verse 3 says, “Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing.  They said to him, ‘We are  going with you also.’  They went out, and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” Notice . . .

His Choices.

After the resurrection, Peter must have assumed that his ministry was over.  He had denied the Lord and so he decided to return to the old way of life.  I am sure that he might have tried to justify it by saying, “Well, I have a family to support.”  Whatever the motivation, Peter had been called to forsake all those things and to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19).  The Lord’s call had been a call to come and be a fisher of men.

People who are out of God’s will always make the wrong choices!  They always base the decisions on fleshly motives rather than spiritual ones.  This is what Peter did and he was foolish because of it!

His Companions.

When Peter went back to the old life, he took others with him.  These other disciples weren’t as sold out to the Lord as they should have been either!  If they had been, they would have been waiting for their marching orders.  After all, Jesus had told them to go into Galilee and wait for Him (Matthew. 28:10).

Have you noticed that sin loves company?  When a person backslides, they usually aren’t content to go it all alone and they will try to drag others down with them.  You see it in families all the time!  One will get cold toward the Lord and before long everyone in the family is out of God’s will.  What a shame it is when we feel the need to drag others into the same foolish pit into which we are in!

What’s equally sad is the fact that there always seems to be those who are willing to follow the wayward child of God!  Why are things this way?  Because we like to surround ourselves with people who are on about the same level as we are.  If we are right with God, we want to be around others who are right with God.  If we are out of God’s will, we feel rebuked by the lives of those who are living for the Lord and seek out those who are like we are.  Sadly, we will often try to reproduce our spiritual temperature in the lives of those who are close to us.  This is merely an effort to make self-more comfortable.

The Consequences.

Peter and his cohorts fished all the night long and did not catch a single fish!  Most of these men had been professional fishermen before they met the Lord and this must have been a devastating thing to have to deal with.  They toiled and labored all the night and produced nothing of value.

This is just the way it works for those who are living in sin.  No matter what they try to accomplish in their own strength, it always comes up empty or less that they had hoped!  The Prodigal Son found this out as he sat in the pig pen and watched the hogs eats the husks.  He couldn’t even fill his own belly through self-effort!

I would like to remind every person reading this blog that . . .

We are totally dependent on

Jesus Christ for everything (John 15:5).

We can produce nothing

Of lasting value in our own effort!

Some might argue that they have been living less than a fully committed Christian life and that they are still thriving and prospering materially and physically.  May I remind you that both of those things are temporary and will soon pass away.  In the final analysis, all that lasts are those things you do through Jesus.

3) PETER’S FRIEND.

John 4-12 tells us that when morning dawned Jesus approached them and asked, “Children, have you any food? (Verse 5).  When they respounded that they had not caught anything, Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they would get the fish.  When they obeyed Jesus they caught so many in their net that they could not get the catch into the boat.  Peter then realized that it was the Lord who spoke to them and he rush into the water to get to shore leaving the other disciples to bring in the catch.  Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of fish (153), so many yet the net was not broken. Then Jesus asked them to come and dine with Him.

Even though Peter had wandered into sin,

He still hadn’t gone so far that

The Lord had stopped loving him!

Peter still had a Friend in a very high place.  That Friend made all the difference for Peter and He will for you also.  Notice what Jesus did for him . . .

He Found Him.

Peter was forced to admit his failure (verse 5).  This is the first step in coming back home. There must be an acknowledgment of sin and wrong doing.

Peter started to obey the Lord again (verse 6).  He stopped doing things his way and started doing them the Lord’s way.  This brought success where there had been only failure.

Peter has a renewed desire to be near the Lord (verse 7). He wasn’t willing to wait for a more convenient time but went to meet the Lord immediately.

If you are one of those who have wandered away from the Father  and are presently walking in the far country, then you need to know that you still have a Friend in Jesus. He hasn’t forgotten you.  He hasn’t forsaken you.  He still loves you as much right now as He ever has.  He just wants you to come to the place Peter came to.  He wants you to be willing to confess your sins, begin again to follow Him and just love Him like you ought to.  By the way, no matter where you run, the Lord will find you.  He will not let you get away.

He Fed Him.

When Peter, and the other disciples, reached the shore, they found that Jesus had a fire prepared with fish already cooking.  They found there, with the Savior, all the things they needed after being out on that boat all night long.  They found food, warmth, and fellowship.  They found a Savior who loved them and who had all the provisions in place that they needed.  Everything they lacked out on that boat, they found when they came to Jesus.

Some of you have toiled and labored since you have been away from the Lord.  You are miserable, there is no peace and no joy in your life and you need to get right with the Lord.  Let me encourage you to do so today.  When you do, you will find that He still loves you and that He has all the things you lacked while you were away from 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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How Much Do You Love Me, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

13Aug  Today we are looking at John 21:18-19.  We continue today to look at the question, “How Much Do We Love Jesus?”  This passage gives us an opportunity to look closely at the meaning of the relationship we have with Christ and the power Jesus gives us to live for Him.  This passage also shows us how Peter’s particular circumstances are so closely related to ours.

Yesterday we saw three powerful truths that this question brings out regarding our living for and loving Jesus . . .

1) A Question To Bring A Realization.

2) A Question That Reveals The Power Of Peter’s New Life.

3) A Question Of Responsibility.

Today, we will see . . .

4) A Question Of Restoration.

At the Last Supper Jesus had predicted Peter’s denials after Peter had said he was willing to die with Him (John 13:37-38).  Jesus told him, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36).  In the verses we will look at today is Christ’s call to follow.  After Peter professes his obedient love, Jesus spells out the cost of that love.

Peter is publicly restored to the position he had before he betrayed Jesus, and he is given additional responsibility as well.  I believe William Hendriksen puts it very well when he says: “It is as if the Master says to Peter: ‘Simon, you were weak like a lamb, wandering like a sheep, yet, throughout it all, you, like a dear (“little”) sheep, were the object of my tender and loving solicitude.  Now, having profited by your experiences (because of your sincere sorrow), consider the members of my Church to be your lambs, and feed them; your sheep, and shepherd them; yes, your dear sheep, and in feeding them love them!  Do not neglect the work among the flock, Simon. That is your real assignment!  Go back to it!  Thus was Peter fully and publicly restored.”

We will now go on to John 21:18-19 which says, “Verily, Verily, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.  Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.  And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’”

Jesus provided Peter a glimpse into his future.  Peter had boasted to Jesus that he was willing to die for Him (John 13:37) and that is just what he was going to be required to do.  Jesus continued, “When you were young, Peter, you went your own way, but when you get old you are going to be bound with chains and taken to prison and put to death for Me.”  This is just what happened about the year A.D. 68, for Peter was in prison for Christ’s sake and he was taken out and put to death.  Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (around 67-68 A.D.).

At the time of the crucifixion, Peter, along with the majority of the disciples, had fled the scene.  Jesus had to bear the penalty of sin on the cross alone.  Now that the penalty had been paid in full, Jesus informed Peter of his own eventual martyrdom.  Peter would be a prisoner, forced to walk a path that he did not want to walk.  He would stretch out his hands, even as Jesus had done.

William Hendriksen comments, “When they were going to nail him to a cross, Peter said, ‘No, no! My Lord died like that.  I am not worthy to die as He did.’  And he said, ‘Hang me on that cross head downward.’”  Petter loved Christ, and he really intended to be true to Him, but he forgot that the spirit can be willing when the flesh is weak.  But in later years he was given grace to do as he had promised.  That grace was provided by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

From this point on, Peter’s life would glorify his Lord, and his death would bring glory to the Savior who had bought Him and paid the penalty for His sin.  M.R. DeHaan tells the following story: “Years ago I was called to the home of a widow whose daughter was the apple of her eye.  When the child was 3 years old, she became very ill, and the doctors said that she would die.  We can all understand the shock of this news, but we cannot justify the mother’s reaction.  She rebelled violently and accused God of cruelty – like the Israelites in Exodus 17:3.  She demanded that the Lord spare her daughter and told Him she could never trust Him again if He did not do so.  Well, God granted the request, in spite of the doctors’ predictions.  The child grew up and lived a normal life for 13 years, but then joined with bad companions.  Finally, the girl broke her mother’s heart when at the age of 17 she fell into real trouble.  The tragic end of the story was told me by the weeping woman when I arrived at her home that morning, and she relayed to me, “My Janie is dead – a suicide.  Last night she hung herself in her room!”  After minutes of convulsive sobbing she concluded, “O Doctor, how I wish God had taken her when she was 3 years old.”

We must submit ourselves to God’s will, not try to change it.  This is a tragic story, but perhaps it answers those who ask the question, “How could God let little children die?” God knows the future and often He protects the little ones from later tragedy by taking them home to Heaven at a very early age.  When this girl reached the age of 17 she was on her own, and if she had not accepted Christ as her Savior, then she is now in Hell.  But if a child dies before reaching the age of maturity, God takes that little one to Heaven even if he or she has not yet come to faith in Christ.  How do we know that? Because David made it clear when he was speaking of his infant son who had died (2 Samuel 12:23).

Peter’s life would demonstrate a complete reversal of the man he was in his youth. Strong-headed, strong-willed, impetuous Peter would become the submissive servant of his Lord, enduring ridicule and crucifixion. Only this time, Peter would not run. He would not hide.  He would never again deny Jesus.  He was crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like Jesus.

Christians sometimes worry about how they might respond under religious persecution. We may be confident that the Holy Spirit within us has the power to prevent us from caving into what would be a betrayal and renunciation of the Lord God, Jesus Christ.

Peter became a changed man and servant of the Lord.  Listen to the instructions he gave others in 1 Peter 5:1-5, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.  You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Such change can come to all who submit their lives to the Holy Spirit of God.  Listen to what the psalmist says in Psalm 103:11-14, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.   Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.  For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”

Jesus had asked Peter twice if his love for Him was all consuming.  With his recent denials still fresh in his own mind, Peter refused to make such a declaration again.  He now knew his own weakness.  He knew the hollowness of such empty boasts that could be shattered to pieces when circumstances placed him in situations that he had thus far not been able to handle.

5) A Question Of Reliance.

Finally, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him even though he could fall into sin at any time and fail the Lord again.  In an emotional outburst, born of guilt and shame, Peter told Jesus that He was now well aware of his human frailties that limited him from being what He knew Jesus wanted of him.  In spite of those frailties, He loved Jesus and was ready to serve Him and obey Him.  Immediately Jesus told Peter to “Tend my sheep.”

With all of the frailty of Peter’s human devotion, Jesus did not hesitate to trust Him with a valuable role in His kingdom.

Each one of us can identify here with Peter.  How many times in our own lives, have we boasted about something and then been humiliated because we could not accomplish what we said we could?  How many times have we said, “Please Lord, if you get me out of this mess, I will never do it again?”  Just like Peter, our claims about what we will do in any given situation evaporate before our eyes.  In such situations, Jesus comes to us and says, “Do you love Me?”  So, we know exactly how Peter felt.  We feel the same way.  We answer, “Yes, Lord, I love You!”

But in the corner of our minds we know from experience that we will very likely again FALL SHORT OF His expectations, and Jesus knows that.  Nevertheless, in spite of that likely possibility, Jesus still invites us to take a responsible role in His kingdom.  He tells us, “Come! Follow Me!  Feed My sheep!  Join Me in the work of My kingdom!”  

How wonderful it is

To experience the love,

Grace, and mercy of our Lord.

He knows that we are but dust, yet He stretches forth His hand and invites us to come.  There is work to be done.  He then sends us out to share the message of salvation that our Savior is offering to others.

Now in no way do we want to suggest that Jesus picks leaders to shepherd his flock knowing that they will probably fall into sin again and again.  That is not the way it is at all.  Jesus makes it clear to all that when they are saved and have the Holy Spirit residing within them, they have the capability of overcoming “the sin that so easily besets them” if they allow the Holy Spirit to control and lead them. That is what Jesus wants, and each of us should make every effort to attain that high standard.  If we do fail, however, we need to be armed with the knowledge that we will be forgiven if we take that sin to Him and ask for that forgiveness.

We have seen in this passage . . .

What the Resurrection meant for Peter:

Forgiveness, a change of character,

And empowerment for ministry

In the power of the Holy Spirit.

So then, I call you to consider . . .

What does the Resurrection

Mean for you personally today?

Has it purchased your salvation

And secured a place in Heaven for you?

Has it changed your character,

Transforming you from the old person

To a brand new person with

A different set of values

And a different lifestyle?

Instead of being weak and sinful,

Has resurrection power given you

Strength to do the right thing?

Have you found your identity

In Christ as a result of the Resurrection?

Does the Holy Spirit fill you, guide you,

Teach you, and give you the

Peace of Christ each day?

If not, I invite you to make today the best Resurrection Day of your life by receiving Christ as your personal Savior.  Or, if you have received Christ but feel you are faltering and falling short, then renew your commitment to Him and let yourself be filled totally with the Holy Spirit.  In Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:10-11, “So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen.  Do these things, and you will never fall away.  Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 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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How Much Do You Love Jesus? Part 1

Grace For The Journey

13Aug  Today we are looking at John 21:15-17.  This passage gives us an opportunity to look closely at the meaning of the relationship we have with Christ and the power Jesus gives us to live for Him.  This passage also shows us how Peter’s particular circumstances are so closely related to ours.

It is said that the young son of Bishop Berkeley once asked him the question, “Papa, what do the words, ‘Cherubim and Seraphim’ mean?”  The bishop took time to tell the little questioner that “Cherubim” was a Hebrew word meaning “knowledge,” and the word “Seraphin” means “zeal” or “love.”  The wise dad explained that it is commonly supposed the Cherubim are angels that excel in knowledge and the Seraphim are those who excel in love for God.  The body replied, “Then I hope that when I die, I will be a Seraphim.  I’d a lot rather love God than to know everything.

How much do you love God and Jesus?  That is the question Jesus asked Peter shortly after Peter had denied the Lord when He was arrested.  Peter’s answer and Jesus’ response provides one of the greatest examples of love in all history.  Let us listen in on the beginning of their conversation as it is shared in John 11:15-17, “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’  He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, “tend My lambs.”  He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’  He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.’  He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”’  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’  And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘tend My sheep.’”

Think about what was going on here.  Here is the God of the universe serving breakfast to His apostles.  It was kind of like a cookout with Jesus cooking on the grill.  Jesus never considered any kind of service to others to be humiliating.  In fact, He thoroughly enjoyed serving.  Anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ should also enjoy serving others.  Some commentators maintain that after breakfast Jesus probably took Peter aside away from the others to talk privately with him, or perhaps took him for a talk along the beach.  But I do not see that.  I have checked a number of Bible translations and there is not a hint in any of them that Jesus took Peter away from the group to speak with him privately.  We must take the Bible for what it says and never try to add anything to it.  There are occasions, however, when we need to look at everything the Bible has to say about a specific subject or event, and then come to a conclusion based on all the evidence within the context in which it was presented.

You may recall that at the Last Supper Jesus and Peter had the following conversation that the Bible gives us in Luke 22:31-34, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.  But he said to Him, ‘Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!’  And He said, ‘I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.’”  It would certainly seem that Jesus knew that Satan was going to be allowed to tempt Peter into betraying Jesus, and that Peter would actually give into that temptation because Jesus had been praying for Peter that after such a cowardly failure, Peter would come back stronger than ever to strengthen his brothers, Jesus’ followers.

And this is exactly what is about to happen at this very moment.  Jesus was simply about to prove to the other apostles that Peter was now well-qualified to lead them. What a marvelous story.  Something only God is capable of coming up with.  That is yet another reason we believe Jesus addressed Peter in the presence of the others, just as He had done at the Last Supper.

All of these men would benefit

To see the transformation of the man

Who would now lead them

When Jesus had returned to Heaven.

Peter very likely was still feeling some guilt about betraying the Lord when Jesus was arrested and tried.  Add to that the fact that Christ must have been recognizably different and perhaps even somewhat intimidating to Peter because of Jesus’ resurrected appearance.  How would you feel if Jesus came along and sat down with you and your friends and began questioning you about the worst sin you ever committed?  I would be a wreck thinking having to go through that knowing that it I did something to displease Him; while also thinking about the boatload of sins I have committed that I know He knows about.  Then there would be the shame I would feel in front of my friends thinking that perhaps Jesus would humiliate and punish me for my cowardice and betrayal of Him.  However . . .

Remember that Peter and the others

Had not been given the Holy Spirit as yet,

And without the power of the Holy Spirit

At work in any believer,

We are defenseless against

A frontal assault by Satan.

Let’s notice several truths that are brought out in the verses we are looking at today . . .

1) A Question To Bring A Realization.

What, then, does Jesus do?  Verses 31-34 tell us.

1) A Realization Of Peter’s Problem. 

They were all sitting around the fire after breakfast, when Jesus said to Peter, “Simon.” (This was the name that Peter had before Jesus made him an apostle.)  It seems that Jesus was reminding him in a not too subtle way that his behavior the night Jesus was arrested was very much like that of a person who is not a follower of Jesus.  Jesus goes on to say, “Simon, do you love me more than these?”  What does Jesus mean here by “these?”  Is He referring to the boat, the net, and everything that is connected with Peter’s love for fishing?  Is Jesus referring to whether Peter loves Him more than he loves the other apostles?  Or could He mean, “Do you love me more than these other men love me?”  I believe it is the latter, that Jesus is asking Peter if he loves Him more than the others do.

Jesus is setting the stage here for Peter’s forgiveness and for him to be entrusted with caring for the others after Jesus ascends to Heaven.  Someone has said, “the old Peter who claimed not to know Christ the night Jesus was arrested was somewhat of a boastful controller who liked to write his own press releases.  He often boasted of his faith and the things he would do if ever placed in various kinds of situations.  He was what some might call a braggart.”  

Jesus wanted to see if

Peter’s experience and failures

Had changed him

And I believe

He wanted the others

To see it as well.

Pride like Peter’s has often gotten in the way of what all Christ followers are expected to develop, and that is . . .

A sense of humility.

This humility was to include

A dependence and trust in Christ

In order to accomplish His purposes

Rather than their depending

On their own ability to

Do things on their own.

Do you remember what Peter said to Jesus just before Jesus’ arrest?  He had affirmed that he would lay down his life for Christ (John 13:36-38).

At the Last Supper Peter volunteered that he loved Jesus so much that he would die for Him, but he had not been able to keep that promise when the chips were down.  It was time for Peter to prove he was ready to be the kind of servant Christ wanted him to be.  It was not that Peter needed to prove this to Jesus because Jesus knew what Peter would do.  Jesus knew that Peter had to prove this to himself and to the other apostles.

When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Peter answered Jesus’ question in John 21:15 by telling Him that he did love Him.  Jesus responded by saying, “Feed My lambs.”  However, there is something quite interesting and worth noting in John 21:15. There are two different Greek words used for “love” in this verse . . .

  • One is the strongest word for love that we have in the Bible, “agapao.”

It is the word for a love that is absolutely unselfish and is used throughout the New Testament for God Himself (1 John 4:8).  This word is used for the love God has for this world, and for the kind of love we should have to God and for other people.  It is used even for the love which people sometimes put in the place of God, such as for money, and power.  Unfortunately, you can give such things the love that should go to God.

  • The other Greek word is “phileo.”

It means affection refers the love that exists between good friends.  It is used for the love of one friend to another and for family affection.  It suggests a lower quality of love than agapao.  Let us look at the verse again, this time using the Greek for the words meaning love, “So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love (agapao) Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.”  Jesus used the word for the strongest kind of love when He asked Peter if Peter loved Him.  Peter responded with a word that meant a somewhat lesser kind of love.

Jesus then told Peter: “Feed My lambs.”  Then Jesus asked Peter the same question a second time, using the same word for love that He had used the first time.  Peter responded using the same word he had used for love the first time. Jesus then told Peter to shepherd His sheep.

This leads us to a second truth  . . .

2) A Question That Reveals The Power Of Peter’s New Life.

Now, why has Peter responded to Jesus’ question about his love for Jesus by using a different word for love than Jesus was using?  It seems that . . .

Peter had finally realized that

He had been incapable

Of the highest form of love

To which Jesus was referring.

He was now telling Jesus

That he definitely loved Him

But he was not about to make

The mistake of boasting about

Capabilities that he was

Not sure he could fulfill.

Then Jesus asked Peter a third time if he loved Him, but this time Jesus used the same word Peter had used the two previous times, and Peter answered by using the same word he had used the two previous times.  He also confessed to Jesus “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”  Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Peter was most likely disturbed that Jesus would ask him three times if he loved Him. But how many times had Peter denied Jesus after His arrest?  And when Jesus made His point the third time, He used the word for love that recognized Peter’s honesty and humility.  In effect . . .

Jesus was telling Peter that

He was pleased that Peter

Loved Him in the way he did,

And that Jesus was also pleased

That Peter knew he had limitations

If he did not rely on the help of Jesus.

It was Jesus’ way to show Peter that he was forgiven and restored to his former position.

The presence and power of Jesus

Is an absolute necessity

For serving Christ

In this sinful world.

And in His mercy Jesus is willing to award this great privilege to a person who has a very short résumé, listing only that he has a very humble kind of love to offer to his Lord.”

Peter admitted that Jesus knew everything about him including all of his failures and his denial. He could have been implying that he was not worthy of Jesus’ trust. Yet in spite of his failures, Jesus gave him the responsibility to look after the other apostles.

That leads us to . . .

3) A Question Of Responsibility.

The key qualification for this responsibility is . . .

A love for Jesus

That is characterized

By humility,

Dependence

And obedience.

Up until this present time, Peter had loved Jesus, but he was still full of himself and he kept placing himself at the head of the pack, often trying to control what the others did, and even what Jesus did.  Peter thought of himself as being number one, or at least certainly wanting to be number one.  Such pride in a leader would spell disaster for the community of believers, as had already been evident in Israel’s history right up to those who had just had Jesus crucified.

Sadly, the same thing has been just as evident in the history of the Church.  But Peter himself learned his lesson, as is clear from his first letter.  When he addresses the elders of the communities he does so as a “fellow elder” and encourages them to “be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers” . . . “not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.  And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away” (1 Peter 5:1-4).

Here we see Peter exercising authority with a sense of humility, and He is further conscious of the supreme authority of the Chief Shepherd.  Such are marks of a true shepherd in the service of Jesus Christ.

Rodney Whitacre asks, “Have you ever thought of it, that only the smaller birds sing? You never hear a note from the eagle in all your life, nor from the turkey, nor from the ostrich.  But you have heard from the canary, the wren, and the lark.  The sweetest music comes from those Christians who are small in their own estimation and small before the Lord.”

This is the attitude

Jesus was looking

For in Peter,

And it is the attitude

He is looking for in us.

Let us think about that amazing concept for a minute.  In the world today, the “big birds” strut, crow, and draw attention to themselves: the rich, the famous, the movie stars, athletes, politicians, and financial gurus.  Yet, who gives you comfort, encouragement, and inspiration?  In our congregation it is the “little birds” who lift our spirits.  How? Because . . .

  • They are the ones who praise God, no matter what their circumstances.
  • They are the ones we can count on to pray for you in difficult times.
  • They are the ones with beautiful, inspiring songs which lift their hearts, and also ours, in worship to our great Lord God.

I daresay God’s ears are tuned to hear those songs rather than all the crowing of the so-called “big birds” in the world.

We will finish our study of verses 18-19 in tomorrow’s blog.

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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Who Do You Seek?

Grace For The Journey

GraceForTheJourneyThemeFor2017

12AugMary Magdalene had the unique privilege of being the first person to see Jesus following His resurrection.  She was the first person to whom our Lord spoke after He had overcome death.  We read in John 20:1, “Now  on the first day of the Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”  Mary discovered the empty tomb, but it had a very different effect upon her than the thought of it has upon us today.  John says in verse 11, “But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she weipt she stooped down and looked into the tomb.”  When the Lord appears to Mary, He asks her two questions, “Woman, why are you weeping, Whom are you seeking?” (verse 15).  Mary Magdalene’s experience by the garden tomb speaks to us about how we deal with the grief and crises of our lives.  She points us to the fact that . . .

What we see as a tragedy

May prove to be

The scene of the greatest victory.

Note these three things that Mary says to us today.  First she says that . . .

1) YOUR SORROW MAY BE MEANINGLESS.

In our text, Mary Magdalene was standing just outside the newly vacated tomb of the Lord, and the Bible says that she was “weeping.”  The word “weeping” literally means “to wail.”  It speaks of a visible brokenness.  While her emotion is touching, it is out of place.  The angels seated inside the tomb asked her, “Why are you weeping? (verse 13).”  Jesus repeated the same question just a few moments later.  (verse 15).

She cried because she

Could not find His body,

But if she had found His body,

Then she would have really

Had a reason to weep.

Mary reminds us that there are times we sorrow over the wrong things.  We stand looking at what we believe is a tragic loss and we sorrow when we should perhaps be rejoicing instead.

Notice a couple of reasons for Mary’s meaningless sorrow.  First of all . . .

She Was Worried About An Artificial Burden.

In verse 13, the angels asked Mary, “Why are you weeping?”  Mary answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  Mary wept outside the tomb because she feared that someone had stolen the body of the Lord, and moved it somewhere else.  For Mary . . .

The Lord’s death had been traumatic enough,

But now it was just an added tragedy

To have to locate His missing body.

In reality, Mary was crying over a burden and problem that didn’t actually exist.  The body of Jesus had not been stolen.  It had been raised to life.  She had created an artificial burden over which she sorrowed.

How often is it that we spend time worrying and sorrowing over things that have not even happened?  We say things like, “What if…,” or “Maybe…,” and we create artificial burdens that consume our attention and weigh down our spirits.  In Matthew 6:34 the Lord said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Notice another reason for Mary’s meaningless sorrow. Notice not only that she was worried about an artificial burden, but notice also that . . .

She Was weeping Over an Actual Blessing.

Mary saw the empty tomb, and blinded by her grief, she began to weep.  What Mary could not see through her tears is that . . .

The thing she was weeping about

– The empty tomb –

Was actually the most blessed

Sight she had ever seen.

Could it be that there are times in our lives when we weep over things that we should be celebrating?  Could it be that there is something in your life right now that you view as a tragedy, but it may actually prove to be a blessing?

The British hymn writer, William Cowper, struggled with depression and mental illness throughout much of his life.  Through the darkness of his struggle, however, he was inspired to write these lines of eternal truth . . .

God moves in mysterious ways,

His wonders to perform,

He plants His footsteps on the sea,

And rides upon the storm

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,

The clouds ye so much dread,

Are big with mercy and shall break,

In blessings on your head,

Judge not the Lord from feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace,

Behind a frowning providence,

He hides a smiling face

No matter what we are facing, may we learn from Mary not to weep too quickly, for our sorrow may be meaningless.

Notice a second truth we learn from Mary.

2) YOUR SPECULATION MAY BE MISTAKEN.

When Mary saw the empty tomb early that Sunday morning, she instantly jumped to a conclusion regarding its meaning.  She told the angels in verse 13, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  Mary looked at her situation, and she speculated about what was going on, and it turned out that her speculation could not have been further from the truth.

Likewise, there are times we look at the things going on in our lives, and we interpret them according to our limited understanding.  When that happens, very often we find out later that we were mistaken.

Notice a couple of things that led to Mary’s mistaken speculation.  First of all, notice . . .

How She Assessed the Situation.

Mary looked at the slab of stone upon which the Lord’s body had been laid.  Now only the grave clothes remained, and Mary could only think of one explanation.  In Mary’s mind, the only possible explanation for a missing dead body is that someone had come and moved it to another location.

The reason Mary’s speculation was wrong

Was because she had assessed her situation

From a purely human perspective.

She was looking through tears of discouraged doubt,

And she could only think within the limits of a fallen, human world.

Very often, we view the challenges and struggles of our life the same way.  We will look at a problem, and we will say, “It looks bad.”  We speculate about the outcome, leaving the possibility of divine intervention, and miraculous resurrection completely off the table.

Notice not only how Mary assessed the situation, but notice also their mistaken speculation came from . . .

How She Approached the Situation.

Verse 15 says, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?’  She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’”  Still, Mary believes that the empty tomb is an indication that someone has taken the body of Jesus.  Notice what she plans to do about this supposed problem. She says, “Tell me where thou hast laid him and I’ll take him away.”

Do you see Mary’s problem?

She has misjudged the whole situation,

And to compound her error,

She approaches the situation as if

It is something she can fix.

So often, like Mary, we are completely mistaken about what we are facing, and we are equally mistaken about what needs to happen.  We say, “If I could just do this,” or “I wish I had this…”  When we come to what we speculate to be a tragedy, and a crisis, it would do us all good to remember what Moses said to the Children of Israel as they stood cramped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.  The Bible says in Exodus 14:13, “…Do not be afraid.  Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.”

Notice a third and final truth that we draw from Mary . . .

3) THE SAVIOR MAY BE MISSED.

Verse 14 says, “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.”  The very One for whom Mary was searching, and the very One for whom Mary was sobbing, was the very One who stood just feet from her, and yet, the Bible says that didn’t know it was Jesus.  In the midst of her crisis Mary missed the Savior.  In her overwhelming sorrow, she overlooked His presence.

You know; it is possible that as we scramble to deal with our supposed problems, we can completely miss the nearness and presence of Jesus.

We are so absorbed in sorrow

That we do not see Him

Who comes to soothe it.

We often think He is

The farthest when He is nearest.

Notice first of all the Savior can be missed . . .

If You’re Not Looking For His Victory.

Mary was looking for His corpse, not the risen Savior.  It is possible that we look at the crises of our lives and we miss what God is doing because we only see gloom, despair, pain, and loss.  We are not expecting God to do a miracle, and to raise that which was dead, and bring life to our loss.

Years ago, to make room for a new hydro-electric plant, a small town in Maine was slated to be flooded when the new dam was built.  The people in the town were told many months in advance in order to give them time to arrange their relocation.  During those months, all work in the town ceased.  No painting was done, no repairs were made on the buildings, roads, or sidewalks.  With each day, the town got shabbier, dirtier, and uglier.  Before the water ever hit the town, it looked abandoned and ruined. One resident in the town explained,

“Where there is no faith in the future,

There is no power in the present.”

When we face the situations of our lives without hope, and without faith that God can intervene and turn the situation for His glory, we set ourselves up to completely miss the presence of the Lord in our lives.

Notice not only that your Savior may be missed if you’re not looking for His victory, but notice also further that your Savior may be missed . . .

If You’re Not Listening For His Voice or Words.

Verse 16 states, “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’  She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!” (which is to say, Master).’”  She did eventually recognize Him, after He called her name.

It is a wonderful moment, but the truth is, He had spoken to her already.  In verse 15, He had asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?”  Had Mary gone to the garden tomb, listening for His voice, perhaps she would have immediately recognized Him the moment He first spoke to her.

Mary reminds us that in all our situations of life, it is critical that we listen carefully for the voice of the Lord.

Whenever you find yourself facing

What appears to be a tragedy,

Open His Word, and look for Him.

As you do, listen closely

To what He says to you.

The hymns of Fanny Crosby are one the treasures of the church.  In her lifetime, Crosby gave to us over 8,000 songs.  When Fanny was only 6 weeks old, she developed a minor eye inflammation. The doctor treating her was careless, and as a result of his malpractice, Fanny became completely and permanently blind.  Rather than being bitter at the doctor who had caused the loss of her sight, Crosby once said, “If I could meet him now, I would say, ‘Thank you’ over and over again.”  Fanny felt that her blindness was actually a blessing from God that enabled her to write the songs that she did.

There are times when we assume that what we are facing is a burden, when in actuality it is a blessing.  Like Mary Magdalene, who wept outside the empty tomb, we need to be reminded that not everything is what it seems.  It could be that your sorrow is meaningless, your speculation is mistaken, and through all of your worry and despair, the Savior has been missed.  It could be that if you would just turn to Him, you would find that He is closer than you believed, and that He is doing a work in your life that is quite opposite of the tragedy you suspected.

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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