“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“To Be Like Jesus”
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30
God presents this like He does Himself, without debate. And we know…what do we know? God has already decided to make you more like His Son; as you read these verses it becomes wonderfully clear that He is constantly working through you by the circum- stances of life to make you more like Jesus. When difficulties come, trust God; He has committed Himself to this journey of your life. A Dad can teach a son how to fish and hunt, how to ride a bike, how to drive, how to work, and how to play. He can teach you how to get back up when you get knocked down, dust yourself off, and move forward. He is trying to make his son into his image. Our Heavenly Father uses the same events in life to make us in Christ’s image.
“Dying To Self”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” John 12:24-25
There is a philosophy in churches today by people who stand behind the pulpit saying God is only interested in YOUR success. It is prosperity religion and faith. It basically says, God does not want you to be poor, He does not want you to be without, if you hold your cup up He is obliged to fill it. That philosophy is not sound doctrine! It excludes the majority of Christians around the world today or in any other generation including Jesus. It almost sounds like a “faith version” of the late night get rich infomercial guru. God is about your death so that HIS success can be lived through you. When the believer comes to the end of themselves and lose their life to Him, and let the Holy Spirit live in them they will know the full impact of His power and provision. Die to self; that is give up the old nature so that Christ can live fully through you. Let God make you a success His way.
“Faith Is The Victory”
“As ye have, therefore, received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. Rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding with thanksgiving.” Colossians 2:6-7
Faith is not the ending place for the child of God, it is the beginning. Our journey with God begins with faith in Him, in His Word, and especially in His Son. We do not outgrow the need to walk by faith; Jesus reminded His disciples of this regularly and often. They walked with the Faithful One, but struggled to find faith in His Word. Their faith increased as they matured and gave themselves completely to Him. It was not, however, until they watched Him die, see Him risen from the dead, watched Him ascend into Heaven, earnestly and fervently prayed until they were of one heart and mind with Him, and received the Holy Spirit sent by Him that their faith began to grow and manifest itself in each of their hearts. We are planted in Christ at the moment of salvation; our roots are in Him; we are built up in Him in obedience to His Word and walking in His will; and we are established in the faith as we learn more of Him by each step of our journey.
“Dwelling Or Visiting”
“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:15-16
Our objective as a child of God is to stay as close to the Lord as possible. He has provided all we need to keep us from those things in life that would hinder our walk with Him. Take a moment to read Psalm 91 in it’s entirety; you will find that God’s Word holds a special message for you regardless of what life presents to you. When adversity strikes, God can be glorified as He delivers you, heals you, or gives you grace to trust Him and endure. When death is all around we need not fear; God has not promised you will never die, but He is saying you will be kept by His angels until your appointed time. Through all that is experienced in life we are not left alone. The secret is found in the very first verse and in the first words: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Are you doing your part to live up to the conditions of God’s promises?
“At The Next Opportunity”
“As we have, therefore, opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10
A man had fallen on the ice of a supermarket parking lot; he was over seventy years of age. As he lay helpless on the ice many people passed by, but no one stopped to help. A young couple walked by and laughed because he looked funny when he fell; another man went through the grocery bags that were scattered around him and took some of the items and put them in his own bags; and most everyone else just walked by without even noticing him on the ground. Finally an elderly women who was crippled with arthritis stopped to give him assistance, called for an ambulance, collected his groceries, and stayed with him until medical help arrived. He later said that he did not think people could be so uncaring and low. How many times have we as Christians failed to stop and give a moment of compassion to someone who has fallen? Often our activity has become an enemy of compassion and kindness; if we are too busy to show kindness and compassion; we are too busy.
“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30
As we proclaim the Gospel of Christ we echo His message from Calvary, it is a message of hope, of love, of grace, and of life. John recorded, in Him was life, and the life was the life of men. Jesus commanded that First Baptist Church (His Church) to go into all the world and proclaim the message of the Gospel to every creature; His finished work for redemption. Some days before, as Jesus made His preparation to go to the Cross, His followers laid down their garments and branches before Him and proclaimed: Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. The Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke His followers, but He told them that if they held their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen His children to proclaim the most amazing and majestic message ever spoken; it is the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He has asked you to go for Him and proclaim His message; will you go?
“I Know Something – I Hope You Know”
“And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Matthew 28:5-6
Resurrection Morning revealed an empty tomb; it had the women who came to minister to the body of Jesus somewhat confused and bewildered. When they went to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard, they were also confused and bewildered. Someone said, Seeing is believing, but even after seeing Him with their own eyes they did not know what to think of what they were seeing. Even when Jesus revealed Himself to Mary Magdalene in the garden she wanted to know what they had done with the body of her Lord; she was confused. Her confusion turned to confession when Jesus revealed Himself to her. She worshiped Him and told the disciples what she had seen and what Jesus said to her. Can you hear her tell them – I have seen the Lord, I know where He is; I know He is not dead, but He is risen. I know where Jesus is today; He is not on the Cross and He is not in the grave. He sits on His Father’s right hand and prays for you and me. Resurrected, risen, and a forgiver of sin.
“Easter Is Coming”
“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” Ephesians 1:7
The commemoration of the death of our Lord and His glorious resurrection is next week. It was prophesied about for generations of time and has been preached for almost two thousand years. It is more than a sermon or date on the calendar; it is the only way God could provide satisfaction. God has no other way of dealing with sin, or with the sinner, but through the blood that Jesus shed for sin. It is beyond human comprehension and wonder, but it is God’s perfect plan for redemption for man and reconciliation of man to Himself. He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for all to pay the penalty of death for our sin. Love is focused here as He gave Himself for us; grace is focused here as the Righteous One gave Himself for the unrighteous and offered eternal life to those who would accept Him; and fellowship is focused here as the blood of Jesus made us accepted before His Father by His finished Work at Calvary.
“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.