Knowing What You’ve Signed Up For

A BIBLE STUDY ~

 

If you are reading this and are a Christian having committed your life to Jesus, to love and follow Him, I have no doubt you’ve felt like a failure at one time or another.  The reason I can say that is because I know a little bit about our common enemy. 

His name means adversary (aka the accuser, aka father of lies).  He would love nothing more than to take the same Bible I read daily for encouragement and my own spiritual growth, and give me a smackdown with it, accusing me of failing God in certain areas of my life.  I am so grateful then for the verses like Romans 8:33-35 (NIV).

[33]  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?  It is God who justifies,  [34]  Who then is the one who condemns?  No one.  Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.  [35]  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  

The world often fails to see the potential for success that God has placed within a person.  But God Himself knows us and sees us for our true potential.

And when we open our hearts to Him daily and receive His GRACE, that my friends is the beginning of a life of success.  All other successes will be left behind when we leave this earth.  But knowing Jesus and making Him known to others is something we can take with us!

As Paul and his team were successful as they traveled around sharing the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, several dynamics emerge from these verses found in 1 Thes. 2 that helps us become more effective in SHARING God’s GRACE with others.

Even When You’re Up Against Strong Opposition –

1 Thessalonians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Acts 17 tells of the strong opposition Paul had faced not only in Thessalonia but also in Philippi.  The suffering in Phillipi that he alludes to here is detailed for us in Acts 16:16-40.  I encourage you to read the accounts of tribulation encountered.

In spite of this harsh treatment in Phillipi, they still dared to proclaim the GOOD NEWS (the gospel message) to the Thessalonians, even though they had run into a spiritual brick wall there as well.

Acts 17 tells us that the Jews in Thessalonia were jealous of Paul’s ministry so much, that they formed a mob and started a riot in the city.  Jason, the man whose house Paul was staying, was arrested and later released on bond.

So that night, Paul, and Silas (Silvanus), left for Berea under the cover of darkness.

THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL –

Although over the past 47 years as a Christian, I faced different degrees of opposition to the gospel message.  But I never faced opposition that the apostle Paul faced and experienced.  And I pray that I never will.  That said, I’m prepared for what might come, not by my own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Opposition will come whenever we set out to accomplish something significant for Jesus’ sake–like sharing the gospel message and helping people grow in their faith!  This is warfare on a spiritual level, and the enemy will stir up as much trouble as he can to discourage us and immobilize us in sharing God’s GRACE with others around us.

BUT WE ARE NOT ALONE!

Just as Jesus told His disciples that He would be with them always. so He is with us.  And He will help us accomplish what He has called us to do!

The help that is delivered with Divine Assistance!

It would have been a natural thing in the world for Paul and his team to call a timeout and take a little break in their mission.

Paul decided not to be a whiner because he was not treated fairly by the people he was trying to reach for Christ.

As they passed God’s GRACE on to everyone they met, the RESULT of their efforts, using an American football term, a roughing the passer, penalty!  God, didn’t you see that?  How could you miss that call?  They deserve a penalty!

But Paul didn’t blame God or feel sorry for himself.

Paul knew what he had signed up for.

The Lord told Ananias in Acts 9:16,  “For I will make clear to him how much he will be afflicted and must endure and suffer for My name’s sake.”  Instead of complaining, Paul received strength, encouragement, and help from the Lord.

Sometime later in Corinth, after facing opposition at nearly every turn, the Lord encouraged Paul in a VISION:

Acts 18:9-10

Here’s the lesson to remember when things get tough for us in sharing Christ Jesus with others:

We can withstand any opposition the enemy throws our way

because God is with us!

“With the help of our God, we dared to tell you the gospel in spite of strong opposition.”  (1 Thes. 2:2)

So when we are doing what God has called us to do church, and we face opposition in our calling, God’s got our backs–God is with us and will help us carry out His plan!

And when we SHARE, we need to be sure that we are doing it for the right reasons.

Having the Proper Motivation –

1 Thessalonians 2:3-5 (NIV)

[3]  For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you.  [4]  On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.  [5]  You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed–God is our witness.

In Philippians One, Paul said that some preached Christ for the wrong reasons (envy, selfish ambition), but he was okay with ut, because even with the wrong motivation, at least the gospel of Christ was being preached.

However, the Lord wants us to take a close look at our motivation and make sure it aligns with who He is.

  • Not from bad theology (or “pop theology”).  Anything that makes us think wrongly about who God is and/or who we are.
  • Not from impure motives.
  • Not to trick the listeners (manipulation).
  • Not to please men (seeking their praise, (Vs. 6).
  • Not using flattery.
  • Not out of greed.
  • Positively, to PLEASE GOD!

The proper motivation to have for sharing the GOSPEL–The Good News–with others is to please God!

It pleases God because He doesn’t want anyone to perish without Him, but for everyone to come to repentance.

If we are using our faith to impress others or get something that we want for ourselves, then we are missing it!  How many times over the years in my own evangelistic outreach have I prayed the words of Psalm 139:23-24.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

It’s characterized by giving, not taking.

1 Thessalonians 2:6-9

Paul could have asked the Thessalonian Christians to take care of them, providing housing, food, and other needs.  But he wanted to take care of them, not the other way around–much like a mother cares for her children.

Paul spoke of being gentle, not demanding.  He nurtured them and helped them grow while he was there amongst them.  His love was so strong that he said that he was delighted to share not simply the gospel, but his own life.  He worked day and night to avoid being a burden to them while preaching the good news to them.

How was Paul able to do all of this?

Because that’s what Jesus did!  He came to serve, not be served.  He came to give, not take!

GIVING is the truest expression of love.  God so loved that He GAVE…

Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself for her.

So the question, “What’s in it for me?” wasn’t foremost on Paul’s mind.  He knew his reward would come later.  Now was the time to SERVE, not be served!

Its effects are seen in those who share it – 1 Thessalonians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  You are witnesses, [yes] and God [also], how unworldly and upright and blameless was our behavior toward you believers [who adhered to and trusted in and relied on our Lord Jesus Christ].

Paul knew they needed to practice what they preached!

Not that he had to do anything different but just to set a good example.  A good example flowed out of a life that was sold out to Jesus!  I would like to call this approach, “modeling discipleship.”  Paul was showing them how to live at being honest, hardworking, holy, righteous, and blameless.  He was simply being a follower of Jesus, and they got to witness it.  Its effects are discipled into those who received it,

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

There’s immediate transformation when a person receives the GOOD NEWS about Jesus, but there’s also a lifelong process as well.

The spiritual growth process requires encouragement, comfort, and urging–that’s what DISCIPLESHIP is all about!

Most of us are okay with the encouragement and comfort concept.  It’s the urging that might irritate us at times.  Urging someone to live a life worthy of God and that means that they can’t get too comfortable and satisfied.

A follower (disciple) of Christ cannot give in to every whim or passion or desire that floats through their heads!

So, we are to be as parents to new believers, as a father deals with his own children. 

Sharing the GOOD NEWS with an individual doesn’t end when they accept Jesus as their forgiver and leader.  It’s an ongoing process of discipleship where the life of Jesus is imparted to them in a relationship.

SHARING THE GOOD NEWS WITH OTHERS:

As we ALL share the GOOD NEWS, realize that it comes with the opposition, but can be done with God’s help.

Our motivation should be to please God, not people.  It’s about giving, not taking, and it changes us so we can help reach and disciple others for Christ.  That’s what God intended for each one us as His people and when we became the church–WE ARE THE CHURCH!

The GOOD NEWS about Jesus and the POWER of God is leading to SALVATION for everyone who believes.  If you haven’t yet received the GOOD NEWS about Jesus and by trusting Him for forgiveness and committing to follow Him, I pray you will right now, where you are.  If you already have, then let it TRANSFORM you!  SHARE IT, and DISCIPLE those who receive it!

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CREDITS:

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search

Commentary:  1 Thessamonians 2:1-12 – Bible Hub

Dictionary:  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); and other translations as a reference in the text of used in the Photo/Images.

Acceptance Can Be A Challenge

A  STUDY IN ACTS CHAPTER 10

Before we dig into God’s Word in Acts 10, let be back up to a Bible verse that most believers are familiar with in Acts, Chapter One:

We all have acceptable agendas to maintain.

Some agendas are open for others to see, and some are hidden.  They list what we want, why we want it, with whom and under what prenoted conditions.  They become necessary in helping us focus on our goals and more steadily and effectively toward them.  There’s nothing more crucial for individual Christians and congregations, asking “What is the Lord’s agenda?”

The early Church,

The members of the early Church were having a difficult time of getting on board with the Lord’s agenda.  He made it very clear prior to Pentecost and the birth of the Church what it was!

“You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria,

and the end of the earth.”

But the Church was reluctant to accept this agenda.

The prejudicial belief of the gospel was for the exclusive redemption of the Hebrew people.  They believed the Church’s agenda was limited to the conversion of Jews in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth,  Their priorities were that salvation was through, from, and for the Jews.

Simon Peter is brought into the picture (Acts 10:9-16)

Wow!  It’s a weird story, isn’t it?

Peter’s up on the roof of Simon the tanner’s house in the middle of the day with intentions to pray and then gets hungry asking the cook to prepare lunch.  And while he’s waiting, he falls into a trance.

Maybe it was the heat of the day that got to him.  But he’s in this trance and has a vision.  A sheet or perhaps it’s a sailcloth being lowered to the ground by its corners.  All sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds are seen.

Then the strangest part of the vision happens.  Someone speaks and a voice says, “Get up Peter, kill and eat!”  Peter would have been used to killing fish, cutting them open to clean them, he was a fisherman by trade.  So it isn’t the idea of killing these animals that surprises him.  Rather, it’s the kinds of animals they are.  Animals declared unclean by OT Law (Leviticus 11 & Deuteronomy 14), are now okay to be eaten.

Naturally, Peter objects.  He’s a good Jew.  He wouldn’t eat anything unclean.  That would make him ritually impure, not to mention disobedient to God!

And there’s even a bigger surprise!

Peter is told that God has made these things clean.  And then the whole process repeats 2 more times.  Peter obviously needs time to process and accept what all this means.

The Lord was crossing Peter’s preconditioning and prejudices and the Apostle found it difficult to understand.  The Lord wasn’t altering the valid food laws that had kept His children healthy over time.  What the Lord had in mind wasn’t the foods Peter should now eat but the people he should accept and love!

Peter’s confusion was cleared up when there was a knock at the tanner’s gate.

Some men were there sent by a godly Centurion named Cornelius, asking Peter to come and tell their master the message he has for him.  Cornelius was a Roman, a Gentile, but nevertheless a God-fearer.  He too had seen a vision.  In his case, it was of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and find someone named Peter.

I don’t know about you, but I find that amazing.  Here’s Cornelius sending for Peter, but he doesn’t know what Peter is going to say or do.  Peter has this strange vision.  And then Cornelius’ servants arrive with the message that they’ve been sent as a result of an angel appearing to Cornelius.

And suddenly it all becomes clear to Peter.  He isn’t as slow of mind as it first appears, given that he had to be shown the vision three times.  That’s what the vision was all about!  The Holy Spirit makes it clear to him, telling him that he should go with these men.  Now he realizes that this vision of the animals and birds were all about the prohibition on Jews mixing with Gentiles.

When he arrives at Cornelius’ house he explains it to Cornelius and his family:  (vs. 28)

[28]  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile.  But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.”

I think it’s really hard to grasp just how radical this behavior of Peter is.  A Jew couldn’t associate with Gentiles, or even visit them, much less eat with them or stay with them as he ends up doing.

Now at last Peter understands God’s agenda.

In fact, that’s where he begins in his explanation of the gospel.  What I thought was interesting here to take note…Peter didn’t arrive at Cornelius’  bursting into the household by preaching.  He simply began the conversation with a question:  [29] “May I ask why you sent for me?”   

A sure sign that we are on the Lord’s agenda is our willingness to listen to people in order to communicate with a tender heart.  Peter knew the why’s but he wanted to hear it from Cornelius himself.

 

 

We need to read on or else we may jump to wrong conclusions for acceptance.

There are many today who’d stop there and say, “There you are!  It doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you fear God.”  But Peter goes on to explain what he means by “acceptance” and its meaning, as those people gathered at Cornelius’ house learning what’s acceptable to God.  We need to be careful that we understand this as well.

There’s a certain exclusivity about the Gospel that’s difficult to accept.

It doesn’t come naturally to us in our “equality of all people” worldview.   It can come across as arrogant or rude, or even patronizing to suggest that we know the answers and others don’t.  But let’s take a close look to see what Peter says.

He begins with the historical facts about Jesus.

Cornelius most likely was familiar with those facts.  The stories about Jesus would have spread far and wide by now.  You couldn’t have lived in the region of Judea without hearing about the things Jesus did and said, let alone the things that people were saying about Him.

The first thing Peter reminds them of is that Jesus Christ was the One God had promised he’d send to bring us PEACE with God:

The second thing is that Jesus Christ is Lord of ALL!  That’s how He can bring PEACE!!

And finally, here’s the climax to Peter’s message:  Jesus “commanded us to preach to the people to testify that He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.  [43] All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

Here’s the BAD NEWS/GOOD NEWS of the story.

There are two sides of the gospel coin.  Jesus has been appointed the JUDGE of the living and the dead.  That’s the bad news.

Everyone who has lived, living or will live is going to be judged by Jesus Christ whether or not they’re Christians.  “The living and the dead” is an all-encompassing description.  No one is exempt!

But here’s the good news:  “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.”

The RESULT of Peter’s witness.

Even while Peter is speaking, God works a miracle in the hearts of his listeners and they are converted.  Not before, not after, but ‘while’ he’s speaking.

But notice how this occurs.

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”

The Holy Spirit doesn’t just come.  He comes on them in response to them hearing the word of God with the message of the gospel.  This is why we need to keep emphasizing the importance of sharing God’s Word with people–the MESSAGE of The Gospel truth because words matter!

The gospel message is the power of God for salvation.  People need to hear it!

Christian behavior will commend the gospel but on its own, good behavior is just nice.  To be effective our behavior as Christians need to be accompanied by an explanation of the reason for it.  It needs to be accompanied by the WORDS of the Gospel!

Our Words don’t need to be clever.

It’s the Holy Spirit that does the converting, the filling, not our cleverness.  Don’t think you can debate someone into the Kingdom.  No, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convincing.  The newest, born-again believer down the street who knows little more than the grace of God, can share the gospel with someone.  But nevertheless, it’s as they hear the words about Jesus that the Spirit is enabled to act.

In this instance (vs. 44-45), the Spirit fills them and straight away Peter baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ as new members of the Christian Church.  No membership classes needed and no church board approvals!

Two More things to notice from this passage of Scripture:

The first I noticed has to do with Cornelius.  When you stop and think about it, he’s not all that different from the people we’ll come across every day.  He wasn’t a Jew.  He hadn’t grown up hearing about God or Jesus.  He wasn’t one of the dominant religious groups in the area.  In fact, he belonged to a group who were enemies of the Jews.

He belonged to a culture entirely pagan.  Again, that makes him not much different to the people you and I know outside the Church.  Yet having said that, realize his pagan mindset was a deep longing for salvation.

I believe most people we run across during the day have an awareness of a spiritual dimension to life.

Many are like Cornelius and aware of a lack in their lives, a need that’s longing to be filled; a need that could be filled if only someone would SHARE the good news about Jesus with them.

Don’t wait until you have a vision of a sheet filled with animals and reptiles and birds.

I want to encourage you to be ready for looking at and accepting the opportunities God has or will place in your life.  Those opportunities can be found every day in the course of conversation.  Perhaps to mention your faith to someone, or to mention your church community, or the love and care you experience, or the times when you’ve been helped through difficult situations by your Christian faith, by the presence of God, or whatever.  There are so many different ways to do it.  So be ready!

Finally, the second thing I noticed,,,

Although at first glance, Peter’s experience seems distant from ours, yet there are great similarities.  We may not be quite as closed to the acceptance to others as Peter appeared to be, but nevertheless, we have just as much difficulty moving outside our comfort zone.  We have just as much difficulty as he would have had in accepting change.

We can be sure that God will do His part.

The Holy Spirit is with us and will open people’s hearts if we ask Him to.  And just like Peter and Cornelius, we might discover when we move outside our comfy existence, amazing things can and will happen!

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CREDITS:

Getting on the Lord’s Agenda, Chapter 11, page 137; DRUMBEAT of LOVE by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

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

 

 

 

 

No One Is Guaranteed One Minute Beyond Now

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 16:26-28

[26] “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  [27] For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. [28] “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming to his kingdom”  (NIV Bible).

Let’s face it; we live in a world that bases our success on how much stuff we’ve accumulated.

And Jesus, on the other hand, told us that our success won’t be based on stuff.

Matthew 6:24 (AMP)

[24] “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be against the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon” (deceitful riches, money, possessions, or whatever is trusted in).

So I guess what we really need to be asking ourselves each and every morning before getting our day started is “What’s really important to us?”

Are we more concerned with our bank account that the account we have with Christ Jesus?  Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10,

[10] “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

And it isn’t always money.

For a lot of us, we put the stuff that money can buy ahead of our RELATIONSHIP with the Lord.  And for a lot of us, it comes down to not so much how much we’ve got but what we do hang on to what we’ve got.

For some of us, even if we don’t have much, we put our relationship with the Lord on the back burner in the pursuit of the almighty dollar.  We live in a material world that shoves it down our throats by having the latest and greatest.

We want more, more, more!!!

Yet we fail to hear the Lord’s words of wisdom on how we handle our STUFF.

Read what He says…,  Matthew 16:26 (a)

“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

What we need to remember, and I don’t want to ever take things from Scripture out of context if I can help it, that this particular sentence was spoken AFTER Jesus encouraged us to deny ourselves of worldly pleasures, take up our crosses and follow Him.

He was asking us what would it matter if we had everything of earthly value in our possession; what if we had everything we ever wanted?  What if we never wanted for anything because we already had everything there was to have?

And we were still locked out of Heaven.

If we could have it all and do nothing but seek the pleasures of this world we would still be waiting in the end.

Because if our SOUL was lost, we couldn’t and wouldn’t find anything to replace it.

You lose it, it’s gone forever!

You lose it to Hell and it’s lost forever!!!!

Even so, we as the Body of Christ seem to not see the importance of a person’s SOUL.

Yet Jesus wanted us to understand that we gain nothing from the world if we turn our backs on God.

YOU CAN’T PUT A PRICE ON A SOUL –

If you die with the most toys, you still die.

You can work hard all your days and have everything money can buy.

You can hold all kinds of powerful positions, awards hanging on the wall, trophies on your desk…and your portfolio will never stack up to the condition of your SOUL.

THE HUMAN SOUL will either go to HEAVEN or HELL.  It will either be SAVED or LOST.  There isn’t a middle ground, no exchanges, and no do-overs once we close our eyes for the last time.

Your family can’t buy your way or pray for your way out of Hell.

You can’t bargain your way out either.

You may be wondering right now as you read my words why I’m writing a blog on a subject like our souls. 

You may be sitting there thinking “I’m saved, what difference does it make?”

What about those that you know who haven’t made that decision?

I wonder at times if any of you give two cents about the lost people who you know?

DOES HELL EVEN KNOW THAT YOU EXIST?

I remember the story from Acts in the Bible about the demon-possessed man who told some Christian wannabes  “Jesus I know, Paul I’ve heard of.  Who are you?”

When you fail to tell them about the life-changing, life-saving POWER of Jesus Christ, you’re basically telling them that it’s okay that they go to Hell!

Is that a harsh statement to make?

 Matthew 16:26b – “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”

Jesus asked this follow-up question regarding our service or lack of it to Him.

What will you give to SAVE your soul?

What are you willing to  SACRIFICE, give up?

What’s ironic here about life is this:  The more we live for our own selfish needs, the more miserable we become.  But the more we do for the Lord, and the more we do in His name, the happier and more satisfied we become.

Can we really put up enough for our souls?

Jesus seems to be telling us that there are many people who would rather spend their entire life pursuing gold, silver and “stuff” in this world of ours than to hear about your Jesus.

Is there anything in this world that you possess right now that can or will be a suitable payment in exchange for your SOUL?

Jesus knew ahead of time that people would wait until the last-minute and get in by the “skin of their teeth.”  Who in their right mind would ever believe that this world gives us the best we can get and that’s all there is to it?

If we were to correctly answer this question, we would have to say we would give EVERYTHING in exchange for our soul!

And we should be willing to do it right now!!

And we should want to tell everyone we come in contact with!!!

And why is that?

No one is guaranteed one minute beyond now.

We could leave here this very minute and step into ETERNITY.  And the truth is that so could any of your friends, neighbors, or relatives who think they’ll skate by because they’re nice and don’t bother anybody.

And a lot of those ‘nice people’ aren’t gonna make it because they’re embarrassed that someone will find out they’ve become “religious”.

Mark 8:38 says:  “If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

I sometimes find myself wondering how much of my church family, and when I say “church,” I mean the greater Church, is ashamed of their relationship with Jesus Christ.  A lot of self-professing Christians talk a good game on Sunday, but when it’s time to put up, they clam up!

What will you give in exchange for your soul?

Better yet, what will you give in exchange for your SAVED SOUL?

If you are SAVED, you were SAVED with time to spare.

What about that person who isn’t SAVED yet?

If living for your own selfish desires does nothing but make you miserable and unsatisfied, why not SURRENDER ALL of that and turn it all over to Christ?

EVERYTHING I do, say and experience can attribute to what He is doing in me.

I’M HIS!

HE BOUGHT ME with His blood on the Cross!

So what would I give up in exchange for my SOUL that belongs to Jesus?

EVERYTHING OF ANY VALUE!!!!

We have something much better to look forward to ~ Matthew 16:27 (AMP)

[27] For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory (majesty, splendor) of His Father with His angels, and then He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done.

The same JESUS of Genesis 1 is the same JESUS of John 1 and Acts 1.

It was JESUS who originally said “I’ll be back,” not The Terminator.

None of us know the date and time that He shall come but the bottom line is that everyone is going to know when He gets here.

Acts 1 says:  [11] “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you to heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

It will be unlike any event in human history.  And those who have intentionally lived to fill their pockets and fatten their bank accounts will find themselves in a world of trouble.  For all that they have won’t be enough to pay the COST for their SOUL.

On that day there will be TWO kinds of people in the world.  Those who have a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ and those who don’t!

The SAVED and the LOST.

There’s GOOD NEWS for you if you feel that you’re missing the mark.

We can prepare for ETERNITY now.  We still have time to turn it around right now.

You may not be guaranteed one more minute but you can make a commitment to Christ for the next minute of your life right now.

It’s impossible to live a perfect life.  No one can.  But if I have learned nothing else in this long life of mine, over those years I’ve learned the difference between living for Jesus and living for me.

Jesus came to SEEK AND SAVE the LOST.

He commanded us to go into the world to SHARE the Good News, to witness for Christ, to disciple, baptize and teach.

A few years ago my wife gave me for Christmas one of my favorite Bible verses framed and hung on the wall over my desk as a reminder of my commitment to spreading the good news–to teach and disciple others around the world for Christ.

He will come back soon I hope.  But in the meantime, what will He find us doing?

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CREDITS –

Source:  Bible Study Tools, Matthew 16:26-27

Bible Translations:  NIV Bible, except where noted.

IMAGES:  Google Image Search, setting advanced; 

Romans 10:15 “How beautiful are the feet…” image unknown source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration

SCRIPTURE REFERENCE – Mark 1:1-8

The title I chose for this particular blog’s message, “Preparing for Christmas by Rediscovering the Cause of Celebration,” thinking, this was a great way to begin the holiday season.  You know, like going to the garage and dragging heavy boxes of decorations, putting up the tree (3 in my house), purchasing gifts for love ones, doing all the holiday cooking and baking that my wife and I do, and maybe a thousand other things that NEED to be done before Christmas.  I’m exhausted already from listing the “to do’s”!

But that’s not what I mean at all about preparation.

In addition, you may find the Scripture study an unusual choice for a Christmas message, since in the gospel of Mark, we find the only gospel account in the Bible that has nothing at all to say about the birth of Jesus.  In fact Mark mentions neither the miraculous conception nor the birth of Jesus.

Mark begins his account of the life of Jesus in this way (Living Bible – TLB):

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[1]  Here begins the wonderful story of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

[2]  In the book written by the prophet Isaiah, God announced that he would send his Son to earth, and that a special messenger would arrive first to prepare the world for his coming.  [3] “This messenger will live out in the barren wilderness,” Isaiah said, “and will proclaim that everyone must straighten out his life to be ready for the Lord’s arrival.”

Though Mark doesn’t give us a CLASSIC Christmas story when he opens his book, he essentially wraps up the Christmas message with just a few words.

There’s nothing wrong with Christmas trees and tinsel along with the children’s delight at the unwrapping of presents and food and laughter and the making of family memories this time of year.  I am thinking of my own memories as I write this blog.  All those things make Christmas special!

The opening line of Mark is “the beginning of the good news” [the “gospel”].

Our task at Christmas is not to chop down the tree of celebration–rather it is to rediscover the cause of CELEBRATION–“What is this GOOD NEWS?”

Mark doesn’t begin his gospel account with the birth of Christ, but instead, he tells about a rather unusual character named John the Baptist.

In my investigation, with the study of the words spoken here, I noticed THREE things about John:

First, he was an unusual messenger.

VERSE 6 states that “John wore clothing woven of camel’s-hair and had a leather girdle (belt) around his loins and ate locusts and wild honey.”

I get the impression that John. who was Jesus’ cousin, was a bit different?  There are some folks who, if invited to a social function, you would feel somewhat uncomfortable to have them around, John was like that.

John wore clothes made of camel-hair, wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locust and wild honey.  He was a man of the desert, he ate the food of the desert and he wore clothing of the desert.

Secondly, he had an unexpected message.

Mark says that John FULFILLED THE PROPHECIES both Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3-5).  The more lengthy prophecy of Isaiah says,

[3] A voice of one who cries: Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord clear away the obstacles]; make straight and smooth in the desert a highway from our God.  [4] Every valley shall be lifted and filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked and uneven shall be made straight and level, and the rough places a plain.  [5] And the glory (majesty and splendor) of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.

When John the Baptist comes and acts as a Herald or an announcer that JESUS is coming, “prepare the way of the Lord,” the fulfillment of prophecy takes shape.

The word translated “prepare” is from the Greek word “kataskouazo” meaning to “make ready” or “keeping it ready.”

John wasn’t telling them to PREPARE a literal road, but rather he’s telling them to PREPARE themselves for the coming of JESUS.  He says, “GET READY!”

In our love of the CELEBRATION of the birth of Jesus, I think we sometimes get lost.

We love to prepare for Christ because it’s like preparing for a baby to be born.  We get so wrapped up in the manger scene, we forget that He is not a baby anymore!

We think that somehow he is satisfied to see us make our annual appearance at Christmas, singing a few Christmas Carols.  This One Who was born into a crude manger is now a KING!

John the Baptist was telling people, “you need to get ready because someone more powerful than I is coming.”

John the Baptist tries to get the world ready for Christ.

The world of his day was made up of religious and non-religious people, neither of which was READY for the Lord.

THE NON-RELIGIOUS of his day, like our own, liked their SIN and didn’t want Christ Jesus in their lives.

THE RELIGIOUS of that day, like our own, think they don’t need Christ.

So when Christ came, the RELIGIOUS and the NON-RELIGIOUS alike, rejected Him.  They were not ready for Christ to come in their lives.

John’s voice was one crying out in the barren places.

At this time of year people are expected to be happy, but in fact, there are more suicides than any other time of the year.  In the middle of much cluttered activity and “Ho, Ho, Ho ‘ng” in many lives, there is spiritual dryness.

The question is…”HAVE YOU PREPARED YOUR HEART TO RECEIVE JESUS?”

In verse 4, John uses the word “REPENT”:

“John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a BAPTISM of REPENTANCE for the REMISSION OF SINS.”  [NOTE: capitalized words for emphasis]

John tells us that PREPARATION that we need to make is to “REPENT”.  The Greek word translated “repentance” (metanoia) is a word that means “a changed mind”; “changing your direction 180 degrees.”

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The apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV):

[10]  “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

There are TWO kinds of REPENTANCE possible when you think about it, that’s possible in human experience.

Many of us recognize the unpleasant consequences of our SIN and persuaded of the GUILT that may result in a superficial sorrow–that may lead to a temporary reformation, but not to a genuine turning to Christ for forgiveness.

“Godly sorrow” on the other hand, accompanied by CONVICTION of SIN , which is the work of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:37), comes about from the realization of offending a holy God, which in turn, leads to genuine repentance.

REPENTANCE may begin with a “sorrowful heart,” but to be GENUINE, must lead to a determined action.

The CALL to REPENT is one of the most important things we will hear among the sound of exchanges of CHRISTMAS GREETINGS, the singing of Carols, and the shouts of JOY as presents are opened.

Not only did John have an unexpected message…THIRD, he had an extraordinary ministry…

In verse 5 we read“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him, confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (NIV Bible).

“A once lonely man,” Story:

It was a bright Sunday morning in 18th century London, but Robert Robinson’s mood was anything but sunny.  All along the street there were people hurrying to church, but in the midst of the crowd, Robinson was a lonely man.

The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life.  It had been years since he set foot in a church, with years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved.

That love for God–once fiery and passionate–had slowly burned out within him, leaving him dark and cold inside.

Robinson heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of a horse-drawn cab approaching behind him.  Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver.  But then he saw the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed in finery for the Lord’s Day.  He waived the driver on, but the woman in the carriage ordered the carriage to be stopped.

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“Sir, I’d be happy to share the carriage with you,” she said to Robinson.  “Are you going to church?”

Robinson was about to decline, then he paused,  “Yes,” he said at last.  “I am going to church.”

He stepped into the carriage and sat down beside the woman.  As the carriage rolled forward, Robert Robinson and the woman exchanged introductions.  There was a flash of recognition in her eyes when he stated his name.

“That’s an interesting coincidence,” she said, reaching into her purse.  She withdrew a small book of inspirational verses, opened it to a ribbon-bookmark, and handed the book to him.

“I was just reading a verse by a poet named Robert Robinson.  Could it be you?”

He took the book, nodding “Yes, I wrote these words years ago.”

“Oh, how wonderful!” she exclaimed.  “Imagine!  I’m sharing a carriage with the author of these very lines!”

maxresdefault-1But Robinson barely heard her.  He was absorbed in the words he was reading. They were words that would one day be set to music and become a great hymn of faith, familiar to generations of Christians.

He could barely read the last few lines through the tears that brimmed his eyes.

“I wrote these words–and I’ve lived these words. ‘Prone to wander…prone to leave the God I have.”

The woman suddenly understood.

“You also wrote, ‘Here’s my heart, O take and seal it!’  You can offer your heart again to God, Mr. Robinson.  It’s never too late!”

[See FOOTNOTE [i] ].

IF your greatest need had been for INFORMATION, God would have sent us an EDUCATOR.

IF our greatest need had been TECHNOLOGY, God would have sent us a SCIENTIST.

IF our greatest need had been MONEY, God would have sent us an ECONOMIST.

IF our greatest need had been PLEASURE, God would have sent us an ENTERTAINER.

BUT HE DIDN’T!

Our greatest need was FORGIVENESS…God sent us a SAVIOR.

Has your Christmas Preparation really begun yet?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

 


FOOTNOTES & CREDITS

Footnote [i]:  Ron Lee Davis, Courage to Begin Again [Harvest House, Eugene, Or. pp. 145-147] – http://www.crossroad.to/Victory/come-thou-fount-of-every-blessing.htm

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

VINE’S COMPLETE EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY of Old and New Testament Words.

Bible Translations:  Amplified Bible, except where noted.

 

HEARTS OF STONE REVEALED

“Does GOD Have A Bad Memory?”

After my last Blog-post (Plugging Into the “Eternal”!),  regarding the question “Can a Christian lose their salvation?”, another question then arose:  “ISN’T THERE A BIBLE VERSE ABOUT THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN?”  So here we are once more, attempting to answer an often misunderstood and questioned verse in Scripture.

The “BUT’s” In Two Bible verses Matthew 12:31,32 AMP.

JESUS says,  [31] “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy (every evil, abusive, injurious speaking, or indignity against sacred things) can be forgiven men, BUT blasphemy against the [Holy] Spirit shall not and cannot be forgiven.

[32] And whoever speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven,  BUT whoever speaks against the Spirit, the Holy One, will not be forgiven, either in this world and age or in the world and age to come.”

Don’t you just love it, when someone uses the word “but” in a sentence?  “I know I told you that I could do [such and such], BUT…something has come up and I can’t attend.”

The Online Dictionary defines the word But – used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.”

I capitalized and bold typed the word “but” in Matthew 12:31, 32 for this purpose–Jesus made a declaration, then introduces something contrasting to what was said.

The Scene That Precedes These Words of Jesus: Matthew 12:22-30

A man who was both blind & mute has just been healed.  Matthew tells us that the man was also possessed by a demon and that Jesus ordered the demon out of him.  Once the demon left, the man was able to see & speak.

This should have been a time for great rejoicing, because the man could see the faces of loved ones and friends.  He could now see the sunrise and sunsets and all the beauties of nature.

BUT…it wasn’t a time of celebration for everyone for the hard-hearted Pharisees were upset by what Jesus had done.  They couldn’t deny His miracle, but they could attempt to explain it away.

So they said,  “This Man drives out demons only by and with the help of Beelzebub, the prince of demons” (Matt. 12:24).

Then JESUS responds to them by saying they should have learned by now that JESUS isn’t a good one to challenge to a debate.  He always won!

This time is no different, and JESUS makes some solid arguments in His behalf.  He says, “If Satan drives out Satan, he has become divided against himself and disunified; how then will his kingdom last or continue to stand?” (Matt. 12:26).

Then JESUS Issues A Warning!

Matthew 12:32:  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,  but whoever speaks against the Holy One, will not be forgiven, either in this world and age or in the world and age to come.”

JESUS is saying here that the SIN against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, not because the Holy Spirit is greater than the Father…greater than the Son, but because the Holy Spirit is later than the Father and Son.

WHAT IS THE “UNPARDONABLE SIN” OF WHICH JESUS WARNS?

At the time that JESUS was speaking, the Jews had their own teaching about the Holy Spirit.  According to Jewish teaching, the Holy Spirit had two supreme functions:

#1.  Holy Spirit brought God’s truth to men and women; the Holy Spirit was God’s instrument in helping us come to know God’s will for us.

#2.  Holy spirit enabled men and women to recognize and understand God’s TRUTH when they saw it.  The Holy Spirit works upon the heart & minds of man.

So, man needs the Holy Spirit to receive and recognize God’s TRUTH.  Putting it another way, Holy Spirit is working on us to BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, to bring us to accept Him, our Savior & Lord.

An important principle we can’t forget!  “What you don’t use, you lose!”  

This is so true in almost every area of our lives.

TRUE PHYSICALLY – Failing to use and exercise certain muscles (how well I know this principle), will weaken and become unusable.

TRUE MENTALLY – What we’ve learned in school years ago is forgotten because we haven’t used them in years [ex. foreign languages, conjugating verbs, etc].  The knowledge we once had has long since gone because we did not exercise and make use of it.

The Pharisee’s Heart and Minds.

We can also lose the ability to be moved or changed by God’s goodness & truth when Holy Spirit presents it to us.  This is the STAGE to which these particular Pharisees had come.

1.  The Pharisees know the Scripture (But still lost-not saved!).

2.  The Pharisees formally prayed in public… often, because that was what man expected them to do.

3.  The Pharisees went to church every time they had the chance (still not righteous).

And yet, they had so long been blind and deaf to God’s guiding hand; insisted on their own way of doing things; they had come to a stage of their lives that they couldn’t recognize God’s truth and goodness when they saw it.  Not even in a MIRACLE!

They could look at God’s goodness and call it Satan’s evil…

They could look at JESUS, the Son of God, and call Him the devil.

Whatever the UNPARDONABLE…UNFORGIVABLE SIN is…it has to do with the idea of A SIN

A SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT–

That is what the Bible says–and the Bible clearly says “every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven” (verse 31).  

So, the “unpardonable sin”  isn’t a kind of sin.  The Bible says any SIN you can name (adultery, murder, the angry fist in god’s face, impatience, lying, cheating, stealing) will be forgiven IF…we come confessing (1 John 1:9).

There are, no “ifs”, “but’s”, or “maybe’s” attached to Jesus’ Promise–

The “unpardonable sin” must be a continual rejection of the Promptings of the Holy Spirit. 

The UNPARDONABLE SIN   is not the first step you take or the second step you take.  BUT when God calls you, and you keep going persistently AGAINST Him, it is possible for the mind to become callused and the heart becomes hardened; you no longer HEAR GOD’S VOICE.

Does all this mean that everybody that denies God’s voice and doesn’t hear His promptings has committed the “unpardonable sin”?  Not at all!

There are many people who don’t listen to God’s voice today, feel that their heart is pretty hard, but at some stage of their life some dramatic event comes into view and they turn to God.

But is it possible, according to God’s Word,  to enter into a STATE OF SIN; you keep on sinning, and sinning, and sinning–habitual sin–your heart turns into stone, not because the Holy Spirit stops calling–He keeps on calling, but you can’t hear anymore!

Something to Remember…

2856407085_ece25fe731If you keep hardening your heart, and you die suddenly [in your sleep, a car accident, etc.], if you’ve hardened your heart up to this point…you have REJECTED the Holy Spirit.

The Final and Complete Rejection–

“Blasphemy” against the Spirit is the final and complete rejection of Jesus Christ.

This SIN is a denial of the Spirit’s message and the rejection of the Lord’s deity.

JESUS made it clear from the beginning that ALL SINS can be forgiven; but God can’t forgive the REJECTION of His Son.

It is the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Christ Jesus and convicts the lost sinner.  When it all come down to it; the ONLY SIN where there is NOT FORGIVENESS, is the SIN for which no forgiveness is wanted!

The Pharisee’s Condition Presented in Matthew 12…

Over time, they hated and hardened their hearts against JESUS, for them there was no turning back.

They witnesses an Awesome Miracle…

They make a Baseless Accusation…

They heard an Undeniable Answer…

BUT, they were GUILTY of the UNFORGIVABLE SIN!

SALVATION is denied them, not because it wasn’t offered, but because they have PERMANENTLY REJECTED the message given by the Holy Spirit.

THE MESSAGE:

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life”  (John 3:16 AMP).

But there is MORE GOOD NEWS!

JESUS came to deliver forgiveness that is available to everyone!

The ever flowing waters of the Well of Life is always available to those who desire to come and quench their thirst.

I always have an old Hymn Book close to my computer to USE for reference in my Blogs.  The lyrics (and the tune) became renewed in studying for this  particular POST:

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Emanuel’s veins;

And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

Lose all their guilty stains.

If you are reading this Blog-post and there are SINS ON YOUR HEART–if you have been considering the Gospel–then don’t put it off another minute!  Each time you hear an invitation and don’t respond, your heart grows a little harder.  As long as the Gospel of Jesus has an effect on your heart, there is still hope.