Jesus Christ spoke of us being “born again.” Natural birth determines or nature. Being born again determines our new nature.
ROMANS 7: 18-20
The “I” in the text is the person’s soul, will, and mind.
The “sin” that dwells in us is our natural weaknesses that we, like every member of the fallen race, inherit from our parents. We all inherit such a basic temperament.
This inherent nature contains both strengths and weaknesses. It is called several things in the Bible: “the natural man,” “the flesh,” “the old man,” and “corruptible flesh.”
It is a basic impulse that seeks to satisfy our basic desires.
To understand this on going challenge an understanding of the difference in our temperament, character, and our personality is essential.
TEMPERAMENT is a combination of our inborn traits that subconsciously affects our behavior. Some factors are our nationality, race, sex, and other heredity factors. These are passed on by our genes. It is thought we inherit more of these traits for our grandparents than our parents. That is why some children look more like their grandparents than their parents.
The influence of nationality is seen by the way certain nationalities are perceived. Some nationalities are industrious, like the Jews; some thrifty, like the Scotts. Some are known to be more passionate than others, some more aggressive, and some more reserved.
One’s sex is influential. In general females are more intuitive and feeling than men.
CHARACTER is the real you. The Bible refers to it as “the hidden man of the heart.” It is sometime called “the soul” which consists of the mind, the emotions, and the will. It is the sum total of your childhood training, education, and basic attitude, beliefs, and motivations.
PERSONALITY is the outward expression of ourselves. It may or may not be the same as our character, depending on how honest we are.
Many people act a part they think people want them to play. When it is contrary to their true nature this results in emotional and mental pressure.
The Bible says, “man looks upon the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart,” and also, “out of the heart proceeds the issues of life.”
Temperament is the combination of traits with which we are born.
Character is our “civilized” temperament.
Personality is the “face” we show others.
Here is good news. Regardless of your temperament you can have a Spirit controlled temperament.
Dr. Henry Brandt, a leading Christian psychologists, once said, “You can use your background as an excuse for present behavior only until you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. After that you have a new power within you that is able to change your conduct.” That is good news.
Many Christians never mature in Christ and benefit from develop this Spirit transformed temperament. It is what he Bible speaks of when it speaks of “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The reason is they do not remain in an “abiding” relationship with Christ.
When a person receives Jesus as Savior they are given a “new nature” The Holy Spirit when allowed can enable this transformed new nature to become a persons true character.
Most people recognize two basic temperaments: introverts and extroverts. Actually there are four more definitive.
400 years before Christ a Greek philosopher, Hippocrates, concluded there are four types. His permeative understanding thought the types were a result of various body fluids:
“Blood”; “choler” or “yellow bile”; “melancholy” or “black bile”; and “phlegm.”
Hippocrates gave names to each type based on the body fluid which really has nothing to do with it. They are SANGUINE, CHOLERIC, MELANCHOLY, AND PHLEGMATIC.
These are basic temperaments. No person is just one of them. There is usually one predominant type but no person is a single-temperament type.
There are four grandparents and all four contribute to a grandchild’s temperament.. As the four types are considered evaluate which is your predominant type to understand your basic temperament and know your basic strengths and weaknesses. Consider some of the basic strengths and weaknesses of each of the four temperaments.
STRENGTHS: This person is enthusiastic and optimistic with the ability to forget the past and live in the present not frustrated by past disappointments and failures. A genuine love for people results in an outgoing cheerful temperament. Such a person has a tender and compassionate heart.
WEAKNESSES: This person is restless and thrives on activity . Being easily excited they often don’t tend to analyze the entire picture and don’t plan thoroughly. They find it difficult to concentrate even on the Scripture.
A person with this type temperament is often undisciplined and weak-willed, lacking in self-discipline.
This type temperament gets discouraged easily and tends to make excuses for conduct.
STRENGTHS: These persons are usually self-disciplined with a tendency toward self-determination. They are confident in their ability and aggressive. Like Sanguine types they are perpetual motion only they tend to plan better. They doggedly stick with projects. They readily accept leadership roles and are aggressive.
This type person is optimistic, adventurous, and has a pioneering spirit.
WEAKNESSES: Persons with this temperament are not emotional and tends to lack compassion; unsympathetic. They prone to anger and are often revengeful. There is a tendency to run over people. Unless they are given strong moral standards they do not hesitate to break the law. Many of the world’s most depraved criminals and dictators has been Chloric.
STRENGTHS: A high percentage of genius-prone people are melancholy. There is a tendency to excel in arts and has appreciation for life’s true values. A standard of excellence exceeds that of others. They are inventive and creative. They have few friends but are faithful to those they do have. Such a person tends to know his limits.
WEAKNESSES: This is the most self-centered of the temperaments. Because of their perfectionism and self-analysis they are prone to be pessimistic. This makes them indecisive and fearful of making decisions. They are intolerant of others who fail to live up to their expectations of them. No one is prone to greater mood swings than the melancholy person.
This temperament type tends to have the greatest strengths and potentials but are also inclined to the greatest weaknesses.
STRENGTHS: These individuals have a wonderful sense of humor. They have an inborn capacity to see the light side of life.
They are the embodiment of dependability. They fulfill their obligations of time and schedule. They are practical and efficient. They tend to find a practical way to accomplish objectives with the least effort.
WEAKNESSES: They are so easy going they are prone to be slow and lazy. They tend to do as little as necessary. They tend to be selfish and stubbornly resist change. All four temperaments tend to be selfish but those possessing this trait are the most selfish. They are indecisive because they don’t want to get involved.
Every weakness in each can be overcome by a transformed temperament. The negative traits can be overcome by a Spirit controlled temperament. The fruit of such a temperament is identified in Galatians 5: 22, 23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control….”
The Holy Spirit controlled temperament does not have weaknesses.
All these traits are traits of a Spirit controlled temperament, character, and personality.
Persons can fast, pray, and even give their bodies to be burned a the stake, but if they don’t evidence the fruit of the Spirit there’s is not a Spirit controlled temperament.
Upon committing our life to Christ as Savior we are spoken of in the Bible in several ways.
We are born again. Old things are passed away. We are new creatures in Christ. We are transformed.
It is easier to reach a goal if it is well defined and kept in mind. Make your goal is the manifesting of the nine facets known as the fruit of the Spirit. Note, “fruit” is single and the object plural. In 1610 when the King James was translated from Greek to English the time of harvest was call the time of fruiting. Thus, the text might better be read “the harvest of the Spirit.” We are not to cherry pick which of the nine we want to cultivate. All nine are to be manifest in our lives. Fix them in your mind by any means.
The mother of Coach Derick Dooley, Barbara, has one written individually on nine tile lining her kitchen counter. Do something to keep them before you. Memorize them. Repeat them to yourself when you awake during the night and in the morning. Use a can of spray paint and write them on the wall in your house.
Though we are to manifest all nine to start with start with the first one, “love” and concentrate on consciously showing it all day in your life.
The next day and so on concentrate on including another as your conscious effort of the day.
Consider Romans 12: 1, 2. “I beseech you….” “Beseech” PARAKALO (pa-ra-ka-layo) primarily means to come along side of. It is a positive offer of encouragement. It means to speak tenderly.
This appeal is made on the basis of the highest motivation, “the mercy of God.”
“Be not conformed,” means “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.” It is present passive imperative plus a negative meaning “Stop being molded to the realm of worldliness.”
If you are a Christian and you fellowship with the world and act like the world you are wearing camouflage to deceive the world.
A few brief short ventures into enemy territory, that is the world, and soon you are acting like the world.
To avoid conforming to the world it is essential to exercise one of the fruit of the Spirit. It is “self-control.”
The process is described in I Corinthians 9:27: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (a castaway).”
To do this make your body a “living sacrifice.” There were basically two types of sacrifices. One led to reconciliation. That is the one Jesus made. The other sacrifice was one of celebration for reconciliation.
Christ made the first sacrifice. Out of gratitude we make one to Him.
This is a process of transformation. Romans 12: 2 instructs us to “be transformed.” A transformer changes things such as electric current. It makes electricity useful.
The Greek word for “transformed” is METAMORPHOSIS (MET-MA-FAH-O), meaning changed.
When you commit your life to Christ you are born again and become a new creature with a new nature. Describe water bugs in Louisiana swamp.
I have a friend in Chicago who developed a product that makes your car more comfortable. The engin of a car makes noise. The wheels and other sounds under a car as it travels makes noise. He devised and sold to auto manufacturers a product that reduces the noise by transformation. It is put on the firewall between passengers and the engin. It is also put on the floorboard of the car. Noise hits the surface on one side and when it comes out on the other side it is dissipated and comes out as heat. Sound is transformed into heat.
Christ is our transformer. Your old nature will respond just like that of people of the world unless you allow Christ to transform you.
How do you do it? By the renewing of your mind. Many need a complete make over, a reprogramming of the mind. This renovation of your mind is in large part done by what you read, hear, or see as well as what you will not read, hear, or see.
It is both an act and a process. We begin it with an act of commitment and we maintain it on and ongoing basis. Aretha Franklin sang, “You gotta have a made up mind.”
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to climb Mount Everest speaking of climbing at great heights where the oxygen is rare noted the mind has a tendency to wander. He said therefore, “Before you leave the base camp you must have a made up mind.”
Living in our rarified moral climate we must have a made up mind also.
Commit yourself to this simple philosophy;
I am IN HIS KEEPING.
UNDER HIS TRAINING
FOR HIS TIME.
The objective of the Christian life is to find and do the “perfect will of God.” There are many reasons why. Two are noted: It is “good” and “acceptable.”
JESUS CHRIST said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14 – 16).The word has never proposed a more ominous “basket” under which to extinguish “the light of the world.” We are losing the cultural war.
Once the chorus singing of moral and spiritual values was compromise of ministers, teachers, neighbors, and community leaders. Now it is composed of Madonna, Brittany, Bart Simpson, rap groups, and celebrities pushing sneakers.
The evangelists of today are secularist and they are preaching immorality, not traditional morality. They are winning converts.
What does it mean to say we are losing the cultural war? It means we are seeing the designed and disciplined destruction of our culture’s moral system. There is a dramatic erosion of public morality and a dissipation of long-standing classic cultural qualities.
Just one area of society proves this. A parallel between the seven top school problems of the 1940s and the 1990s shows how far we have declined.
IN THE 1940′S THE SEVEN PRIMARY PROBLEMS WERE:
1. Talking in class
2. Chewing gum
3. Making noise
4. Running in halls
5. Cutting in line
6. Dress code violations
IN THE 2000′S THE SEVEN PRIMARY PROBLEMS ARE:
1. Drug abuse
2. Alcohol abuse
Not a one from the 1940s is even considered important enough to be listed. Not a one from the 2000s could have even been thought to someday be a school problem.
Another example relates to the expression, “America has a Judeo/Christian heritage.” The governor of Mississippi used that statement recently and the public protest by anti-Christian bigots was so strong he had to publicly apologize. Yet, our Supreme Court once included in a ruling, “America is a Christian nation.”
There is such a strong effort to erode all traces of true history related to our Christian heritage that the idea that America was once a Christian nation comes under attack.
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a research associate at the Institute for American Values, interviewed numerous middle class parents and concluded: “A common complaint I heard from parents was their sense of being overwhelmed by the culture. They felt their voice was a lot weaker. Parents see themselves in a struggle for the hearts and minds of their own children.”
We are unequivocally losing the cultural war. Why isn’t something being done? What can we do? I am glad you asked.
The reason somebody isn’t doing something is found answered in an incident that allegedly occurred on a sinking ship. As people rushed around seeking safety while alarms sounded, one fellow sat in a deck chair reading a book. As someone rushed by they said, “Man, why are you just sitting there reading? Don’t you know this ship is sinking?”
With a shrug the man replied, “Well, it’s not MY SHIP!”
Hear these similar responses:
“I don’t have any children in school; why should I be concerned about what is taught?”
“Abortion doesn’t affect my family; why should I get involved?”
“My family has well established sexual preferences; why should I be concerned about gay rights activists and pending legislation?”
Another reason it seems no one is doing anything is our accommodating nature. Have you every noticed how your body adjusts to changes in temperature? Have you ever noticed the ability of your eyes to adjust to a change in light? Have you ever stopped to consider the ability of your nose to accommodate a new unpleasant odor? Even the most offensive odor that at first tends to insult your sense of smell soon isn’t noticed. This is true of going to a town where there is a paper mill. Soon it isn’t noticed.
The same is true morally. We tend to get used to moral decay. That which formerly offended your moral standards now is accepted. Our conscience, like our sense of smell, adjusts to that which at first is offensive. We must renew our sensitivity.
Why doesn’t the church do something? It is not the job of the church to change society. It has the responsibility to change individuals. It is then the responsibility of these changed individuals to change society. It is time that you become an activist.
If you do it with intellect and integrity expect to get bashed. Don’t be surprised when you are. Jesus said, “In this wheelwright you will have tribulation…”
He also said, “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake…”
Expect to be bashed and wear it like a badge of honor. Don’t become intimidated.
Don’t expect to be complimented by the world and don’t grow weary in well doing. I have written editorials in several newspapers each week for over 36 years. During that time there has been one letter to the editor supporting a moral issue I espoused. There have been hundreds bashing me. You know what many Christians do about it? They say to me, “Did you read the letter to the editor attacking your position?”
The answer is always “NO.” The reason is, they are always negative. Why don’t Christians write letters supporting positive positions?
Now is the time to set up your office as a Christian activist. Here are some steps.
1. Purchase stationary and stamps to be used exclusively in your ministry as an activist correspondent.
2. Establish a filing system on issues of interest.
3. Study the nighttime radio talk show listings and listen. Call in and express yourself. Few sane and sensible Christians dare to do so because the host will be hostile. Know they are and expect it. Don’t let them intimidate or anger you.
4. Call and write the office of public officials as they deliberate issues. Do both, call and write. A letter is really more effective whereas a call is more immediate. Both are needed.
5. Establish your intended schedule of output. How many letters and/or calls do you propose to write or make a week? Keep a record and don’t quit.
6. When you call or write any paper, public official, radio or TV station practice the “C” Factor. Always be: Clear, Concise, Courteous, and Composed.
7. Attend legislative, school board, and commission hearings on important matters.
8. Inform and enlist others to do as you are doing. Multiply your effort.
9. Decide on which hills you are willing to die. That is, not all battles are yours. Some are worthy of your efforts and some worthy of the efforts of others. Don’t become critical of fellow activists who choose battles other than your own.
For example, I am pro-life and an activist in this arena. I helped establish a Women’s Pregnancy Center and a home for unwed mothers. So pro-life persons attack me because I don’t march with them. Let them march and I will pray for them. But let me do what they aren’t doing and sponsor homes and centers to alleviate the problem.
Paul said, “I have fought the good fight…” This means I have fought a fight worth fighting. Pick your fights. You can’t fight all of them but be sure you pick one worthy of you fighting it.
10. Be a model living example of your professed faith. Don’t put yourself in the position of one compromising Christian who was told by a nonbeliever, “You are no different from the rest of us. So what am I to be converted to?”
I THESSALONIANS 5: 16 – 18
JESUS CHRIST had a word for unthankful people. He was very select in choosing the proper descriptive word for ingrate. In addressing the ungrateful farmer, whose bumper crop overfilled his barns, Jesus said to him, “Thou fool…” The Greek word employed by Dr. Luke (12:20) was APHRON, meaning “the lack of common sense perception,” or signifying “without reason.” It is simply reasonable to be thankful.Our predecessors knew this and set aside a special day, called Thanksgiving, for the purpose of acknowledging thanks to God.
President George Washington issued the following presidential proclamation in 1789:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favor–and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…”
It sounds like our first president knew the difference between separation of church and state and the employment of Biblical principles by a Christian statesman.
President Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863 as a national holiday specifically to give thanks to God for the blessings we have received during the previous year.
Today a concerted effort is being made by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which is composed of thousands of preschool and elementary teachers. They have published an “Anti-bias Curriculum” that attacks the holiday. This organization urges teachers to focus on the plight of Native Americans. “Talk about what is fair and unfair, what helps us learn about Native Americans, what hurts their feelings.” This is a virtuous thing to do, but not at the expense of debasing one of our major holidays.
Other efforts to downplay the true meaning of the holiday urge teachers to emphasize the day as one in which the Pilgrims met with the Native Americans to thank them for their help.
In all of these efforts the true Christian faith of those who initiated and inaugurated the holiday is omitted.
Jesus said it is “mindless,” the practice of a “fool” not to give thanks. Therefore, to be wise, we should employ regularly the three principles stated in our text. The three we relate to are all internal aspects of inner life. We must have:
I. THE CAPACITY TO EXPRESS JOY (VS. 16 “REJOICE ALWAYS”)
First, notice at the end of verse 18, these are “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That is, God want’s you to do them. In each of these the modifier comes emphatically before the verb: Always rejoice, Continually pray, in everything give thanks.
Centuries earlier the prophet Nehemiah (8:10) said of Israel, in one of their greatest times of difficulty, “The joy of the Lord is thy strength.”
The angelic messenger shouted, “Joy to the world the Lord has come.” This isn’t a bonfire-pep-rally-kind-of-energy-of-the-flesh elation that soon fades. Neither is it a type of self-delusion brought about by not facing reality. Nor is it the synthetic kind mirrored by fake smiles and quoted slogans. It is a calm, consistent sense of well-being because all is well with the Father, even if ALL isn’t well in your world.
All was not well with the Christians who initially received this letter. They had “received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 1: 6). Notice they had “much affliction.” They are described in 2:14 as having “also suffered.”
The exhibition of joy amid suffering was one of the distinctive traits of the young church. It still characterizes a Spirit-filled believer.
This command is an imperative statement, an appeal to the will. It reminds us that we are in part responsible for maintaining an outlook filled with joy. It reminds us that Christian joy is not totally dependent upon externals but is a result of the internal presence of the Holy Spirit and His being given control of our attitude.
Don’t be disappointed with yourself if you have had difficult times and have failed to rejoice. However, never be content to let such a spirit characterize you. For a Christian to remain sad, negative, or in a complaining mood is to break a command. It shows a basic mistrust of God: either His love, wisdom, or power.
To be around some people, even on their good days, is as cheering as witnessing an autopsy, or diving into an icy lake. Don’t let the glow and glory of your today be polluted by the garbage of someone’s gloom. Don’t live in the valley of the humdrum. Move up to the mountains of joy.
Before His ascension our beloved Lord said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15: 11).
The elderly Apostle John wrote, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full” (I John 1:4).
Based on these statements it is self-apparent that joy is in part dependent upon having a Bible orientation, NOT a world view.
II. THE CONFIDENCE TO ENGAGE IN PRAYER (VS. 17 “PRAY…)
Prayer is the natural consequence of friendship with God.
Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Perhaps this is true. For those of whom it is true, it is a revelation they have not established the right friendship with God.
To “pray without ceasing” doesn’t mean continuously occurring, BUT constantly reoccurring. It means never to hang up the receiver, even if you are not talking. It means to always have your antenna up. Our practice of prayer may be intermittent but the spirit of prayer must be incessant.
Constant prayer causes our mind to conceive and the child brought forth is WISDOM.
In times of crisis, we are prone to resort to prayer. In the Cuban missile crisis, America faced pending disaster. Russian-made missiles in Cuba were found aimed at our cities. A naval blockade was set up. Confrontation seemed inevitable. People rushed to stores to stock up on medicine, food, and batteries. President Kennedy in an address to the nation appealed to all people to pray “in your homes, churches, and schools.” Even schools! Yes, crisis forgets about improper laws. If we will pray in crisis, why not in celebration.
If you are ever on a flight preparing for a crash and the pilot has time you will hear the following:
“We are beginning our final descent. At this moment, in accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God you should commence prayer.”
Don’t wait for a nose dive to pray.
Self-confidence apart from the right relationship with the Lord is one of our greatest hindrances. Associated-confidence is a sure way to victorious living. By this is meant, aligning yourself with the will of the Father through prayer.
For example, the failure of Simon Peter, at the time of the betrayal of Christ, could not be attributed to insincerity or a lack of zeal. In good faith he loved Jesus. In good faith he would have died for Him. His failure grew out of a prayerless heart in the garden. As a result, he trusted his own strength to do what his own will dictated. If he had obeyed His Lord and prayed, this self-deception would have been avoided.
God is not likely to grant you the good things you yourself desire if you don’t even ask Him for them.
III. THE CAPACITY TO ACKNOWLEDGE PRAISE (VS. 18 “GIVE THANKS”)
The word “praise” is derived from the Latin word “preisier” which means to prize. Therefore, praise is the recognition of the worth and merit of our God. To praise is to prize.
Often the most beautiful praise comes from the bleakest circumstances. The decade of the 1669s in England was filled with disaster. The plague in 1665 resulted in the death of over 70,000 people in London. A year later in an attempt to destroy some plague infested areas by fire a city wide fire broke out that destroyed most of the city. The prophets of doom and gloom predicted the city and England would never recover.
During all of this a godly Christian man — Bishop Thomas Ken — kept encouraging the people that he could still see the light of God’s purpose and presence even through all this.
He felt compelled to write a song expressing his deep conviction that God was still sovereign and worthy of praise. He wrote and we still sing:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
Praise is not an option to those who want to please God. He said it is His “will,” that is, what He wants of us.
Praise spares us the pain of a bloated ego. When we learn to pass on to the Lord all the praise we receive, we are blessed.
Praise is rooted in the confidence that God can use all things for good. Those who realize that blessings often come wrapped in burdens can give thanks “in everything.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, as a Russian dissident was imprisoned in Siberia. He wrote of that horror:
“It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes, not through states, nor classes, nor political parties, but right through all human hearts. So, bless you, prison, for having been in my life.” What are the “prisons” in your life, presently, for which you need to praise the Lord?
That little preposition “in” (en) means to give thanks “in connection with everything.” Knowing this prevents us from facing the adversities of life with gritted teeth, and enables us to face them with grateful hearts.
The fact that “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” does not mean you have to do it, but that you can do it at all times. There are many things we can’t do, but this we can do. You can pull yourself out of the shadows of life into the sunlight of His love by prayer. Often a Psalm begins by the writer describing himself as being in a state of despondency. Read on! As he begins to praise the Lord in this state, it is as though his spirit takes wings and soars in joy. The dove of joy rises on the wings of prayer and praise.
If circumstances leave you with little obvious in them for which to praise the Lord, take an imaginary walk around Calvary. Look into the eyes of Jesus. Listen to His quivering, but acquitting voice saying, “Father, forgive them.” Remember the crown of thorns. Then tell yourself, “All this was done for me.” See if that gives you something for which to praise Him.
PHILIPPIANS 1: 6
JESUS CHRIST “increased in wisdom and statue, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2: 52). That is the intended growth pattern for all of us.
We are to grow:
INTELLECTUALLY (in wisdom), PHYSICALLY (statue), SPIRITUALLY (with God), and SOCIALLY (with man).
When a person does there develops a well balanced life.
When a parent holds a new born child and gazes into its eyes they are looking at a candidate for a personality. Though the child is born with a basic temperament that is all its own, the parent does much to influence the developing personality. Because of knowing this many parents feel unable to cope, inadequate, full of self-doubt, unprepared to make the child feel loved and secure, and inevitably guilty.
Approximately 77 billion people have lived on this earth and still we feel inadequate to rear children. There was a day when grandparents were around to impart practical knowledge based on shared values. Today, in their absence, a plethora of books offer advice on how to rear children. Some of these are completely contrary to Scripture and yet sound plausible.
In the old West a cowboy came upon an Indian with his ear pressed to the ground and heard him mutter: “Wagon! Three people. Two men, one woman. Four horses. One black, three dapple. Wagon going west.”
The cowboy asked, “Can you tell all that by just listening to the sounds vibrating in the earth?”
“No,” said the Indian, “they run over me.”
Parents does that sound like you? Do you feel like you have been run over by your children? Have you resorted to anything that will work for the moment?
In his recent book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, Dr. James Dobson divided children into two groups as a result of an extensive survey involving over 35,000 households. The book resulted from his earlier book entitled, The Strong Willed Child.
Incidentally, one of Dr. Dobson’s staff members told me recently of some of the difficulty they have in people ordering items. One wrote requesting a copy of The Strong Wild Child.
Another wanted a copy of Parenting Isn’t for Cows.
One lady wrote, “I didn’t receive my copy of ‘Romance after Marriage.’” The reply, “We are sorry you didn’t receive ‘Romance After Marriage,’ we are sending a substitute.”
Intending to request a copy of “Men in Mid-life Crisis,” a listener asked instead for a copy of “Men in Mid-Night Crisis.”
A number of things affect a child’s development. John Curtis, cofounder of The Orlando Consulting Group, offers a mini profile as a way of helping identify traits of children.
Before listing these I want to fix the fact there are many exceptions to these basic rules. Knowing the tendencies can help compensate.
Firstborn: They are reared with duties, responsibilities, and expectations. As adults they tend to be leaders and occupy supervisory roles.
Middle Child: They tend to be good children that don’t often get into trouble. They are seldom first and rarely last at anything. As adults they don’t need much guidance or praise. They are good negotiators.
Baby: The youngest child tends to be creative, rebellious and spoiled. As adults they aren’t comfortable with much supervision because they didn’t get as much as their older siblings.
Only Child: Like the baby, they tend to be rebellious and creative. As adults they can tend to be difficult to manage because they are use to getting their way.
Meanwhile, back to the book. In his recent book Dobson groups children into two temperament categories with a great degree of difference in each group.
One is the COMPLIANT child. This child lives to please. If you have such a child thank the Lord.
Only 14% of them defy their parents even in an insignificant manner. Of those who did it was only for a short time. Of these compliant children 91% do not become difficult even during the terrible twos. Even during teen years only 17% become rebellious. The other is the STRONG WILLED child. Such a child is a challenge. 40% of them rebel as toddlers. The percentage rises during every stage of adolescence, reaching a peak of 74% in the teen years.
The survey divided children into five categories: VERY COMPLIANT, RATHER COMPLIANT, AVERAGE, RATHER STRONG-WILLED, VERY STRONG-WILLED. Of the 35,000 surveyed those over 30 months of age revealed 74% were very strong-willed and 24% were very compliant.
Both types of children need love and acceptance. Neither is likely to change type. Therefore, each must be dealt with differently. The strong willed child requires more discipline. This child is likely to see it if a sibling isn’t getting as much discipline. It should be calmly explained that it is the conduct that is being disciplined not just the person. If the sibling engages in the same conduct the same discipline will be given. This helps the child come to realize certain behavior results in given discipline.
WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?
1. RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT DIFFERENCES.
An amazing degree of diversity can exist between children of the same parents. Accept their differences and don’t make comparisons.
No two children are reared in the same home. Consider a given age of 5. Two siblings with an age difference of three years pass through the home at age five in different years and things have changed. The family might have even moved. The income level and/or schedule of the parents may have changed. For what ever reason no two children are reared in the same home.
2. ASSUME CONTROL EARLY IN LIFE.
Some doctor’s advocate not feeding infants when they cry. Instead establish feeding times and let the child learn to wait. Within a very few days the child learns. Learns what? Learns that it is not in control. The parent is. Otherwise the child starts off feeling that certain behavior gets desired response from parents. Thus, the child in is charge from the beginning.
Here is something parents might not want to know but need to know. A baby placed in substitute care, even very good care, for over 20 hours a week, is at risk psychologically. Children need the “emotional accessibility” of a parent with deep concern.
A recent study revealed that 8% of the child care for babies and infants is unsuitable and 40% is substandard. If child care must be used study the environment in which your child will be. The parent is responsible for conquering the will and bringing it to an obedient temperament. This necessitates informing the understanding of the child. Time is required and consistency is a must. By failing to give timely correction, stubbornness is cultivated and encouraged. Parents are instructed in God’s Word to “Train up a child in the way it should go.”
Psychologist say children aren’t born knowing how to love, but with a capacity to receive and experience love. In other words, they have to have it modeled for them by their parents. If a child doesn’t get it in infancy they grow up without knowing how to love.
Every willful act of disobedience must be dealt with proportionately. This is the only thing that will insure a child’s future happiness. This is not to suggest harshness, but it is to encourage consistent firmness.
Early childhood education should begin in the home. The three “R’s” should be taught at home and early in life. They are: RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, AND RESOURCEFULNESS.
3. IF YOU HAVE A VERY COMPLIANT CHILD DON’T PICK FIGHTS.
Some parents anticipate difficulty and transfer feelings stimulated by strong-willed children toward compliant ones. Don’t. Give your child, whether strong willed or compliant, standards as a challenge. This is especially good for the free time of summer.
Set standards in four categories:
PHYSICAL, such as, run a mile in a predetermined time.
SPIRITUAL, have the child memorize certain Scripture with predetermined rewards.
INTELLECTUAL, set a goal of reading a Christian biography and writing a report on it for a bonus.
PRACTICAL, if your child is old enough let him or her plan a family outing all by his or her self.
4. KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR.
I heard one mother tell of hearing her two children laughing and squealing uncontrollably in the kitchen. She burst in and they were slinging their Jell-O all over the place. She said her first instinct was to descent on them in a rage. However, instantly it struck her as funny. Instead she got a spoon and joined them in flipping Jell-O against the wall. After it was over they cleaned it up together and agreed it was fun, but shouldn’t be done again.
5. CULTIVATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF FAITH.
“Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).
Failure to do so is about to bankrupt our society spiritually. Well over 2,000,000 cases of child abuse are reported each year. Statistics show more twins are being born today. When that was shared with a third grade class one child responded, “I guess more twins are being born because little children are afraid to come into the world alone.”
Read Bible stories. Pray together. Make Christ real and personal by example. What they see is what they hear.
I JOHN 4: 7 – 11
JESUS CHRIST said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another: By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34,35).
Jesus Christ and His teachings tower over the landscape of human life and history as Mount Everest would on a Florida beach.
Frogs now chirp in the tall grass that grows where the voices of powerful men once were heard on the sight of the ancient city once known as “Babylon the Great.”
The splendor of Rome where her senate once debated the fate of the world now lies in ruins.
The artistic beauty of the greatly admired Athens has atrophied. Her philosopher’s voices silenced.
Yet, the teachings of Christ still influence more people in our contemporary society than all their wisdom combined. Why?
A statement attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte gives us our answer: “The Caesar’s, Kahn’s, and Pharaoh’s kingdoms have failed. For we have built our kingdoms by the sword, but the kingdom of Christ was built on love.”
The magazine “Psychology Today” recently ran a feature article on “The Ideal Man.” The article was a report on an extensive written survey involving a vast cross segment of Americans. Among men and women the ideal man identified by their readers was Jesus Christ. His personal love for us and His teaching about love endears Him to millions.
There is a contemporary line, “Everybody loves a lover.”
Love has spawned a new industry. Immediately after December 25, stores start putting up Valentines decorations. Flowers, candy, and cards attest of professed love. Tradition says there was a saintly individual named Valentine who around 449 AD was imprisoned for not worshiping pagan gods. On the eve of his execution he sent a note to the jailor’s daughter who had befriended him expressing his appreciation. He signed it “Your Valentine.” Allegedly that was the first of many Valentine cards. With words varying from sentiment to humor, love is expressed. Words such as: “Roses are red, violets are blue. Your mother was beautiful, what happened to you?
Everybody loves to be loved. To be loved you have to love. Back comes the weary question, “How do you love?”.
First, in our confused society we would do well to define love. The New Testament word for it most often used is AGAPE. It is selfless love such as God has for us. It is unconquerable benevolence, invincible good will. The love of which I speak is not an emotion to be aroused. It is a principle we deliberately live by. It is a spontaneous self-giving without regard for merit.
AGAPE love was a word and embodying an attitude that packed a spiritual wallop. It transformed millions of people around the world into persons willing to die for their convictions. At the same time it aroused millions of bloodthirsty persecutors, eager to eradicate those who believe in the power of this word.
Now the question “How can I learn to love?”
Psychologists tell us that babies are not born knowing how to love. However, they do have the capacity to receive love, to experience it. In effect they have to learn to love by observation and experience how they are loved.
If a child does not experience it from parents, it dramatically influences the child. Dr. Rene Spitz of New York University has studied many children living in secular orphanages and concludes that unloved children are much slower in development. Love is not only a part of our development, it aids our total development.
It is said we learn how to love from the parent of the same sex, and we learn who to love from the parent of the opposite sex. Ideally we learn to love from our parents. With a breakdown in the traditional family and with so many poor role models for children to relate to, more and more people are finding it difficult to learn how to love.
How are children growing up on a battlefield going to learn to love? How can adults learn to love? One of my dear adult companions who had no home life as a child told me of how he never knew who his dad was and how he seldom saw his mother. He grew up not only without proper parental role models but without Christ. After he was saved he said, “I never knew what love meant. I had a wonderful wife, but I never really knew how to love her until I was saved. I learned the real meaning of love when I met Jesus.”
Enrollment is now open for a short course in how to learn to love. There is a way to learn to love even in an environment devoid of parental love. Knowing of the breakdown of role models, Jesus stepped in and demonstrated His special kind of love.
You may be the product of a parentless home or a home where two adults you called parents reared you without love, BUT you can learn to love. Regardless of your age you can learn to love the same way a child is supposed to learn, that is, by feeling and seeing how you are loved. In this case, how you are loved by Jesus Christ.
The Bible says, “God is love.” It doesn’t simply say, “God loves.” He does, of course; but the point is He is love. To learn to love go to the source and experience His love. By doing so you can learn to love.
Notice in our text of I John 4: 19 the process: “We love…because He first loved us.” That is an electrifying one-line summary of how to learn to love. Christ has shown us the true meaning of love by loving us. By experiencing His love we learn how to love. When we commit our life to Christ, we begin to experience His love; and it spontaneously shows in our relationships with others. Three prominent traits of His love for us are noted in our text. As a result of knowing and experiencing these characteristics of love, we spontaneously learn how to love.
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (Vs. 8). Conversely, when you come to know God through Jesus Christ, you have enrolled in a life-long course in how to love.
I. CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL
That is hard for most persons to realize. We tend to put conditions on our acceptance of people. Two obvious reasons why we find it hard to love come into focus in this regard.
* We set standards we want people to come up to so that we can love them. We don’t really love them; we love their good qualities. As miraculous as it is God loves you just as you are. If He loves us, we can learn to love others. READ and APPLY Ephesians 4: 30 – 32.
* A second reason it is hard to love is that we know ourselves so well. We know all the deep dark secrets about our self that are so unlovely that we can hardly believe anyone would love us. We develop defenses to keep people at a distance so they won’t really discover what we are truly like.
Some persons have such a deep need for love that they don’t want people to know their unlovable qualities. After all without the love of Christ as our standard we don’t love people if they aren’t lovable. Some people need love so badly they dare not reveal an imperfection in themselves. Thus, they become defensive and refuse to admit error. This results in a self-righteous attitude. It consequences in persons destroying the very people with which they most want a good relationship.
Some persons try to camouflage their true nature with flashy expensive clothes, fad food habits and dining places, titles, position, and appearance. God doesn’t love you because of what you have or do, but because He is love. Some persons go through life very insecure because they feel they must earn God’s love. They translated this into personal relationships and feel they must earn the love of people also. This makes it difficult for them to accept love because they don’t feel they deserve it.
Can you accept the fact you are accepted even though you are unacceptable?
Parents have you been putting conditions on your child which must be met before you will love him or her? Children is the reverse true? We are to love one another as Christ loved us. How is that? Unconditionally!
Once you begin to love in this way you are a model of love to which the object of your love can better relate.
“We love because Christ first loved us.” If you become a “first lover,” you will find those around you sooner or later will catch on.
II. CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNRESTRICTED
Our love for God and others is directly related, verse 20. By the quality of our love, we reveal God’s love to others. It is imperative that we who call ourselves Christians put God’s love for us into action and love others.
This doesn’t mean we will instantly start to feel warm and friendly toward everybody. Feelings aren’t the center or the circumference of Christian love. Love and affection, even romance, aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Our Christian love is demonstrated by doing for others what Christ has done for us. That means we learn to accept others with all their faults and failures. We accept them even when we can’t approve of what they are doing. God loves you though He might totally disapprove of some things you are doing.
The old cliche is true, “God loves the sinner, but He hates the sin.” You may disapprove of something someone is doing while still showing God’s love for them. That is unrestricted love.
“…if God loved us … we ought to love one another.”
III. CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNINHIBITED
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us…” The word “manifested” means it came out into the open and was made public. Calvary is a bold manifestation of His love.
The Greek word in verse 10 translated “propitiation” isn’t in the working vocabulary of most people. “Propitiation” means the satisfying of God’s holy law. It doesn’t mean we have done something to satisfy God and make ourselves acceptable to God. It means God has lovingly done something making us acceptable to Himself.
Verse 9 explains what: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”
Do you want to learn to love. First, realize loving is giving and receiving. Are you willing to receive God’s love? Can you accept the fact you are accepted even though unacceptable?
God’s love is so unrestricted that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, for you. Now, are you ready to give God your love?
EXODUS 17:1 – 7
[To better comprehend the following read the text first.]Jesus Christ said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
How do you relate to that? How does that relate to you? Many Christians act like: They have never heard that. They don’t believe it, God won’t do it the next time. The question often posed is: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Vs. 7) Paraphrased, “Where are you when I need you, God?”
In our text there are two simultaneous truths. One is historical. It is the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The other is a current spiritual analogy as applied to our post-salvation experiences.
Note, these people were where they were “according to the commandment of the Lord.” It was God’s will for them to be there in the middle of the desert without any water. We Christians often find ourselves in desert places, in adverse conditions. If you have a good memory, you may recall it has been in the desert that some of your greatest blessings have happened. The basic, initially emerging summary truth that is readily apparent, is you don’t have to be disturbed in the desert.
I Peter 1:6,7 explains what was happening to them and helps interpret much of what happens to us. A way of testing your faith is to get you into a position where human impossibility is apparent.
The story that follows is a true story that pictures many of your experiences. This is a perfect analogy of where you have been and/or will be.
The people needed water. This was no imaginary need, it was real. They were bivouacked over a 25 to 30 mile area. Everyone wanted and needed water. There was absolutely no way to get it. Imagine the panic! Observe their reaction. It is how not to act. They had seen God’s grace and guidance many times in their deliverance. Yet, they seem to act as though it has just run out.
With great anticipation, they have come through a vast expanse of desert to an oasis called Meribah, meaning “refreshment,” Their strong desire for water was frustrated–the oasis was dry.
Bewildering! It was absolutely unreal that God would do this to them. Their preoccupation with having no water caused them to overlook one thing. They were there “according to the commandment of the Lord” (Vs. 1). God was not trying to torture or mistreat them. He merely wanted to bless them. Bless them? Yes, bless them.
They were in a position as hopeless as we sometimes find ourselves. Let’s learn the lesson of this story academically that we might not have to learn it experientially. If it is, however, our experience, let’s learn the truths taught in it so we can have the right resources in our hour of need.
There was NO human solution. They were right where God wanted them.
How do you feel in extenuating or impossible circumstances? How do you feel when someone mistreats or crosses you? We want everyone to live, think, and act like us. Why? Because of our pride we want to be dictator. They don’t and won’t. Quit trying to make them. If you are in a position of leadership, you may have to guide them but within their own personality.
How do you feel about air travel? Are you a white-knuckle flyer? Do you remind yourself that the Lord said, “Low I am with you always…” Can’t you simply conclude whether or not a flight is one the Lord wants you to make. If it is, you can’t lose. If you are doing God’s will, you are invincible until His intended work for you is complete. If you are flying in a specific plane “according to the commandment of the Lord” and it crashes, you simply die in God’s will. You can’t lose.
Everybody comes to places where they have to rely on the Lord or exercise the only option—PANIC.
Faith is merely confidence in God’s character. Peace of mind is a result of a spiritual technique. It doesn’t mean to quit working, it just means to start trusting.
They had a real, not imagined, need. They had seen God work many times. By now you would think they should have developed confidence in Him. Based on Romans 8:32 we should have consistent faith in God: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not freely give us all things?”
There is grace at the cross. From there we move into an area of more grace — grace more abundantly. James 4:6 He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
If the Lord has saved you, He has already done the most difficult thing. Surely, He can do the lesser things. Trust Him.
By the thousands those people panicked and complained. A Christian is at his worst under pressure when he panics and can’t think straight. People who have lost their spiritual “cool” can’t be dealt with. Moses knew this. He didn’t try. He went before the Lord in prayer. Moses was practicing what he had preached in Exodus 14:13, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today.”
Now Moses exercised the difficult authority of a leader. He stood up for what was right in the wave of accusation, adversity, and the majority. The people were ready to stone Moses, and he personally practiced Ex. 14:13 while appealing to the people to do the same.
God instructed Moses to stand before the people and strike the rock once. He confidently believed and obeyed the word of God. In the fact of adversity he went forth obediently. Water resulted. He called the name of this place “Meribah,” a place of testing.
This is a picture of salvation. In Isaiah 55:1 water is a picture of salvation. When this water gushed forth, the people didn’t stand around and refuse it with such excuses as: “I am not worthy.” Or, “I’ll drink later.” Or, “Somebody will see me and I am a shy, private person.” Neither should we stand around and refuse salvation with such weak excuses.
Now move rapidly to Numbers 20. This is approximately 40 years later. During these forty years in the wilderness, they have seen God work miracle after miracle. They have repetitiously seen divine faithfulness and all they have done is complain. These are history’s greatest failures. All but Moses, Joshua, and Caleb were unfaithful.
All the old generation had died off. Now there is a new generation to be tested. They, like their parents came to the desert of Sin. Their need is as acute as had been their parents. Again, there is no water. Forty years ago God provided water, but now there is none. How did they react?
“The people contended with Moses,” (Numbers 20:3). These children had learned by the example of their parents, not from the word of and faithfulness of God. They panicked and tried to do the job themselves. Remember, they too are where God wants them. They add a new twist, however, they call this an “evil place” (Nu. 20:5).
They called this place where God wanted them evil and talked about Egypt as wonderful (Vs. 5). Why? They had never been there. This generation was born in the wilderness. They got these ideas from their parents. Often parents discipline
children for things the child has learned from the parent. Parents must teach spiritual values to their children.
Israel had left Egypt, but Egypt had not left the heart of Israel. Sometimes a person is converted, but the world is still in the heart. Get it out.
Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle to pray. Unfortunately now Moses gets raveled. He now digresses from God’s expressed will.
Moses was instructed to strike the first rock with the rod. That rock was called “sewer,” a sharp rock. The rod was the rod of judgment used to part the Nile. That experience spoke of the cross.
Now at the second rock called “Salem,” a high pointed rock Moses is commanded to speak to it. This experience spoke of the resurrection. Moses had the rod of Aaron present, the rod that budded, picturing new resurrected life.
Moses was to speak to the rock. At this point he disobeyed and struck it. Observe how he reacted when out of God’s will: “Here now,, you rebels! He became critical and condemning. “Must WE bring water for you out of this rock?” (Vs. 10.)
In spite of his disobedience in striking the rock, God supplied the needs of the people.
God spoke to Moses and Aaron and said, “you did not believe Me…” Disobedience is always a result of disbelief. God calls disobedience disbelief.
Now turn to Hebrews 3:7ff
“If” introduces volition. That is, the decision is entirely up to the individual.
“His voice” relates to His promise. There are 7,000 promised of God that apply to you in the Scripture.
“Do not harden your hearts…” This is knowing a promise and not applying it.
“in the rebellion,” a reference to Meribah.
“Today,” right now don’t “harden your hearts.”
EPHESIANS 6: 10 – 17
JESUS CHRIST, “the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3: 8).
The work Satan has been doing from the dawn of creation is described in this same verse: “…the devil sinned from the beginning.”
In the wilderness after His baptism, Jesus met Satan one on one and won. In that wilderness confrontation the devil attacked Christ at the three most vulnerable points we human beings have. In each instance Christ applied Scripture and gained the victory.
Throughout His life on earth, these two supernatural superpowers met time and again and in each instance Christ emerged the victor.
Their last confrontation was on Calvary’s cross. There it appeared Satan finally body-slammed Christ and won the ultimate victory as symbolized by the tomb in which the lifeless body of Christ lay. Christ was indeed down — but decidedly not out. In the resurrection He conquered sin, death, and the devil.
Summarily, Colossians 1: 13, 14 says: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin.” Thus, we share Christ’s victory.
For a number of years we lived on the West Bank in New Orleans. Near our home was a massive earthen rampart. It was part of the defense line in the battle of New Orleans. Here the ragtag army of pirates and pioneers under the command of Andrew Jackson met the formidable British forces that had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. A horrendous battle followed with Jackson’s forces victorious.
What wasn’t known in New Orleans that day was the war was over — the British had already surrendered. Communication in that day was so limited the word had not arrived in the Crescent City and the battle was enjoined.
Spiritually we find ourselves in that same posture today. Christ has won the spiritual war. We, however, remain to engage in the mopping-up action. As the forces of Jackson fought like the outcome of the war depended on them, so we must “fight the good fight.”
Every believer is perpetually engaged in spiritual warfare. As in time of war there are war zones and contested zones where the battle isn’t raging at the moment. I saw a graphic example of this in Lebanon where a bloody civil war raged for years. On our landing approach to the Beirut airport our flight pattern took us in over downtown Beirut where buildings could be seen smoldering and vehicles bombed out and burning in the streets. Our flight pattern continued over other sections of the city, one of which was a golf course on which persons were playing. The two areas were close enough so that when we landed we could see the golf course and hear the guns downtown.
Some were literally struggling for their lives at that moment being in the war zone while others seemed uninvolved. Even those that appeared detached would find the time they would be involved in the heat of battle.
That depicts the Christian experience. There are times various ones of us are in the spiritual war zone and other times there is a lull in the action. Does it ever seem to you your lulls are too few and far between?
This spiritual warfare isn’t World War I style where opposing armies wear easily identifiable uniforms and occupy well-marked battle lines in trenches. It is more the Vietnam guerilla warfare type where confusion as to who the enemy is prevails. For that reason God, in His wisdom, helps us identify our enemy in our text: Ephesians 3: 12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…… That is, our real enemy isn’t human beings.
Our real enemy isn’t the people who adhere to counter Christian concepts. We have a tendency to center in on them and fail to realize that they have lost the battle against the real one we are contesting — the devil.
Our real enemy isn’t one another as believers, though sometimes we act as though we are. As a student of history there is an account that helps me keep this fact in focus.
On July 29, 1588, Philip II of Spain sent his Invincible Armada, consisting of over 100 warships, against the greatly out manned British fleet just off the coast of the French port of Gravelines.
The commanding British admiral walked on deck of his flagship just before the battle and found two of his junior officers engaged in a heated quarrel. He grabbed both of then by the nape of the neck and forcing their faces seaward toward the approaching Spanish Armada forcefully said: “Gentlemen, there is your enemy.”
By means of our text our Lord would direct our attention to our true enemy, our adversary, the devil.
There are certain roles most of us encounter as children growing up. Remember the bully? How about the tattletale? Well, was there one in your class who enjoyed starting arguments or fights and then stepped aside and watch the fight? That is the devil. In many instances he knows he isn’t going to be fought against because he diverts attention from himself and causes us to select the wrong enemy instead of him.
Our text says we are engaged in spiritual warfare. The forces of evil are organized for this conflict. Note – - -
I. THE DESIGN
A. “PRINCIPALITIES,” translates the Greek term “ARCHON.” The title emerged in the time of Pericles. It was a reference to the most powerful leader in the land. Satan of course is the Commanding Officer. He has organized his demonic horde for spiritual warfare. An archon is the equivalent of a field general in charge of a certain operation. Principalities are very powerful and authoritative demons.
B. “THE RULERS OF DARKNESS OF THIS AGE,” translates the Greek word “KOSMOKPATOR.” The word comes from a combination of two words. KOSMOS meaning world or universe, and KRATOR meaning ruler. Literally, “world rulers of darkness.” These are the devil’s special forces. They are assigned to work on world rulers and important people in society.
C. “SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES, ” actually means “the spirits of evil in the heavenlies.” This is that massive horde of demons that still work on all of us. This is the rank and file of demons that perpetually attack believers.
Confusing the issue is the fact Satan often masquerades as an angel of light. His demonic horde is also composed of masters of deceit. They even have the capacity of performing “signs and wonders.”
Christ encountered one of these deceivers in the Gadarenean demoniac who had the capacity to speak. Such a demon is called an EGGASTRIMUTHOS demon, which means a ventriloquist demon.
How then are we mere mortals to combat this awesome force?
II. THE DEFENSE
When Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned our text in Ephesians 6, he was in prison. Perhaps he was glancing up at a Roman guard and observing various parts of his uniform as he described our defenses. Roman praetorian guards personified the power of Rome.
A. STAND THEREFORE HAVING GIRDED YOUR WAIST WITH TRUTH (Vs. 14).
The waist is a vital and vulnerable midsection of the torso. The Roman soldiers wore a wide leather belt not unlike those worn by weight lifters. It was to support and strengthen abdominal muscles in time of battle.
This belt was also utilitarian. Attached were loops, hooks, and rings which held such items as a length of rope, a sword, a mace, a sack carrying food and other functional items. Being around the waist made these items immediately available.
The Greek word translated “truth” is ALETHEIA. It signifies that which lies at the base; the real essence of the matter. It is a reference to doctrine. A knowledge of doctrine is essential to survival in spiritual warfare.
If we are going to confront the devil, “the father of all lies,” we must do it with the truth.
B. THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (VS. 14B)
The breastplate of the Roman soldier covered only his shoulders and vital organs. It didn’t cover the arms as that later worn by British knights. The arms were free for protection and productivity.
The righteousness referred to here is the righteousness of Christ. Our righteousness is referred to as “filthy rags.” Rags make poor armor.
The Greek word DIKAIOSUNE, here translated “righteousness,” in old English was translated “right wiseness.” The spelling conveys the meaning. It meant to be right with God the Father by having the righteousness of Christ applied to your account.
C. HAVING SHOD YOUR FEET WITH PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE (VS. 15).
The type sandal worn by a Roman soldier was known as a “caligula.” It was very much like our modern sandals with the exception that it had iron cleats not unlike a track shoe. It enabled the soldier to be sure-footed. The soldier could be on the offensive by moving quickly without fear of falling.
Believers are to be on the offensive if we expect to win in our spiritual warfare. our offense is “the gospel of peace.”
D. THE SHIELD OF FAITH (VS. 16).
Faith is our shield against the fiery darts of the devil. This depicts believers as under attack. Faith is our shield.
The fiery darts are from “the wicked one.” This translates the Greek HO PONEROS meaning a specific adversary, the devil.
E. THE HELMET OF SALVATION (VS. 17).
Certain characteristics of salvation are depicted by the Roman helmet. I saw one of these exquisitely crafted helmets in a Roman museum. Some characteristics associated with salvation:
1. It was lined with leather. The first reference to animal
skins being used as clothing related to Adam and Eve immediately after their sin. The lamb was slain, pictorial of the ultimate slaying of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
2. The helmet was made of brass, a strong metal affording protection. Christ secures and protects our salvation.
3. On top of the helmet was a small crown emblematic of the authority of Rome. The Christian is crowned with the crown of righteousness provided by Christ.
4. The helmet had a chin strap to hold it secure. Christ is our security.
F. THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (VS. 17).
When Rome set out on world conquests they used long awkward swords and lost most battles. They then changed to a short two-edged sword called a “machaira.” By engaging in close-up hand to hand combat they conquered vast regions.
“The sword of the spirit” is in the genitive case meaning “the sword from the Spirit.” “The Word of God” is the sword.
G. PRAYER (VS. 18)
No believer is ever successful in spiritual warfare who does not have a vibrant prayer life. It is our means of reporting to our Commander and receiving orders from Him.
Our Korean brothers and sisters in Christ are worthy examples in prayer. The begin each day at 4:30 a.m. in prayer. Every Friday night they pray from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. For months one lady showed up with her husband’s shoes. He was not a Christian and she came to pray for his salvation. She brought his shoes each time saying, “Someday he will be here.” After more than a year he came to know Christ and now prays with her every Friday night.
In Papua, New Guinea they have a prayer uniformed patrol. They wear badges stating: “Prayer and Peace.” Whenever a community is having trouble, instead of sending in the police, they send in the “Prayer and Peace Patrol” to pray for the troubled area. It’s working.
Let’s not fail to utilize the resource of prayer.
MATTHEW 6: 24
JESUS CHRIST used His peerless capacity to draw listeners attention with a simple story illustrating a sublime truth. He used eyesight to dramatize the importance of having undivided loyalty.
Immediately He moved to use one of the many contenders for our loyalty as an illustration of all. Following the story of what we are willing to see is the story of who we are willing to serve.
Don’t let Satan decoy you into thinking this is a message on giving money. It isn’t. That is peripheral. It is a message on who you are going to serve. More specifically, it is a message on who or what is your God.
Jesus Christ in simple clear terms said, “NO man can serve two masters…” Though often tried it simply cannot be done. The warfare between contending masters is waged daily on the battlefield of human hearts. The conflict is between MATERIALISM and NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY.
So completely has materialism saturated our outlook on life that we can proceed only a short way on the road to Christian maturity until this subtle cancer has to be diagnosed and removed. Materialism is malignant. The desire for the things money can buy and the earthly security money can create has always been a challenge to Christian faith. It has never been as systematically injected into the human soul as presently.
Christ knew of the human struggle with materialism.
In the gospels He told 38 parables. Out of the 38, 16 concerned how to handle our money.
Christ said more about money and possessions that He did about heaven and hell combined.
In the gospels 1 out of 10 verses deals with money or possessions. That is a total of 288 verses in the four gospels.
In the Bible there are more than 500 references to prayer and less than 500 references to faith. There are over 2,000 references to money and possessions.
CHRIST APPEALS TO US TO…
I. CONSIDER THE CANDOR “No man can serve two masters…”
SERVE = DOULEUEIN (dulos = SLAVE) = TO BE A SLAVE TO
A slave was a living tool. A master had life-and-death control over a slave. To be a “slave” meant for a master to be constantly, entirely, 100% devoted to obedience to that one master. It would be utterly impossible to have two masters. Slavery involved:
A. The slave had no rights of his own – there was single ownership.
B. The slave had no time of his own – full time service is a trait. Emancipation Proclamation.
MASTER = KURIOS = ABSOLUTE OWNERSHIP
When Jesus became my Master I read everything He said and studied about all that He did. I memorized His words and dreamed of His deeds. It was as though I was living with the Man = and you know = I was.
II. CONSIDER THE CHOICE “God or mammon”
“Mammon” is a Chaldean name for the money-god. In Hebrew mammon (Mamon) is a word for material possessions. In His use of the term Jesus is representing material goods as a rival god, a power that seeks to dominate us. Jesus knew “…the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6: 10a). It is not money that is the root, but the love of it. One may have little or no money and love it to the point it is a god.
In making this statement initially Jesus was addressing thing-oriented, greedy, avaricious, covetous, manipulative religious leaders who were grasping for more things.
In telling the greedy young ruler to “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12: 33) He was telling him to get rid of his false god.
When Jesus dined with Zacchaeus and the “wee little man” got his life right with the Lord he volunteered to get rid of his false god and declared: “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will repay back four times the amount” (Luke 19: 8).
It is not always used in an evil sense. Its ancient use means “to entrust.” It was a banking term. Gradually the word use changed from “that which is entrusted to another” TO “That in which one puts trust.” The change of word usage reveals a change in the hearts of people. A person’s god is the power in which he trusts. We become slaves to our causes.
It needs to be made perfectly clear that one can’t serve God and mammon, but you can serve God with mammon. Many do.
In His earthly ministry Jesus was supported financially by wealthy women who enabled Him to give to the poor. He dined with the wealthy Zacchaeus. He attended the lavish wedding in Cana.
Our society’s preoccupation with self inclines persons to be predisposed to choose mammon. Our cultures self-centeredness, our narcissism, is clearly forbidden in Scripture.
God’s purpose in creating us initially and redeeming us was for fellowship with us. He created us for worship. If we worship anything other than God, we engage in idolatry and fail to glorify Him.
Many husbands and some wives overly committed to their career ambitions are not only putting material matters ahead of God but also ahead of the family. The marriage suffers and children are the losers.
In choosing to serve the Lord we need to go back to the original meaning of the word which was “to entrust.”
Don’t tune me out until the following thought is completed. Christianity is the most materialistic religion in the world. It takes creation seriously. Christianity does not divorce itself from the material world, but realizes a responsibility to be a steward of it. New Testament stewardship means we belong completely to the Lord and as such we are managers of His possessions He puts in our care.
Our regular question should be: “What does the Master want me to do with this possession or opportunity?”
Christians are materialistic in the sense they realize everything, including themselves, belongs to the Lord. As a result we live to please our Lord in managing His material universe and all that is in it.
It is impossible to be without a master. Everyone has one. The master is trusted.
“Trust, faith, belief, and hope,” we still toss these words around like a child does “eeny, meeny, miney, mo” but the splendor has gone out of them. This is true because we really trust in assembly lines, have faith in insurance policies, believe in mass production and place our hope in big government. None of these or all of them combined don’t bring fulfillment.
At the end of World War II the death of many adults left a lot of orphans. At the end of the war the allies provided camps for these children in which they were fed and cared for. Though well cared for the children couldn’t sleep. Even eating three meals a day they would lie awake at night. Psychologists studied why they could not sleep.
They proposed a solution. Every night when the children went to bed someone went down the row of beds and put a piece of bread in the hand of each child. The last thing they felt at night was the bread in their little hands. Soon they were sleeping all night. Experience had taught them there was no hope for tomorrow. Though they ate well each day they were apprehensive about tomorrow. Now they could sleep because their anxiety had been overcome by the bread in their hand as they went to bed. They were not afraid of the future.
Do you know God has given us the equivalent of that piece of bread? His bread in our hand is this: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
We don’t need to unduly stockpile for the future. God has the assets to provide for His children. Christ reminds us: “Don’t you know that your heavenly Father feeds the birds, and are you not much better than they?” (Matthew 6: 26).
If He feeds the birds He will surely feed His own children.
Mammon is a poor god for it makes for itself wings and flies away. It is a gilded toy that won’t work.
We CAN choose. Christ always defined the alternatives: sheep or goats; figs or thistles; right or wrong; the Father or the world; God or mammon.
We MUST choose. Nature requires it. One can’t be both selfish and generous. You can’t travel in two directions at once. Proverb: “A man can’t carry two melons in one hand at a time. You can’t sail under two flags.
III. CONSIDER THE CONCLUSION “Hate one and love the other.”
Those who love the world, hate Christ. Those who love Christ hate the world.
When traveling to a foreign country it is wise to exchange U.S. currency for the currency of the country to which you are traveling. That is no less true in the spiritual realm. In our present life our currency is dollars. In the Kingdom of Heaven it is souls. By a form of divine alchemy our dollars are converted into souls. The exchange must be made before leaving this country, however.
Let’s watch two couples about to embark on their heavenly journey. They are approaching the end of their pilgrimage called life.
The first couple pauses on the brink of a dark foreboding chasm which an angel tells them is the grave. Reassuringly the angel tells them they need not be afraid of that dark shadowy place. Confirmation is given they will pass through it safely. “Look beyond it,” the angel appeals, “look on the other side.”
In amazement they look to see shimmering through the mists in the distance the beautiful “City of God.”
“It’s so beautiful,” the woman joyously exclaims, “so very beautiful!”
Turning to her husband she says, “Let’s go at once.”
“Just a moment,” said the guide, “first you must put down on this side all those material things you are carrying in your hands. Just throw them on the trash pile of useless things. The litter is what others before you have left.”
The couple froze and said nothing.
Sternly the angel said, “Nothing but yourself can go beyond the grave. Put it down.”
“But, you don’t understand,” the man appealed. “These are our valuables. We have spent a life time saving for them. They represent a lifetime of hard work, thrift, and shrewd business investments.”
“They won’t be needed. Such possessions are absolutely of no value in the ‘City of God.’ The very streets are paved with gold.”
Slowly the man released his grip and dropped his all on the scrap heap.
Seeing this his wife clung more closely to her treasures. The angel pointed to a box she held tenaciously.
Pleadingly she said, “These are my special treasures that made me the envy of friends.”
“In the presence of the King of King such tawdry trinkets aren’t allowed. You have to be attired in white robes of righteousness.”
Hesitantly she tossed it down but clutched a velvet jewel case. Patiently the angel held out his hand. Slowly she opened the case displaying a gorgeous strand of pearls.
“These are priceless pearls. They are the real kind, the ones from the sea. Everyone is a perfect spherical and has a deep luster. The necklace has great sentimental value. I turned down a very generous offer from a jeweler for them. To me they are priceless.”
“A mere bauble!” the celestial host said. “Don’t you know the gates of the City of God are each one pearl. The rings on your fingers must go also.”
“These are my diamond and emerald rings. These flawless stones are priceless.”
“Infinitesimal! Such stones are used for building purposes in the New Jerusalem. Look, the mist is lifting. It’s time to go.”
Again they looked and saw the city “having the glory of God and her light was like a stone most precious…and the foundations of the wall were garnished with all manner of precious stones” — emeralds, sapphires, amethysts.
Empty handed the couple went down into the chasm and passed through the gates beyond. They were saved “as if by fire.” That which represented their treasures were left on the earthly scrap heap. Then it became clear what the writer of the Revelation (18:17) meant when he wrote, “For in one hour so great riches is come to naught.”
Back on earth another couple approached the end of their pilgrimage. They came with no reluctance and a much lighter load. With no sign of regret they placed their possessions on earth’s scrap heap. Expectantly their eyes were turned toward the City of God.
The gates of the Holy City swung open and joy-bells rang. Amazed and joyfully the couple stood amid a crowd waiting to greet them. “Welcome Home,” they shouted. Many of them the couple had never seen. One of these strangers said, “Next to our beloved Savior you are my best friends.”
“How can this be since we have never seen many of you before?”
One answered for many. “We were in far-distant heathen lands, but messengers came to bring us the good news of salvation and that is why we are here. Since we arrived God has looked over His account books and told us you were responsible for those messengers. Since it was announced this morning that you were coming this crowd that you made it possible to hear the good news has been gathering to welcome you and say thanks.”
Excitedly they had a momentary flashback to times down on earth when after praying it over they had given money they could have used on themselves to support missionaries and the cause of Christ in their local church.
Just then, Oh, then the dear Savior’s face shone upon them and He spoke, “Well done, good and faithful servants, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you rulers over many things.”
Hear now the Savior speak to you: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6: 19, 20).
GENESIS 1: 1
JESUS CHRIST Is spoken of as Creator: Colossians 1. When?
How old is the earth, really?
Estimated ages for the earth range from 6,000 years to 5 billion years. The two age estimates are so different they can’t be reconciled. One has to be wrong. The disparity is illustrated by the following.
If you were to stack Bibles with thin pages, allowing each page to represent a year, the stack representing 6,000 years would be about knee high.
Using the same ratio, the stack representing 5 billion years would reach 114 miles into the stratosphere.
Which stack do you choose as representative of the age of earth?
The science of dating the age of the earth is called GEOCHRONOLOGY. “Geo” means Earth and “chronology” refers to the sequence of time.
There are approximately 70 methods of dating the Earth. Each is based on the principle that natural processes have occurred steadily through time, producing cumulative results that can be measured. These studies reveal the upper age of the Earth. Only a few of them suggest the Earth is very old. These are the ones the secular press emphasizes to the uninformed public.
There is a principle that can account for the great variance. The dating processes that suggest an old Earth are based on GRADUALISM. This theory suggests that through a slow process everything has evolved. The time required is up to 5
DYNAMIC large scale cataclysmic events suggest accelerated transformation.
Following are some methods of dating about which the public is generally uninformed. CHECK THE EARTH’S OIL PRESSURE
Have you ever seen one of the old movies that depicted the explorers striking oil? They were called gushers. Great pressure caused the well to spout oil high into the air when the oil deposit was tapped and the pressure released. All of this pressure had been trapped beneath sedimentary rock. Even the most dense sedimentary rock is porous to some degree. With time that pressure would lead out.
Discoveries have exposed high pressure wells at great depths. If those oil deposits had been there more than 5,000 years in some cases, based on the porous nature of the soil, the pressure would have left.
The pressure of these wells suggests a young earth.
STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT
Some things are so technical and complex they are hard to make simple. This is one worth struggling with.
Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, that being 6 trillion miles. There are galaxies that are alleged to be billions of
light years away. That means light that left these solar bodies 5 billion years ago would just now be reaching the Earth. This appears to be a point in favor of an old Universe. It isn’t.
Now scientists, using what is known as Riemannian Distances, know light might well be taking what they call a “shortcut” as it travels through space. Based on observations of 27 binary star systems, it appears that light in deep space travels in curved paths on Riemannian surfaces. Using a very complex scientific formula, light from infinite space would reach the earth in only 15.71 years.
Using this formula, if the distances in space are measured correctly and some solar bodies are billions of light years away, light from them would reach us in 15.71 years.
Another explanation that would discount the theory that light from deep outer space supports evolution deserves consideration. A number of observations over the last 300 years indicate that the speed of light is slowing. It extrapolates to having been 500 billion times faster 6000 years ago. If that is true, light from a 5 billion light year star would have reached Earth in only 3 days.
THE MAGNETIC FIELD HAS A LOT OF PULL FOR CREATION
The rate of the depletion of the strength of the earth’s main magnetic field is measurable. The electromagnetic dipole magnet in the conductive core of the earth is being consumed at an observable rate. Using this known rate of decay, it can be projected how weak the signal will be at a certain time.
By running this formula in reverse, it can be determined how strong the magnetic force would have been at a certain time in the past. If the earth were more than a few thousand years old the magnetic force would have been so great it would have exploded. There is no way this magnetic force could have been in existence for billions of years. It requires a young earth explanation.
Earth is consistently gathering dust from the cosmos at a measurable rate. Because of wind and water erosion it does not build up appreciably. The rate is known, however. The Earth and its moon travel through the same region of space. Thus, the same rate of interplanetary dust falls on both. With an awareness of this rate, and assuming the Universe to be billions of years old, NASA space scientists were able to calculate how deep the dust would be on the moon. They, knowing this, designed the lunar lander with large pods for feet to prevent it from sinking into the dust. Estimates of the depth of the dust, based on the known rate of its falling, was conservatively 54 feet on the moon. This would surely prove an old Universe.
Touchdown, lunar lander. Surprise, the depth of the dust varied from 1/8 of an inch to three inches. Required time for such a collection of interplanetary dust? Fewer than 8,000 years.
The era of fish was suppose to have occurred about 340 million years ago. According to evolutionary theory, the oceans are at least 2,000 million years old.
When volcanoes erupt, the content of the erupting material consists of as much as 20% water. This extremely hot water, having been under the Earth under high pressure, is spewed into the atmosphere as steam and upon cooling, condenses in the form of rain. This is new water on the earth’s surface and is called “juvenile water.” Each time a volcano erupts, more water is added to the oceans.
Question: How long would it take for all the ocean water to have accumulated from volcanic eruptions?
About twelve eruptions occur a year, producing roughly one cubic mile of water. By calculating backwards, it can be determined how long it would have taken to produce the 340,000,000 cubic miles of water in the oceans. At the rate of one cubic mile per year, it would have taken 340,000,000 years. Problem!
That means that 340,000,000 years ago there was no ocean. How could fish have evolved if there was not water?
The rim of Niagara Falls is wearing away at a predictable rate. To have eroded from its natural precipice would have taken only about 5,000 years.
Upon visiting a cave with limestone stalactites you will likely be told they were created in 100 thousand years. Under the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., stalactites have grown to a length of 5 feet in less than 50 years. No more than 10,000 years would have been required at this rate to produce large stalactites.
The World That Perished, John C. Whitcombe, Jr., Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1973, p. 114.
II CORINTHIANS 9: 15
JESUS CHRIST’S birth was God’s way of saying, “Merry Christmas, planet earth. I have a present for you.”
JESUS CHRIST was the reference when Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift…” (II Cor. 9:15).
The gift is indescribable, inexpressible, marvelous, and wonderful. The gift is Jesus Christ Himself.
Our distinctive southern tongues have a way of making certain words sound alike. Two such words are presents and presence. “Presents” meaning gifts and “presence” meaning to be in close proximity. God’s present to the population of planet earth was the presence of His Son, Jesus Christ.
An appropriate gift does two things:
It reveals the love of the one giving it.
It suits the needs of the one receiving it.
Isn’t it rewarding when you give a gift for the recipient to say, “How like you to give such a thoughtful gift and it is just what I wanted and needed.”
The gift of Christ as Savior does both. Our response should be, “How like you dear God to give me just what I wanted and needed.”
A gift is an expression of the giver’s heart. The recipient gets it but not because it is earned, merited, or deserved. It is simply an expression of the loving heart of the giver.
Wouldn’t it be a magical Christmas if you placed neatly wrapped packages under the tree with names of family members on them and then set up a cash box to collect a fixed sum for each? The moment you received money for one it would not be a gift, but a purchase.
In Bud Blake’s “Tiger” comic strip two little boys were talking about Christmas. One said, “My folks got us an artificial tree this year.” The other little guy asked, “Does that bother you?”
“No,” was the response, “just as long as the gifts are real.”
The gift of God the Father is Jesus. His name evidences the scope of the gift. Jesus means, “Jehovah is Salvation.” Thus, in the end, the gift is salvation.
Suppose God had said, “You can purchase your salvation.” That would have left out millions who are too poor to buy their salvation.
Suppose He had said, “Be good enough and I will give it to you,” or “Do enough good deeds and you can merit your salvation.” Who could have done that much good or behaved that well?
Suppose God had said, “If you do sufficient penance, or suffer enough, you can deserve your salvation.” Some, having a clouded understanding of just how far their sins had separated them from God, might not have performed sufficiently.”
In Rome, Italy I have seen persons climbing stairs on their knees as an act of penance, thinking they were garnering the favor of God by their work.
In Brazil, I have seen persons walk gravel roads on their knees hoping to gain God’s favor by their penance.
There are millions who live under this misconception today.
Suppose God had said, “I am going to grade on the curve and if you score high enough you will pass and get your salvation.” When Jesus entered the earthly scene He messed up the curve.
Instead, God said, “I will give you salvation if you will receive the gift.” The gift is His presence.
I walked through the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, and reflected on an account I had read in the book by Corrie Ten Boom entitled “Christmas Remembered.” It was her memory of her experience in such a Nazi hell hole.
It was Christmas Eve. Corrie and the other Christians in the camp had placed meager handmade decorations on a few trees in celebration of Christ’s birth. Beneath some of these trees were the lifeless bodies of fellow prisoners who had died and been thrown there.
Corrie was weary of trying to tell people of the love of Jesus and physically fatigued as she glanced out a crack to see the bodies by the light of the moon. Amid all the moaning and groaning she heard a child’s voice pleading, “Mommy, come to Ollie. Ollie is so alone.”
Corrie knew one of those bodies beneath those trees was that of Ollie’s mother. Corrie went to the bunk of the child and softly said, “Ollie, mommy can’t come, but I want to tell you of One who did come on that first Christmas and that He will come to be with you right now.” Corrie continued to tell how Jesus in love had come to earth and how He lovingly died on the cross of Calvary for our sins. She proceeded to tell little Ollie how the death and resurrection of Jesus enabled Him to provide a lovely house in heaven where there were no cruel people; only those who had love for Jesus and one another. In faith, little Ollie trusted Jesus that night and found great comfort in His presence.
A few days later Corrie saw Ollie with her sores and wounds bandaged only with toilet paper. She could tell the child was in pain but asked anyway: “Ollie, where is Jesus?” With a warm though weak smile the child said, “He is in heaven where He has provided a little house for me.”
“Is He just there in heaven?”
“No,” she said, “he is here with me and when I hurt, I let the pain remind me of His suffering and dying for me to provide that little house in heaven.”
The Nazis saw to it that the little house didn’t stay vacant long. Ollie died and went into the presence of the Lord, all because of a present from the Lord — Jesus Himself was that gift of salvation. Ollie went to heaven because of Christ’s presence.
Let’s consider some passages of Scripture as though they are correspondence delivered to us. First,I. SPECIAL DELIVERY FROM ZACHARIAS (LUKE 1: 5 – 25)
Zacharias and his wife lived in a little hillside town near Jerusalem where he served as a priest in the temple.
An angel appeared to him and told him his wife Elizabeth would have a child.
Verse 18, Zacharias’ understanding of nature prompted him to respond in a natural way and both doubt and question the angel’s message: “How can I know this is true? I am an old man myself, and my wife is getting on in years….” He was so alarmed the angel said, “Fear not…” Well, why not? Why should he not have been virtually terrorized?
The text answers, “Thy prayers have been answered.”
Because of his doubt, God sealed his lips until the birth of his son, John the Baptist. This should be a clear indication to us that God doesn’t like His children going around sowing discord and stirring up dissension.
When his son was born Zacharias began to praise the Lord.
To some, faith comes after hesitation. When it does come, then comes praise.
II. PERSON TO PERSON FOR MARY (LUKE 1: 26 – 55).
In Nazareth a young virgin received an angelic message regarding having a baby. Normal child birth is exciting but this is something special. Husbands often get more excited than wives. Such an excited husband spoke excitedly over the phone, “My wife is pregnant and having contractions every two minutes.”
The operator questioned, “Is this her first child?”
“No, you dummy, this is her husband.”
Parental arrangements for marriage were made for children when at a very young age. This was considered both an engagement and marriage. As they approached marriageable age, they entered into a one year period of betrothal. During this time they lived apart but were legally married. Unfaithfulness during this time was punishable by death.
This process of marriage is the reason secular writings referred to virgins who were widows.
Six months after visiting Zacharias, Gabriel was sent to Nazareth with a message for a teenage girl named Mary.
Mary was frightened and the angel again spoke that familiar line: “Fear not…”
Why not? Because, “You have found favor with God.”
A. Mary said of her son, He was her “savior” (Vs. 47).
Mary was special. She was “blessed” (Vs. 28). What Jesus thought of her and what she thought of Him can be learned from the Scripture.
Christ and Mary must each be acknowledged for what they are.
Some failing to understand the Scripture try to attribute to Mary the work of Christ. Only He saves; not His mother.
Mary never hinted she was savior.
Jesus never hinted Mary was savior.
Mary stated Jesus was Savior. In verse 47 she called Him “my savior.”
Jesus stated He was savior. He said of Himself, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
A Christian receptionist in a doctor’s office tried several times to explain to her friend this basic principle. Over and over she tried to communicate that Mary, His wonderful and blessed mother, could not do what only Christ could do.
One day the lady called and asked to speak to the doctor about a medical problem. The receptionist said, “He isn’t in, but his mother is. Will she do?” Further explanation of this parallel helped the caller understand this truth.
After calming the fears of Mary, that angel told her she was going to have a baby. She never questioned the fact.
She simply asked “How?” (Vs. 34).
The supernatural nature of what was to happen never puzzled her. The Holy Spirit would supernaturally invest an ovum with the germ of life, and the child to be born would be divine.
This clearly teaches Christ was conceived of a virgin. If you deny that, you have an inadequate concept of God. If God couldn’t do that, He couldn’t save anyone. If your view of God is of One who couldn’t do that, in the view of a book authored over thirty years ago by J. B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small, he writes, ” My God, the God of the Bible, could handle that easily, and He did.”
The angel greeted her, “Hail.” The word was CHAIRE which means “rejoice.” She did so in a big way. She did so because she chose to.
The fact that as a single pregnant girl she might lose her beloved Joseph and even be stoned did not repel her. She disregarded the possible social stigma.
Mary then made one of the most courageous statements ever recorded: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Vs. 38).
Her response: “I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say” (Vs. 38). Self had been brought under God’s control.
How you respond to the Lord determines the direction of your life. You are a sum total of your choices.
Later in life, under different circumstances, Mary said to Christ’s disciples, “Do whatever He says for you to do” (John 2:5). She was urging them to respond as she had responded.
When I left for college, my cousin who had played basketball in college with the man who was to be my coach said, “Whatever he tells you to do — do it. He did twice as much in college as he will ever ask you to do.”
In effect Mary was saying, “Do as I have done.” That is her message to us.
Remember we pray: “Thy will be done…” Not, “Thy will be changed…”
B. Of Mary’s soon-to-be born Son, it was said: (Vs. 32)
“He shall be great…”
“…called the Son of the Highest.”
C. Of Him she said:
“My soul does magnify the Lord” (Vs. 46).
“Magnify” comes from the word MEGALUNEI, which means to laud, to celebrate.
I am sometimes asked, “Don’t you ever get discouraged?” Yes, but I am never going to tell you when I get discouraged because that might discourage you and that would discourage me and I can hardly stand my present discouragement.”
“My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Vs. 47).
The coming of God to her as Savior was the cause of her rejoicing.
Some persons sigh, “I just love Jesus.” If you do, notify your face.
Joy is the banner that flies over the castle of the heart when the King is in residence.
III. RETURN RECEIPT REQUIRED FROM YOU
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).
Christmas was the time of Christ’s birth. He was the gift, salvation embodied. For the gift to be yours, you must receive it.
Three responses are potential. They are:
BELIEVERS, NONBELIEVERS, MAKE BELIEVERS.
Which are you?
Do you rank among those who say there is “a” Savior or perhaps even Jesus is “the” Savior?
Can you truthfully say, “Jesus is MY Savior?”
“The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23a).
I TIMOTHY 2: 1 – 4
JESUS CHRIST paused at the grave of His dear friend Lazarus and in essence prayed, “Father, I thank you for the death of My dear friend Lazarus…”
Talking to God the Father is therapeutic. With this in mind, one who walked closely with the Lord exhorted his young colleague and, through his inspired writing, us, to make it a practice to talk to the Lord. Four types of such engagement with the Lord are encouraged.
I. WHAT WE ARE TO DO
A. SUPPLICATIONS (I Timothy 2: 1a)
This means to recognize a need and ask God to meet it. It arises from a sense of inadequacy and inability to meet a need. It is a request made of God to meet the need.
B. PRAYERS (I Timothy 2: 1b)
This word means to draw near to God and pour our heart out to Him. It is a general term for worship of the God whose name is hallowed.
C. INTERCESSIONS (I Timothy 2: 1c)
The word was used to refer to the authority to enter into the King’s presence and submit a petition on someone’s behalf. It reveals we have personal access to God and personal confidence we will be received and heard.
D. THANKSGIVING (I Timothy 2: 1d)
This is an expression of gratitude not only for blessings bestowed and prayers answered, but for the very privilege of praying. It is the spirit in which all prayer should be offered and life lived.
1. PEOPLE OFTEN FAIL TO GIVE THANKS
Jesus told of ten men who were healed of the dread disease of leprosy. Only one turned back to say thanks. Would our present conduct indicate we would have been one of the nine or the one out of the nine?
We live in a society of ingrates. When was the last time you saw anyone bow and pray before a meal in a public place? Do you regularly thank God for all things?
A prominent criminal lawyer, Sam Leibowits, was responsible for sparing 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever thanked Him. Daily our Lord spares us. Do we thank Him?
I read recently of a man who tried to stab his wife to death. Though he stabbed her several times he botched the job and then got sorry for her and took her to the hospital. Doctors waged a battle to save her life and were successful. After her release from the hospital she died from a blood clot in her lungs. The husband sued the hospital for $2.5 million.
Did you read of the two Texas Good Samaritans who came upon a wrecked car that was on fire? They managed to free one of the two occupants and drag her to safety. Bystanders estimated they had about 80 seconds to think and act. The car exploded before they could rescue the second person. She suffered serious burns and is suing the rescuers for not getting her out first.
Do some of our responses to the Lord indicate similar ingratitude?
Columnist Billy Rose wrote an unbelievable story of ingratitude during his brilliant career in the 40′s and 50′s. ”
It was a cold German night when a little German soldier walked out on the bridge. The wind sliced through his dirty uniform. He looked down into the river. The water was red, as red as the sun going down behind the Bavarian hills. “Why not?” he mumbled. “Germany is dying. Why not die with her? A car rumbled over the boards. He pressed against the guard rail as it went by. There were French soldiers in it. He started walking again. Then he stopped. Where was he going? To Munich? What was in Munich? More gray faces. More beaten people. The Oberleutnant had said, “Go home.” No papers. No train ticket. Just “Go home.” Thousands like him were on the roads. Feet wrapped in rags. Hungry. Sleeping anywhere. Stealing.
The little soldier turned and looked back. He was alone on the bridge. On the far bank the sun caught a bit of metal. Someone was fishing. Someone in a long coat. The man on the bridge closed his eyes. He rested his hands on the rail. It was cold. Then he jumped. As he hit the water, there was a great roaring in his head. A roar like a crowd shouting his name. He felt his boots carrying him down. And down. When he opened his eyes a strange face was looking down at him. “Easy.” He was in a kitchen. The strange face smiled. “Get this inside you,” it said, “You’ll feel better.”
The soldier took the cup in both hands. He saw an oven and by the oven his uniform drying on a chair. “Lucky I was on the bank when you went under,” chuckled the stranger. “You’re the only thing I caught today.” The soldier pulled the blanket up around him. “Got to be too much for you, eh?” the fisherman went on. “A lot of our men feel that way. But it’s no good. There’s too much work to be done. You look weak. Why don’t you stay here tonight?”
The soldier got up and started putting on his clothes. “If you’re going to Munich,” said the man in the kitchen, “maybe I can help you. I have a friend there. I’ll give you a letter to him. What’s your name?” The soldier handed him a damp identification card and went on dressing. Out on the road, he looked at the letter. Under the date, December 21, 1918, it read:
As a favor to me would you please give food and lodging to this young man until he can find work? His name is Corporal Adolf Hitler.
Hitler, instead of showing his thankfulness, became the dog to bite the Jewish hand that fed him. Our rejection of Jesus Christ and/or our disobedience of Him is even more reprehensible and unforgivable.
2. GOD OCCASIONALLY REFUSES TO ACCEPT THANKS
There are times our prayers go unheard. The Psalmist reminds us of this: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18).
Amos lived in an evil but religious society. During the week they practiced their injustices and other unrighteous acts. On the Sabbath they came together and made demonstrative sacrifices and sang praises to the Lord. In response God said:
“I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fatted peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5: 21 – 24).
Their day of their sacred assemblies was very popular with the people. They regularly gathered in large numbers and went though the motions with deep feelings. However, their worship was sterile.
God would not accept their “burnt offering.” This was an offering totally consumed by fire. It was intended to be a gift to the Lord to attract God’s presence. It was rejected.
God rejected their “peace offering.” This was a fellowship offering. It was to symbolize a harmonious relationship between the people and God.
Even the harmonious songs of praise were not acceptable.
Amos used images to show the error of their popular concept of the Day of the Lord (Vss. 18 – 20).
One was of a man who ran from a lion only to run into a bear. The other was of a man who ran into his home seeking security and was bitten by a snake.
As these people sought protection, so the Israelites gathered in their sacred assemblies. Like those who sought safety only to encounter another judgment, so these faithless people seeking refuge in their assemblies were finding the judgment of God on them. Before their worship, praise, and thanksgiving could be accepted, they needed to practice two things during the week.
God requires “justice” and “righteousness” in the lives of people before their thanksgiving is acceptable. This means thanks giving must be preceded by thanks living. II. FOR WHOM WE ARE TO DO IT
A. FOR ALL MEN (VS. 1)
If you believe the Bible when it says (1) God loves all people and (2) that Jesus died for all people THEN You should pray for ALL people == friends and opponents.
B. KINGS AND ALL WHO ARE IN AUTHORITY
As with all elections some rejoice and others have remorse. Regardless of who wins, someone loses. Pray for both but particularly for the one who assumes authority over you.
Governmental positions of authority have their origin with God: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1).
God uses leaders. He either uses them as a channel of blessings or as an instrument through which to judge and punish His people. God not only disciplines individuals, He does nations, also.
Take heart from Proverbs 21: 1: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”
God doesn’t get voted out. He doesn’t even get voted on.
III. WHY WE ARE TO PRAY
A. FOR OUR SAKE
“That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:2).
In an orderly society persons must voluntarily submit themselves to authority or anarchy results.
Sometimes the people work against this. Sometimes despotic leaders work against it. That gives us all the greater reason to pray for them.
As Samuel said, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.”
B. FOR THEIR SALVATION (Vss. 4 – 6)
1. “There is one God” (Vs. 5a)
2. “One Mediator” (Vs. 5b)
A mediator is one who goes between two parties to restore their relationship. To do so he must be equal with both parties.
That is why there is “one” Mediator, Emmanuel, “God with us.”
3. “One ransom” (Vs. 6)
The Greek word translated “ransom” is ANTILUTRON.
“Anti” implies substitution, in place of, or instead of.
“Lutron” stresses the price to be paid for the one to be released.
The provision was universal, “for all.”
It is actually only for those who accept God’s conditions, who are described as – - – “The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 28). The “many” is a reference to all who receive Christ.
The price is noted: “We have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of our sins” (Ephesians 1:7).
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
FEBRUARY 22, 2004
JESUS CHRIST said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13: 5.
Our beloved Lord has been and is creatively at work in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Our every attainment enabled by Him gives us cause to – - – -
I. CHERISH THE PAST (VERSE 6)
“The Lord is my helper.”
It is He who has blessed and honored this organization in the past.
Years ago a commitment was made by those who held in trust this organization.
The commitment was to affect the community not reflect it.
Knowing that divine operation often waits on human cooperation persons committed themselves to that end.
Across America dynamic persons aglow with zeal have faithfully served our Lord under the banner of FCA in arenas where the church is barred. Marching in cadence with the heartbeat of Calvary they have won many victories. The legion of loyalists who have ministered faithfully have given us an admirable legacy.
Jesus who spoke the Universe into existence and then walked across a bit of real estate in Asia Minor with a cross on His back has enabled our every victory. The praiseworthy past He has enabled is prologue to a promising future.
Our past should well be encapsulated in I Chronicles 29:11:
“Yours, O Lord is the greatness, the power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And you reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”
Our theme for summer camps this year is a dramatic statement made by Jesus Christ.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
If we believe that and proclaim it we will be among the most criticized non-PC people in America. We should not marvel that there is only one way. We should rejoice there is a way. In order to have the courage of our convictions we need to know who said that. Who was Jesus? John 1: 1 states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Logos was the Greek term translated “Word” and is a reference to Jesus Christ. To know the meaning of a word it helps to know how it was used at the time employed. About the time of the writing of the gospels the philosopher Philo used it to mean “all that is known or knowable about God.” That is Jesus, He is all that is known or knowable about God because He was God.
In the Greek text “In the beginning” literally means, “Before time began to begin the Word was.” He is eternal. There never was a time He wasn’t and there will never be a time He isn’t.
Skeptics scoff at the idea of Him being God and being with God the Father. Positionally He was with the God the Father. In essence, that is, His nature was God. Muslims ridicule Christians as having three gods. They quote, “Hear O Israel your God is one God.” Indeed, the tri-unity is one. As H2O in a liquid state is water, in a gaseous form is vapor, and in a solid form ice. In all three-forms it still is H2O.
One God can be illustrated by there being one bunch of grapes consisting of three grapes. There is one bunch consisting of three. Place three matches together and strike them. There are three matches but one flame. So the Godhead, the tri-unity, is three in one.
The Trinity should never be spoken of as God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The name “Son of God” confuses some who question who was Mrs. God? The title is not used in the sense of progeny. In a good big unabridged dictionary you will find one definition of “son” to mean “one identified with a cause.” For example, there is an organization named “Sons of the American Revolution.” They are descendants of those associated with the revolution. Jesus was the “Son of God” in the sense He was associated with God the Father positionally and in essence, that is, His nature.
He who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me” was God. Again the structure of the Greek text is important. It means, “I, and I only, always am the only way….”
Scripture identifies Him as God. Of Him it is said, “Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:5). Colossians 2:9 reveals “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” I Timothy 3:16 magnifies this fact: “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.”
Who was? God was. When and how was all this accomplished? In the person of Jesus Christ. Who according to this was Jesus Christ? God!
If you are to defend the statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me” you need to know by whom and with what authority it was said. Download these texts on the mainframe of your mind and never delete them.
That gives us cause to – - – - -
II. CELEBRATE THE PRESENT (VERSE 5)
Christ furthermore said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5.)
His abiding presence gives us cause to celebrate the present. He has proven Himself to be a faithful and true companion God. He has shown the ministry of FCA His divine good pleasure. All we celebrate has been made possible by His grace working through His faithful servants. That is what we celebrate.
He who has been with us said: “I will never leave you…”
That is a forever never with no exceptions ever. The statement in the Greek text consists of five compounding negatives. These are synergistic negatives. That means these negatives are not just added to one another but they are multiplied by each other. That is very strong. It means: “I will never, no not ever, no never.” Linked with the little Greek word “leave,” aniemi, means: “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, or send you back.”
He further stated: “Nor forsake you…” Forsake comes from the Greek word encatalipo meaning “never cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”
Combined that means, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”
The statement begins with “I,” meaning Christ, and ends with “you.” This is an I/thou relationship. It is a promissory note that can be cashed innumerable times. Notice who said that: “He Himself said…” Jesus said it. Who is He? Romans 9:5 says, “He is over all, the eternally blessed God.”
Appropriately we call Him Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”
Titus 2: 13 urges us to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
A rule of Greek grammar confirms “our great God” and “Savior Jesus Christ” is a reference to one person. Thus, our great God is our Savior Jesus Christ. Acts 20: 28 further confirms this by referring to “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
Whose church is it? God’s.
How did He get it? He purchased it.
With what did He purchase it? His own blood.
When did God shed blood? On the cross of Calvary in the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son.
An embryo does not get any blood from the mother or the father. It manufactures its own blood. The red blood that dripped on the gray stones of Calvary was the blood of God.
Christ said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18).
The gates of the city were where the elders of the city gathered to make plans. Thus, Jesus was saying, “Let the devil and all his demons plot and plan how to stop me but they can’t stop me from building my church.”
It is important that every Christian closely identify with a local church and serve the Lord therein. The FCA Mission Statement notes: “To present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”
Jesus loved the church enough to give Himself for it. We should love it enough to give ourselves to it.
Do you ever feel so weak you can’t carry on? Do you ever feel all alone? Do you ever feel you don’t know what to do? The next time you feel so weak you can’t go on remember He who is omnipotent, all powerful said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.” The next time you feel all alone remember He who is omnipresent, all present said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”
When you feel you don’t know what to do, remember He who is omniscient, all knowing said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”
To those without knowledge of what to do: He Himself, the all knowing God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never….”
To those all alone He Himself, the all present God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never….”
To the weak He Himself, the all powerful God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never….”
That is a forever never with no exception ever. Never includes right now. Regardless of how you feel He is available right there with you.
Practice the presence behind the promise. Remember, He Himself who said it was Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. There never is a time He isn’t with us and there never will be.
That will enable you to celebrate even when weak, all alone, and don’t know what to do.
As a result you can confidently – - – -
III. COMMIT TO THE FUTURE (VERSE 8)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
We must so commit ourselves as to meet the challenges offered by our increasingly secular society. Today’s evangelists are secularists who preach immorality. Our decadent society has turned back to the gods of decadence.
We face a culture defined by:
Low commitment level
Improperly defined tolerance
A low moral base line.
As we face this challenge we must stay focused on our Master and the mission on which He has sent us. Constantly practice the presence behind the promise. Every blessing we have enjoyed has come from Him. He who has blessed us is – - – -
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Yesterday, He was the Redeemer on earth.
Today, He is the intercessor in heaven.
Forever, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the eternal blessed God who is over all.
It is He Himself, the all knowing, all powerful, all present God who said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you nor forsake you.”
We must perennially practice the presence behind the promise.
He had the authoritative right to say, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Not my favorite theologian, Fredrich Nietzche, in his work “Beyond Good and Evil” wrote: “The essential thing “in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and always has resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth while.” That has and must define FCA, a long obedience in the same direction.
“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13: 20 – 21
Dr. Nelson L. Price
HEBREWS 11: & 6
JESUS CHRIST has inspired faith and incited holy boldness in the lives of countless heroes of the faith. Today He invites you to join their ranks.
His invitation to “Take up your cross and follow Me” is an invitation to enter on the path of exciting service and walk it by faith and not by sight.
If you want exemption from boredom and immunity for a mundane life, then unreservedly accept His invitation. The Bible is replete with examples of individuals who took God at His word and obeyed. You see, whatever else faith is, it is obedience to the Word of God.
Hebrews 11 lists names of many who appropriately appear in the annals of faith. The personalities listed in Hebrews 11 are not fugitives from a wax museum. They are real life people like us who simply believed God and acted. They are our heroes of the faith. Those listed in this “Smithsonian of Faith” await contemporary heroes who will dare join them.
Perhaps the late Dean W. R. Inge put his finger of indictment on us when he wrote: “Christianity is a creed for heroes and we are harmless, good-natured little people who want everybody to have a good time.”
Only when we respond to this creed like our heroes before us with faith does Christianity become for us, and those who observe us, a mighty force which gives dynamic radiance to life.
Hebrews 11: 1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Then this theme is continued in verse 6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him…”
Doubt is an attack on God’s character.
Faith is mere confidence in God’s character. It is simply belief that God means what He says and will do what He promises.
Belief and trust are two words used frequently in Scripture to identify how we should respond to the Lord.
One Hebrew word for “believe” is AMEN. It means “to use God as a foundation; to lean on Him.”
The word for “trust” is BATAK. It was originally a wrestling term meaning to “body-slam” an opponent. Applied to our faith life, it means to pick up your problems and body-slam them before the Lord.
Who have you been pleasing? Yourself? A peer group? I invite you to come on a venture with me and resolve no longer to be a marginal, rootless person.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for…”
In the fall of 1940 during World War II, the German Air Force, in an average of 200 planes per raid, bombed London for 57 consecutive nights. Many nights after the raids Prime Minister Winston Churchill could be seen in his suit and derby picking his way through the crowds, encouraging his countrymen.
Following VE day in 1945, Sir Winston was asked what he had done during those interminable nights of the bombing. He responded that he had retired to his bomb shelter below Piccadilly Square and there before a map of Europe planned the invasion of Germany.
That is faith: Making plans for victory while the enemy is at once building weapons for a siege by land and reigning terror from above. Maybe that is where you are now. Perhaps you have been driven into your bomb shelter in face of fearful circumstances that inspire doubt. What a wonderful time to plan for your spiritual victory!
The Lord finds great pleasure in His children who in faith dare valiantly and move to the farthest boundaries of their potential for Him, and absolutely refuse to live in the twilight of mediocrity. Such faith pleases God. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God.
Hebrews 11: 30 refers to one of our heroes of the faith, Joshua. It says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…”
Faith is intangible. That is, it can’t be understood by the five senses. Faith is invisible.
Walls are tangible. That is, they can be seen and experienced. By the intangible force of faith, tangible formidable walls of a great city fell. Those people who followed Joshua had such faith that they even hoped the walls would fall and they did.
Turn to the Book of Joshua, chapter 1. Herein God is commissioning Joshua to take up the conquest of the land where Moses left off. He is challenging Joshua and the people to act in faith.I. FAITH SEES POTENTIAL Verse 8B
Starting in verse 6 the Lord reassures Joshua with truth that is applicable to us today. READ VERSES 6 – 8.
Knowing us to be slow learners, the Lord repeats the essence of the message three times in verses 6, 7, and 9, each time expanding the sphere of encouragement. The last time he adds the exhortation not to fear or be dismayed.
Fear has been our nemesis ever since Adam hid himself.
“Dismayed” means to lose heart and quit. Walter Chrysler observed: “To comfort a dismayed spirit is as difficult as raising the dead.” Well, our Lord did even that.
God says in essence, “Obey my word by faith and I will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success.’” The prosperity and success of which our God spoke was potential and conditional. It was dependent upon keeping His word and doing His will. Find His will and look neither to the left nor the right. Just do it!
When you look to the left or the right, fear takes over. Cervantes wrote: “Fear hath many eyes.” The Bible appeals to us to have a focused vision. Look away from everything that is not Jesus.
Dr. Smiley Blanton wrote: “Anxiety is the great modern plague. Thousands upon thousands of people either destroy their lives or frustrate them because of their preoccupation with anxiety, worry, or fear.”
Faith wasn’t oblivious to the walls of Jericho. Joshua saw them, but He understood God’s will and acted in faith.
We have tried to turn faith into a no-risk policy and it isn’t. The people who followed Joshua had no tangible proof that when they started walking around those walls of Jericho they would fall. By faith they put on their sandals and started walking. They became doers and not hearers only.
Faith has confidence in God’s character even when His actions seem strange or even more so when He seems not to act. The Psalmist affords us a matchless example of consistent faith. Before we read this passage, an explanation is needed. Some tend to think passages such as we are about to read are theory only. Actually these verses were birthed out of extreme adversity. This adversity may not be so different from that experienced by you now. The Psalmist wrote in 119:71:
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”
He follows this theme in 119:75: “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”
That is faith where it hurts — when it helps. Faith sees the potential good that can come at the most difficult time.
II. FAITH MAKES PROVISIONS Verse 11A
Through Joshua God said to His people, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”
This is Joshua’s way of saying the battle is the Lord’s and He will not fail us, but WE by faith must use all reasonable foresight in carrying on His work.
In addition to physical provisions for which they were responsible, there were spiritual responsibilities. Joshua 3: 5
notes the appeal: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”
III. FAITH TAKES POSSESSION Verse 11B “possess the land”
The chosen land was close at hand, but it had to be possessed.
An illustration of how active faith works is found in the way John used the Greek word for “believing” in his gospel and epistles. It occurs 98 times and with only one exception it is a verb. That means believing in Christ is an active trust and response.
God was “giving” them the land, but they had to “possess” it. They had to act. Doing so required faith. They had confidence in God’s character. That is, God meant what He said and had the capacity to provide what He promised.
Divine operation often waits on human cooperation. God honors us by allowing us to be in partnership with Him.
The initial and the ultimate acts of faith relate to our salvation. READ EPHESIANS 2: 8, 9.
Our salvation is predicated upon God granting us His favor without us meriting it. It begins with our simple knowledge of our need and Christ’s capacity.
The next step involves our willful intellectual acceptance of these facts.
It is consummated by our faith, resulting in a wholehearted commitment to Christ. It is glad consent for Christ to cleanse you of all sin by His shed blood of Calvary. When by faith you trust Him and repentantly receive Him as Savior, you are born again. Christ is in that instant present in your life. Thereafter He must daily be allowed to be president of your life, that is, allowed to govern your life.
Once you are saved you must never by force or neglect allow Him to be dormant in your life. Rather than dormant, He must be dominant. Any area of your life not occupied by Christ can become a bridgehead for Satan. Any area of your life not under His control is a danger point.
He saves us by grace through faith. If you have trusted Him for the biggest thing in your life — salvation, surely you can have faith enough to trust Him for all else.
Romans 8: 32 reminds us: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.”
He will give you salvation, but you must possess it by faith.
·”Jesus Christ Is The Same Yesterday, Today And Forever” Hebrews 13:8
·Jesus Christ Is The Foundation For Life. If There Is Not A Proper Understanding Of Who He Was And What He Did One’s Theology Is Wrong.
·If One’s Theology Is Wrong It Is Impossible To Have A Right Philosophy Because There Would Be A Wrong Outlook On Life.
·If One’s Theology Is Wrong It Is Impossible To Have A Right Sociology Because There Would Be An Improper Concept Of Man.
·If One’s Theology Is Wrong It Is Impossible To Have A Right Self-Worth Because There Is An Improper Self-Image.
·Who Jesus Is Means Everything To A Person.
·I Learned Everything I Need To Know About Jesus As A Child In A Christian Home And In My Little Home Town Church. What We Need To Know Is So Simple A Child Can Comprehend It And Yet So Profound A Theologian Can Spend A Lifetime And Never Fully Comprehend It. Things I Needed To Know Are:
·”Behold A Virgin Shall Conceive And Bear A Son, And You Shall Call His Name Emmanuel, For He Shall Save His People From Their Sins” (Matthew 1: 23).
·”God Was Manifest In The Flesh…” (Titus 3:16).
·”Our Great God And Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
·Granville Sharps Law
·”He Himself Has Suffered, Being Tempted, He Is Able To Aid Those Who Are Tempted” (Hebrews 2: 18).
·”Tempted In All Points, Even As We” (Hebrews 4:15).
·”The Church Of God, Which He Purchased With His Own Blood” (Acts 20:28).
·Whose Church? The Church Of God.
·Who Purchased It? God.
·With What Did He Purchase It? His Own Blood.
·When Did God Shed Blood? On Calvary.
·Who Died On The Cross Of Calvary? God.
·Neither A Father Or Mother Contributes Any Blood To A Fetus. The Fetus Develops Its Own Blood. The Blood Of Christ Was The Blood Of God Because He Was God.
·”He Made Him Who Knew No Sin To B Sin For Us, That We Might Become The Righteousness Of God In Him” (Ii Corinthians 5:21).
·Being Born Of A Virgin He Had No Old Adamic Nature Like Every Human Being. He Lived A Perfect Life And Had No Personal Sin. He Was The Only Perfect Sacrifice To Die For Our Old Sin Nature And Personal Sins. That Explains Why Infants Go To Heaven. He Died For The Old Sin Nature And They Have No Personal Sin So His Blood Atoned For Them.
·”But Christ Is Risen From The Dead, And Has Become The First Fruits Of Those Who Have Fallen Asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).
·The First Fruit Of The Crop Was Harvested As Assurance There Was More To Come.
·”It Is Christ Who Died, And Furthermore Is Also Risen, Who Is Ever At The Right Hand Of God, Who Also Makes Intercession For Us” (Romans 8:34).
·”There Is One Mediator Between God And Men, The Man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).
·President Kennedy’s Chief Labor Mediator Said: “A Mediator Is One Who Is Equal To Or Superior To Both Parties.
·At The Right And Left Hands Of The High Priest Sat A Priest. When A Person Was Guilty The High Priest Would Instruct The Priest On His Left To Write A Bill Of Condemnation. When Innocent He Turned To The Priest On His Right And Instructed Him To Write A Bill Of Acquittal. Jesus Is At The Right Hand Of The Father.
·”I Will Come Again…” (John 14: 3).
·”For The Lord Himself Will Descent From Heaven With A Shout, With The Voice Of An Archangel, And With The Trumpet Of God, And The Dead In Christ Will Rise First. Then We Who Are Alive And Remain Shall Be Caught Up Together With Them In The Clouds To Meet The Lord In The Air. And Thus We Shall Always Be With The Lord” (I Thessalonians 5: 16, 17)
That Brings Us Back To Titus 2:13. We Should Live —-
“Looking For The Blessed Hope And Glorious Appearing Of Our Great God And Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)
JOHN 14: 16
Jesus Christ was the most encouraging person to ever live. Should not those of us who follow Him be encouragers? Give it!
Christ is spoken of as our encourager in II Thessalonians 2: 16, 17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [encouragement] and good hope by grace, comfort [encourage] your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” If He does it for us we should do it for others.
Encouragement doesn’t have to be earned. Praise does.
Encouragement energizes us. Give it and keep on giving it.
There is a special bamboo in China that serves as an example. Once planted the bamboo does not grow for four years. All during those four years it has to be watered and cultivated, but it doesn’t grow. The fifth year it does. It often reaches a height of 90 feet. If neglected during the first 4 years it never grows.
Encouragement is needed at all times. If you have been giving it without any apparent results don’t stop cultivating.I. A DEFINITION OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The word is a compound of the prefix EN, meaning to put in or into; and the word courage, meaning confidence, strength. To “encourage,” then, literally means to put courage into someone.
The prefix DIS negates or reverses the word it is attached to. “Dissatisfied” means “not satisfied.” So, to discourage a person is to take courage away from him.
An encouraging person is pleasant to be around because he or she makes you feel built up, strengthened, IN-couraged by his or her presence and words. An encouraging person supports and strengthens, rather than weakening or tearing down.
The origin of our word courage comes from the Latin COUR which refers to the condition of the heart. King Richard was so bold that it earned him the name “Richard de Lion,” literally, “Richard the Lion Hearted.” That is, King Richard the man with the heart of a lion.
We, as babies, are born with courage. There is no one more courageous than an infant. He demands what he wants when he wants it. No adult is too busy to be summonsed to do what the infant wants when the infant wants it. Parents are on standby 24 hours a day. There is no guest so important as to cause the infant not to demand what is wanted when it is wanted.
Gradually circumstances of life begin to discourage the child. That little prefix “dis” is the work of the devil. God has a great big eraser. He not only comes along to erase the prefix “dis,” but to replace it with another prefix, “en.” God wants to encourage us. Should not we aspire to encourage one another?
The most common word for encouragement in the Bible is the word PARAKAELO, PARA, meaning “beside, near, with, alongside,” and KALEO, meaning “to call or summon.” A paraclete is one called to the side of another to encourage. It may be to bring comfort. The Septuagint often gives this rendering of the word. God is often pictured as the One coming to the side of the needy and encouraging them. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). “When the cares of my soul are many, thy consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:18, 19). “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God, Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (Isaiah 40:1, 2). “As one whom his mother other comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13).
But the word has a broader meaning than just comfort. When John uses it of the Spirit, it is translated in a variety of ways because its scope is difficult to limit. John saw the Spirit bringing the very presence of the risen Christ to the church. This is what Jesus had promised: “I will not leave you comfortless (encourage-less); I will come to you” (John 14:18, KJV). He does come to us, through the Spirit.
PARAKLETOS has many renderings: “one who pleads our cause,” “comforter,” “advocate,” “helper,” “someone to stand by you,” “he who is to befriend you.” When we think of all Jesus is, we understand why translators have difficulty pinning down the meaning of the word.
The disciples discouraged the women who brought the alabaster jar of ointment; Jesus encouraged her. He gave her the kind of praise that immortalized her gift to Jesus.
When the frightened disciples mourned the death of Jesus and their forsaking of Him, Jesus came to them, not to condemn, but to strengthen them with the encouraging words, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
He came to the side and the aid of the woman caught in adultery and forgave her. He came to the side of many who were sick, sometimes resisting the discouraging words of crowds – even His own disciples. He was beside His disciples as the hour of darkness drew near and the sorrow of Jesus spoke to them of impending doom. He said “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1).
William Barclay points out that in secular Greek, the most characteristic usage of PARAKLETOS is in connection with help given a legal trial. The one called in would speak in support of his character; he was a friend of the accused, and would try to influence the judge in his favor.
A paraclete – encourager – then, helps us when we are in trouble, when we are in a situation with which we cannot cope. Jesus, in I John 2:1, is called our paraclete – advocate, defense attorney, helper – with the Father. Romans 8 says that what Christ does at the right hand of the Father, the Spirit does within us, helping us in our weakness, interceding for us, freeing us from condemnation so we are encouraged to claim our inheritance as children of God.
But there is still another facet of this tremendous word. It also means “to urge on or exhort.” A person needing help may not require comfort as much as challenge. Barclay says that the word is often used in Classical Greek, regarding exhorting troops about to go to battle. It not only empathizes; it motivates. It not only gives comfort; it gives courage.
PARAKLETOS is the word used of speeches by leaders, and of soldiers who beckon each other on to victory in the midst of conflict. It sends hesitant soldiers into war, and fearful sailors into the storm. This use of the word is common in the Epistles.
Paul uses this word when telling the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11). He calls them to action three verses later: “And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak…” (I Thessalonians 5:14).
The writer to the Hebrews commands, “Exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). That means more than comfort. We are to challenge one another, and “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
II. A DESIRABLE EXAMPLE FROM THE BIBLE
Nehemiah possessed the gift of exhortation. He is a classic Old Testament example of an exhorter. He saw the need of the people in Jerusalem; he surveyed the damage thoroughly before speaking to the people. When he finally called them together, he was able to encourage their weak hearts so that they said, “Let us arise and build.” With each potential setback, Nehemiah decisively dealt with the problem while exhorting the people to new courage.
David was a hero but became a fugitive because of Saul’s jealousy. He often had to fight discouragement. Jonathan’s friendship brought needed strength to his spirit.
Three times God spoke from heaven on behalf of Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism, He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The same words came at the transfiguration. Shortly before Christ’s death God responded to Jesus’ prayer by assuring that He had glorified His name and would continue to do so.
Our Father is called “The God of all encouragement.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts (PARAKLETOS – encourages, motivates) us…” (II Corinthians 1:4) so that we are able to do the same for others. Certainly, our best examples for encouraging others come from the Trinity. No one encourages His children like God our Father does. No one knows just the right word to bring hope and faith in the face of adversity like Jesus. He praises a centurion for remarkable faith, He comforts and challenges the sisters of Lazarus to greater faith. He encourages the little children by receiving them. His work of encouragement is now being continued in His body through the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s letters, especially in the first paragraphs, are often good examples to us of the way God wants us to build up one another. He liberally praised his fellow laborers. Paul was not a person who stood around waiting for people to compliment him. He was full of encouragement and exhortation.
III. A DUBIOUS EXAMPLE FROM THE BIBLE
While Caleb and Joshua attempted to encourage the people to take the promise land, ten spies brought back discouraging reports. How easily people respond to discouraging news! We don’t need anymore people with the gift of discouragement. A part of our character has been distorted by the fall, and we are prone to listen to a bad report before a good one. If we do not abide in Christ, we are conditioned pessimists. We complain about the weather, we expect bad luck, we hang onto bad news as if it were gospel.
Moses didn’t send the spies to discover WHETHER OR NOT, but HOW. He wanted a report, not an evaluation. Shame on us when we discourage God’s people by our negativism. Shame on us when we are careless with words that eventually keep others from the promised land of their inheritance. Shame on us when we relay negative news and multiply discouragement among the people of God.
God was angry with those spies – so angry that they died in the wilderness. That is where people who persist in discouraging others will always die. They will never expect to receive God’s best, and they never will.
God looks for people who are God-centered optimists and can share that attitude with others. God’s news is GOOD NEWS, not bad news, Jesus came proclaiming a message of liberty, joy, release, hope, and comfort. If your message does not match that, swallow it, don’t share it. Or you may find yourself eating dust instead of grapes.
King Rehoboam should have listened to the elders. They advised him to lower taxes so that the people of God would be encouraged. He instead listened to some of his contemporaries and made the citizens’ burden heavier. Rather than strengthening the kingdom, he did what discouragement always does – divides.
The real prodigal in the story of the prodigal son is the elder brother. What a discouragement he must have been to his father. The father encouraged him: “All that is mine is yours.” But he would not receive it, nor would he receive his brother. There will always be those who in, the midst of merriment, choose law over grace. For them, life is not a gift to be enjoyed by a duty to be performed. They find it hard to encourage anyone. They demand everything from themselves and others – and never get it.
IV. DEVELOPING ENCOURAGEMENT IN MY OWN LIFE
As times get tough we need more encouragement. There are so many reasons why we could be discouraged. We need to remind one another of the many more reasons to be encouraged. When the situation looms so large that our vision is clouded, we need to help one another look upward.
People are growing increasingly discontented, disillusioned, and discouraged. Satan is striving to wear down the saints. We need an immunity to discouragement. We must “exhort one another daily.” We must become skilled at “stirring one another up to love and good works.”
Our hearts easily grow cold and tired. We are busy. We are bombarded by propaganda, little of which is really good news. God’s people must accept the challenge to encourage. Some Christians are being lost by extreme discouragement. Some are casualties through the bad reports of others. We must not fail to be builders rather than destroyers.
Albert Sweitzer said “For every one negative input it takes eleven positive ones to overcome it.”
It is easier for one negative person to pull five positive people down than for five positive people to pick up one negative person.
Surround yourself with positive people as an encouragement.
V. SELF EVALUATION
A. Do my words of encouragement easily outweigh words of correction or criticism?
B. Do people become more cheerful around me?
C. Would my family consider me an encouraging person?
D. Is it easy for me to praise others?
E. Am I careful to ask forgiveness of others when I have given a negative report or discouraging word?
F. Have I been diligent to encourage those I associate with – children, students, employees, husband/wife, brothers, sisters, fellow church members?
G. Have I been diligent to encourage those God has placed over me – teachers, employers, elders, pastors, church leaders, civil servants, government leaders?
H. Do I pass along only good news and swallow gossip, or do I delight in sharing bad news?
I. Does my conversation with friends generally build people up?
J. Do I think more about giving praise than receiving it?
K. Do I desire to become “encourager?”
L. Am I able to encourage those who have hurt me? Can I “bless those who persecute” me as Jesus commands?
M. Have I recognized how encouraging God is to His whole creation? To me?
N. Do patient people bother me?
O. Do I avoid jobs that will test my patience?
P. Has my impatience caused me to be unpopular?
Q. Am I patient enough in my personal prayer time so that God has a chance to communicate with me?
MATTHEW 28: 1- 7A
JESUS CHRIST died a quivering corpse on a cruel cross.
Heaven was in danger of embarrassment.
Earth was in danger of enslavement.
Deity was in danger of being disgraced.
Devotion was in danger of being disillusioned.
Then an angelic messenger brought the best news since the angels in Bethlehem announced His birth. It was a message that brought joy to the world — HE IS RISEN.
JESUS CHRIST triumphant bodily resurrection has a daily effect on the lives of millions.
He Who overcame the ultimate enables individuals daily to achieve the optimum.
Those dying with faith in Christ do so confidently knowing their Lord also walked this path and turned around to come back and say, “It’s OK! What is ahead is worth the trip.”
See the broken hearted bereft by the death of a loved one. They grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Knowing their deceased beloved is more alive than they ambition regarding ultimate reunion inspires hope in them daily.
Observe the youth in a minority position beleaguered by moral bullies standing firm in the faith enabled by the support of their living Lord.
The stressed and distressed person in business is enabled to maintain moral equilibrium because of an awareness of the compelling presence of the resurrected Christ.
The wife/mother/domestic engineer puzzled by the perplexities of life is encouraged knowing she is the object of the love of the living Lord.
The elderly, alone, knowing in reality they are not alone because of their compassionate companion, the resurrected Lord.
Listen to the hope expressed by the person who has to surrender to the awfulness of what is happening to them when they are wrapped in suffering like the cloth around a mummy. Hear their hope springing from an awareness that He ever lives to comfort.
Easter has a daily effect on all of us.
Journey with me back to that first resurrection morning. The light of dawn is but slight as the Creator turns up His daily rheostat on the scene. If we had come uninformed, like the women who were the tomb’s first visitors, we would have been coming to visit a dead man.
A brilliant young jurist who had been a party to the crucifixion as a disbeliever was later converted to faith in Christ by the fact of the resurrection. His name was Saul. He was from Tarsus. After the rumor of the resurrection spread he was empowered with legal documents entitling him to search out, torture, and if necessary kill those professing belief in the resurrection. In the course of the events that followed he to became a believer in the Lord of the resurrection and wrote:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen …(I Corinthians 15: 3 – 5a).I. HE DIED
To understand the resurrection we must accept His death.
Critics of the resurrection have consistently concocted lies to try to discredit it. Facts won’t allow it. He died according to the Scripture. That is, on the day of His death approximately 30 prophecies regarding Him were fulfilled. They occurred just like the prophets said they would.
Persons who profess He didn’t actually die don’t understand to what He was subjected in the last hours of life. One reason Pilate wanted to scourge Him was that it alone often resulted in death. This coupled with the hours of torment by His detractors depleted the best of men. Asphyxiation killed most who were crucified. Blood loss drained any remaining life. Then there was the coup de grace. The Roman soldier’s spear thrust opened a wound in His side, pierced the pericardium, and punctured the heart allowing blood and water to freely flow out.
His death had a purpose. According to the Scripture He died for our sins. This is a reduction of the gospel to its essence. Our salvation is based on a historical event. Our salvation is dependent upon the happenings in two moments in time. One is the moment of His resurrection and the other is the moment of our faith response to Him. He has done His part and awaits our response.
II. HE ROSE AGAIN
The women came to the grave to complete the internment process which was aborted by the sundown which brought the Sabbath day. They walked as they talked about who would remove the stone. Such stones weighed between one and three tons.
Engage your intellect to learn a beautiful principle. The Scripture says the stone was “rolled away.” The Greek word for “rolled” is KULIO.
Mark uses a prepositional prefix “ANA”. Thus, the word ANAKULIO. With the prefix added the word means to roll up an incline.
Luke uses a different prefix, “APO”, which when added renders APOKULIO which means to roll a great distance.
Combined we get a picture of how the angel moved this one to three ton stone. He moved it up hill a great distance away.
That is how our Lord works. He didn’t just tilt the stone He MOVED it.
Colleagues and critics alike agree the tomb was empty that Easter morning. The expected dead man wasn’t there. The angel messenger said it clearly, “He is not here, for He is risen…”
One of the most prominent critics of the resurrection recently stated that the appearances of Christ after burial can’t be attributed to hallucinations. That is obviously true because there has never been such a thing as group hallucination.
Note these observances: “and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen of James, then all the apostles, Then last of all He was seen by me…” (I Cor. 15: 5 – 9a).
Did you catch that? He was seen of Peter. Of all the people who didn’t expect to or want to see Jesus it was Peter who just a few days before had refused to even acknowledge knowing Him. He lived to write of what the resurrection meant to all of us in the opening verses of his first letter:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice…” (I Peter 1: 3 – 6a).
Now back to the modern critic who concedes the appearances can’t be attributed to hallucination or any of the other normal attempts to explain it away. He has a new theory. Are you ready?
Jesus had a twin brother.
Sure, He did! And all of His life no one knew? You have got to be kidding. Such would have been exploited long before.
After the resurrection and reports of His appearing great persecution broke out.
Imagine Mary seeing Jesus’ twin and the resulting confusion. Can’t you just her saying to him: “Buford, what do you mean showing up here now, Bubba, causing this confusion!”
When the pressure and persecution built on the disciples don’t you know they would have hunted up Buford and exposed him to stop the persecution. “Buford, if you keep up this charade you are going to get us all killed, Bubba.”
A contemporary of Christ was medical doctor Luke. He examined the evidence for the resurrection and concluded it consists of “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1: 3). Observe, there were “many…proofs” and they were “infallible.” The statement was made by a man of science based on first person observation at the time of the event. It didn’t come from a dreamer with a vivid imagination two thousand years after the event.
Every argument against the resurrection is philosophic.
Every argument for the crucifixion is historical.
Our philosophy should help us explain the events of life not explain them away.
As the appointee of the highest court of the day to investigate reports of a crucifixion, Paul heard more reports of the resurrection than anyone. In the court of Festus with King
Agrippa present Paul testified: “For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26)
Had not the fact of the resurrection been common knowledge someone in the court would have disputed the claim.
The resurrection redefines for us hope. It happened when there was no hope of it happening. The idea of Christ coming back from the grave was alien to anything His followers thought. Despair dominated during those initial days after His execution. Their hope was given birth. The best news the world ever heard came from a grave yard just outside Jerusalem: “He is risen.” With that announcement hope arose.
There are many nihilistic, fatalistic, and pessimistic philosophies alive in the world today. Summarily they generally fall under one of three headings.
Rene Descartes opened the door for a naturalist point of view with his statement: “I think; therefore, I am.”
This was the intellectual steppingstone to the conclusion that God made the universe and removed Himself from any other association with His creation. This philosophy assumes nature has its own set of laws and dynamics which govern the universe without any overriding reason or purpose.
A second philosophy, existentialism as defined by Jean-Paul Sartre, declares, “Every living thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.” What a downer! Many people live with that attitude without knowing it as a formal philosophy.
Later the German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche simplified it with the expression, “God is dead.”
The third philosophy of life is defined for us by the resurrected Christ. Christ fortifies His followers with tangible
hope as expressed from the other side of the grave in this His immortal inaugural:
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore …” (Rev 1:18.)
Because of His resurrection Christ made life user-friendly. He gives hope, purpose, meaning, and direction to life. Our hope is not tied to success, security, wealth, or power, but to Christ. His future is our future.
This is illustrated by this dialogue:
“Are you a believer?” asked Caligular.
“Yes,” responded the man.
“Then I shall kill you too.”
Then the man started laughing.
“If you don’t renounce the faith I will kill you.”
The man laughed even more.
“What is your name demanded?” Caligular.
Finally controlling his laughter the man threatened with death said, “My name is Lazarus.”
The resurrection made death a laughing matter.
There are 20,000 new words being added annually to our language, and still there isn’t one adequate to express the meaning of our eternal hope in Christ Jesus.
One of Christ’s last appearances was on the Mount of Olives where a large crowd watched Him ascend into heaven. Then an angel appeared “who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:11.)
III. HE IS COMING AGAIN
We should know it. He left us a vital clue in the grave. John 20: 7 notes it. The napkin used as part of the burial cloth is described by John as being left folded in a place by itself.
In the orient in that era napkins were used by noblemen in dining. Servants stood by to attend their master. If the master crumpled the napkin and left the table the servant knew he was finished and was not coming back.
If the master folded the napkin and left it on the table it signaled he was not through and was coming back.
That folded napkin and the angels message coincide, “He is coming again.”
You want proof of His coming. The many infallible proofs of His resurrection confirm it.
Legal minds today concur in the uncommon common belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
John Singleton Copley, one of the great legal minds in British history and three times High Chancellor of England wrote, “I know pretty well what evidence is, and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.”
Two brilliant American jurists, James E. Bennett of New York, and Irwin H. Linton of Washington D.C. have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible for any man with a legal mind, and accustomed to sifting evidence to sit down and thoroughly investigate the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and come to any conclusion other than that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Dr. Thomas Arnold, touted by his colleagues, as a man of intellectual integrity and legal excellence wrote: “I know no fact in the history of humankind which is proven by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the mind of fair inquirer, that the great sign which God has given us, that Christ died and rose again.”
Therefore we are “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).
We wait and live with HOPE. We wait and live OBEDIENTLY.
Lamentation 5: 19 – 21
(The Book Was Written By Jeremiah)
In Verses 1 – 18 It Is Acknowledged That The Nation Is In Disarray: “The Crown Has Fallen From Our Head.” Moral As Well As Civil Law Had Broken Down. The Rule Of Man Among Them Has Been Overthrown.
Confession Of Sin Is Made: “Woe Is Us, For We Have Sinned” (Vs. 16).
Following This Confession Hope Begins To Rise. Freed From Thoughts Of Themselves Their Hearts Are Turned Toward The Lord.
“You O Lord, Remain Forever” (Vs. 19a).
“Your Throne From Generation To Generation” (Vs. 19b). This Speaks Of The Moral Governance Of God.
In The Lord There Is An Anchor For The Soul. Her One’s Heart Can Safely Rest. There Is An Absolute.
Since God Is Forever The Moral Governor Of The Universe, His People Can Have Hope. There Is A Basic For Stability.
In Applying The Statement, “The Crown Has Fallen From Our Head” To America We See A Nation In Which God’s Moral Absolutes Have Been Abandoned In Favor Of Relativism.
Ask An Advocate Of The Philosophy That There Are No Moral Absolutes If He Believes There Are No Moral Absolutes And He Will Say, “Absolutely.”
It Is Popular To Say, “There Are No Moral Absolutes.” Right And Wrong Are Determined By The Situation. This Is Called Tolerance.
Most Of Us Believe In Old Fashioned Tolerance. However, The Word Has Been Redefined As Positive And Negative Tolerance.
To Say, “I Love You And Respect Your Right To Believe As You Do, But Disagree With You,” Is Considered Negative Tolerance And Not Proper.
Positive Tolerance Means One Persons Idea Is As Good As Any Other. It Does Not Allow For Any One Idea To Be Considered Right And Another Wrong. If One Person’s Idea Is As Good As Another’s We Need To Dig Up Adolph Hitler And Apologize. We Need To Open Prison Doors And Let Theodore Kazinsky And All Other Prisoners Out.
College Professors Dealing With Students Trained To Believe In Positive Tolerance Are Running Into Moral Problems. They Are Finding Students Who Believe Slavery Was Right. After All, It Was The Accepted Idea Of Many People. Genocide Is Acceptable For After It Is A Popular Idea In Some Societies.
There Needs To Be A Return To The Moral Governance Of God.
Some Critics Say This Is An Appeal To Return To Old Testament Law. Most Fail To Realize There Were Three Bodies Of Law During The Old Testament Era.
* There Was The Civil Law, The Laws Of The State. These Were The Judicial Laws Established By God For Ancient Israel Only. They Have Been Changed By Various Societies And Were Not Intended To Be Applicable To Any Other Nation.
* There Was The Ceremonial Law, The Sacrificial System. This Was Fulfilled By Christ And Is No Longer Applicable. Because Of “The Lamb Of God Slain From The Foundation Of The Earth” There Is No Longer A Need For Animal Sacrifices.
* There Was The Moral Law Of God Which Has Not And Does Not Change: “You, O Lord, Remain Forever, Your Throne From Generation To Generation” (Vs. 19a).
Individually We Need To Pray With Jeremiah: “Turn Us Back To You, (Revive Us) O Lord, And We Will Be Restored” (Vs. 21).
Come Back To Jesus Christ, “The Same Yesterday, Today, And Forever.”
When We Do, Then We Will Be Renewed, Revived.
PHILIPPIANS 2: 5 – 11
JESUS CHRIST is the perfect, peerless pattern for all who believe. He is not to be JUST our pattern. Indeed He is a pattern beyond compare, however, before being our model He must be our Master. Patterning our lives after Him is an impossibility until He becomes our Savior and then empowers us. Apart from this imparted power there is no possibility of following Him as our pattern.
Jesus is our worthy example after we have trusted Him as Savior. For this reason the text says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” That would require a mind transplant.
The impossibility of having a brain transplant has long intrigued scientists. Whose memory would it be if someone else’s brains were transplanted into your head: yours or the donor’s?
It is not possible to transplant a brain, but it is possible to transplant a mind; the mind of Christ. For that reason the text challenges us: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”
Thomas A. Edison remarked, “The chief purpose of the body is to carry the brain around.” If that is true, why is so much emphasis put on the vehicle and so little on the cargo?
The brain is visible matter. The mind is invisible non-matter.
Your brain consists of between 40 and 50 ounces of gray matter, approximately 80% of which is water. That leaves 10 ounces of gray matter with which to think and reason.
If each of these gray cells were the size of a football, the entire surface of the globe would be covered 27 feet deep with pigskins.
Compared to a computer, the brain is far superior. The human mind can accommodate up to 100 million bits of information per inch. That means your brain has the capacity to store all known information. The human brain has the capacity to capture, store, recall, and program more than six hundred bits of information per second.
A British neurophysician has said that if we were to electronically approximate an average human brain, the result would cost close to three billion billion dollars (that’s a 3 followed by eighteen zeros).
The brain is the stage on which the mind plays out the human drama.
William James, noted American philosopher and psychologist, summarily said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that men can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind!”
THAT MEANS YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE BY CHANGING YOUR MIND.
Devotees of the New Age movement have pushed the concept of mind control beyond the realm of reason. In doing so they have caused many in the Christian community to shy away from this important subject or neglect it at best. The Bible speaks often about the importance of the mind and our thoughts. For example.
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
Some extremist have pushed this principle too far and say, “You are what you think about all day.”
That isn’t true. If it were all teenage boys would be girls. There might be a pretty even trade off because all some girls think about is boys.
Isaiah assures us of great peace of mind resulting from proper thought. “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).
Paul gives an inventory of positives and concludes by saying “think on these things” (Philippians 4: 8).
Through the prophet Ezekiel God revealed: “Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me,…for I know the things that come into your mind” (Ezekiel 11:5).
Real victory and joy come when we know God’s thoughts. When our delight is that of the Psalmist in 139:17 we are winners:
“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17).
Controlling the mind is the job of the will — our real self.
It is important to control the mind because attitudes determine actions.
Not only can you change your mind on a single decision, you can change your entire lifestyle by changing your mind regarding Christ.
Attitudes determine actions. I want you to engage in an experiment to demonstrate this to yourself.
Everyone please stand. Assume this attitude toward those around you for a moment. Shortly I want you to greet those around you like they are unimportant to you and you are trying to get by them to speak to someone more important. For a moment, and just a moment, consider those people around you unimportant to you and greet them in that way. Pretend you want to get away from them quickly in order to get to someone more important. Please behave toward those around you in that exact manner right now. Thanks!
Now I want you to greet those same people around you like they are your best friends you haven’t seen in some time. Greet them as though you are excited to see them.
Thanks! Please be seated.
First you had a negative thought. The people were not important and you didn’t particularly care for them.
Then you greeted them with a positive attitude and it made a difference in your actions. Your attitude determined your action.
By letting the Lord work though you it is possible for you to change your attitude, disposition, and lifestyle.
Here is a thunderous thought. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and what you tell it. Take some temperamental trait for example. Let’s consider one that might well relate to many different people. What are your early morning hours like? Are they a drag? Do you or someone you know go around with your head down repeating, if not out loud and least silently to yourself, “I don’t like this day. I wish it hadn’t begun yet.”
That is what you have been telling your mind and it believes it. Now try sending a different message like this.
“This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I have never lived it before and will never live it again. I want to live it up in such a way that I won’t long to live it down. There will be no instant replay or rerun therefore I want to live every hour of it in such a way as to please my Lord.”
That will start the juices jangling and change your focus from negative to positive and positive attitudes change your actions to positive actions. Our Lord enables it to work.
Our physiology is a term used to refer to how we behave. When your psychology changes your physiology changes. That is when your focus changes from negative to positive your actions change also. When your mind changes from the carnal to the mind of Christ your behavior also changes.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).
Servants with a renewed mind bring “every thought into captivity.”
Consider the elusive goal of happiness which our constitution guarantees us the right to pursue and most people chase after with great energy. British author Samuel Johnson wisely wrote of happiness, “The fountain of content must spring up in the mind; and he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he proposes to remove.”
This brings us to our text and insight into how to properly change our mind. Desiring for us the very best, the Lord God inspired the writer of Philippians to exhort us to “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus …” TODAY you can have a mind transplant. The mind of Christ can be yours. That is, Christ’s way of thinking can become your way of thinking. His outlook can become yours. His opinions can become yours.
Philippians 2: 5 – 11 is an appeal to you to change your mind. Why not? You changed it many times to get to the mind set you now have. This passage offers the optimum admirable attitude. If you are not a Christian it would have to begin with you changing your mind about Christ before you could change it to the mind of Christ. The mind set of Christ does not come about by imitation, but impartation.
Let’s take a look at this passage and bit by bit apply it.
The expression “mind of Christ” is a summary reference to His outlook on life. Outlook determines outcome.
This does not come about by imitation, but impartation.
This passage traces Christ’s descent from Sovereign to servant.
I. THE SOVEREIGN (Vs. 6)
Before Bethlehem, Jesus existed in eternity and deity. As a member of the Trinity He was coequal, co-eternal, and co-essential with God the Father.
In leaving heaven and assuming a human form for us, He revealed His mind as being UNSELFISH. If we manifest this mind set we will:
Prefer one another. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).
Bear each others burdens. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Edify each other. “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another…” (I Thessalonians 5:11).
In Philippians 2: 6 and 8 two different Greek words are translated “form.” To understand them is to begin to comprehend the humility of Christ in coming to earth from heaven.
In verse 6 “form” translates MORPHE, meaning nature or essence. It is an outward expression of an inward nature.
In verse 8 “form” or “fashion” translates SCHEMA, which refers to outward appearance that changes.
For example, your SCHEMA changes all through life. We go through stages, such as, baby, infant, juvenile, adolescent, young adult, middle-aged adult, and older adult. However, at every stage we are a human being.
Take the substance “Playdough.” Shaped as a square it has the form of a square but is Playdough. Remold it as a sphere and it has the form of a sphere but is still Playdough.
In heaven Jesus existed as God. On earth in His human form He was a man, but His nature was still that of God.
The mind of Christ is one of servitude. He came to serve.
II. THE SERVANT (Verse 7)
He took upon Himself the actual “form” of a servant. He didn’t pretend to be a servant, He wasn’t play acting, He actually became a human being.
In fusing manhood and deity He didn’t cease being God. His MORPHE did not change, His SCHEMA did. Internally He was the eternal God. Externally He was a man.
“In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).
He “made Himself of no reputation” (Vs. 7). That is, He did not use His deity for Himself. His every use of His supernatural power was for others and never for Himself.
Unselfishness was the first attribute of the mind of Christ noted in this passage. Service is the second one.
Christ said, “He that is going to be greatest among you has got to be a servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Too many people live their lives on the cafeteria plan — self-service only.
A selfish person is like a ball of string, all wrapped up in himself.
Selfish people are like the fellow who prayed, “Lord use me, but mostly in an advisory capacity.”
Albert Schweitzer, a man with a servant’s temperament, said, “The only ones among us who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
Finding happiness apart from service is as impossible as finding a black palomino.
Traits of Christ as a servant which we must emulate are:
A. Service must be voluntary. He “became obedient” (Vs. 8).
B. Service evidences total dependence. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30).
C. Service is evidenced by steadfast devotion. Resolutely, Christ said, “I must work the work of Him who sent Me” (John 9:4).
This requires a will cast not just in iron, but titanium, in order to maintain fresh devotion. To stay when others stray requires a will well-fixed. Consistency counts for more than capacity.
A spastic, herky-jerky, on-again, off-again fidelity dishonors the Lord, displeases the world, and defeats the doer.
III. THE SACRIFICE (Verse 8) “He humbled Himself”
At times our service must involve sacrifice. Thomas a Kempis wrote in the “Imitation of Christ,” “Remember that you are here to serve, not to rule; that you are called to suffer in the furnace. Here no one can abide, unless he is ready to humble himself with all his heart for the love of God.”
Many are willing to serve IF they don’t have to sacrifice.
Christ humbled Himself. He wasn’t humbled. Even in His ignominious death He gave His life, it was not taken. He said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (John 10:18).
IV. THE SOVEREIGN AGAIN (Vss. 9 – 11)
As a result of His faithful mission as the Suffering Servant, God the Father highly exalted God the Son. He gave Him a new name, “Lord.”
Let me illustrate in part what it means for Him to be Lord.
Think of yourself as living in a rental complex. Your landlord is a person who seems bent on controlling all tenants and making life miserable for all. His rent is extravagant. If you can’t pay on time he charges you exorbitant interest to get you further in debt. He barges in at all sorts of inconvenient times and charges you maintenance costs for damage he causes. Your life is miserable.
Then there is a fearful knock on the door and you open it timorously. Someone else is standing there who says, “I’ve taken over this housing unit. I bought it. You can live here free as long as you would like. The rent is fully paid for life. I am going to live in the manager’s apartment and will be glad to be of help whenever you call on me.
What a relief. You have been saved from the old tyrant landlord.
Soon there is a knock on the door. You have hardly had time to rejoice in your new found freedom. You open the door and there stands your old landlord! He is as mean, demanding, and glowering as ever. He says he has come to collect.
What are you to do? Do you pay him? Do you do what he wants you to do? Do you walk right up to him and bop him on the nose? NO — he’s bigger than you!
You confidently tell him, “You will have to take this up with my new Landlord who lives right over there in the manager’s apartment.
Your old landlord tries to coax then coerce you to pay-up. He endeavors to entice and then extort money from you. Your response, “Take that up with my new Landlord.”
All along your old landlord knew this he was simply trying to get you to pay-up out of habit or from pressure.
That is a parable of a Christian. Once Christ has delivered a person from sin and the devil that person can depend on Him. The old landlord will continue to come back but you just refer him to your new Landlord.
How do you keep the devil from mastering your mind? You let the mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Follow this closely. “Lord” translates the Greek word KURIOS. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ADONAI, the personal name for Jehovah God among the Jews. No Jew pronounced the name Jehovah even when reading Scripture. Instead they substituted ADONAI.
When the Old Testament Hebrew name for God, ADONAI, was translated into Greek it was translated KURIOS. Therefore, when in the New Testament Jesus is called “Lord” He is being called God. Is He your God?
To bow before Him now means salvation.
To bow before Him in eternity means condemnation.
You will bow before Him. You choose when.
The timing of your choice determines whether it is unto salvation or condemnation.
In the 19th Century, Italy was divided and ruled by the Austrians. There was a growing movement to free Italy and unite it as a free state under Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. A slogan appeared all over Italy which symbolized this hope: “Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy.” In Italian it was: “Victor Emmanuel Re De Italia.” By using the first letter of each Italian word, patriots produced the slogan VERDI. It appeared everywhere as expectation grew. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel became king. The slogan still appeared, but with different meaning. It was no longer a cry of expectation. It became a about of triumphant realization.
Today we anticipate the coming of the triumphant Lord Jesus. Today it is an anticipation. The day of triumph will come and then it will be triumph of realization.
I don’t know your opinion of Jesus Christ. I do know His opinion of you. He loves you. If your opinion hasn’t been one of love for Him you can change your mind today and spiritually bow before Him, making this a day of triumphant realization.
What He did was “to the glory of God the Father” (2:11). Your positive response to Him will also be to the glory of God the Father. Then – - -
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostate fall:
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.”
LUKE 2: 1 – 20
PAGE 1498 COME ALIVE BIBLE
JESUS CHRIST had existed in eternity as God. Knowing of our needs, He lovingly bid farewell to Heaven and prepared to “empty Himself” for His redeeming visit to earth. Knowing who that baby was that was soon to be found in a manger stall in the obscure town of Bethlehem helps our understanding of the drama of Christmas.The very word “eternity” reveals the absence of time. So before time began to begin He was God the Son abiding in a perfect Heaven with God the Father. It is no imposition on our imagination to consider His departure from Heaven. The holy angels that were themselves part of His creation might have gathered in one last assembly to have been told of His forthcoming advent, that is His earth adventure. This was truly to be an extraterrestrial visit beyond imagination. Perhaps He presented Gabriel a special citation for the good job he did informing Joseph of what was about to happen. A commendation for the calming way he addressed young Mary at the well and told her of what was coming.
Can you conceive of Him pausing before two bright and shiny angels and saying, “I’ll see you at the tomb. I’ll wait there for you three days.”
The heralds of Heaven, about to become the earthbound messengers, took their place on the turrets of time to announce the Messiah’s birth.
Let’s go AWAY TO THE MANGER and see for ourselves this which has come to pass.
On Capitaline Hill in Rome, 60 year old Caesar Augustus had been ruling for twenty-five years. His empire stretches from Briton to the Black Sea. From Gibraltar to Jerusalem. He lifts his hand and issues a decree that every citizen in the empire should return to the city of the forefathers to register and pay this tax. When he does a couple arises 1,500 miles away in the village of Nazareth to begin their 80 mile journey down the Jordan Valley to Bethlehem. They were going away to the manger.
Outside Bethlehem shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep at night. Suddenly an angel appeared to them. He must have looked like a tower of fire to them. He announced the birth of the Savior, Jesus. Theirs must have been an incredible blend of emotions. Soon that herald angel was joined by many other angels. Little wonder that after that the shepherds “came with haste” to Bethlehem. They were away to the manger.
Soon thereafter wise men in a country east of Bethlehem saw a strange star above them. As it moved westward they followed it to Jerusalem and inquired where Messiah was to be born. Tradition says there were three such wise men and even names them Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior. Upon being told where He was to be born they followed the star to Bethlehem.
That star was a symbol of hope and gladness. There is a line from a popular poem with these lines: “Man cannot live till he sees his stars through the cyprus trees.” Cyprus trees are a symbol of grief and despair. Only when in our grief and despair we have hope are we prepared for life.
Upon seeing that star the wise men were away to the manger.
Now let’s go away to the manger.
There in Bethlehem He became Mary’s boy-child. He, who in eternity was as old as His Father, was eons older than His mother. He, who leaned on the breast of His Father without any mother, now in time nursed at the breast of His mother without any Father. The coming of baby Jesus was God’s way of saying, “I love you.” YOU!
Christ’s absence from some of the select angels was short-lived for a few of them were to attend Him at His birth.
I. THE FACT
The angels having been associated with Christ before His birth knew something of His glory, honor, power, and majesty. They spoke:
“Glory to God in the highest…” This declares all the glory of God as shining forth in the birth of Jesus. In effect the angel was saying, “You are about to see God at His best.” All of His supernatural attributes are now going on display.
You want a hint of His power. Consider a virgin conceiving. This is a biological impossibility. Not really. It is simply God’s way of saying S U R P R I S E .
You want a peek at His grace and mercy; look in the manger. His grace speaks of Him giving us everything we need without us deserving it. His mercy speaks of His sparing us all the bad things we do deserve. Jesus is about to make all that possible.
“Peace on earth…” That sounds like an empty promise. Sounds almost laughable.
In the last 1,000 years there have been fewer than 50 years in which there has not been some active conflict in the world.
Peace is an alien in the Twentieth Century. The century opened with World War I, followed by another world war of even greater proportions within a generation. All that happened before the first half of the century was over. The rest has been punctuated with over 60 wars. At this very moment over 20 are in progress. Where is the proposed “peace on earth?”
King Sobhuza II of Swaziland was at the time of his death in 1982 the longest reigning monarch in the world. The Guiness Book of World Records noted he ruled for 61 years. He was a humble man, a follower of Christ. His land was known as a place of peace. That is exceptional.
Longfellow wrote a poem which was later set to music. It expressed the despair of those who look for peace in the wrong place.
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet their words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
There is no peace on earth, I said,
For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
Then it is as though enlightened by heaven he continued.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
The secret of the angels announcement is that it was not a prophecy of peace but a prescription for peace. Personal peace is found in Jesus Christ.
The angel gave the precondition for peace. It comes when we give glory to God in the highest. It doesn’t come when we win the arms race. It doesn’t come when we feel warm and fuzzy about our circumstances. It comes when we give glory to God and only then.
Years later one of His followers, Peter, would go about “preaching peace through Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all…” (Acts 10:36.)
“Let the peace of God rule (umpire) in your heart…” Peace isn’t merely a principle it is a person.
This peace is possible because of God’s “good will toward men.” You can have peace because you are the object of God’s favor.
Having considered the FACT of God’s glory and man’s potential peace, take a look at the FORMULA.
II. THE FORMULA
A. A Savior
The term “savior” means the rescuer.
The angels making this announcement knew about the great truth they were blessed to announce. One of their leaders, Gabriel, had told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
He is a Heaven-sent love gift of the Father (John 3:16), given because He recognized our need to be:
NOTICED – That should give each of us dignity. God not only noticed us, He noticed our need for a Savior. He loved us so much He provided One.
Observe some of the bizarre behavior, unconventional grooming, and extremities in clothes and you are seeing a person crying out “Notice me!” Such is a sign of an insecure person with a sense of low self-worth.
NURTURED – We are not equipped to “go it alone.” He wants to help us.
In an interview with Tom Snyder in May of 1996, 31 year old actor Charlie Sheen told his reason for becoming a Christian. He said, “I was tired of walking alone.”
Being a Christian means you never have to walk alone. Even when you walk the path of adversity with Christ you soon learn it is the path to truth and love.
Robert Blake said, “God don’t give you no points for doing things you ain’t afraid to do.” He enables us to do them.
With Christ enabling grace you can smell the fragrance even when there is no rose.
NEEDED – God needs you. He has no other way to vocally acknowledge His loving presence. All of nature reveals Him but He is dependent upon you to declare Him.
B. CHRIST = MESSIAH = DELIVERER
In Steven Vincent Benet’s “A Child is Born” the innkeeper discovers they have turned away the Holy Family. His wife speaks:
“God pity us indeed, for we are human and do not always see the vision when it comes, the shining change,
or if we see it do not follow it because it is too hard,
too strange, too new, too unbelievably difficult,
warring too much with the common easy ways…
you who love money, you who love yourself,
you who love bitterness, and I who loved and lost thought I could not love again, and all the people of this little town rise up…the loves we had were not enough,
Something is loosed to change the shaken word and with it
we must change.”
That “something” is Someone and by Him we can be changed.
C. The Lord = KURIOS (Greek) = Jehovah = God = Hebrew = the God.
This is the term used by the Greek speaking Hebrews to refer to God, Himself.
Combined the titles mean: The Rescuer, the anointed One, God Himself.
There is no better time than Christmas to renew your commitment to Him. Let Him be your Savior and bring PEACE in your heart.
Over 100 years ago Queen Victoria of England also became the Empress of India. Punjab, then a province of India, became part of the British Empire. The little prince of Punjab who later was to rule his people gave the Queen a gift. It was the magnificent and priceless Kohinoor diamond. The Queen was grateful for and excited over the gift. She appropriately had it placed in the Tower of London along with her other crown jewels.
Years later, the young prince, now a man, visited Queen Victoria in England. He asked, “Your Majesty, may I see the Kohinoor diamond?”
With her common courtesy she dispatched her guards to bring the diamond safely to Buckingham Palace.
All present watched expectantly as the Queen handed it to him. With a deep bow he took it almost reverently and walked to the window. For a long time he gazed at it admiringly. He walked back to the Queen and knelt at her feet with the diamond clasped in his hands. Deeply moved he said:
“When I was a child I gave you this diamond. I was too young to know much about what I was doing. Now that I am a man, and knowing fully what I am doing, I want to give it you again in the fullness of my strength, and with all my heart and affection and gratitude.”
Perhaps you gave your heart to Christ some years ago. In so far as eternity is concerned that settles the issue. In so far as serviceability is concerned, perhaps you need to give Him your heart again NOW.
MATTHEW 7:21 – 23
JESUS CHRIST said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 7:21).
What does it take then to enter the kingdom of heaven? In answering this vital question, let’s use the life of a great American to assess what doesn’t save and what does.
Consider the life of the 16th President of America, Abraham Lincoln. Was Mr. Lincoln a Christian?
After the war, Democrats attempting to undermine the reconstruction of the South painted Mr. Lincoln in scurrilous terms. By aristocrat Wendell Phillips, he was called “the white trash of the South spawned on Illinois,” ” a first-rate second-rate man…waiting to be used.”
Brahmin historian Francis Parker complained in 1862 that Mr. Lincoln was the “feeble and ungainly mouthpiece of the North.”
The “London Herald” wrote of him: “Mr. Lincoln is a vulgar, brutal boor, wholly ignorant of political science, or military affairs, or everything else which a statesman should know.”
New Yorker George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary that Mr. Lincoln was “despised and rejected by a third of the community, and only tolerated by the other two-thirds.”
Remember, it matters not what others think of us, but what we think of Christ that is important in the matter of salvation.
In 1806, Peter Cartright was the premier evangelist in rural Kentucky. Their rather primitive form of worship would seem strange by our standards. One night as Cartright was preaching in an outdoor meeting a young man jumped to his feet and began to dance in the joy of the Lord as King David had done before the ark of the Lord. His name was Tom Lincoln. A short time later a young woman, in praise of the Lord, jumped to her feet and joined in with the others dancing as unto the Lord. Her name was Nancy Hanks. Soon thereafter she married Tom Lincoln and three years later gave birth to a son. This Godly couple gave their son a Bible name Abraham.
Blessed is the child who has Christian parents. But that doesn’t save us.
Young Abraham was taught Scripture verses and Bible principles by his parents. As a young boy, the first of what seemed to be several untimely deaths occurred in his family. As his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, lay dying, her last words to her nine-year-old son were: “I am going away from you, Abraham, and I shall not return. I know that you will be a good boy; and that you will be kind to Sarah and your father. I want you to live as I have taught you, to love your Heavenly Father and keep His commandments.”
On several occasions when asked how he had declined a tempting bribe or resisted a strong suggestion to do wrong, Lincoln said he recalled the voice of his mother repeating, “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Mr. Lincoln believed the Bible. At a very early age he was taught the Bible. He memorized the Ten Commandments. Through his life there are many instances where his conduct was guided by one of the commandments. It was evident all through his life that he honored his father and mother which is the first commandment with promise.
A. The commandments motivated his honesty and integrity. He was so honest that as a young lawyer arguing a case he would even befriend his opponent. If the attorney arguing a case against him forgot a point, he would remind him of it. Thus, he became known as “the most honest lawyer east of China.” Part of this label lasted through his life, and he is still known as “Honest Abe.”
B. On an occasion he was heard to say, “When I am confronted with temptation, I can still vividly hear the tones on my mother’s voice saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought you out of Egypt. Thou shall not steal.”
C. He had a great regard for the Lord’s Day. At the approach of the battle of Falmouth General McDowell came to him on Saturday and said, “Sir, my troops are ready at a moment’s notice and can move out tomorrow.” The inquiry was made by General McDowell because he knew Mr. Lincoln’s regard for the Lord’s Day. The president replied, “No, give them the Lord’s Day of rest.”
He knew the Scripture well. In his great debates with Steven Douglas in 1858, he corrected his opponents incorrect use of Scripture several times.
He once told a friend who professed to be a skeptic, “Take all this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”
When presented a ceremonial Bible inscribed as being from “the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore,” he responded with these oft-quoted words, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”
He had great regard for the commandments and sought to keep them. However, it is not by works of righteousness which we do that we are saved.
III. PROVIDENCE (DIVINE PURPOSE)
He believed that God works in the affairs of people. He believed God gave him a good body. His gaunt, pitted, sallow complexion made him unattractive to many. However, he responded physically with gratitude for a good body. Few know that he was the champion weightlifter in his parts as a young man. He was also the region’s champion wrestler and distance runner.
He believed it was God’s providence that enabled him to find a copy of Blackstone’s Law Book while rummaging through an old barrel. This book was the seed resulting in him becoming a lawyer.
He was a man of profound God-consciousness and morality in whose mind lived a vision linking the nation with the providence of God. He believed American ideals closely reflected the principles of divine morality.
His many defeats and ultimate victory he attributed to the providence of God. This alone, however, does not save.
After being elected President he left Springfield for Washington. A lady who loved the Lord and Mr. Lincoln prepared and hung out a large banner with his favorite Scripture verse: “Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for I am with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Mr. Lincoln believed God was with him. Some years ago as guest of the President I had the liberty of staying in the Lincoln bedroom. Sitting there late one night I reflected that it was in this room on the morning of January 1, 1863, Mr. Lincoln called his Cabinet together. He had in his hand his characteristic tall, silk hat. He reached into his hat and pulling out a document placed it on the table and said, “Gentlemen, with this document I am prepared to free the slaves.” It was the Emancipation Proclamation. He continued, “I promised the Great God if He would give us victory at Antietam, I would so act.” He believed that at Antietam, one of the strategic battles of the War Between the States, the providence of God was at work in the affairs of the country. He acted to free the slaves out of gratitude.
In a letter to two Iowans who wrote him commending him for his bravery in freeing the slaves and assuring him of their prayers, he wrote he was “sustained by the good wishes and prayers of God’s people.”
In his first inaugural address, March 1861, Mr. Lincoln espoused the belief that “intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”
He had confidence that even the war which he despised so strongly had a purpose and stated that he believed that God “permits it for some wise purpose of His own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”
Perhaps the statement that best reveals his reliance on the providence of God was contained in an address to a delegation of Baltimore Presbyterians in 1863. To them he said, “Amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could see no other resort, I would place my whole reliance in God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.”
To a close friend he confided: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
HE WAS GRATEFUL FOR HIS PEDIGREE, HE BELIEVED BIBLE PRECEPTS, AND HAD FAITH IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD, BUT WAS HE SAVED? How close did he come to Calvary?
Biographers record that he never joined a church. If he was saved that means church membership doesn’t save…and it doesn’t. What did Mr. Lincoln believe about the – - -
IV. PERSON (JESUS CHRIST)
For our beloved Lord to get to Calvary He had to go through Gethsemane. Mr. Lincoln had his Gethsemane. There was an occasion when a friend saw Mr. Lincoln sitting before a great fireplace with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. The friend listened as he prayed, “Oh God, oh God, help me, I cannot lead these people without your help, without you.” When the friend returned the next morning, the fire was but embers; but Mr. Lincoln still sat as he was the night before. This time the friend heard him pray, “Oh God, oh God, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.”
All of his life Mr. Lincoln was dogged by defeat, hounded by failure, and stalked by tragedy. Starting with the death of his mother at age nine, grief followed his footsteps like an unshakable shadow. Youthful love shared with Ann Ruthledge ended in heartache at her death. He experienced deep anguish at the death of his son, Eddie, at age four and later, as President, the death of his beloved son, Willie.
Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most prominent ministers of the day. Early one, cold, winter’s morning in the chill of night he was awakened by someone knocking at his door. Upon opening the door he found standing there Mr. Lincoln. The tall, lean, gaunt figure was so gripped with grief and agony that at first Dr. Beecher didn’t recognize Mr. Lincoln. As Mr. Lincoln poured out his soul to the minister, he said, “I think I shall never again be glad…”
A somber President soon thereafter made his way to the battlefield at Gettysburg where he was to deliver his most famous address. Many school children can quote those immortal lines. Historians remember well a letter he wrote soon thereafter which many persons do not know of. Soon after his Gettysburg address, he wrote a friend in Springfield. Therein he said, “When I came to Springfield, I was not a Christian. When I left Springfield to go to Washington and asked you to pray for me, I was not a Christian. When I came to Gettysburg, I was not a Christian; but there at Gettysburg, I consecrated my life to Christ.”
Remember the line from that address: “This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…”
November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg where Mr. Lincoln spoke of new birth he experienced it personally through faith in Christ.
There at Gettysburg where he spoke of “dedicating ourselves to unfinished work…” he consecrated his life to Christ. Abraham Lincoln had endured the purifying fires of tribulation to come forth as gold.
This led him to acknowledge before his death: “…I am responsible…to the American people, to the Christian world, and on my final account to God.”
Thereafter, he sought to live and lead a nation to live by these words he quoted there from Scripture: “With malice toward none and charity toward all.”
Mark this date, Tuesday, April 13, 1865. That day Mr. Lincoln wrote a letter to Pastor Gurley of the church in Washington he had attended with increased regularity. In that letter he told of his saving faith in Jesus Christ. Note these lines from that letter dated April 13, 1865,: “On the forthcoming Lord’s day, I would like to make public my commitment.”
The date of the forthcoming Lord’s day would be April 18. Mr. Lincoln’s letter was mailed April 13. The day after the letter was mailed Mrs. Lincoln insisted that they get away from the pressures by going to a play that evening at the Ford Theater.
They arrived late and were seated in the Presidential Booth. During the course of the play the president’s bodyguard left his post to go to a nearby bar for a drink. During the play it was apparent to Mrs. Lincoln the President was preoccupied. Biographers record that during a lull in the play Mr. Lincoln leaned over and whispered to Mrs. Lincoln. “Mary,” he said, “Do you know the one thing in all the world I would like to do? I would like to take you on a trip with me to the Near East and we could visit Bethlehem where He was born.” Just then John Wilks Booth approached the Presidential Box unnoticed. The President paused. Booth raised his gun and the President continued, “We could go to Nazareth, Bethany…” Booth took aim as Mr. Lincoln said, “Mary, we could even go up to Jerusalem.” Just then a shot rang out. Mr. Lincoln slumped forward mortally wounded.
7:22 A.M., April 15, just three days before Mr. Lincoln proposed to walk the aisle of his church to make known his faith in Jesus Christ, Mr. Lincoln walked the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. He was blessed to do so because two years before his death, on November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, as he later wrote, “There I concentrated my life to Christ.”
That is the only way for a president or any person to be saved. Have you ever made such a commitment? If not do it now.
PSALM 121: 1 -2
David was in a stressful situation desperate for help. Indications are this Psalm was written when he was confronted by a superior army badly needing reinforcements.
He knew from what direction his help would come. It would come from the people living beyond the mountain range.
The fact he was lifting up his eyes to the hills indicated he was confident it was coming. He was just waiting expectantly for it.
There is here a fuller expression of confidence. Though his help would consist of an army coming from beyond the hills he was fully aware that it was the Lord who was sending them. Therefore, he said, “My help comes from the Lord.”
We like he need help in three primary areas:
PROTECTION, VERSES 5, 6. He is our protector who “keeps” us as noted in verses 3,4, 5, 7,8.
GUIDANCE, VERSE 3. He will not allow His followers foot to slip.
BLESSING, VERSES 5, 6. The language speaks of blessing. In the hot arid desert shade is a blessing. It speaks summarily of all the blessing to follow.
David had need of the blessings of protection and guidance. Our Lord was in the process of giving both. However, from David’s perspective there was no evidence of it. He waited expectantly for it in faith.
In our times of need we can confidently anticipate the timely provisions of our Lord. They may not come as soon as we desire but they never come too late.
Our God is on time, in time, every time.