“If the foundation be destroyed…”

Scripture:  Psalm 11:3; Isaiah 58:12

A Christian college professor asked his doctoral students to complete a theological survey of congregations – They learned that many churches, over 56%, don’t know their church’s basic theological positions.  They can neither summarize nor explain their church’s doctrine.  There are many reasons why, and that brings me to this week’s blog.  

Many people have asked me over the last few years, what “denomination” am I member of”.  They are somewhat taken back when I answer, “I’m a fundamentalist!  I don’t ‘belong’ to any “denomination”.

So what is a “fundamentalist”?

GOING BACK TO THE “BASICS” 

The Huffington Post revealed its ignorance in an article that attempted to portray the President’s nominee for Army Secretary as some sort of Christion fundamentalist weirdo:

“Trump’s Army Pick:  Looking at Victoria’s Secret Catalogs Can Turn

Men Into Saddam Hussein,” 

…read a headline that was published.

RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM –

Over the past several years I’ve heard and read about attacks on the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

It was suggested in a recent television program that Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, that Mary’s conception was the result of being raped by a Roman soldier.  Such attacks aren’t new:

John 6:42 (NIV)

The said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we knew?  How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

Years ago it was reported that a certain Anglican priest expressed his view that Jesus didn’t die on the cross, rather, he merely ‘swooned’ or passed out then regained consciousness a few days later.  After showing Himself to the apostles, he moved to Egypt and lived to a ripe old age.

Mark 15:44-45


Such attacks against the FUNDAMENTALS OF OUR FAITH must not be swept under the carpet.

Galatians 1:6 (NIV)

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in  the grace of Christ and is turning to a different gospel–“

“Those who take pride in their steadfastness shall fall the hardest”  (Quotes & Things, D. Collins ).

1 Corinthians 10:12 (AMP)

“Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands [who feels sure that he has a steadfast mind and is standing firm], take heed lest he falls [into sin].

Manufacturers Know 3 Secrets of Increasing Sales:  Advertise, advertise, advertise.

A carefully crafted advertisement, frequently repeated during primetime viewing to increase sales.

Someone once laid down two guidelines for selling a LIE:

  • Keep repeating it to yourself until you believe it, then…
  • Tell it again and again to as many people as possible.

WE NEED TO BE SELECTIVE IN REGARDS TO THAT WHICH WE EXPOSE OURSELVES…

Or we’ll end up believing a LIE.

But more than that, we need to ‘repeat to ourselves’ over and over again the fundamental truths of the gospel so that we might remain fully convince and firmly established in the TRUTH.

Read carefully the instruction that God gave to the Israelites:

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (NIV)

[6]  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  [7]  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  [8]  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  [9]  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

[18]  Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.   [19] Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

NOTE too, what the Apostle Peter wrote to Christians:

[Also read 2 Peter 3:1-2, 17; Proverbs 3:3]

FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS OF THE GOSPEL THAT NEED TO BE UNDERSTOOD:

Isaiah 58:12 (AMP)

[12] And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell in.

#1.  The Virgin Birth.

The record concerning Jesus’ birth:

What does the record say concerning the Birth of Jesus?

Luke 1:26-55

 

AND, in Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

The facts presented by Luke and Matthew are clearly to the point.  Mary was a virgin.

In case there might be any doubt, what is meant by the word ‘virgin,’ (some say it just means ‘young woman’), it’s clear from the text that it means ‘one who hasn’t had sexual intercourse’.

Mary says, “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34)

Matthew states that This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about:  His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  (Matthew 1:18)

To deny the fact of the virgin birth is to deny that Jesus is the eternal Word of God who “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” as the Scriptures affirm.

AND…

AND…

“The first man [was] from out of earth, made of dust (earthly-minded); the second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven”  (1 Corinthians 15:47 – Amplified version).

DENY that Jesus is God’s one and only Son as the Scriptures affirm:

[Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4; 1 John 4:9]

The Word of God says of those who DENY the fact of the Virgin Birth and that Jesus came in the flesh is plain:

  • They are not of God (1 John 4:2-3).
  • There are deceivers and an antichrist:  2 John 1:7 (NIV)

[7]  I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.  Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.

THE DEATH ON THE CROSS

The record of Jesus’ death on the cross:

What does the Bible say concerning Jesus’ CRUCIFIXION?

Acts 2:23 (AMP)

“This Jesus, when delivered up according to the definite and fixed purpose and settled plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and put out of the way [killing Him] by the hands of lawless and wicked men.”

The evidence presented by the evangelists are quite clear:

  • JESUS “gave up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50)
  • When the soldiers came to Jesus, they “saw that He was dead already” (John 19:33)
  • John also notes the fact of the soldier who pierced Jesus’ side with a spear (John 19:34)

To deny that Jesus died on the cross is to deny that Jesus has died for all our sins.

[Also READ: 1 Corinthians 15:3; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 3:18; Romans 5:6]

To DENY that we have been RECONCILED. JUSTIFIED, then we are still alienated; separated from God’s mercy and grace.

Romans 5:10 (NIV)

“For if,  while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

To DENY that Jesus tasted death for everyone, it means we must pay the price for our sins after all (Romans 6:23; Hebrews 2:9).

To DENY that the Devil has been rendered powerless!  (Hebrews 2:14)

THE RESURRECTION

The record stated of the resurrection:  (Matthew 28:1-10; John 20:1-31)

The RECORD clearly states that Jesus was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:5), and He appeared to His disciples (Matthew 28:8-9; John 20:14, 10).

The disciples saw and touched His wounds  (John 20:20, 26-28)

To DENY the RESURRECTION is to…

Regarding Jesus:

Say that His soul was left in Hades and that death has dominion over Him, and the pains of death haven’t been loosed.

Acts 2:31 (NIV)

“Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay…”

Romans 6:9 (NIV)

“For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.”

Acts 2:24 (NIV)

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.”

DENY THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD:

Romans 1:4 (AMP)

“And [as to His divine nature] according to the Spirit of holiness was openly designated the Son of God in power [in a striking triumphant and miraculous manner] by His resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”

DEMY THAT JESUS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN and sat down at the right hand of the Father, and ruling from His throne:

Ephesians 1:20-21; Acts 2:30; Philippians 2:5-11

To say that Jesus will not return:

1 Thessalonians 1:10 (AMP)

And [how you] look forward to and await the coming of His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead–Jesus, Who personally rescues and delivers us out of and from the wrath [bringing punishment] which is coming [upon the impenitent] and draws us to Himself [investing us with all the privileges and rewards of the new life in Christ, the Messiah].”

Regarding Us.

Say that everything we believe and hope is in vain and meaningless:  “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”  (1 Corinthians 15:14).

We will not be resurrected:

Romans 8:11 (NIV)

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in  you.”

And, we are not SAVED and still in our sins:

  • 1 Peter 3:21.
  • Romans 10:9.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:17.
  • Romans 4:25.

We have no hope:

  • 1 Peter 1:3.
  • 1 Peter 1:21.

The fundamentals of our faith are under attack from the very beginning to the present day, and they will, without a doubt, continue relentlessly until the end of time.

Philippians 3:1

Three of the fundamental doctrines that constantly come under attack are…

  1. ‘the virgin birth’
  2. ‘the death of Jesus on the cross’
  3. And ‘the resurrection.’

To deny, modify these fundamental truths (the HEART of the Gospel) means denying the whole body of teaching surrounding the heart.

We need to constantly remind (READ) ourselves the FUNDAMENTALS of our Faith…the FOUNDATIONS of our Belief, and defend the faith delivered to the saints with the sword of the Spirit.

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CREDITS:

Christian fundamentalism AMERICAN PROTESTANT MOVEMENT written by J. Gordon Melton, Ernest R. Sandeen – Encyclopedia Britannica.

PHOTO/IMAGES:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP), and other translations used in the photos and images.

The Misconceptions of SLAVERY and FREEDOM

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  Jeremiah 34:8-21; Romans 6:15-23

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF, AND SLAVERY ISN’T AN EXCEPTION

A study of history shows that great civilizations of the world averaged about 200 years and the people of the world have followed this timetable:

The people go:

From slavery to spiritual faith.

From spiritual faith to courage

From courage to liberty

From liberty to abundance

From abundance to selfishness

From selfishness to apathy

From apathy to dependence

From dependence back to slavery.

–The Bible Friend

FREEDOM IS PART OF GOD’S NATURE [Jeremiah 34:13]

At the beginning of Israel’s history, God made a COVENANT with His people to make them FREE.  He would be their God and they would be His people,  There would be times of slavery, but He would always be there to free His people.

And today, God expresses Himself as a God who wants us to live in freedom.

He said this in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).”  (2 Corinthians 3:17 Amplified Bible)

So part of God’s nature is the idea that He wants us to be FREE!

Freedom should be a characteristic of God’s people.

Jeremiah 34:14

God made it part of Israel’s social connection.  God instituted a “Year of Jubilee”.  

God provided a way for Israel to keep from hurting one another financially.  When used properly, no one became more important than God.  Everyone would be cared for properly.  [See Leviticus 25:10 for reference]

The terms of God’s covenant, or agreement, allowed service of one Hebrew to another but never slavery.  God also specified a six-year limitation of that service with the seventh year jubilee release of further obligation.

Finally, the king and the people during Jeremiah’s day agreed to the letter of the law. 

The problem was that the people misused this, enslaving people economically.  God never wants us to use our freedom to abuse someone else’s freedom.  Instead, we should be in the business of “setting people free” by using our God-given FREEDOM as our responsibility.

The Bible warns us that we shouldn’t use our liberty to sin.

1 Peter 2:16 (NIV)

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Charles Kingsley said,  “there are two freedoms–the false, where a man is free to do what he likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.”  If we are to be truly free we must follow the latter, not the former.  [Footnote [i].]

The trouble comes when we take the liberty and freedom which God has given us and abuse it. 

In the case of God’s people, they were taking their repentance back and were showing repentance only to get God’s favor.  They never truly wanted a change.

They wanted the benefits of freedom without the responsibility that comes with it,

Jeremiah 34:16 (NIV)

[16] But now you have turned around and profaned my name; each of you has taken back the male and female slaves you had set free to go where they wished.  You have forced them to become your slaves again.

God doesn’t like it when we take the FREEDOM which He has given us and we misuse it.

Look at what He tells His people:  They aren’t truly changed people and as a result, they reap the consequences:

THE LORD WILL SET US FREE!

He released us from the penalty of every sin in our life.  Therefore, we are to forgive others as He has forgiven us.  And sometimes we do that…for awhile.  But then we remember what he said about us, what she did to us and, like king Zedekiah we change our minds and back into our debt they go.

So how can we have true FREEDOM–the real deal?

 


“What then [are we to conclude]?  Shall we sin because we live not under the Law but under God’s favor and mercy?  Certainly not!” (verse 15 – Amplified)

(*See v. 14) – For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favor and mercy].

To live “under grace” means FREEDOM to do not what we want but what we ought!

It means FREEDOM for obedience, not an excuse for disobedience.

SIN DOES MATTER!

Freedom doesn’t mean the absence of rules.

We live in a free country, but I’m not free to go into your house and take your television.  There are laws in a free country.  People come to live in America because it offers an opportunity to a better way of life (not lack of laws).  The same is true about living for God.

Romans 6:19

“I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations”  (vs. 19a).

Paul admits that SLAVERY is an imperfect illustration of Christian life (God is not like the slave master’s of Paul’s day), but he uses it because it helps us (who have “weak” minds) understand a basic principle–

  • God is our Master to whom we owe total commitment.

So here’s the challenge:  Let God–NOT SIN–rule your life (vs. 19b).

“Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.”

Christians who live as SLAVES of SIN, must no longer live as SLAVES to SIN!

The Big Idea:  Since everyone is a SLAVE–either to SIN or to GOD–it’s best to choose the slavery that gives the best results.  It’s an either-or situation.  Either you’re a slave to sin or a slave to God.  There’s no middle ground.

The question is not if we bow down before a master, but before which master will we bow to?  There’s no such thing as an uncommitted Christian!

The Truth About Freedom:

WRONG THINKING #1:  Many people think serving ONESELF is freedom.

The TRUTH is that “freedom” from God is SLAVERY

Romans 6:16 (AMP)

[16] Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God).

John 8:34 (NIV)

[34] Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

WRONG THINKING #2:  Many people think serving GOD is a loss of freedoms.

The TRUTH is that “slavery” to God is FREEDOM from the power of sin (vv. 17-18).


The second word of the Book of Romans is “doulos” (Romans 1:1).  But Paul was happy to be a slave, a servant, a “doulos” of Jesus Christ.

“Righteousness”  the conduct pleasing to God.

“the standard of teaching to which you were committed” – We are committed (handed over) to the teaching of Christ Jesus like a slave is handed over to his master.  The teaching doesn’t belong to us, we belong to it.

Believe It Or Not, Our Freedom Comes With Consequences

  • Slavery to sin leads to SHAME (vv. 20-21a).

[20] When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.   [21a] What benefits did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?

  • Slavery to sin leads to ETERNAL DEATH (vv. 21b, 23a)

[21b] Those things will result in death!

[23] For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

ETERNAL DEATH – The eternal separation from God in hell begins after death.

  • Slavery to God leads to HOLINESS (v. 22a).

[22a] But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God…

HOLINESS can mean either the state of holiness or the process of sanctification (living that’s increasingly God-centered and world renouncing.

  • Slavery to God leads to ETERNAL LIFE (v.v. 22b, 23b).

Eternal Death is a “wage” earned; Eternal life is a “gift” received.

THE SLAVERY OF CHRIST – (Matthew 20:28)

Christ, in a sense, became our slave.

He gave His life as a “ransom” for us so that we could be free.  He now asks us to give our lives to Him.

What Jesus has done leads us to what to do:  Become SLAVES of Righteousness.

FREEDOM doesn’t mean the absence of rules.

“I am using as example from everyday life because of your human limitations” (v. 19a.).

Paul admits here that slavery is an imperfect illustration of the Christian life, but he uses it because it helps us understand a basic principle:

God is our Master to whom we owe total commitment

The Big Challenge:  LET GOD–NOT SIN rule your life.

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES:

Commentary:  Proclaiming Freedom by Jim Erwin, July 6, 2013.

Footnotes:  My Favorite Illustrations by Herschel H. Hobbs, Nashville, TN: (Bradman Press, 1990).

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr..

The Interlinear Bible: Romans 1:1 (Strong’s Concordance 1401.  Greek Word, “doulos”.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); or were noted in images.

Images/Photo:  Google Image search.

 

 

 

 

Having A DEAF, DUMB, and BLIND FAITH

“Not another message about faith?”  YES!  And during the Christmas season, especially.

FAITH definition:  “Faith is not believing that God can; it’s knowing that He will.”

Application:  Walking by faith is being prepared to trust where we are not permitted to see.  FAITH allows God to do for us and with us what we could never do alone.

This Bible study in Luke, chapter 7,  begins with a Roman soldier’s faith and takes us inside TRUE FAITH showing how and what faith does in lives.

FAITH is deaf to doubt, dumb to discouragements, blind to impossibilities and knows nothing but success in God.

Scripture study:  Luke 7:1-10

At Christmas time, especially, faith is the highpoint from the event that happened so long ago in the small town of Bethlehem.  In this story, we find a Roman centurion who, though he was a Gentile, understood who Christ was and is.  And although this story of a “Centurion” is ancient history to us today, it would have been of special interest to Theophilus, a Gentile to whom this account is addressed (Luke 1:3).

The story is a significant one being this was a Gentile who exercised this faith that even Jesus would remark that this man’s FAITH was amazing.

Only twice in all of Scripture Jesus said to “marvel” or be amazed.  The other time was when He began His public ministry in His hometown of Nazareth and He was rejected by His fellow Jews–(Mark 6:6; Luke 4:14-30)  “He marveled (“was amazed’) by their lack of faith.”

The Centurion had a FAITH that was more knowing and sensitive than anything Jesus had witnessed in Israel.

What could be more horrible than to amaze the Son of God by one’s lack of faith?  What could be more thrilling than to amaze Him by one’s faith?  This centurion had amazing faith!

“Why was Jesus so amazed?”  A question I had to investigate.

WHAT ARE CHARACTERISTIC MAKES THIS MAN’S FAITH SO AMAZING?

Luke 7:1-2 (AMP)

[1]  AFTER JESUS had finished all that He had to say in the hearing of the people [on the mountain], He entered Capernaum.  [2]  Now a centurion had a bondservant who was held in honor and highly valued by him, who was sick at the point of death.

This man had an amazing faith that caused him to love across all barriers.

Jesus had just completed the teaching known to us as “The Sermon on the Mount.”  He now enters Capernaum, a city on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

While Jesus is in Capernaum, He is approached by representatives of the Roman Centurion.  Centurions were commonplace during the Roman Empire and equivalent in rank to a modern-day army captain, normally in command of 1000 soldiers.

This particular centurion had a servant who was ill.  Matthew (8:6),  in his account of this incident, says, “a servant boy.”   Whoever this young man was, Luke, who was a doctor, said he “was sick and ready to die.”

If you’ve ever clung to a loved one at death’s door and felt they were slowly losing the battle, you must know this centurion’s awful sense of helplessness.

We are told that this man loved Israel, though it was not the land of his birth.

It’s also obvious in reading that this man cared deeply about his young servant which is very out of the ordinary socially and the crossing of racial and ethnic barriers when as a Gentile, he appealed to a Jew for help.

This man loved people not just like himself.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t feel particularly effective in loving folks who live outside the social barriers around me (eg. “skid row”, the homeless in tents on the city sidewalks…).

The second characteristic I noted of an Amazing Faith was that it caused this man to be excited and active in the work of God around him.  (vv. 3-4)

 

We need to understand that the Jewish elders had little love for the Romans in general and Roman soldiers in particular.  This Roman officer must have been a very unique individual for the elders to be willing to approach Jesus on his behalf.

The elders not only bring the man’s request but they vouch for their Gentile friend.  They argue that he’s a man of integrity he’s well-liked by the Jews, and worthy of Jesus’ help.

Verse 3 says,  “The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal his servant.  [4] When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, This man deserves to have you do this [5] because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”

This man had given substantially to the building of a house of worship.  Gentile worshipers were barred from the Temple in Jerusalem but not so much with synagogues in the outlying areas.  The synagogue was a place that even Gentiles could come and listen to the word of God being taught.

So in that time and place, this centurion lived the major way that God was using to spread His light within the synagogue system, using his money, his reputation, and influence to build the synagogue.  The centurion consciously chose to participate enthusiastically by involving himself in what was most apparent in what God was doing.

In stark contrast, according to George Barna, a church statistician, adults who regularly attend church, 37% didn’t give a dime to a church in the last year [George Barna, How to Increase Giving in Your Church (Regal Books) p.20].

In this man’s marvelous faith, it caused him to approach Christ in great HUMILITY (vv. 6-7).

This passage reveals two essential components of the Christian FAITH–an understanding of who Christ is and an understanding of who we are in Christ Jesus.

Not only did this man display great love, but also his great humility.

In verse six we find,  “So Jesus went with him to his house.  He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.  [7] That s why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you…”

Before Jesus could reach his house, the Centurion sent a second representative to Jesus, to tell Him that it wasn’t necessary for Him to come to his house.  All because he was familiar with Jewish religious customs, he didn’t wish to put Jesus in a position of having to enter the home of a Gentile.

This Roman soldier, a man of considerable influence and power, was also uniquely HUMBLE and regarded himself as undeserving of having Jesus come under his roof, even felt unworthy of meeting Jesus in the street.

This soldier, unlike the Pharisees, doesn’t ask Jesus for a sign that he was who He said, he was.  This man doesn’t even ask to meet Him.

The third characteristic of this man’s remarkable faith might be summed up in this song–his willingness to trust Christ alone even before the Cross.

How much more do we have today but to TRUST in Christ alone?

Verses 7b-8 (NIV) –  [7b]  “But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  [8] For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

The centurion apparently realized the One who had the power of life and death; that could heal with a word, must be God incarnate.  And if Christ is divine, then he, as a Gentile sinner, must be unworthy to even meet Him.

All Jesus must do is say the word, and he believes that it is as good as done!

There’s no evidence that I could find in Scripture that this man ever personally heard Jesus preach, and yet he believed.  He made his request known based on what he heard of Jesus.

In verse 8, the word “myself,”–“also,” in other translations–we see that the officer saw a parallel between the way he commanded his soldiers with the way Jesus commanded diseases.

If this Roman, with very little spiritual instruction, had that kind of FAITH in God’s word, how much greater our FAITH should be!

In VERSE 9, we see the reaction of Jesus:

[9]  Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and He turned and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I tell you, not even in [all] Israel have I found such great faith [as this].”  (AMP)

This man’s remarks amaze Jesus, so much so, that they came from a Gentile.  He marveled at a Roman centurion, whose background and circumstances ought to have made it difficult for him to have faith, a man whose occupation prized being big, bad and tough, a man steeped in paganism, a man hated by the Jews because he was Roman.

Yet in spite of all the circumstances that went against him, here stood a man who was a perfect example of FAITH.

Almost as an afterthought, Luke adds verse ten,  “And when the messengers who had been sent returned to the house, they found the bondservant who had been ill quite well again.”  (AMP)

So how often have you displayed such faith?

We will never be perfect in our faith but we can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to enables us to incorporate the elements into our lives.

Back to the question:  HOW OFTEN HAVE YOU DISPLAYED SUCH FAITH?  If you’re like me, not very often.  And that’s a sin.  Because it’s God’s will that we all have amazing faith.  But all too often in our ‘business,’ we get so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t show true care and concern for others.  Remember, true faith is “active”–not sitting around the fireplace talking about the unfortunate.  What startled and impressed Jesus were the characteristics that anyone like you and me can have in our lives.  Some think that “amazing faith,” is the ability to do the miraculous.  But miracles are something that Jesus can do anytime.

This Bible study in Luke should bring the understanding there are today those whose lives that would impress Jesus, because of their faithful godly lives.

The characteristics of a marvelous, amazing, faith!

  1. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO LOVE ACROSS BARRIERS.
  2. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE EXCITED AND ACTIVE IN THE WORK OF GOD.
  3. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO APPROACH CHRIST IN GREAT HUMILITY.
  4. IT CAUSED THIS MAN TO BE WILLING TO TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE.

Through the POWER of God’s Word, and through our Savior Jesus, we can be people of amazing faith–someone whose FAITH is unselfish, unassuming, and unwavering, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves.  AMEN.

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CREDITS

Music Video:  YouTube video, In Christ Alone – Brian Littrell

Photo Images:  Google Image search

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP).

Various Commentary on Luke 7:1-10:  Sermon Central

JUDGMENT is Good! (Last in the series)

Micah 6-7

Corruption, it seems, is alive and well.  We hear stories of bribery in other parts of the world all the time–India, China, and Russia, typically repeat offenders–but it’s not something we expect to find here in the United States,  We’re better than that, right?  I’d like to think so, but that doesn’t stop people from making stupid decisions,  When people make stupid decisions, and over a lifetime of 76 years, I’ve made plenty–they have to face the consequences.

Nowadays, that typically means a trial in a courtroom, but in Bible times it meant something more harsh, like maybe fire and brimstone?

Usually, yes; that is unless you count the time that God brought Israel to court for immorality in the Book of Micah.

Let’s look now at the last two chapters in Micah.

Micah 6:1-8

These 8 verses read like a courtroom drama:  “Law and Order: Jerusalem Crimes”.

THE SCENE IS SET –

I can just hear a lawyer yelling this now–“God is demanding that the people explain their actions.”

At this point, the Israelites were extremely corrupt.

A REVIEW OF MICAH –

Chapter 2:8-9  (NIV)

[8] Lately my people have risen up like an enemy.  You strip off the rich robe from those who pass by without care, like men returning from battle.

[9] You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes.  You take away my blessing from their children forever.

Chapter 3, God calls out the leadership specifically:  verses 1-3

In chapter 7, God lists more specifics!  verses 2-3

[2] The faithful have been swept from the land; no one upright person remains.  Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets.

[3]  Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire–they all conspire together.

So in Micah 6:1-8, the prosecution starts by asking the mountains and hills to listen.  They are the JURY!

[1]  “Hear now what the Lord says:  Arise, contend and plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.  [2] Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s controversy, and you strong and enduring foundations…”

The book of Luke in the Bible says that if we’re all silent the rock themselves will cry out in praise–so I don’t think it’s a reach that they could serve as a jury if asked by their Creator.

He then begins to list off what he has done, when it says in verse 5, God wants to make sure that the Israelites “know the righteous and saving acts of the Lord” (AMP).

What comes next is such a human action!  The people want to jump to the extreme!

They got from not listening to God’s Word at all to wanting to go overboard with burnt offerings, thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of olive oil and their first-born child (vs. 7)?

Really?  That’s a bit dramatic, don’t you think?  But this is how they thought!  They were like the criminal when, overcome with guilt, tells the cops to throw him in jail, and let him starve to death in a dark pit because he did something wrong.  And in my opinion, the Israelites deserved every one of those things.

They disrespected the creator of the universe, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  God would be well within His rights to simply point His finger and ZAP THEM with lightning bolts, or rain down fire and brimstone.

But He doesn’t.

In verse 8, God tells them what He wants:  That’s it!

Micah 6:8 (AMP)

“…to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God”

God doesn’t care about these huge outward displays of guilt.

He’s God!

He knows how you’re feeling, and whether your guilt is legit or not!

All He wants is for you to follow Him in all of His ways.  That’s the very definition of MERCY.

Going back to the courtroom for a moment…

This would be like the district attorney telling the judge, “We’ll drop all charges so long as the defendant comes back to us and does the right thing.”

What if in the military trials, with suspected terrorists, ended like that?  “Your honor, let this terrorist go free, so long as he promises not to do it again.”  That would never happen, right?

But God’s MERCY is so much greater than ours that we can’t really understand how far it really goes.

God promises that Israel will rise again!

That’s right–after all this, after the courtroom, the lawyers and the jury, God says, “It’s OK!  I’ll continue to bless you, and this is how.”

Micah 7:11-12 (NIV)

[11]  The day for building your walls will come, the day for extending your boundaries.

[12]  In that day people will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, even from Egypt to the Euphrates and from sea to sea and from mountain to mountain.

So what does this mean for us today?  It means if you sin, if you do anything to disrespect God, to anger God, He doesn’t expect you to flip a little switch and become a SuperChristian to make up for it!

All God wants is for you to follow Him–the rest of it will take care of itself if you do that.

When you do sin–and let’s face it, it will happen–don’t wallow in self-pity and make absurd promises to God that you know you can’t keep.

Just be honest with God–admit you’ve sinned–and go back to following Him.

THAT’S ALL HE WANTS!

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CREDITS –

Credit:  Law and Order (1990-1991) Theme – Youtube video

Images/Photos:  Google Image Search – settings, advance search.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV).

 

 

 

The Actions Needed In Keeping Things In Balance

A Study in Philippians 2:12-18

One of the most difficult things I found in life over the years is maintaining to keep ALL things where they are ALL supposed to be at ALL times.

It’s called BALANCE.

Sometimes we feel like the man portrayed in the above image.  He starts at one end, starts them spinning, works his way down to the last one but as soon as he gets there looks back and the first one is failing so he rushes back down the line to restart one and goes through the sequence again and sometimes he doesn’t make it and the plat crashes.

BALANCE is critical in the Christian life (Luke 2:52)

“Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favor with God and people”  (GNT).

This verse follows the story of when Jesus was lost or separated from Mary and Joseph for three days.  Can you imagine losing your children in a shopping mall…for three days!

When they finally located him, Jesus was in the Temple sitting among some of the great teachers of the day, asking questions.  And they were asking him questions as well and they were amazed at his understanding, after all, he was only 12 years old at the time.

The Bible is silent for about the next 18 years of Jesus’ life and we don’t know exactly what happened during that time but we do have this one verse as a summary of those years:

  • he grew in wisdom…Intellectually
  • he grew in stature…Physically
  • he grew in favor with God…Spiritually
  • he grew in favor with man…Socially

And if we are going to live as Jesus did, we have to learn to do the same.

Because of they all matter and when our life is in BALANCE we are happier.  When it’s out of balance we’re miserable!

And I find it is one of the most difficult and challenging things in life to maintain.

So the apostle Paul reminds us the areas where we must maintain balance.

There must be a BALANCE between purpose and power (Philippians 2:12-13)

To understand what he is saying needs to first understand what he’s NOT saying.

The phrase “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” is greatly misunderstood.  Paul’s NOT telling us we must do something to earn salvation.  He’s NOT telling us that we have to work to be saved.

So to understand what Paul’s saying here, we must recognize he’s writing to the CHURCH, to believers so his words have nothing to do with how to come to Christ.  These people were in the church; they already knew Christ.

The word for “work out” in the Greek NT is the potential of freedom from strife and vainglory [*See footnote [i] ].  

So here’s a few questions we all must ask ourselves at various places in life:

  • Am I reaching for my full potential as a Christian in life or am I just settling for mediocrity?

What’s my obedience to Christ?

I feel once we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives that becomes our PURPOSE in life–to OBEY Him in absolutely everything!

Now when Paul speaks of God “working in you” in v. 13, the word there is the English word energizing.

What came to my mind here almost immediately was the Energizing Bunny in the commercials.  He keeps going and going and going!

There’s a positive and a negative side to every battery we use.  Even when it’s in the package we buy it in, it’s still working.  We just can’t see it.

But when they are placed in a device it needs to be hooked up to an electrical circuit and the electrons build up and the result is POWER!  OK, maybe I oversimplified the process but you get the idea.

So there’s POWER stored up whether we turn it on or not.

Look around the room you’re in right now.

POWER is available in every outlet.  But they’re not ALL being used for something.  Some of the outlets are empty.

So it becomes our job to plug into this POWER to allow God to use us.  That’s “Wonder Working Power”!

But too often we just choose to sit and watch everyone else plugin.

Someone has said there are THREE TYPES of people in this world.

  1. Those who made things happen
  2. Those who sit and watch things happen
  3. Those who wonder what’s happening

God wants us to be in the first group.

God is at work in us to do His good purpose.  As He pours into us we do the things that bring Him good pleasure!

Now I believe that Paul wants us to see something here:

  • It’s His pleasure (not ours)
  • It’s His will (not ours)
  • It’s His glory (not ours)

There’s a potential conflict in all this I think.  Most of us prefer to have things go our way and that’s because of our attitude.

So Paul tells us there’s a second area where we need BALANCE.

The must be a BALANCE of Attitude and Action (Verses 14-16).

For BALANCE to happen in our busy lives Paul gives us a negative and a positive response because that’s how we find balance.

On the negative side, Paul says to all of us…You need to watch your ATTITUDE.

Oh, how I need to be reminded of this daily, oh Lord!

There are TWO things Paul mentions that show our bad attitudes:

  1. Usually, one of these we do is when we’re alone grumbling.  

GRUMBLING isn’t usually loud.  It’s a low tone, negative, complaining, whining, and one thing it will do is to steal your JOY!  It just seems to come naturally for some of us.  We try to resist but we just pass it around to others.

GRUMBLING can find something wrong with everything at once and when they find it, that’s what they focus on.

I was pruning my ROSE TREE the other day as I do every year at this time.  As you might imagine, it can be a ‘thorny’ experience because the tree is covered with THORNS.  In fact, all I could see was the THORNS to the point I couldn’t remember how beautiful the tree was when it was in FLOWER.

The reason is perspective.  It’s ATTITUDE!

Paul said that you and I as believers need to prove that we are different by OUR ACTIONS.

He said to prove that you are blameless and innocent; that you are a child of God and in the midst of a dark world with plenty of thorns, you and I are told to bring LIGHT to the situation.

Paul calls us STARS.

There are no small STARS!

The smallest star in our universe is basically the same size as the planet Saturn.

The word here means luminaries (Gk. phosteres).  LUMINARIES are surrounded by darkness and that’s why they stand out.

Jesus told us to let your light shine so that people can see your good works and through that, GLORY will be given to God, the Father.

There’s no need to shout or scream, no need for drama, JUST SHINE!

The NEGATIVE that Paul gives us here–DON’T GRUMBLE.

The POSITIVE–JUST SHINE!

Get our ATTITUDE and ACTIONS in BALANCE.

Next, there must be a BALANCE between being serious and being joyful (verses 17-18).

Philippians 2:17-18 (NIV)

“But even I (Paul) am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith.  I am glad and rejoice with all of you.  So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul goes on to describe a THIRD area we need to balance.

I thought this is an amazing word picture here.  Paul says we are “being poured out as a drink offering.”

Unbelievers, pagans had a practice in that day before and after every meal to take 2 cups of wine–they would pour one out on the ground before every meal and then would eat–then they would pour another one out after every meal in honor of the god they worshiped.  The purpose was to gain the favor of the gods.

Paul speaks of the possibility of being poured out as a drink offering.  Now that’s a serious thought.

He’s saying. I may never get out of the situation I’m in alive–remember he’s in prison facing execution at any moment.

But even if I don’t make it out…he says it will all be worth it.

You can think some really serious thoughts if you have ever faced the possibility of your own death–Paul was imagining here that he might be living his final days, and the single most serious thought a person can have and yet he was still able to REJOICE.

He refused to focus on the DARK SIDE.

He refused to let even the possibility of his immediate death steal his JOY.

Then he says to us that you need to REJOICE in the same way.

Every day we need to find something to be happy about; every day find something you can laugh about.  Take a day off, take a long walk, watch a movie, go fishing, do something that takes you away from all the seriousness of life.  Give yourself permission to enjoy the day.

The Flying Wallendas…

The Wallendas are known as perhaps the greatest group of tight wire walkers in history.

Karl Wallenda had the amazing ability to keep his focus, to concentrate and to, of course, keep his balance.  He did it for decades until that night he fell to his death.  He was crossing a tight wire strung between two sets of high-rise apartments in San Juan Puerto Rico.  Later his wife said that for as long as she had known him, he always focussed walking the tightrope but on that night she said for some reason he kept his focus on the possibility of falling.  Even to the point that he supervised the installing of the guide wires which he had never done before.  And on that night he fell to his death.

Often the difference in success and failure is losing your BALANCE and looking in the wrong direction.

Scripture tells us that we are to keep our eyes–our minds, our spirits focussed on JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

“Work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12)

I love the way the Amplified Bible phrases verse 12:

Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent WORK OUT (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ).

Paul doesn’t leave us there.  He goes on to tell us that we can’t work our salvation by our own efforts–our own strength or we will lose our focus and fall from the tightrope of life.

Verse 13 (AMP):

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.

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~FOOTNOTES & CREDITS~

Footnote [i] :  Vines Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words – “work out”; page 684, verb #2.

The Interlinear Bible of the Old Testament and New Testament; Greek and Hebrew.

Bible Translations:  Good News Translation (GNT); New International Version (NIV); Amplified (AMP), or where noted in the text.

Images used:  Google Image Search.

 

 

 

 

 

When Things Seem Insurmountable, Always Remember the Three “C”‘s

BIBLE TEXT:  1 Peter 1:2; Romans 5:1-11

The Apostle Peter’s letter was addressed to the followers of Christ who lived in the area we know today as Turkey.  Peter was writing to Christians scattered far from home, some because of persecution and others because of circumstance.  It included words of encouragement to people who were lonely, afraid and discouraged in their doing.

Have you ever been in this state?  Of course, you have.  We all have.

The words that Peter wrote so long ago are an encouragement to us today.  Look closely at these words in 1 Peter 1:2 (NLT) –

There are THREE THINGS I hope you can see, as I saw in Peter’s words:

#1.  God the Father CHOSE you.

#2.  God the Holy Spirit CHANGES you.

#3.  God the Son CLEANSES you.

Let me take each of the above, one at a time.

GOD THE FATHER CHOSE YOU!

Ephesians 1:4 tells us,  “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight”  (NIV).

That’s an amazing verse:  We’ve been chosen, You’ve been chosen, and I have been chosen.  Chosen because of God’s LOVE for us!

Even before He made the WORLD, God LOVED us and chose us in Christ Jesus to be HOLY without fault in His eyes.

The FIRST “C”:  God has CHOSEN us!

We are special to Him…

We belong to His family…

We are children of the living God.

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago – The GREEK WORD used here is eklektos (ek-lek-tos’), meaning set apart, chosen before, elect, selected.  [Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary]

God is ETERNAL.  He knows the end from the beginning and everything in between.

He knew you from the start of time as we understand time, and loved you and chose you to be His.

God CHOSE those whom He knew would believe and trust in Him.  God has given us all FREEWILL, yet He knew who would willingly REPENT and turn to Him.

In ALL THINGS, especially in SALVATION, God is sovereign!

He KNEW who would believe.

He KNEW who would know their need of a Saviour.

He KNEW who would turn to Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour.

God the Father knew everything and everyone even before He spoke the universe into existence.

You and I, and all who have FAITH in the one TRUE GOD are LOVED & CHOSEN to be the people of God.

2 Timothy 2:19 REMINDS US,

If you are a Christian, if you have repented of your sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, then you have been LOVED AND CHOSEN by God.

The SECOND “C”:  God the Holy Spirit CHANGED You!

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago and His Spirit made you holy.  The NIV Bible says “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit”.

The Oxford dictionary defines sanctified as “Set apart”, “declared holy”, “consecrated”, “Freed from sin” or “purified”.

As disciples of Christ, we are “set apart” for God’s purposes in this world.

At the moment we give our lives to Christ we are SAVED,  BUT…there’s an ongoing process of CHANGE and SANCTIFICATION that continues in our lives until God calls us to step into eternity.

The Holy Spirit works IN US to be His holy people.  In fact, His command, not His suggestion to us in 1 Peter 1:16 is “You MUST be holy because I AM holy”.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Sanctification is not my idea of what I want God to do for me, sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.”

The Holy Spirit Helps Us to Be Obedient to Our Heavenly Father.

HOLY SPIRIT works in us…

  • He helps us FOCUS on God’s plans and purposes for us.
  • He reminds us we are LOVED.
  • He reminds us we BELONG to God.
  • He reminds us we are CHOSEN by God.

The Holy Spirit can CHANGE & TRANSFORM our lives.

Here’s a QUESTION for you to ponder:

Do you allow Holy Spirit to change you?  I mean really change you, your thoughts, your actions, your words.

Do you ever make CHOICES based on what you want rather than what you know God expects of you?

Do you allow God SOME control or FULL control of your life?

The Holy Spirit makes us Holy.  His presence IN us is meant to CHANGE us; to reflect the character and holiness of God to those around us.

In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul encourages us to let our bodies be a living and holy SACRIFICE to God.  I heard someone once say, that “A SACRIFICE is something given that comes with a cost.”  So if it doesn’t “cost” you something, then it’s not a sacrifice.  Deductive reasoning on my part I guess.

The NLT Bible says it this way:  “But let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think [even when things seem insurmountable].  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”  — (I added the brackets in the verse.)

The “FULLNESS” of God’s Spirit Operating, HELPING, GUIDING, TRANSFORMING, EMPOWERING You in ALL Areas–Each of us needs the Holy Spirit, to daily bring about CHANGE in our lives, to make us holy.

Try squeezing a full aluminium can of soda and then an empty can.  Which is the easier to CRUSH?  The empty can, of course.  Being FILLED with the Spirit of the living God works the same.  Our lives are easily CRUSHED when we are empty, yet when FILLED with the Holy Spirit, we are not “cramped or crushed”.

2 Corinthians 4:7-8 says it this way:

[7] But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 

[8] We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not destroyed.

The THIRD “C”:  God the Son CLEANSES you.

God the Father knew you and CHOSE you long ago and His Spirit has made you Holy.  As a result, you have OBEYED Him and made CLEAN by the BLOOD of Jesus Christ.

Peter tells us so because we have been SET APART by our OBEDIENCE, living our lives as children of God, DISCIPLES of Jesus.

You might be thinking, “Well, not exactly living my life in TOTAL obedience.”

Remember, “Transformation” isn’t a one-time event that happens when you are SAVED.  It’s an ongoing process enacted by the Holy Spirit.

Casual, convenient Christianity isn’t OBEDIENCE to God.  God wants us to be FAITHFUL…NOT FAITHLESS!  It’s about commitment.

So our “OBEDIENCE demands something from us–that we give it without regard to circumstances or results” (quote by Chuck Colson).

You have OBEYED Him and have been CLEANSED by the BLOOD of Jesus Christ.

In Old Testament times, people were sprinkled with some blood from an animal sacrifice to remind them of their vows to God and God’s great promises to them.  It was a COVENANT relationship, an agreement that was SEALED with BLOOD.

In the New Covenant, God has established with us, the PERFECT SACRIFICE, Jesus: We are CLEANSED, SET APART and PLEDGED to OBEDIENCE.

When we turn to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, when we REPENT… turn completely in a different direction from our sinful life and ask God to forgive us, and because of our FAITH in Jesus, WE ARE SAVED!

Our SINS, past, present and future are FORGIVEN because Christ shed His blood for us on the Cross.  Jesus has washed away the PENALTY for our sins by His BLOOD.  We have been purchased, bought and paid for with a price and our lives are not our own, God has SAVED us and the Holy Spirit has taken up residence within us.

READ the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-11

ENDURANCE Provided When Things Appear to be Insurmountable.

The verses here in Romans tells us to “REJOICE in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance” (Rom. 5:3).

The KEY to pick up here is to find JOY “IN” our trials, our problems, our sufferings and not “for” them!

This is where ENDURANCE comes from (Rom. 5:4).  It produces HOPE, the strength of character; and CHARACTER strengthens our confident HOPE OF SALVATION.  And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment for we know how dearly God loves us, and He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our innermost being with His love.

When we were utterly helpless, Christ Jesus came at just the right time and died for us sinners.  And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the CLEANSING BLOOD of Christ, He will certainly SAVE US from God’s condemnation.

God loved you then, loves you now and will continue to love you!

Despite your faults, despite your imperfections, and Lord knows, we all have plenty, God knows you and He loves you.

  • God CHOSE you.
  • God has CALLED you.
  • God has SELECTED you.
  • God has a PLAN for you.

God wants you to DISCOVER this plan, your destiny He has ordained for you.

The Holy Spirit lives IN you.

He has CHANGED you, is changing you while I write this POST, and will continue to work IN you and THROUGH you.

JESUS DIED for you and me.

JESUS SAVED you.

JESUS CLEANSED you.

The SACRIFICE Jesus made on the Cross was made on our account and set us free from the penalty of your SIN.

May God help us to become the people He has called us to be!

“Chosen, Changed, Cleansed” and committed to discovering our destiny!

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CREDITS HONORED –

Photos:  Google Image Search – Settings: Advance search.

Dictionary:  Oxford Dictionary.

Sermon Notes:  Dean Courtier, Pastor at Estuary Elim Church Group.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) and Amplified Bible (AMP), except where noted in the text.

 

Learning To Be Patient from the Life of A Preteen? Really??

Scripture Reading – Luke 2:40-52 (AMP):

[40] And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace (favor and spiritual blessing) of God was upon Him.  [41] Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Passover Feast.  [42] And when He was twelve years [old], they went up, as was their custom.  [43] And when the Feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem.  Now His parents did not know this.  [44] But, supposing Him to be in the caravan, they traveled on a day’s journey; and [then] they sought Him [diligently, looking up and down for Him] among their kinsfolk and acquaintances.  [45] And when hey failed to find Him, they went back to Jerusalem, looking for Him [up and down] all the way.  [46] After three days they found Him [came upon Him] in the [court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.

[47] And all who heard Him were astonished and overwhelmed with bewildered wonder at His intelligence and understanding and His replies.

Now Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Feast of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, today known as a “preteen”, the family all went according to custom [Exodus 12:1-11].  PASSOVER was a New Year’s celebration on the Jewish Calendar for Israel.

A traveled day’s journey in Biblical times was estimated 20-25 miles [Bible Study Tools – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia].

My idea today for celebrating New Years is to watch the fireworks at the Seattle Space Needle…on television.  Are we spoiled or what?

And when the Celebration has ended, as they were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed in Jerusalem.

His parents didn’t know it, but supposing him to be in the group, traveled approximately 24 miles before they noticed his absence.  In today’s culture, they would have sent out an AMBER ALERT.

Joseph and Mary then began to search for him among relatives and acquaintances in the caravan and when they couldn’t find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.

After three days…

After a frantic search, they found their boy in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions.

The childhood and youth of Jesus were normal in many ways.

As a Jewish boy, he experienced the same things that other children experienced at his age.  It was customary for Jewish families to go to Jerusalem for the Passover each year.  Even though it was required only of men, many times it became a family excursion.  So the family of Jesus followed this Jewish custom.

During the twelfth year of a boy’s life, they begin to assume the responsibilities to the LAW.

On the 13th birthday, a Jewish boy is accepted as a full “son of the Law” [Bar mitzvah – son of law].  He became responsible to obedience to the law.

Normally a boy would be taken to the Passover during his twelfth year preparing him for the responsibility of observing the law.  This is the significance of the incident in the life of Jesus at the age of twelve.

Leaving Jesus Behind.

The leaving of Jesus behind in Jerusalem is a kind of thing that could happen to any family in a large, overcrowded environment.  It didn’t suggest neglect on the part of his parents.  Ordinarily, the women would leave before the men on a journey because they walked slower, and the men and boys would follow later.  So Mary assumed that Jesus was with Joseph and the men, while Joseph assumed that he was with Mary and the children.

It wasn’t until they met at the end of the day that they noticed Jesus wasn’t there.   It made it necessary to return to Jerusalem and search the city for three days until they found him.

The unusual thing about THIS twelve-year-old was where they found him.

But there he was!  In the Temple taking advantage of the opportunity of learning from the teachers of the Law.

What more than likely amazed the learned teachers gathered about was that any twelve-year-old boy knew the Torah.  But this twelve-year-old boy not only knew the Law, he knew it inside out understanding the meaning–THAT was remarkable!

JESUS Is Our Model –

First We Can Learn About Our Priorities In Our Lives (vv. 48-49 KJV):

This exchange between Joseph and Mary with Jesus needs close attention.  

It was a REBUKE by Mary, because of the anxiety she felt from Jesus’ disappearance–losing your child’s presence and then finding them.

Naturally, Mary was very upset and worried when she finally found Jesus in the Temple (v. 48).  She might have said even more had the circumstances been a little different.  It may have diluted her response a little because they were in the Temple in the presence of scholars of the Law.  But her words expressed how she felt.  Real ANXIETY looking for him.

Evidently, Jesus had been so absorbed in the experience of listening to the teaching in the temple that he was oblivious to almost everything else.  He was amazed that his parents wouldn’t understand his interest in and presence in the Temple (v.49):  

“Why is it that you were looking for Me?  Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  (NAS Bible)

This statement reveals the RELATIONSHIP THAT WILL RECEIVE PRIORITY.

Mary spoke of Joseph as the father of Jesus.  Joseph was the one who had the fatherly responsibility for him, but Jesus reveals a much deeper awareness.

He speaks of “My Father”.

The words spoken by Jesus suggest that He is committed to giving relationship PRIORITY over every other relationship of His life.

As the adult life of Jesus’ life unfolds, this is obviously the PRIORITY by which He lives; but it didn’t begin when He was an adult.  It began in the early days of His life voiced by Him when he was twelve!

In VERSE 49, Jesus is emphatic when He says, “I had to be in My Father’s house.”  

Literally, it would read “My Father’s things.”  This meaning is the same essentially whether you understand “things”, or “house”.

“Had to be” in some translations is a strong word from the Greek language.  It’s the word that speaks of “divine necessity.”  

The word “MUST” is the better idea.

Jesus realizes at the age of twelve that his first responsibility in life is to do the will of His Heavenly Father–and His first interest must be the things of the Father.

The most important house then must be the Father’s house!

I learned when I was a young father many years ago that children can begin to determine their PRIORITIES very early in their lives:  Going out to brunch after church on Sundays; cleaning of their rooms before going outside to play…

We are not told that Jesus established them at twelve, but we are allowed to see they are already in place.

For all of us, and especially young people now is the time to determine what comes FIRST in your life.  If you’ll get the PRIORITIES in place, the other decisions that arise in life will fall into their proper position.

What We Can Learn from Jesus about the Value of Submission (vv. 50-51 NLT):

[50] Yet his parents did not understand the remark he made to them.  

[51] Then he went with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.  But his mother kept all these things in her heart.

This action doesn’t conflict with the PRIORITIES that have already been established.  In fact, they are an expression of the priorities that He has just stated.

The FIRST submission of Jesus was to God, and then to His parents.

Jesus’ submission to His parents was voluntary.  And children who do not learn to SUBMIT their lives to God, usually have difficulty submitting their lives to their parents.

There is no suggestion that Jesus’ response to His parents was to the pressures they put on Him.  Rather, as a part of His daily life as a twelve-year-old, He voluntarily gave Himself to a life of OBEDIENCE to His parents.  This is the only kind of submission that has any value.

SUBMISSION that is forced can actually have the same qualities as REBELLION.

Every young person, every child needs to learn a valuable lesson here from Jesus.  His parents were not perfect, but He knew that they were God’s appointed GUARDIANS of His ways, so He submitted to them.  This SUBMISSION was part of the preparation for what God had sent Him into the world to do!

We Can Learn from Jesus about Growth in Our Lives (v.52)

[52] And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in the favor with God and man.  (NIV Bible)

In VERSE 40, Luke had written,  “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”

This faces us with the mystery of Jesus’ life.

We know that He was the INCARNATION of the living God, the Son of God. Yet the incarnation was such that growth was necessary for His life.

He grew just like every other child must grow and we can learn from His growth the importance of balance.

LEARNING TO USEFUL –

Dr. Luke points out that He grew physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially:

  • He grew physically for “he grew in stature.”  Physical growth is important.
  • He grew mentally for He “grew in wisdom.”  Through His study at the feet of Mary; His involvement at the local synagogue; His visits to the Temple as He grew in His understanding of the Truth of God.
  • He grew spiritually, for He grew “in favor with God.”

Never a moment was He not totally pleasing to God, but in order for that to occur, He must continually GROW SPIRITUALLY.

Jesus was perfectly where a twelve-year-old should be in spiritual growth at the age of twelve.  But at the beginning of a ‘teens’ life, He was perfectly where a thirteen-year-old should be.  And as it was always.

  • And then He grew socially, for he was “in favor with men.”

His ability to relate to others in an acceptable way grew normally and perfectly.

Many of our children today, including our church kids, are not growing in this way.  They may be growing physically and mentally, but the social and spiritual way may be stunted.

JESUS MODELS GROWTH for us all and it should be balanced.

The Growth of The Preteen Jesus Teaching of Patience –

  • Jesus was PATIENT for the process of life to take its course.  He was PATIENT to keep on growing until the Lord God said that it was time to begin His ministry.  He didn’t get ahead of God but waited on Him.  He waited until the age of thirty before He started the mission that the Lord God had given Him and continued not to be impatient for God’s timing in His life.

“My Hour Has Not Come”

This is such an important lesson, one that I continue to learn, and one to learn, especially for young people today!

DO NOT GET IMPATIENT with God and with life.  

Just keep on establishing the right priorities, submitting to the rightful authority and go on growing as a person, and in God’s timing (not yours), He will launch you forward on His mission.  He will open the right doors for you!

No detail of the life of our Lord and Savior is without significance.

The little details are significant for all of us to take in.  It helps us see the PLAN of God for His children and youth today.  Jesus walked the way we should all walk in these matters.

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CREDITS:

Commentaries:  Dr. G. Flattery – Luke 2:41-52; “My Father’s Business” – Global Christian Center.

Growing Up God’s Way by Jeremy Meyers.

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations Used:  The New International Version (NIV), except where noted.