Friday, October 26, 2012

Loving Response

“Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this" (Acts 17:32).

One of the greatest joys of doing physical work is being able to see the end result or the finished product. But when it comes to preaching the word of God seeing the end result is not always what we want to see. Although God is omnipotent He will not make us do what He desires. His word has the power to change the lives of those who hear, but only if we are willing to open our hearts and minds to its authority. Therefore, the end result of evangelism is not always the same.
But in actuality, the end result is known by God and we must be able to rely on His power and not falsely accuse ourselves for not winning the soul we tried to win to Christ.

Paul was a great preacher of truth, but even he could not win every soul he evangelized. Some people are just not willing to accept what God offers through His truth. As Paul preached his lesson on Mars Hill, we see three different responses to truth. First, there are those that will sneer. This is a Greek word meaning to deride or jeer. The power of truth can be so overwhelming to some that the only way they can respond is to make fun of something that they just don’t understand. This kind of reaction brings comfort to their minds for their inability to comprehend the depth of a subject, in this case the resurrection. Some people just cannot envelop the power of God’s will because it causes us to stretch our minds into faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Being clothed in flesh limits our ability to understand what we cannot see. This is why faith is so important.

Another response to truth seen after Paul’s sermon is doubt. Some of the listeners needed to hear more on the subject. This is not necessarily a bad response because it shows a willingness to seek truth. But for many it is just a way to put off their true response of rejection. When Jesus walked the earth searching for disciples, He sought men that were willing to immediately trust in His power and follow His lead. Peter, Andrew, James and John were among the first disciples of Christ and the Bible reveals their immediate response of submission. When we put off our response to Jesus we give Satan time to discourage us from following our Lord: "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up” (Matthew 13:3-4). Many have not followed through because they waited to respond to Jesus and Satan used someone or something to snatch the word of God away from hearts.

So we can see that when the word of God is presented, people will respond in different ways. But we have yet to see the final response that Luke, who wrote the book of Acts, reveals to us. This response is seen in verse 34: “But some men joined him and believed.” Proper response to truth requires the proper heart. Some folks have the right heart for God: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). To reiterate what we said before, God will not make us respond in submission to His will. But He sent His love to earth in the form of a Man we know as Jesus to win our trust. God did not hold back when we needed a Savior. He did not send us a financial advisor or a military genius. He sent us His Son to pay the price for our mistakes. And when we come to know Jesus as Lord we respond to Him in love: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If you are visiting us today you are here because someone loves you enough to ask you to come to hear the word of God and they, as well as all of us, want you to respond to Jesus in love today.

In His Grace,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Proper Fit

“But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

Paul told Timothy that God has a desire for all mankind to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). But unfortunately not all mankind wants to be saved. Some people are just too filled with the world to be made fit for kingdom life. Sadly, many are not willing to change so their resemblance can be made into the Son of God. And the only reason for this is that they are unwilling to accept the calling to be transformed: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). God’s desire must become ours if we want to see rest.sus explained discipleship in a three step plan of surrendering your will for God’s (Matthew 16:24). Many will come to Christ but will not be able to stay because they still long for their old life. Coming to Christ requires a determined effort to be transformed. Satan tries to use our old life to draw us back into his regime. The problem is that God promised life, but not an easy life. It is a challenge to live for Christ and will call us to great faith. It seems easy when everything is going good, but when the road gets rough the temptation to go back to the old life becomes real. Surrendering your will for God’s requires an active faith, “for we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7) that requires us to deny our desires to bail when the old road seems to be easier.

Another reason many will not persist in their love for God is an unwillingness to let go of worldly ways. The Christian life will cause many to stumble because it doesn’t make sense to them. They cannot see how suffering, sorrow and shame can be the path to glory and this unbelief will cause them to let go of their confession: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18). As Paul preached rulers persecuted and he was put into prison for proclaiming his faith in Jesus. Some saw this and were convinced that Paul was a fool and did not persevere in their faith. And as Paul went on to say, this caused them death, doom and destruction (19). God’s wisdom is much greater than any logic coming from the feeble mind of man. For this reason many of our opportunities as followers of Christ demand that we let go of our own way of thinking. Many of our brethren have given up because the flesh’s way seems to be easier and more entertaining.

Another reason some have left the faith is because they are not willing to separate themselves from the world to bond with the church. For this article’s purpose we are considering the world as anything not according to God’s will. Satan uses a plethora of devices to deceive us. Some will not let go of earthly relationships for the sake of strengthening the church. Many believe their earthly family is more important than their church family. But Jesus denounced this belief: “But He answered and said to them, ‘My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it’” (Luke 8:21). Jesus’ point here is not that family is not important but that the church family has top priority. The ones who dedicate their lives to His teaching are the ones he sees as His close family. This is divine logic and it is challenging to the fleshly mind.

Many will not get to see the rest of Jesus’ invitation (Matthew 11:29) because it is an invitation to surrender, sacrifice and selflessness. Do not be among the stubborn who will miss the greatest opportunity in life, but be among those who are humble, for they are the ones that find rest.

In His Grace,

Monday, October 1, 2012

Joy vs. Happiness

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Paul’s heart was free to rejoice even though his body was locked up in prison. He had every reason to be depressed but he chose to be joyful because his happiness was not based on the circumstance in which he found himself, but in his Savior into whom he was baptized (Galatians 3:27). The reason for his joy cannot be understood from a physical mindset. The physical circumstance might make anyone depressed, but Paul didn’t focus on the physical circumstance. He chose to focus on the spiritual salvation that was his in Christ, His beloved Savior. His physical life was only a stepping stone to the spiritual rest waiting for him. He was sure that His Savior would rescue him from discouragement.

We are like Paul in our relationship to our surroundings. Paul revealed to us that we are all sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23). We are all held in prison by Satan’s weapon, the weakness of flesh. He uses the weakness of flesh to tempt us to focus on the circumstance, knowing there is no rest for those whose focus is on the physical aspect of life. Paul also revealed that in Christ we have been given opportunity to see past physical life and rest on the eternal promises from our God (Romans 6:23). We can allow Satan to steal our joy by focusing on the physical situations of life that bind us to sinfulness, or we can be like Paul and look past the physical imprisonment of flesh to focus on God’s promises to make us free from the physical surroundings and deliver us into spiritual rest.

To find that joy that gave Paul the power to rejoice even while chained to guards we must find happiness in God’s faithfulness: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). This world continues to disappoint us by making promises it cannot keep, but God’s integrity assures us of the eternal joy that is found only through faith in the promises of life in His Son. His promises will always be fulfilled and we can be assured of our salvation because He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2). Because of this faith His promise of eternal life brings rest to the heart, mind and soul of anyone who will remain faithful to His will (Revelation 2:10).

Are you happy in your situation? You are if you are in Christ. He has been God’s plan for happiness for eternity: “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:11-12). He died to transport us out of this physical world and into His eternal kingdom to bring you joy. He can only bring joy to you if you will focus on His wondrous work and not the negative surroundings of where we sojourn. The joy that is found in Christ is not the condition of being in Christ, it is the result. Christ died and was raised to bring this joy to anyone that will die to self and follow Him.

In His Grace,