“CHURCH LIKE IT USED TO BE”
“Naming The Name Of God”
“By this know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” I John 4:2,4
The name of God is mentioned everyday, by people everywhere, who come from all walks of life. Many who use His name, sad to say, do not know Him; they do not know Him as Savior, they do not know that He is Creator of all things, and they do not know that He came to die for the sins of all mankind. They drop His name in slang or use it in vain with little regard to who He is and what He has provided for them. In the first six verses of this chapter and in the verses from the previous chapter John warns of false teachers who talk about Jesus, but fail to acknowledge that He truly is the Son of God. These people are not representing God, but Satan; they are the spirit of the antichrist (verse 3). Unfortunately, they preach a message that the world wants to hear; it is based on feeling good about themselves, prosperity, pride, intellect, and good deeds. What is missing is a true repentance of sin and a heart that is turned to God through Christ. Your attitude toward these verses will help you to know if you are truly saved or not.
“For What Are You Hungry”
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6
Jesus instructed of earthly relationships, physical provisions, and personal treasures in His sermon on the mount. As the master story teller and knowing the hearts of those around Him, He could always drive His point into the hearts and souls of His listeners. Quite often His audience was impressed that He spoke to their hearts and addressed the needs of their life and it was evident that He spoke from a heart of love and compassion toward them. In our text today He uses an analogy of the basic essentials of our survival to introduce them to a deep spiritual truth that was missing and needed in their relationship with the Lord. Some have interpreted this passage to mean that God takes us into the depths of poverty or despair so that we may find Him. But this verse is completely spiritual in its exposition and application for the follower of Christ. Conditions of hunger and craving for thirst may be physically experienced, but our Lord reveals that for us to be truly happy, we must hunger and thirst after righteousness, it must be a basic essential of our Christian walk to feed ourselves on His Word.
“Whom Do You Say That Jesus Really Is”
“Jesus asked His disciples saying… Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Matthew 16:13
When God instructed Moses from the burning bush to go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the children of Israel go, Moses asked God whom shall I tell him sent me? God advised that He was the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob; you tell Pharaoh the “I am” has sent you. He was reminding Moses that He was God, He is God, and He is always God. Jesus had a similar discussion with His disciples as He asks, “Whom do men say that I am.” Was He trying to find out what men really thought of Him? Certainly not! He already knew their heart and their thoughts. The important question was about to be asked, but whom do you say that I am? That is always the important question. It is the question that is asked today to you and me. It is a question that dictates an answer from its hearers. Peter’s response came from God; it was not of his own investigation or thoughts. He was not trying to make points with Jesus; he testified that God was before him. It was testified by John as he baptized; it was testified by the Samaritan women; and it is what each of us must learn and testify; You are God, O Lord.
“The Price He Paid For Me”
“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?” Romans 8:32
In this great chapter, Paul begins and ends with the greatness of God’s provision and Christ’s everlasting and endless love. It is a love that set us free from the condemnation caused by sin’s penalty; and it is a love that is so secure that nothing can separate God’s children from His love. As one offers, who can be against us, to strip us, to deprive us of our comforts? Think of what God did for us; it is what all our hopes are built upon. Look closely at the verse above again and meditate on this thought: He spared not His own Son. Consider what Christ did for our redemption and the price He paid to reconcile us to His Father. He was separated from His Father, He was bruised for our transgressions, He became sin for us, He was forsaken by His Father, He became a curse for us, and on top of it all it pleased His Father to do this for us. That is love! He spared not His Son, His own Son, His only Son. What did that accomplish? He shall freely give us all things. It is free to us, a gift He gave when we were His enemies and now He would not deny us any good thing. How can this be? Because He spared not His own Son.
“Power Is To Produce Patience”
“Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness.” Colossians 1:11
Have you ever had someone tell you that they would be praying for you? You have poured out your heart to them and shared your innermost burden with them and before they leave you they promise that they will be praying for you. I am sure that as Paul left this church he told them that he would be praying for them. I am also equally sure that he earnestly and diligently prayed for them every day. Our text is a record of one thing which he prayed for these believers. If you ask the Lord for one thing, what would your request be? Money? Possessions? Fame? When His disciples came to Jesus their request was very simple and very serious; Lord teach us to pray! What a request, it is a request on which all the other blessings of our Christian life will depend. The complete and unabridged version of power, contentment, fulfillment, and joy was found in Jesus’ exhortation to prayer found in Luke eleven. It is echoed by Paul as he intercedes for his brethren in this church. He explained what his prayer was for them so they might know and experience the power of God.
“Happy To Know He Is Close”
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you… cleanse your hands… purify your hearts.” James 4:8
I have found that we are not unlike our children in our behavior with our Father. When our children are young they do not venture too far from us, but as they mature and begin to practice some things that they know they should not be doing, then they become more secretive and secluded from us. It is not that they have stopped loving us; they just want to keep what they know we would not approve of away from us. As Christians, we act, and react, much the same. As long as things are right, we are happy to talk with the Lord, but as soon as we do something we know we should not do, we start hiding things from Him. Did you ever stop to think of when we should draw nigh to God? We should draw nigh when we are distracted by the things of life. We should draw nigh when we are disturbed by the things life throws our way. We should draw nigh to God when we are disgusted with life. We should draw nigh to God when we have dropped out of fellowship with Him. And we should draw nigh to God when life has disappointed us by what we have received.
“Please Call Home”
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
No child of God rises any higher than their praying. Everything we ever hope to be for the Lord depends on prayer. It is the most important task of our day, but many would rather go to work to perform tasks they despise rather than pray. The most important part of our day is never seen by anyone but the Lord, and it is found in our prayer life. How many times has the Lord waited for you to come into His presence and enjoy fellowship with Him only to see a day or two, or more, pass without talking with Him? We take the time to learn all the other tasks of life, regardless of how important or insignificant they may be. We can program our televisions, cell phones, computers, cars, and iPads; but we cannot seem to make the time to learn how to talk to our Heavenly Father. Many today can text someone without even looking at the keyboard, but somehow have not found out how to talk with the Lord. It is not a technical or complicated process; you only need an open heart and willingness to communicate with Him. Out loud, or silently, He longs to have fellowship with you.
“The Power Of His Presence”
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” II Corinthians 3:18
The Word of God is where we see God, and where we see ourselves as God sees us. It has been called a mirror by some so that we might recognize that we see our spiritual self reflected from within its sacred pages. One day when Moses was tending sheep he noticed a bush that was burning, but was not consumed by the fire. He decided that he would try to get a better look, but God told him not to look and to remove his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. Later, God gave Moses instruction for the Tabernacle and He explained that the Holiest of Holies was His Place, but it was not open for everyone for it was holy ground. When Christ completed His priestly duties the veil that separated man from the Holiest of Holies was removed and access upon that holy ground was granted through Christ. When Moses returned from the presence of the Lord the people could tell he had been in His holy presence. His image is reflected in us when we spend time in His holy presence.
“The Lord Dealing With Sin”
“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” Hebrews 12:5-6
Many of us heard our parents tell us when they disciplined us with a spanking as a child: “This is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you.” A loving parent did not hold back discipline, and exercised it when their child disobeyed their warning or instruction. The purpose was to teach their child the difference between right and wrong. God’s purpose in chastening His children is so that we might learn not to sin. Sin left unattended cannot be expected to be forgiven, and ignoring it will only hurt our relationship with God. There are two absolutes: sin is always sin, and righteousness is always righteousness; there is no gray area and God cannot make exceptions or lower His standard of righteousness. He does, however, offer forgiveness through the blood of Jesus to all who will confess their sin to God as sin, and ask for His forgiveness. Sin separated man from God and He hates sin; He chastens His children for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness; and that we might lay aside the sin that so easily hinders.
“Silence Is Not Always Golden, It is Sometimes Yellow”
“And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered not a word.” I Kings 18:21
This was a great day for the prophet of God as he set up a showdown between Almighty God and the false god Baal. It was greater than an earlier battle between a shepherd boy and a champion of the Philistines, and it was greater than Moses and Aaron standing against Pharaoh’s magicians; this single prophet of God stood against four hundred and fifty of Ahab’s prophets and he set the stage for God to prove Himself above all other gods. Before Elijah let the prophets of Baal try to get him to consume their sacrifice, before he drenched his sacrifice with water, and before he prayed to God to consume the sacrifice, he challenged the people of Israel to do one simple thing; make a choice to follow God or make a choice to follow Baal. How sad that not even a single word was said. Elijah’s request was no passive suggestion; he demanded a choice to be made. There is only one true God and He will not accept a divided heart. You are faced with a choice today also; it is a choice between the god of idolatry, of materialism, or the Almighty God of Heaven. There is no room for compromise or silence.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.” James 3:6
Early in July of 1994, during an exceptionally dry summer, lightening struck a remote area outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. A slow burning fire only scorched about three acres over the first couple of days, but events changed quickly and eventually the fire spread and fourteen firefighters lost their lives in the blaze. I read an article written earlier this year about the South Canyon Fire; the effects of that blaze is still being felt today after seventeen years. James speaks of the damage of the tongue as an out of control fire; it starts with only a small word spoken out of bitterness, resentment, or anger, and before long it spreads to depths of hurt and pain that may never be restored. Visitors of the site of that fire have seen its devastation; it is heart breaking to stand where a life has been lost. I have also seen the devastation of the effects of a life destroyed by the malicious words of another’s tongue; it is distressing to see someone’s life that has been destroyed. Solomon reminded: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.