“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“But There Is Joy In Heaven”
“And he was angry, and would not go in; therefore came his father out, and entreated him.” Luke 15:28
The fifteenth chapter of Luke records three parables presented in answer to criticism of Jesus by the Pharisees. Their complaint was that Jesus associated with sinners and tax collectors. Jesus’ answer to them presented them with the main problem with religion and professed Christianity; it was presented in the attitude of the elder brother. His attitude is presented two-fold; first he was arrogant and self-righteous, and second he despised his brother and refused to have any contact or fellowship with him. A friend says, “I remember hearing someone pray for God to save lost souls in his town when I was young in the ministry. God saved his wicked and very sinful brother and the man was not happy about his brother’s new found faith in Christ. He replied, I know too much about him, he has been too bad and hurt too many people and he does not deserve to be saved. Like the elder brother, he refused to believe that the repentance of his brother was genuine and he was angry. He wanted God to save someone he did not know or have to see.”
“My Potential And My Weakness”
“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you.” I Peter 5:7
A preacher made a great comparison; My Dad taught me how to work when I was a very little boy; as long as I can remember I have been working. He often gave me tasks that I thought were too much for me; but he was always there to help me and to carry the load when it was too great for me to handle. He knew my potential and he knew my weaknesses and he exercised both regularly and often. My Heavenly Father has been teaching me to walk by faith since I was a youngster. He has often given me tasks that I believed to be too much for me, but He has always been there to help me and carry the load when it is too great for me to handle. He knows my potential and he knows my weaknesses and he exercised both regularly and often. Life throws many obstacles at us that make us uncomfortable and restless; we must remember that He has us in His care and we are protected under His wings of safety and security. In Him we find rest, strength, comfort, and safety. When we come across something too great to handle we must cast it upon Him, trust in Him, and find His matchless rest.
“I Have A Reservation”
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43
Jesus gave a great promise to the thief who hung on the cross next to Him. Earlier in the day this man had joined with the other thief and the crowd in mocking Jesus, but now his inquiry to Jesus is of personal repentance. Jesus answered for all to hear, “Today, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Less than a day before He comforted His disciple’s hearts with the same promise; “I am going to take you to be with Me.” It is the comfort of the message of the Gospel to those who will call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sin and the confidence that they will go to Heaven when they die. No one can give that comfort except Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty for sin with His own blood when He died on the Cross, and He offered the provision of God’s gift of eternal life to those who would believe on Him, confess their sin and believe that He died for their sin and rose again from the dead. By His death and glorious resurrection we are reconciled to God.
“Whose Program – His Or Mine”
“And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39
Jesus began His ministry with His disciples by teaching them to pray to His Father. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. (Matthew 6:10). He told them on numerous occasions that He came to do the will of Him that sent Him. Now He prays to His Father for His will to be done through Him once again. This task, like the prayer offered in Matthew, directs our attention to the attitude that should be given to our Heavenly Father. He wants us to have a will submissive to Him. This is a difficult task for many because they are unwilling to submit themselves to anyone; not to their parents, not to their teachers, not to their employers, not to their spouse, and not to God. We have been raised with an attitude of believing no one is more important than we are individually. Jesus gave an example to follow; as God, He became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8). He not only had a submissive will, but He yielded to God the natural will and asked for His will to be done.
“Peace Or Pretense”
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
The cry of peace has echoed through every generation of time. Man has sought after it, proclaimed it, promised it, and received awards for it; but here we are as a society far away from it. Peace, God’s peace, is more than the words to a hymn or the eloquence of prayer. It is found when we immerse ourselves completely in God and let the Holy Spirit direct and control our life, our actions, and especially our heart. This proves and shows the sincerity of our consecration to God. If we truly desire His presence more than anything else, we will turn away from everything that would dim our vision of our Lord and Savior. Our peace is interrupted and diminished when we become more concerned with desires and gratification of self. This breeds contempt and failure and fear. Jesus promised if we would follow Him and abide in Him, our hearts would not be troubled and we would not be afraid. The secret to our peace is to be occupied with Christ; He is our peace and He gives rest.
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22
Andrew Murray called the work of Christ, well-timed help. It was a special help that came just when we needed it and the grace it provides is for each moment it is needed. Only this work of Christ could provide the assurance needed to approach God. We could have come before Him and beg for mercy; even His compassion for man could not overlook the unrighteousness that begged for mercy before Him. Grace, His unmerited favor by the completion of the sacrifice of Jesus and the victory He provided over sin’s penalty, is the only way He could give us that which we do not deserve. Grace is His Divine provision working in us; it is the infinite and miraculous Love of God directed to us, it is the wonder of the Holy Spirit living in us and leading us in the path of righteousness, and it is the confidence the believer has to approach God’s Holy Throne with boldness, confidence, and faith knowing we have been invited by God.
“The Value Of Submission”
“Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.” James 4:7-8
Is it possible to give absolute submission to God? If the Lord Jesus Christ can answer that by His example the answer is yes. He gave Himself to God and for man in absolute and unconditional submission. He sent the Holy Spirit to the believer that we can have the power within to follow in His footsteps in absolute submission. What hinders us then from this kind of submission? Is it the devil that James mentioned? Is it too difficult and hard? Is it an impossible task? God works in the secret of the heart; in the intimacy of the hidden places so that the Holy Spirit can give us the power to yield to Him and follow Him in absolute submission. It must begin and grow in the soul so that it can be real in life. It is there that we learn to know Him, cherish Him, and love Him. It is there that the testimony of our love to Him will pour itself out in all our words, deeds, and actions in submission to Him.
“Trust The Law Or Trust The Lord”
“For I say unto you that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:20
It seems that Jesus was not pleased with the works of the Pharisees and the scribes. It is with good reason; they were trying to make their way to God. It was a path led by their self righteousness and carnal religions and was subject to their interpretation of whether another’s actions would ever be good enough. The works of the flesh cannot please God; they will never be good enough or powerful enough to conquer sin. Christ fulfilled that for man forever. It had to be so because our righteousness fell short of the glory of God. How then can we find righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of those who appear to be righteous? Only by setting our standard higher than man. Regardless of what man we set our affections upon we will be let down because each is fallible and imperfect. Look only to God, trust in Jesus’ righteousness, and let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Father. This kind of faith looks past religion and pleases God.
“We Are Walking In The Dark Or In The Light”
“In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1:4-5
It is a child’s question that many adults are afraid to ask, “What is God like? Little boys ask it in complete harmlessness when they were barely toddlers. They are not trying to be silly or disrespectful; it is a valid question asked from within their heart. It was once stated, “God is like the sun; the sun is never weary of shining, of pouring out it’s beneficial rays upon both the good and the evil. You might close the window with blinds or bricks, but the sun will shine upon them all the same; though you sit in darkness.” Ever shining regardless of the good or evil, regardless of others willing to accept Him or not, and regardless of whether others seek Him or not. Like the sun, He is ever shining though you do not see Him. His warmth is there, His radiance is there, and His energy is there; each available to any who would call upon Him and desire to know Him. He who made the sun to be the center of our universe is willing to be the center of your life as He pours out His love and life upon you.
“What Do We Find Important”
“I rejoice at thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil. Great peace have they who love thy law, and nothing shall offend them. My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly. I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies; for all my ways are before thee.” Psalms 119
Jesus taught, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” The theme of Psalm 119 is the psalmist’s love of the Word of God; it is his lamp that illuminates his every step and his light that serves as a beacon to show him the path of righteousness. He testifies that he will find his delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on His Word day and night. What do all of these verses mean and how important are they to you? The Word of God must become so much a part of us that it is as important as the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink; without His Word we will die as if we stopped breathing air or eating food or drinking water. Someone said, “These hath God married and no man shall part, the dust on the Bible and the drought on our heart.” Oh, that we would hunger for the Word of God. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. Job 23:12
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive; But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, who is the head, even Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-15
What makes a church great? Is it the programs? Is it the social opportunities? Is it the status or size of the congregation? What is the purpose of the church? Many are looking for a church that fits their criteria. But does it meet the criteria of God’s Word? In fact that is where it begins, what does the church believe about the Word of God? Do they believe it is divinely inspired and infallible given to man to teach us how to have a right relationship with God? What do they believe about Jesus Christ? Is He the Son of God, virgin born and fully human and yet fully God? That He died on the Cross and shed His blood for our sins, buried and bodily resurrected for our justification? That He is the only way of redemption and we are saved by grace through faith? What do they teach of Heaven and Hell? Is God’s Word the final authority? Accept no less!
“A Personal Witness”
“A true witness delivereth souls, but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.” Proverbs 14:25
Someone once asked what a “living sacrifice” meant. He wondered if it meant martyrdom, for surely if someone was to lay his life down for the Gospel that would be a sufficient enough sacrifice to show love to the Savior. Or was it to surrender one’s self to a foreign field somewhere in the far reaches of the world? If someone was to ask you to define this “living sacrifice”, could you make it truly personal? A medical missionary went to a village in Africa to work with the lepers in a remote location. Tirelessly, she worked with them by caring for them, feeding them, changing their wraps and applying salve for their decaying bodies. Then one day she noticed some blemishes on her skin and as she feared and suspected she was a leper. She now felt their burden first hand and continued to serve until her death. She initially went to give her life in service to them and then became one of them and learned to love them in sacrifice for them. Could it be that a living sacrifice is simply a living witness that is demonstrated by our love to our Savior and our desire to share Him?
“It Is A Great Life”
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
One of the evidences of God’s satisfaction to our obedience to Him is that of peace, the witness of an inexhaustible peace, the peace of Jesus. Whenever peace does not come, tarry until it does or find out the reason why it does not. Ask yourself if you are living in obedience to the Lord or following your own pathway. His way is not free from obstacles and storms, but our way is always free from peace. We find peace in the midst of our storms, it is His peace and so He says do not let your heart be troubled. Our questions come whenever we cease to obey. Any problem that comes between God and myself springs out of disobedience; any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing. What wonderful words were penned by C. Austin Miles as he stated: “And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Yes, it is a great life!
“The Lord Didn’t Promise A Truck Load”
“Give us day by day our daily bread.” Luke 11:3
Think of the hymns we sing in honor and adoration to the Lord. Day by day and with each passing moment, moment by moment I’m kept in His care, each step I take my Savior goes before me, and many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. We have a great hope for eternity and we sing of that far off distant land, but our walk with the Lord is a single step at a time. The Lord’s answer to His disciples to their request to teach them to pray was for the Lord to give each day’s provisions each day. We do not need next week’s provision today, we need today’s provision today. When the children of Israel were in the wilderness God provided manna each day to be used that day; it was not to be stored, so yesterday’s provision was not good for today, and next week’s provision would be given next week. They learned to trust in the Lord day by day and He was faithful to provide them the things they needed each day for over forty years. Lord, provide this day’s provision for me today.
“Be Still And Know”
“Praying always will all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Ephesians 6:18
Jesus instructed that men ought always to pray and not faint; it was Paul who instructed that we are to pray without ceasing; and then James continues that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. What does prayer mean to you? Is it simply a blessing over your daily meal? Is it a place to go when your life is falling apart and you need Divine deliverance because all you have tried has failed? When Jesus instructed about prayer in Luke eleven, He spoke of the majestic and eternal sovereignty of God, and how His sovereignty should be personal to each of His children. You see, when we come into His presence it must be more than just talking with God that has brought us there, we must go there to listen to Him, we must go there to intercede for ourselves and others, and we must go there to have fellowship and communion with Him. Remember a good conversation is measured by how the participants listen to one another. He listens to us when we come into His presence. Do we listen to Him?
“And Whom Are You Serving”
“And whatever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Colossians 3:23
A friend of mine was an electrician before he was saved and he was in charge of a large group of electricians. He told me that his company bid on and received the electrical work in a very large church. One day there was a discrepancy over some inadequate workmanship and this supervisor commented, “This will be okay, after all, it’s just for a church.” As he finished saying this he turned and noticed the pastor of the church was standing next to him. He and his crew had a good laugh about this later in the day, but he was still haunted by this statement many years after he became a Christian. He said, “Oh, if I could only go back and redo that work for my Lord.” It took salvation for him to realize that his work was for Someone higher than the pastor. As Christians we are often ready to give God the leftovers of our time and possessions. Someone once said, “I might as well give this to the church, because if I don’t, I’ll just have to throw it away.” When we consider that our Lord gave His all and His best for us, how can we desire to give less than our true-hearted and whole-hearted best back to Him?
“Is He Lord Or Not”
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Luke 6:46
Paul exhorted the Ephesian believers to be followers of God, as dear children. The word means to be imitators of God, as dear children, and teaches us that there should be a family resemblance to our Lord. Our standard, as a Christian, is Christ, and He is the standard of righteousness and holiness. There is no variance in Him, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Our namesake, Christian, should be a testimony to this truth, for we know that it means to be, Christ-like. It is not a question of whether others see Christ in us, but does God see Christ in us? It is a most proper thing to call Him Lord, but is it the confession merely of the lips and not really of life? If His Lordship be a reality, it will disclose itself in a daily walk of complete obedience to His will. We use a number of words and phrases as a Christian such as Lord and Master, and Thy will be done. Have we become accustomed to such things or are they a testimony of our inner most relationship with Him? Father, may Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven, in me. Amen
“Contentment And Hope”
“Lord, my heart is not haughty… Surely I have behaved and quieted myself.” Psalm 131: 1-3
Sometimes the smallest, shortest, or simplest things seem to be the most profound or powerful. Psalm 131 is one of those Psalms. It does not take but a minute to read, but it takes a lifetime to learn and live its precepts. This Psalm is not only written by David, but also about David. This is a Psalm of contentment and hope. Contentment gladly rests in the will of God, while hope yearns for the fulfillment of the promises of God. He reveals his sensitivity to his Father as he confesses his lowliness. The key words are: not, nor, neither, and or, in this verse. He is confessing, I am not proud (haughty), but I am humble before the Lord. He reveals his satisfaction in his Father as he confesses his submission when he uses the words, behaved and quieted. David had disciplined his pride and smoothed out the roughness of his self-will to follow the Father. He revealed his security by his Father as he exercised his reliance and his rest in Him. It may take a lifetime to achieve, but it will be worth it when we arrive to this place in our walk with the Lord. God gives a lifetime to learn of Him.