Monday, April 18, 2022

60. Easter 2022

It’s getting close to Passover, and I’ve been watching this man for some time now. I don’t know just who he thinks he is, but he has the crowds right under his thumb...hypnotized even, the Way they hang on his every word! Telling them just what they think they want to hear, while all the time, he treats them like sheep, and him, of all things, their shepherd!

Why, the people of Israel are God’s chosen ones, not just one more victim nation of the Roman war machine! Israel doesn’t need a shepherd...we’re in need of a who has the authority to lead us out of oppression, not simply lulled into a state of self-satisfaction, roaming around in greener pastures!

We need to return to the old laws of the fathers, and work on rebuilding the temple, and restoring the old sacrificial system, and get the people swarming again to Jerusalem, that gem in the crown of God! The capital of Judaism! And most of all, encouraging a greater respect for real Jewish leadership.

Why, I’m a Pharisee...maybe even the best of the lot of us, educated from a child by some of the greatest of the rabbis, sages, scholars and philosophers ever to stand before an audience. For centuries now, we’ve worked our way up the ladder of Jewishness, and we’ve paid our dues alongside the scribes, and even those miserable Sadducees, as much as I can’t stand even the sight of them.

And now this man, Jesus, out of Nazereth, wherever that is, come out of no-where and headed only God-knows-where, has decided he’s going to take us on! Why just the other day, some of my friends and I decided to come down from Jerusalem to see him for ourselves, and found his so-called disciples eating bread with unwashed hands! Well let me tell you, we told them off in no uncertain terms, what our tradition has to say about that!

Now get this...this Jesus began quoting scripture at us...that bit where Isaiah had been yammering against the hypocrites. I don’t know where he gets off, using our own scriptures to make us look small in front of our own people! Why, he even went so far as to accuse us of making God’s word ineffective, because of our love for of tradition! And next he began pronouncing woe against us, just as though we were the enemy, rather than the friends of God.

But that’s not the worst of it. It’s come to light that even some of our own Pharisees are beginning to be taken in by him! Just this morning I heard through the grapevine that one of our own, by the name of Nicodemus had snuck off after sunset last night to meet with him, asking about his teaching and his miracles. And do you know what that man’s response had been? You won’t believe it! That “God so loves the world that He gave His only begotten Son, and that whoever believed in Him, would never perish, but have everlasting life.” Now what do you suppose he was getting at...that he was God’s Son?! Blasphemy, I say! A man who equates himself with the very person of God, on any level, deserves to die! So we had only one meet with the high priests and devise a plan.

Of course, I took it on myself to go to Caiaphas, and he consulted with Annas, and they both consulted with the scribes and the elders, who counseled together to put him to death. From there it was just a matter of convincing Pilate, the Roman governor, that he was guilty of crimes against Rome, calling himself a king. At first, Pilate objected, and sent him over to Herod, who only made sport of him and sent him back to the governor. And from there, it was only a matter of time.

It wasn’t long before a cross was constructed, and Jesus, that self-proclaimed king of the Jews, was nailed fast to it, pierced and bleeding like a sacrificed lamb. And then, I heard it. At first I thought I’d been mistaken, but others confirmed it...”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” They know not what they do?! Those words are ringing in my ears yet! All I could think-of, in that moment, was that one day, I too would die, and after that? Judgment! And this man was praying for my forgiveness!

But day after week after month, I carried on, breathing out heresies and chasing down Jesus freaks, until I began to lose the heart for it. I could bear it no longer, when finally, on my last manhunt, I was literally struck down along the way by the voice of the crucified One. I don’t remember much about what happened after that point...only that a friend told me later, how he had had a vision as well, that seemed to confirm my which he had been told that I, Saul the Pharisee, had been chosen by God from eternity past, to experience forgiveness for the worst crimes known to man, being a vessel to be used by the Lord to bear that most blessed Name to all peoples!

Now years later, as I sit reflecting on these things, I cannot help but think how foolish I had been. So I'm penning my confession to the little church in Corinth, that I, a former Pharisee, the greatest of the great have been made anew, because… “...the word of the cross, which is foolishness to them that perish, is unto us which are saved, the very power of God.”                     Thank you, Jesus

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

59. Lesson 29...John 14.1-11, Pt. 2

John 14.3..."...and I will come again and receive you unto Myself...". 
You know, the devil had charge over us once, and then H.S took charge, and finally...into the arms of Jesus! That's His heart's receive us as His own, which should be our heart's desire too..."...that where I am, you may be also". 
Do you have spiritual heart trouble? Are you burdened by the load of your sin? Well, consider first, faith in the Lord Jesus; then, believe that you have a better future in a better place. Third, know that Jesus has perfected that place, just for you; next, look to the hope that He is coming to receive you to Himself. And last, know that we're talking about eternity here...not a yesterday, or a today or tomorrow...but about forever without end! If your heart, like those disciples' hearts, is troubled, then be consoled. He's watching as His little sparrows fall into His eternal care! 
Note now, you know the "whither and the way"? Or are you like Peter, back in chapt. 13? The time for going is coming. The place we are going is being prepared, and yet, there are still those of us like the Doubter, there in vs. 5. You see, the minds of those disciples were so earthly, there was no room for heavenly thinking. Jesus had spoken as plainly as He possibly could, and He was still misunderstood...WHOOSH...right over their heads! It's true that the humanistic, the rationalistic and the materialistic will, and do find it impossible to fathom spiritual truth, after all.
Now was Jesus referring to the Father's heavenly home in disciple-code, as being some hidden place, away from Jerusalem where He was going to set in motion His secret plan for Jewish national self-government? If so..."Where should we meet you Lord? And what is the password?!" Fall on us, Spirit of Truth! And yet, Jesus speaks of just that in vs. 6...the Way, the Truth and the Life...Spirit-talk! "I Am", He said.
Thomas was in the flesh, while His Lord was in the Spirit. Thomas was a servant of his father, Adam. Thomas was thinking greatness, while His Lord was thinking humility. Thomas was thinking of his friend Jesus, while Jesus was thinking of the glory of the Father. You see, Thomas and the others were still worlds apart from the Mastermind of creation, so when Jesus said.."I Am", He was bringing the focus back to God...the Way, the Truth and the Life. 
Jesus was for them, as He is for us, the only Way to that eternal home. He spans the distance, while man would build a tower, or climb a ladder, or fly a rocket ship! But none of those can get us to the mansion He has prepared for us in His Father's eternal home. Satan would have us waste our time, involved in bigger and brighter worldly ventures, while Jesus has provided the way for a bigger and brighter eternity! Satan would have us weighed down under our personal burden of misadventure, while Jesus has already borne that burden on His cross! They could not, and we cannot get to God, or even find a way to God, without believing He is indeed, "I AM". 
You know, it's such a blessing that Jesus reveals to us here in that one verse, three of His blessed Names...The Way, The Truth and The Life. This entire written Word is about Him, all in the context of this one verse. He is the full, and the final revelation of God to man, so we don't need to wander aimlessly down the wide road to Hell, any longer. We have the Truth, right before us! Over in chapt. 18.38, we will see that Pilate asks Jesus..."What is truth?" Well Pilate, if you reject the Truth because of your self-imposed ignorance, when He's right in your face, then God can only have mercy on your soul. Wash your hands of that!
Do you desire truth? Then stop, look and listen. Stop whatever it is you're doing with your life right now, look to your eternal future, and listen to Holy Spirit as He directs you to the path of life. Life...that is, vitality, existence, being, breath, lifeblood, force, source...all the things Jesus is, and can be, for each one of us. Life...that is, the opposite of death, end, loss, extinction, departure, grief, agony...lifeless, breathless, sightless, soundless, motionless. Less than God meant for us to be. Godless, and hopeless...all that we are, outside of Jesus! And He says that is to be our eternity, world without end.  
In vs. 8 it's Philip who still needs more light..."I still don't quite see it Lord; give us a little more, and that might keep us going"...WHOOSH! You know, we're in good company with this band of brothers, because that is exactly how our human minds perform for track at a time. Just when the Teacher is making His point, our minds are still dwelling on the story He told us at the start of the lesson. Or we're so hung up, or anxious about something He has said along the way, we completely miss His point. That was Philip...he just couldn't grasp Who Jesus was. So in vss. 9-11 we read Jesus' futile response..."Philip, open your eyes and behold your God!" The Word made flesh, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, the visible image of the invisible God, in Whom dwelt "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"! "There never was, nor will there ever be, Philip, a closer union between two Beings."
When Jesus spoke, the worlds existed; and when He spoke, Satan resisted. But when He spoke, death desisted; and when He spoke, His works persisted. Persistent...that's what Jesus is!
Believe this, doubter, whoever you are...Jesus is God, and God is Him! If you can't believe His word, believe His works. He doesn't just promise to see us through...He sees us through! 
Spoken to His nearest and dearest...even you and me.

58. Lesson 29..."Jesus Will Take As Long As it Takes!", John 14.1-11, Pt. 1

Back in chapt. 13, vs. 21, we read, believe it or not, that Jesus was troubled; here in chapt. 14.1, we read of the disciples being troubled. And Jesus was willing to take as long as it took, to provide them some consolation. 
You and I need consolation at times, don't we? But who is it we are drawn-to? Or is there really anyone who even cares...or is able to deliver you...or will take as long as it takes? Well that's where those disciples were...right where we are today!            You see, Jesus, as we were told in chapt. 13.1, loved them " the end"...that is, the end of their ropes, the end of their troubles, and the end of their earthly walk. And when you're truly loved like that, by some One like that, you can receive true consolation from what they have to offer. And you can deposit that to the bank account of your faith, because you've experienced it...from your spouse, from a parent, or from a trusted friend...some one who will take as much time with you, and for you, as you need, to make it over the hump or out of the ditch you're in. Well that One, in this case, is Jesus.
You know, as we read in the last edition, those disciples had the cleanest feet in town, yet they held the exact notions and had the exact same questions for Jesus as any of the rest of us might. But you see, at this point, they were uncommonly common! Their questions and their notions and their troubled hearts were probably far more troubled, and far more troubling, than those of their fellow countrymen. Remember, these were hard times in Jewry, and Jesus had offered them some hope, and now, of a sudden, the situation looked pretty hopeless. 
Those closest of His followers had heard much teaching about His impending suffering, and His betrayal and death, and believe me...they were troubled! The idea that He had not come to restore Israel to its former position of glory, and to free them from their Roman oppressors, and to be their prophesied, all-powerful and holy King, was a very real disappointment. Here He was, speaking of a future without Him, and their hearts were troubled! He was speaking of one of their own number, selling Him down the river. And He was troubled Himself, at the thought of their coming tribulation in His absence. Troublesome times were about to be here...and their hearts were filled with fear! And so, Jesus began to console them.
He was about to teach them the reason for His coming and His going, and we need assurance today, that His words were spoken just as certainly for our encouragement as for their's. In vss. 9-14, He assures us that all that He's doing, He's doing for us. That's Jesus' point in chapt. 14.1, and unlike Phillip, we can trust Him, having never seen Him...we can love Him, and believe Him, and rejoice with joy unspeakable, because of it! 
Look at vs. 2..."...My Father's house", first proclaimed to have been the Tabernacle, then the Temple, and now the eternal dwelling-place of God, along with all the saints. You know, we all have our own vision of what heaven will be like..."Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. I wanna see my Saviour's face, 'cause heaven is a wonderful place (I wanna be there!)". 
The New Testament scriptures refer to it by many's a country, a city, a Kingdom, it's Paradise...and it's the Father's personal address!  Ahhh...there's no place like home, say we. When I used to go back to my earthly father's home, or when I drive by my earthly father's home, I get a warm feeling, a feeling of peace and of longing and of relationship...but that's just me. We all have our own personal feelings and thoughts about our earthly father's homes, but to most people, home is where the heart is. 
Isn't that the way it is with heaven, for you? A place where we'll finally be able to retire, and to be with the ones you love, and who love you; and where you are loved for your own sakes, and where you will find perfect peace and rest? Even if your earthly home never aroused those feelings, or doesn't hold that charm, and that sense of belonging, "the Father's House" "F", capital "H",  certainly should! We're living in tents, in a strange land, on a strange journey, but one day, you'll wake up at home. And the family of God will all be there, after a hard day's night...Old Testament saints, New Testament saints...all past, present and future saints; along with all the angels, worshipping and praising God together for eternity. "If it were not so (He) would have told us", would He not? If there was not enough room, or if in fact there was no house, or no mansion, He would have said-so. Jesus is the Truth, and when He promises eternal hope, and an eternal home in the Father's eternal house, then you can deposit that in your faith-bank. That was, as He told us, the very reason He came to earth for. And it was for that reason He left..."to prepare a place for us".  
Please, be consoled by the very thought of it! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

57. Lesson 28..."Jesus Will Single You Out!", Jn. 13.21-38

At the beginning of this last section of John 13, Jesus warns the end, He warns Peter, and in doing-so, we find a warning for each of us, as well. All throughout the Word of God, there are some very literal warnings, along with many gracious instructions. But in this single passage, we read of Him warning the twelve about His soon-coming glorification; of His soon-coming departure; of of the need to love one another. And He warns them that, love is the mark of a true disciple.
You know, Judas could not have been a disciple in any way, shape or form. I've already pointed out the prophecies concerning his last fatal act. Psalm 41.9 states..."He that eateth bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me!" And in Matt. 10.36, our Lord Himself, points out that, often, "...a man's enemies are those of his own household"! He knew Judas' heart, just as He knows our hearts. 
We need more that the words and example of Jesus as He lived out His life in the flesh; we can see that from Judas' example. If your will is not completely interlocked with the will of God, then you are very fallible indeed! And if your spirit is not one with the Spirit of God, then you won't have the power to resist Satan's hurled darts. Whether it be the lure of position or power or possessions, he will find that chink in your spiritual armour. 
This short passage concerning Jesus and Judas should serve as ample warning of the risk involved in harbouring a half-hearted commitment to Jesus. To be unmoved and unchanged by the very presence of the very Lord of creation, will only result in an eternal longing for just a droplet from the finger of the poorest creature gone to heavenly rest (Luke 16), when the riches of God's grace could be yours for the asking! My, oh my.
You know, as much as Judas only posed as a disciple, Peter was a true who possessed his Lord, and whose Lord possessed him! You see, the problem with Peter's faith, was that it was misplaced. His faith was focused on his own worth, and on his own strength and in his own confidence. That's where Peter failed, just as it is often where we fail as well. Peter was yet to learn a hard lesson...that we must "have no confidence in the flesh". And this is the example that Holy Spirit has left for us...that we daily, even moment-by-moment, seek out the grace of God.
Do you see where Peter faltered and fell? In fact, it was relative to his strongest  point, and that's where we are often most at risk...when we find ourselves walking on the water, and when our sword is drawn against the enemies of the Lord, ready to cut off an ear if need be! And yet, put him up against the accusations of a young girl in the courtyard of Jesus' executioners, and Peter "turns his coat" to hide his identity...a turncoat for Jesus! Suppose he had never recovered from that last sinful act? That's a question that we'll never know the answer-to. Thank you Lord, for second chances!
I hate to tell you, friends, but we know nothing at all. The seeds of sin are alive and well preserved in our very own hearts! That old saw..."There but for the grace of God...", is just as true for us as it was for Peter. And those seeds often result in a harvest for us...not of eternal heartbreak and sorrow, but most certainly, of temporary. It's only when we confess our weaknesses that we find His strength. So we may as well give it up sooner as later. I don't know why we hold out until we trip up and fall down, but there we are! So let's get back to the scriptures.
Read vs. 21...Jesus, troubled in His spirit! And no wonder, eh? He was just like you and me. When we're betrayed, we get plenty troubled as well. And it just goes to show, that there's no need for us to feel any sense of guilt when we experience that old familiar feeling. Jesus was perfectly guiltless, and we're not nearly so sensitive to our sin as He is! He is "the Son of Sorrows", and He is touched, as the scriptures teach..."...with the feeling of our infirmities". 
Believe me, although He never committed a sin, He knows the weight of sin. And He knows the burden of our sin. All throughout His life, He had known and seen the consequences of sin, at the hands of Satan and His enemies in the flesh, and even of His very friends...from His own brothers as well as countrymen.
We, every one, know how deep the hurt can be, from an unwarranted personal attack, or even undeserved neglect. "You are clean, but not all"...indeed. 
From vs. 22 we can see three very important points. First of all, what Jesus had said as recorded in vs. 18, had gone completely over the Disciples' heads. They were most certainly puzzled by the events of the evening, but they were blissful in their ignorance. Secondly, we clearly see that Judas had been completely successful in keeping his deep, dark secret, a deep, dark secret. From everyone but the Lord, that is. They all trusted one another, apparently, even more that they trusted themselves! Even Judas the hypocrite, before Satan had taken full control, turning his face to the Lord's, asked..."...Master, is it I?" (Matt. and Mark) 
Thirdly, Jesus apparently held nothing against the man who held His life in his hands. He is just as gentle and gracious and kind to Judas, as to any of the rest, probably inflicting a much sorer sting than any rebuke would have inflicted. And even on His cross, Jesus prayed..."Father, forgive them..."!
Read vss. 23-25...
You know, we're part of the family, aren't we? But to be sure, some of us feel more like part of the family than do others. Just as, apparently, John was closer to Jesus than was Peter (vss. 6, 8, 37-38). And as we later read...Peter "...followed (the Lord) afar off, into the High Priest's palace." Oh, those seeds of sin and guilt! 
Later, in ch. 21.17, Peter was to profess..."Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee!" But therein lies the difference between the Judas' and the Peters. The Lord really does know our hearts, and thank You Jesus, that You do!
Read vss. 26-27...
This is almost too horrible to even comment. No agony of guilt; no repentance of sin; no tears of remorse; no fear of judgement... just..."What Thou doest, do quickly". You realize, of course, that Judas was thereby dismissed, not only from the Lord's presence, but from His service, as well. He no longer had anything to offer, nor did he have anything the Lord would want, or could use anyway, other than his haste in carrying out his godless deed.
Read vss. 28-32...night, indeed! "Now no man knew...". And that having been said..."...he went immediately out." 
Now Jesus' glory was His cross! What do you glory in? Not an instrument of torture, I'll bet my bottom dollar. Not the most horrible experience of your life, for sure. But Jesus wasn't fact, quite the opposite; He was about to fulfill the calling of His Father, God! What greater purpose could any man serve? It's no wonder that, in the midst of His suffering, there would be a voice from heaven proclaiming..."This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased!" Even as He hung there between the thieves...not guilty, but glorified!
Howso? Well just think of it...first, this was the greatest single work since creation itself. Second, He was able to reverse the work of Satan, through Adam. And thirdly, as He was glorified, He gave God the glory. And He was, and is, richly rewarded for it! (vs. 32)
Can you imagine the power and the justice and the love of God, demonstrated in these last acts of our Lord? And not by His mighty power, but by His mighty weakness...His humility and His grace, and His boundless love. Those are the be-attitudes of God, and His will as well, for the lives of you and me, just as we read there in vss. 34-35...the second commandment, " unto the first". 
True love, even today, is a pretty rare, but important grace, to be spoken-of so plainly by the Lord, as the footsteps of Judas echoed on the pavement outside. 
It's wonderfully strange to me, that as a nation performs its most horrible deed...the execution of the very Lamb of God, the seeds of the church are sown...the greatest thing to ever come out of the human experience. Food for thought, eh?
I've already referred-to the last three verses, and in fact, they speak for themselves. Don't ever underestimate the power of Satan, or believe that he thinks anyone any more important to bother than yourself, because just as certain as our Lord has His eye on us, Satan has us as a target. 
So...would you "lay down your life", or "deny Him thrice"? Time for sober second thought, do you think?

56. Lesson 27...Pt. 2, Jn. 13.10-20

"O be careful little feet where you go..." in this wilderness of a world! Do you find it a natural thing, or a difficult thing to maintain your fellowship with Jesus? 
"If I wash thee not, thou hast no place with Me!" (vs. 8) That was a pretty crushing indictment for Peter, and it is for us too, if we resist Holy Spirit. Grace and truth are just can't have one without the other! 
As I've said before, we need that daily washing...that daily confession, and forgiveness and regeneration. Remember..."He that is bathed needeth not, save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." (vs. 10) 
So in this section of chapt. 13, we read of Jesus teaching His disciples the truth of what He had just done for them..."Know ye not what I have done to you?" (vss. 12-16) "If you know these things, happy are you if you do them." (vs. 17) Not one of Jesus' works was performed in a vacuum. Every single act was carried out with the purpose of discipling His followers, or His students, if you will. And of course, that includes all of us, through to the end of time as we know it! He is not mysterious in His ways, or in His teaching; nor are His intentions for us anything less that honourable and just and true, in all respects. So when He says in vs. 13..."You call Me Teacher and Lord...", He is reminding us, just as He did them, of His eternal purpose. That truth alone, should be sufficient for any Believer. 
I wonder sometimes, if I do not speak of Him much too familiarly, when He even reminded His own disciples, that He is both Master, and Lord. Just think of the implications connected with those titles. Our school-masters or our teachers are to be believed...our Lord is to be obeyed! And when He lowers Himself to was our feet, we really do get a glimpse of the kind of stuff He is made-of, and the serious nature of His truth. 
But what kind of stuff are we made of?! Remember, He was not only washing those feet because they were dirty, but in order to teach us..." ought also to was one another's feet." (BOMBSHELL!)
That's right...they ought, but they did not. Even though the dining room had been prepared with all the necessities of Passover, as the custom was, their feet were dirty. So as the question goes..."..which is greater...he that sits at supper, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at supper? But I am among you as one that serves" (Luke 22.27). 
And we are called to be imitators of Christ! To think that when Jesus came down to establish the new order, His last command to His own was to "wash one another's feet", and to "love one another" (vs. 34), And in vs. 15..."I have left you an example...". In other words, you have seen by My actions, how you are to love, even to the lowliest forms of service. Consider it an honour and a privilege, and do it with joy and thanksgiving! And while doing-so, remember, as the Lord reminds us in vs. 16..."...the servant is not greater than his Master". We depend on our Lord for our strength, and every single Believer has the same need, especially as you endeavour in the Lord's work.
And if (vs. 17), "you know these things and do them, you will find happiness!" That is, serving, being served, and loving and being loved, with the emphasis on the doing and the giving, rather than the receiving and the being. Those things, and those things alone, can guarantee us a truly fulfilled life, while self and sin only lead to an eternity filled with grief.
Back in vs. 10, He had told the twelve..."You are clean, but not all." Now He says..."You are chosen, but not all". Confused yet? Jesus said..."I know who I have chosen, but..." (vs. 18). We sing..."I know Whom I have believ-ed", but the call and the response must be marked by both selflessness and service. On the other hand, the Believer, and even the Deceiver will both be self-evident (vs. 11, 6.70-71). 
This is one of the most remarkable events in all of Jesus' ministry...that He would even stoop to wash Satan's feet, just as He would His own disciples. And we're afraid to love and serve, for fear of what someone may say of us! Shame on we! We can see this even prophesied in the Psalms, 109.4..."In return for my love, they became my accusers". And vs. 5..."They have rewarded me evil for good and hatred for my love". And notice Jn. 13.27..."What you do, do quickly!" And of course, Genesis 3.15...the very first prophecy in scripture of what could very well be, the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. 
In Jn. 13 we have, certainly, the final prophecies of Jesus of His own impending death. And He wants the world to know that what was about to happen, was prophesied thousands of years before His very coming. All of Old Testament history pointed to this main event in world history...the Hebrew peoples, the nation of Israel, the giving of prophets, priests and kings; the building of a history and the preparation for an eternal future. He was the one Person that was marked from eternity past, as the Man of Sorrows and the Light of the world! All by our great God's own design!
And finally, in vs. 20, a word of blessing and of commission as well, because the death of One would result in the salvation of many! There was only one Judas, but eleven others to carry on the work. And the application is clear...receive the message, receive Jesus, receive Father God. 
Jesus was the means to a new beginning, and the death of Jesus only served to seal the promise of a relationship made long before father Abraham, that through Him, all the nations of the world would be blest!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

"Make Room For Christ...", Isaiah 61 (October 18, 1969)

Very little has changed in my concern for the lost, as well as for the saved, since I spoke these words to the Shelburne U.B Church, nearly 50 years ago...

I don't imagine that many of us here today, think of ourselves as servants. We are free men and to go where we please, when we please. Free to say what we think, without fear of being put into prison, or being put to death. Physically, we are free...but are we really? Can we really say we have obligations to none? We should be servants to Christ, even as He has served us. We should be saying... “Christ, let me be a witness unto You, even as you have been for me!” If that is your feeling today, are you really a free man or woman?

In the Old Testament, God is very deeply concerned with the needs of Israel. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them, and in His love and pity He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Similarly, in the New Covenant, God incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth is totally involved with the needs of His people. Christ's concern for people is indicated in the use of the title “Servant”. Though He is Lord of all, He is Servant to all. Thus in all the gospels we find Him saying... “I am among you as One Who serves,” and... “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” We also have the unforgettable incident just before His crucifiction, when He washed His Disciples' feet, declaring in actions stronger than words, that true greatness consists in service. No wonder Matthew saw in Jesus, the coming of the promised “Servant of the Lord”.

The service of Jesus was expressed in perfect love to God and man, and fulfilled the prophetic pattern of Isaiah 61, which our Lord Himself quoted in His sermon at Nazareth, Luke 4.18-19. Specifically, it expressed a humble, obedient acceptance of His Father's plan...a plan which could only be realized by the Son's submission to suffering and death. In other words, Jesus is the ideal Servant of God, Whose words and works are in perfect harmony with the Father's will! He serves by proclaiming the reign of God, and as God, lovingly and graciously taking the initiative to restore a lost humanity to fellowship with Himself. The cross reveals, as nothing else can, the callousness of sin, and the holiness of the Father. It provides the only way for God to be both just, and Justifier of him who expresses faith in Christ.

The New Testament has many ways of declaring this wonderful truth. In sacrifice language, Jesus the High Priest offers Himself as a victim and becomes and becomes the Perfect Sacrifice which takes away the sins of the world! In legal thought, we are guilty sinners who deserve to be punished, but the death of Christ erases the evidence of our crimes! In law court speech, the Saviour's death puts us in the right with God, so that no one is able to lay any charge against us. In economic terms, we are hopelessly in debt til Jesus pays the ransom, by shedding His blood. In political and even family terms, we are enemies of, and estranged from God, until the enmity is overcome and reconciliation is provided in His cross. And in cosmic language, Christ won a great victory over Satan, and delivered men from the demonic powers which had enslaved them! In these and other ways, the early church sought to express the glorious fact that the death of Jesus brings us pardon and peace. As Matthew puts it...”You shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins”. So because Jesus has served us, we should also serve Him by making Him our Lord.

There are those among us who accept the humanity of Jesus, and recognize Him as a great saint, and founded our religion, but do not regard Him as “God with us”. On the other hand, there are those who say with their lips, that He is Lord, but don't yield their lives to Him and allow His Lordship to guide everyday affairs. So there are at least three things we must consider today. First...

1. We should make Jesus Lord because God has made him Lord. Jesus is presented in the Old Testament as “Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace”, and from His birth, He was called “Lord”. And God made Him Lord in order that He might save sinners. The work of salvation couldn't be done by one less that God Himself. To deliver man from the bondage of sin, He had to be bound and cast out, and only Jesus as Lord could accomplish this. He fought Satan...the strong man, prince of the earth, from His cross...and won! The sinner who trusts in Jesus is freed from the bondage of Satan, and has the power to overcome him. And if Jesus was not Lord, man would not be inclined to trust and follow Him.

2. We should make Jesus Lord in order that He may truly be our Saviour. He is Lord of all creation, in the sense that all power on heaven and in earth belongs to Him! But His lordship means salvation only to those who voluntarily make Him Lord. He will not save those who are unwilling to be saved. It's impossible to have Him as Saviour while refusing to make Him Lord of your life. The scriptures do not say... “Believe on Jesus and you will be saved.” They say... “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. He will not enter the heart of one who is selfish, uncommitted and rebellious. When Paul became a Christian He said... “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

Making Jesus Lord is essential to salvation, but we don't experience all of His Lordship when we first believe. Every victory is not won on that day. Evil is always present and we're tempted to follow our selfish and limited wills, instead of His. The flesh is always lusting against the Spirit. It's our duty to pray each day that His will may be done in every area of our lives.

3. We should make Jesus Lord of our hearts. It's not enough to attend services and observe the prescribed ritual. Many have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. If Jesus isn't Lord in our hearts as we perform the customary ritual, it's only a show in “will worship”.

All of us are victims of the apparent...we're attracted to the sensational. Children and adults alike, flock to the county fair, an airshow of the Snowbirds, or to anything that appeals to the five senses...and in religion, the same principle applies. Too many may attend the church service to admire the fine architecture, a good choir, or a stimulating sermon. Often there's little thought given to the Lordship of Christ.

It's not enough to be active in the committees of the church, however desirable such activities may be...some are working for God, rather than with God, and consequently, these are serving out of the drive of duty, and not the lead of love. They grow tired and weary in well-doing, and often want to resign, but religious activism isn't the answer. If you really want eternal salvation, you can have it, just as we read... “This is His command, that we should believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. And... “He that believeth on Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed on the Name of the only begotten Son of God”. And if you disobey that command, you shut the door on your only hope. You may make a profession of Christianity, join the church and learn the doctrines, but unless you hearken to that commandment, it's all to no avail! You have got to settle this in your mind...that you are going to obey. Nothing mysterious about it. You needn't go to the library to read up on it. If God calls you to repentance, then repent. It would be your grandest day if you would obey His calling.

This life won't last forever. One day the trumpet will sound and call you forth. The graves will be opened and you will be called forth to meet your God. The proud heart that scoffs at religion now, will be made to listen to the judgement sentence of God Himself. The ears that won't obey the church bell will be made to answer the last trumpet call. And the eyes that behold evil here will one day gaze upon the spotless throne of God.

May He help you to submit in obedience to His calling, and to serve Him, without delay!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week 8...”Faith and Your Prayer Life”, James 5.13-20

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray”!
Been afflicted lately? How about conflicted? Maybe restricted, or wrongly depicted. I hope you haven't been evicted, but if you're like myself, you may have felt convicted. But the fact of the matter is, one of those terms could very well describe your life's situation at any given time.
So how do we get through the things we're going through? Well James advises...”let him pray”. Now just maybe some of you already have a rich prayer life. I'm a great believer in the power of private, in public, on the phone, at church, away from the church, in people's homes... wherever and whenever. You see, it makes me feel better, and I believe it makes others feel better when we pray with or for them. But prayer is not about feeling, is it? It's about communicating. With God...and He with you. So James says...“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray”.
Now, man has been talking with God since we have existed. And God has been talking with us. It may be interesting to note however, that the first recorded words of God to man were in the form of a command, and a dire warning...
Ge. 2.15-17..."And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat...But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
Well from that time on, man has had a very shaky relationship with the Creator, to say the least. In fact, it's mostly downhill, from his eviction from the Garden, to the first recorded murder, committed by Cain, to the Great Flood. And then, the slow, seemingly eternal climb from God's covenant with Abraham, to the cross on Calvary's hill, where the very last covenant sealed the relationship between God and least for those who believe and receive! It was there that the most costly and most pained, but most welcome prayer of all time was uttered...”Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”! And then, the very last prayer recorded in scripture...”Even so, come, Lord Jesus”! But from cover to cover, the prayers that are found there are both soulful and joyful, and everything in between.
For example, let's take a look at Ge. 18.22-23, where Abraham asks...”...Wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” And in response, we witness an offer of mercy, from our Great God. Then in Exodus 3.11, Moses asks...”Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh?” And God replies...”I Am that I Am”! In Joshua 7.7, he prayed...”Alas, O Lord God, why have You brought us over the Jordan to...destroy us? We would rather You allowed us to stay on the other side, in peace!” And the Lord's response...
Joshua 24.12-13..."And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow. And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat."
In the Psalms we have a record of King David's rich prayer life. And believe me, the king needed prayer (“Is any among you afflicted?...). In fact, the Psalms contain a wealth of prayer...they are chock full of praise and adoration and instruction, and of course, confession. And when you consider it, those really are the main ingredients of prayer, aren't they. Only God is worthy of our praise, and He needs to hear it often! And only God can hear our confession, and He needs to hear it often! But He also deserves our thanks, and often. And finally, He loves to hear our petitions...that is, we make our requests and He makes His bequests. What a Great God we have!
So this is where we find James in the last couple of paragraphs in chapter 5, giving his treatise on “the prayer of faith”. First of all, as we have already observed, James expresses concern for our affliction, and in each of vss. 13-16 he speaks to one of the greatest of our self-concerns...our health. Who of us has not had at least one scare with cancer, heart disease or...? And the “big one”, like a San Andreas earthquake, is roiling away inside us even as we speak. “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray.”
Even consider calling in the big guns...the elders of the church, as he advises in vs. 14. If your prayer alone is good, corporate prayer is better, and combining it with an anointing makes it better yet. But even at that, the proviso is clear, in vs. 15...pray in faith, believing! And from what we read in vs. 16, adding a little confession at the same time, will go a long ways as well. In fact, James goes on to say there, that...”The consistent, fervent prayers of the righteous will take us into realms where we never expected to go”!
And the example that he gives, of Elijah, that great man of faith, is proof positive of the impact of the prayer offered in faith, by a faithful believer.
But before we finish this study, we mustn't neglect that couple of phrases that we overlooked back in vs. 13...”Is any merry, let him sing Psalms”. This seems to be James' one and only concession to the possibility that there may be any small hint of joy to be encountered in the life of a Christian! However, when and if you may experience a twinge of it, raise up your voice in a song of praise to the Lord, with the expectation that He'll respond with another dose! Going back to David, I've already referred to his Psalms of praise, instruction and confession, but he also recorded many hymns of joy.
For example, consider 16.8-11, 66.1-4, and 95.1-3...
So sing for joy in the midst of your affliction!
And finally, keep yourself, but keep others also. I'm sure you're saddened along with our Lord, by the defection of so many from “...the household of God” (Eph. 2.19). Much good seed has fallen along the wayside and we have an obligation and a responsibility to...”convert them from the error of their way”, vs. 20. You know, recovery is so some cases, impossible. How much sweeter to be a consistent source of learning and leading and loving to our brothers and sisters in the faith, before the grass of fellowship fades, and the flower of faith falls away!
Remember...“If you fulfil the royal law according to the scriptures...loving your neighbour as do well” (Ja. 2.8).
So be it. Peace, love and joy be on your days!