“UNCHECKMATED”

A Famous Chess Game
A Famous Chess Game

 A Defeat in Progress–

The Fausts’  famous painting hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Faust is seated at a table engaged in a competitive game of chess.  And at first glance, looks like Faust is losing.

His opponent in the chess game is Satan.  The devil sits there grinning smugly, thinking the VICTORY is in hand.  He is pointing at the chessboard with an evil, gloating look on his face.

As you look at the painting, you can almost hear the devil shouting:

“Checkmate!  Games over!  I win!”

An international famous chess player was admiring the painting when all of a sudden, he lunged forward exclaiming:

“Wait a minute!  Look! Faust has another move and that move will give him VICTORY.”

THE TEXT from Acts 26:16-18: “Another Move!”

[16]  But arise and stand upon your feet: for I have appeared to you for this purpose, that I might appoint you to serve as [My] minister and to bear witness both to what you have seen of Me and to that in which I will appear to you.  [17] Choosing you out [selecting you for Myself] and delivering you from among this [Jewish] people and the Gentiles to whom I am sending you–  [18] To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of satan to God, so that they may thus receive forgiveness and release from their sins and a place and portion among those who are consecrated and purified by faith in Me.  (Amplified Bible)

JESUS HAS GIVEN US PURPOSE:

I remember years ago, when I was asked to give an account of how and when I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior before a small group.  How inadequate I first felt.  It wasn’t that I feared standing in front of people to speak, but I thought my story wasn’t….exciting enough.  I hadn’t been driving down a road, when a lightning bolt struck the pavement in front of the car; pulling to the shoulder; hearing the audible voice of God saying,  “Mel, I have a specific purpose and objectives in mind for you.”

But in saying that, when we accept JESUS out of obedience…for He chose you, you didn’t choose Him; you accepted the calling… out of obedience.  The obedience doesn’t stop there at conversion.  It’s ongoing!

The Apostle Paul’s Testimony in Acts 26–

We find Paul stating his God-given purpose through his testimony to the whole Jewish Legal council.  Also, to three of the highest political officials in Palestine:  FELIX, FESTUS, and AGRIPPA.  All three hear the GOSPEL MESSAGE because Paul was arrested and imprisoned on false charges.

PAUL’S TESTIMONY:

He was blinded by an arrogant sense of his own importance.

Thought he was on a mission for God.

Though he was defending God…he had gone on the offensive; to wipe out as many Christians as possible.

He was chasing them down everywhere, arresting them, sentencing them to prison, even torturing them if needed.

If they (the Christians) refused to renounce their faith, like Stephen, Paul saw to it that they died as a heretic.  Saul, as he was known to the world, quickly became infamous among the Way (what believers were known as before the term “Christians” was applied).  Would Paul’s INFAMY put him in CHECKMATE after his obedience to God’s calling?

BUT SOMEONE SAW PAUL’S POTENTIAL–  JESUS!

Paul’s testimony– that JESUS turned on the lights for him–blinding him on the Road to Damascus.  Now, his eyesight was “20/20” regarding spiritual matters.

3 OBJECTIVES TO CONSIDER:

THE FIRST OBJECTIVE we are to meet is to accomplish the purpose; to move out of a “checkmated” position. 

JESUS has given each one of us in the church assembly, the BODY OF CHRIST this command:  GO AND TELL!  (verse 17)–

“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles”

“I AM SENDING YOU”:

God has placed you and I to penetrate our community with the good news.

We are a sent people–

In fact, the smaller number in attendance at the church I attend, with various age differences, different occupations–we are all given the same responsibility; penetrate the world, our community, with the Gospel.

None of us live at the church, though you may complain you feel like at times.  Most of us don’t work at the church; we live and work among the people outside the church walls.  That’s just where God wants us to be.  He wants us living out there, moving about, meeting people, being involved in their lives and shining God’s Light around our own lives.  Does that sound just to “poetic” for you to grasp and understand?

THE “CHURCH” IS MORE THAN A LIGHTHOUSE:

As some of you know, I sang in a men’s Gospel trio in Southern California in the late 70’s.  One of my favorite Gospel Hymns to sing out in the community was, The Lighthouse.  The lyrics refer to Jesus as the Lighthouse, and that is certainly true.  But since we are Christ’s Ambassadors, we are to represent the “Lighthouse.”  The last verse of the song contains a powerful thought:

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Everybody that lives about us

Says tear that Lighthouse down.

The big ships don’t sail  this way anymore

There’s no use of it standing round

Then my mind goes back to that stormy night

When just in time I saw  the light

Yes, the light from that old Lighthouse

That stands up there on the hill.

Please understand, this idea is often a mistake in the body of Christ–the Christian Assembly.  We sometimes believe that the CHURCH BUILDING is our Lighthouse and not the Light living inside of us.

It is time for the church to start  “wiggling”–MOVING OUT!

I came across a story this past week, of an E.M.T. (emergency medical technician):

Bill Stelianessis was called to a nursing home for a routine transport.  While there, he encountered four residents enjoying the warm day, relaxing in lounge chairs, all staring up at the sky.  When he looked up to see what they were looking at, he saw a flock of large birds flying by.  Then one resident spoke up:  “Margaret,” she teased, “for goodness sake, wiggle or something.  Those buzzards are getting closer!”

We are going to have to move folks.  We are supposed to be “living lighthouses”–guiding, directing, and warning others.  We do not ask people to come here to the “building”, for most won’t come.  We are to go where they are, and show them the LIGHT.

Moving Lighthouses
Moving Lighthouses

A SECOND OBJECTIVE–ANOTHER MOVE we are to meet, to accomplish the purpose of Jesus has given us– “…to open eyes…” (verse 18).

God wants spiritually blinded eyes to be opened:  “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said,  ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’  made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ”  (2 Corinthians 4:4-6 NIV).

It is God who created LIGHT in the beginning.  HE SPOKE.  IT HAPPENED!

He has a method in mind.  It’s you and me.  We are PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT in communicating the TRUTH–God’s Word.

Our Responsibility–

To LIVE and SPEAK words of truth, so that when people’s eyes are opened, there is something to believe.

Holy spirit never opens the eyes of the heart until there is GOSPEL TRUTH in the mind to believe.  We do not SAVE people, and I think most of us already know that.  But on the other hand, Scripture indicates His only plan includes our communication–God doesn’t do it without us.

3042052_b6efc7004cTHE THIRD OBJECTIVE TO CONSIDER IS “TURN THEM” INTO VICTORY (Verse 19):

“To open their eyes that they may turn from darkness…

I remember when I was living in darkness…the “darkness of sin.”   Before being saved, I use to think life couldn’t be any better.  And those who did…I thought they were more than a bit “nutty.”  I thought that DARKNESS was light and LIGHT was darkness.

Are We Hiding the Light in a Paper Sack?

TWO CLASSMATES from Washington State University were discussing their frustrations of dorm life.  High up on their list was the difficulty of keeping others from eating ice cream stored in the dorm’s refrigerator.

“I’ve solved that one,” one of them said.  “I just wrap my ice cream in a brown paper bag and label it ‘TOFU’.”

It’s possible that the devil has done the same thing.  Wrapped up the light (THE TRUTH) in a brown paper bag and called it “TOFU”–as a result, no one is going near it!

SATAN’S POWER OVER PEOPLE:

His power is simply based on DECEPTION.  He does so by working hard to keep people away from the TRUTH.  So he bends and twists the TRUTH (God’s Word), keeping people at bay and off-balanced.  He did that with us…unsuccessfully.

I certainly remember why and how he FAILED.  It was because of one small, unattractive looking pastor, living out the truth every time he came to the place where I was employed.  Because eventually, after his repeated visits, the opportunity arose… to SHARE the Gospel TRUTH with my wife and I in the living room of our home.

Paul’s Example to Us All.

Paul wasn’t concerned about his own condition, as much as he was about the condition of those who stood before him.  While he was standing in chains, he was more concerned about the spiritual chains around the necks of Festus and Agrippa.

WE ARE CHOSEN AND ENTRUSTED WITH A MISSION:

Encouragement Presented.  BE A MOVING LIGHTHOUSE!

Those of us who were called–called out of the tunnel of darkness, into His marvelous Light are entrusted with a MISSION:

To remove whatever obstacles that prevent others from rejoicing in the brilliance of God’s unconditional acceptance.  We are to GUIDE, DIRECT, SHOW THE LIGHT.

Are the people living in the DARKNESS simply because you are not sharing your light?  Have we become CHECKMATED?

WE STILL HAVE A MOVE ON THE “CHESSBOARD”:

Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and]  do superabundantly far over and above all that we [dare] to ask or think  [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]–  To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever, Amen (so be it) – (Ephesians 3:20-21 AMP).

I see VICTORY in these two verses and the victory is in bringing others to Christ Jesus–letting the Holy Spirit do the convincing while we verbalize the “good news”!.

“Through It All”–The Good News Revealed (PART 2)

Andrae Crouch  wrote a song I was familiar with during the 1970’s.  I sang it, church choirs sang it, radios played it, all during wars and “rumors of wars” of that era.  Here are a few of the lyrics and chorus:

I’ve had many tears and sorrows, I’ve had questions for tomorrow,

There’ve been times I didn’t know right from wrong;

But in every situation God gave blessed consolation That my trials come

to only make me strong.

Through it all,    Through it all,    I’ve learned to trust in

Jesus,  I’ve learned to trust in God;  Through it all,

Through it all,    I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.

In PART 1, the emphasis was placed on The Bad News; lawlessness, iniquity in the world, the government, the church and society as a whole.  In PART 2, my intentions are placed on “The Good News Revealed” and getting “Through It All”.

GOOD NEWS FOUND IN GOD’S WORD

THEREFORE, SINCE we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus christ (the Messiah, the anointed One).  Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.  Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles, and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving ENDURANCE.  And ENDURANCE (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity).  And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.  Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us”  (Romans 5:1-5–Amplified Bible).

WOW!  When I read those five verses, I high-lighted some key words in my Bible regarding our pilgrimage in the “Through It All”:

–Justified through faith.

–Peace with God, through our Lord Jesus.

–Standing safely by His grace.

–Exult and triumph in the “Bad News”; our troubles.

–ENDURANCE

–Mature character.

–Confident hope.

–God’s LOVE has been poured out into our hearts.

–As believers, we have been given the Holy Spirit.

Let’s go back and look at what Jesus told His disciples and, to us too in Matthew 24:12, 13:

And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity”  (verse 12). 

THAT’S THE BAD NEWS!

“BUT he who ENDURES to the end will be saved”  (verse 13

I love the “BUTs” in Scripture. When you see the word, it means the previous statement is cancelled out!

THAT’S THE GOOD NEWS!  And that is why I capitalized the word ENDURANCE when I saw it in Romans 5:1-5.

SAVED FROM THE BAD NEWS BY ENDURANCE

According to the Expository Dictionary Of Bible Words, the word “endurance” in the Greek language is hypomeno; a variant form of meno, with the primary meanings “endure,” “bear patiently.”  References to the perseverance of believers who “stand firm (i.e. endure) to the end” are found in Matt. 10:22, 24:13; Mark 13:13.  See also Jas. 5:11.  The virtue of LOVE is said to “endure” all things in 1 Cor. 13:7.

Now if anyone could understand “endurance” through getting the bad news, it would be Jesus.  Christ Himself is said to “have endured” much persecution, including death on the cross.  Talk about bad news!  When Jesus was telling His disciples, how people would be saved in the midst of lawlessness and iniquity through endurance, He knew what was about to come; He knew that He would have to endure “Through It All”; shed His blood on the cross for all mankind to receive [SALVATION].

GOD’S WORD GIVES HOPE IN BAD NEWS

“But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) ENDURES (“stands firm”, “lasts”) forever.  And this Word is the GOOD NEWS which was preached to you”  (1 Peter 1:25).

Can I hear an AMEN to that verse?  That’s it in a nut shell.  God’s Word is your source for the Good News; when you were treated unfairly and you have convince yourself ‘no more church for me’.  Or, every time you talk about Jesus at work, you get ‘dirty looks’ or worse.  So you don’t want to be offended or offend someone else; you repel reading the Word and distrust and desert Him, Whom you ought to trust and obey (Matt. 24:10).  Because of your disobedience to His Word, you stumble and fall away, your love grows cold.

“WE ARE NOW GOD’S CHILDREN” THAT’S REALLY GOOD NEWS!

“Beloved, we are [even here and] now God’s children; it is not yet disclosed (made clear) what we shall be [hereafter], but we know that when He comes and is manifested, we shall [as God’s children] resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He [really] is.  And everyone…STOP!

The everyone isn’t everyone in the sense that everyone that is in the church on Sundays is automatically included.

“And everyone who has hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless)”  (1 John 3:2, 3–Amplified Bible).

The apostle continues addressing the everyone s in verse 4:

“Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will.”

“Wait a minute here, is John saying that when you become a Christian, a born-again believer in Jesus the Christ, you will never sin again?”  No, that’s not what is being said here.  John further explains the meaning of lawlessness or iniquity in verse 6. He changes our thoughts from everyone to no one:

“No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him–deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin.  No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].”

MORE “GOOD NEWS”!

In this mystery of lawlessness mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, there is a Light in the “through it all s” and John elaborates in 1 John 3:

No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born of God”  (verse 9–Amplified Bible).

After studying God’s Word in my Bible, looking at the headlines in the newspaper and on television has given me hope.  I am standing firm in endurance until God calls me home.  The mystery of lawlessness is no longer a mystery.  Because the Holy Spirit is holding back, restraining lawlessness until the church is raptured; or taken up.  With Holy Spirit’s residence residing in believers, He will be removed at the same instance as the church; no more restraint of lawlessness in the world.

My personal belief is for those that remain, that accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour during the tribulation, the Holy Spirit will be upon them, not in them. as He was in the Old Testament.

Jesus gives us this Good News in conclusion to His disciples–us too:

“And this GOOD NEWS of the kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then will come the end”  (Matthew 24:14).

“GOSPEL PREACHED”  (MATTHEW 24:14)

I found some interesting points to leave you with from the Christian Almanac for 1990 (the numbers have obviously changed):

–The Gospel has been preached to over four billion people.

–Christian churches now exist in 251 countries of the world.

–Every year about four billion Gospel tracts are distributed around the globe.

–The entire Bible, or portions of it have been translated into some 2,062 different languages.

–Bibles are available to around 98 percent of the world’s population.

–The Gospel is also preached in over 2000 radio and television stations and religious shows can be seen to many more thousand secular stations.

Never in the entire course of history has the Gospel been preached in all the world; to all nations as right now!  Every nation on the face of the earth today has heard the Gospel message as Jesus prophesied they would before the end comes.

HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS IN TIMES OF LAWLESSNESS

So if Jesus was right in His saying and the Bible is true, we are now living in the time of the End!  While we are enduring, Jesus tell us what we must do; even knowing the statistics contained in the Christian Almanac:

“WATCH therefore [give strict attention, be cautious and active], for you do not know in what kind of day [whether a near or remote one] your Lord is coming”  (Matthew 24:42).

“UNDERSTAND this: had the householder known in what [part of the night, whether in a night or a morning] WATCH the thief was coming, he would have WATCHED and would not have allowed his house to be undermined and broken into”  (Matthew 24:43).

“You also must BE READY therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at and hour when you do not expect Him”  (Matthew 24:44).

As the Gospel continues to be preached to all the nations as it should, Jesus doesn’t want us to put our hands behind our heads, take a deep sigh of relief, because we are at the End!

Jesus wants us to:  Watch, be active, understand, watch some more, and be ready!  As the expression says, It ain’t over until it’s over” and at the writing of this blog, it ain’t over yet!