Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Great Commission

The Great Commission
Power From On High To Set The Captives Free

Mark 16:15-18

     And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
    -So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Luke 4:18-19

     “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” -Jesus

Matthew 28:18-20

     And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I would like to take a minute or two and give a description of what it is like for us as Christians being given the Great Commission. The Great Commission is like a badge that allows us to go into the prisons the devil has built and to set the captives free.  The badge says, “The Great Commission - Power From On High To Set The Captives Free”

Imagine that you are the servant of a great king. You know him well. You have been with him a long time and often you have dined with him. Many times you have sat through sessions in the court where he has dealt justly with every case that has been brought before him. You know what he loves and how fair he is. And you know his heart, for you have often talked with him late into the night.
  One day he calls you in and says, “I have heard that there is trouble in one of my cities and I want to send you to take care of it. I have known you for a long time and I trust that you will do what I would do if I were there. To facilitate this I am also giving you full authority over everyone no matter how high their position. No matter how high up you find corruption and injustice, you have the power to remove that person and place another in his position. I have many matters of importance to attend to so I am entrusting this job to you whom I love and trust. When you speak, you speak for me and when you act you act for me.”
Now when you arrive at the city you find an immediate warm welcome by the high official in charge and he does all things to make you feel like you have made it to the height of honor and that the two of you will soon become best friends, both of you work hard for the king after all. However, after only a short time of investigating you find that there are indeed many people who have been unfairly judged and thrown into prison. You bring these things to the high official and he pretends to need to look into it, as though he has no idea about these matters. At the same time, he gives an order to give the prisoners more freedom, moved to bigger jail cells, given more time out in the courtyard, and even some improvements to the courtyard to make it more pleasant while he finds out the truth about their circumstances of arrest.
However, after more investigating on your part you discover that the corruption is deep at the top level and you now have two choices. You can either go back to the king and tell him about the “good” changes to the prisoner’s circumstances, with hopes of more changes soon to follow, or you can begin a hard fight with this official that will end with his removal and the prisoners actually set free, not just, “made more comfortable” but still prisoners.
Here it takes courage because the high official likes his kingdom that he has built for himself and he knows that the king has been to busy to come out and deal with him. He also knows that if he puts up a fight he can probably intimidate you from doing him any harm. So first he tries to buy you out with flattery and other subtle means of bribery, but when he finds that you are immovable and that you intend to remove him from office and bring him to justice for his crimes he becomes violent and his true nature comes out. Now here, you are tested in full as to whether or not the authority you have been given from the king is real or not. You were given the commission from the king to do what he would do! This now is requiring you to act  immediately on behalf of the prisoners and carrying out justice for them and their release. If you are bold and courageous, not intimidated by your opponent, you will have the victory and will return to the king with confidence, knowing you did all that he asked and have a good report of justice for the captives having been carried out.

This is our authority in Christ and if we are undaunted by all that the devil throws at us, we will indeed set his captives free and return to the king with glad tidings of great joy! We will receive the reward of being good and faithful servants! So do not be intimidated by every fear or seeming impossibility, Gideon went forward with God and three hundred men and defeated a very daunting foe. The devil will use i.e. fear of losing your job or doubts that your efforts will really matter. He is a very intimidating jailer and will use every fear he knows you have, to make you get discouraged and thus leave his prisoner in prison. But if you persist you will be victorious for the authority you carry is from God. He gave it to you when He gave you the great commission. You did not give yourself this authority, God gave it to you, but it is only good if you obey His call to love your neighbor and desire to see them set free. If you love your own life you will easily be overcome by the devil's flattery and will leave with a report that sounds good but actually no one was set free like the first option in this story.

     God bless you all! And may we be found diligently still setting captives free when Jesus returns!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God in Person

John 1:18
God in Person

     “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

     Who is God? How has your life changed knowing that He is real and has created all things? Have you ever seen Him? Have you ever looked upon His face and been overcome by His beauty? How do you perceive Him? Is He who you imagine He is? Do you place Him in your own world and give Him boundaries of what He can and cannot do? Has He forgiven your sins? Has He extended His grace to you? John is giving us a key to all of these questions by revealing the truth which is that no man has seen God except for Jesus and Jesus has come and explained Him to us.
     This is a strong incentive for us to look closely at the Gospels. Jesus is God in person and we are able to see God when we look at Him. Jesus says that if we have seen Him then we have seen the Father. He and the Father are One.
     What I desire to convey is the need to look at all that Jesus has taught us of Himself and to examine all of the good works which He did while here on earth with new eyes, eyes that long to know God, eyes that long to behold the face of God, eyes that long to have true understanding into the life of their Creator. We need to seek God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength! His riches are there for those who seek them earnestly - the riches of His wisdom and the riches of our eternal inheritance. I just want to express the delight in this kind of earnest seeking. Oh how we need to draw close to the One who truly loves us! Charles Finney (a great evangelist from the mid 1800’s) left us a good thing to think about when he confronted a number of people who had gone a few weeks without delighting in the word of God while reading it, that this was a sign for the need of a spiritual revival in their lives. So I ask us - how many times have we read from the Bible and when we were finished could not remember what we had read?
     Let us desire to know our Savior better and to delight in Him and the wonderful inheritance that He has left for us in His words and actions - The Gospel of Jesus Christ.

          God bless you all!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The life Of A Christian

Luke 22:26-27
The life Of A Christian

     “Let him who is the greatest become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” –Jesus

     What does it mean to become like the youngest and as the servant? Let me start by saying that the youngest has no right to look down on those who are older, but rather, looks diligently at the word of God to be sure that if he opens his mouth to those who are older, that he is speaking the truth. The youngest understands his need for God’s wisdom and that he really knows nothing yet, but is still a child in all things.
     To be a servant is to understand that you do not live by your own schedule. Your master may give you some part of the day to do what you like, but you live by the master’s direction. So unless otherwise specified, you are always on duty.
     So with these two things in mind,  1.the need for dependence upon God’s wisdom, and 2. your time is not your own, we now have the proper attitude for those who are to be in God’s kingdom. So let me ask us some questions. How many of us, as Christians, truly consider all that we have and all our time to be God’s, or That every minute of every day is God’s to be used for His schedule of tasks and duties? Is our house at His disposal to be sold or kept? Are our children properly disciplined and trained up in the Word and available to be called into action for His work? Are next weekends plans willingly sacrificed for His work? Do we ask Him for His schedule every morning or do we make up our own? Do we live with His agenda or our own? Do we belong to ourselves or to God?
     These are foundational questions for us as Christians and our effectiveness and fruitfulness depends on the answer that we give for each of them. We are to be completely His from the moment we become saved. We did not pay the price for our own salvation did we? Then we also don’t set the rules by which we are to live. They are established by our dear Savior who paid the price for us. But I want to say that our joy will also be found by how we answer these questions. Jesus, the rewarder of all who serve Him, gives a joy that is overpowering as we sacrifice each one of these things for Him and His work. It becomes our greatest pleasure to give up the world and our home here on earth for Him. Joy grows with obedience. The harder it is to obey and the harder the sacrifice, the greater the joy that He replaces it with in our hearts. This world is passing away! In this light, what is there on this earth that is worth holding on to if it is going to pass away in the end?
     Let us be willing to count all as rubbish for the sake of knowing Jesus. He is the beginning and the end! He is our Rock of Refuge! He is our Lord and King! His Word abides forever! Let us open our spiritual eyes and gaze into the heavens and into eternity. It will be upon us all too soon and we will wish that we had done more for the glory of His kingdom. We will all stand before Him and give an account for every word and action. Let us pursue with all diligence, to be blameless in how we have spent our remaining time while here earth.       
        God bless you all!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Imminent Return Of Christ

Luke 21:25-28 & 34-36
The Imminent Return Of Christ

     “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 
     “Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

     This is a clear word to us as Christians. Jesus says to be on guard and to keep on the alert at all times lest the day of His return come upon us suddenly. In other passages of scripture it says that the generation that sees Israel regathered as a nation will not pass away before He has returned. Israel was re-gathered in 1948 which is around the same time my Mother was born. (Just to put things into perspective) Jesus could return in my Mothers lifetime. So let us think earnestly about what Jesus is saying here, and that He is not trying to keep these things hidden from us but is speaking plainly. Let us think in terms of being a soldier and on guard duty. We have heard that a great army is approaching and that we must give warning to the rest of the troops before they get close so that everyone might have time to get ready and defend the fort. Now, it would be nice to think that we could establish a certain time every day on the wall and that the enemy should only try and attack during the time we have designated. However, the enemy looks for a time when we are not at our post or at least not going to be very alert so that they will have the advantage. We can see how foolish it would be to assume that the enemy will only attack when we are on duty. Let us compare this to our Christian walk. As long as the Lord returns on Sunday or Wednesday night we will be alert at His coming. Or as long as He comes when we are half asleep and trying to read our Bible just before bed, then we will not be taken by surprise. We can see from these examples that it is easy to treat our alertness for His coming too casually. Examine your day and ask yourself just how much time do you spend with Jesus in a day and honestly, how prepared are you too actually to meet Him?
     Jesus says to be careful not to be tangled up in the pursuits of the world and the worries of life. He was obviously quite aware of the daily struggles and earthly pleasures that we face. He did not make light of how hard it would be for us to hold on until His return and to be able to stand securely in His presence. He said, “Be on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place.”
     Let us look at the practical steps for being constantly on the alert. We can start by setting time aside every morning and evening to be with Him. We can begin memorizing verses in the Bible or sing worship songs in our heart while we work during the day. This really helps during the day when we are bombarded by worldly music and coarse language. We have to counter those things that fill our minds with evil thoughts and desires by replacing them quickly with whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is true and of good repute. We have to take every thought captive. To be on the alert is also to be constantly ready to help our neighbor and to share the good news of the Gospel of Christ. We are to be continually sowing the seed of His word and to be unashamed of Him so that when He stands before the Father He is unashamed of us.
     So let me encourage us to keep on the alert as soldiers of Jesus Christ who will soon return and will reward all those who have been faithful. God bless you all!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Today Jesus Is Coming To Your House

Luke 19:1-10
Today Jesus Is Coming To Your House

      “And He entered and was passing through Jericho. And behold, there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; and he was a chief tax gatherer, and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was, and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. And he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down, and received Him gladly. And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner. And Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

     This story brings me to tears. I can’t help but feel the joy and thankfulness that Zaccheus must have felt when our loving Savior said, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” How can I expound on this? Zaccheus did it the best when he hurriedly came down and received Him gladly.
      Today Jesus is coming to your house. How will you receive Him? Zaccheus’ response was one of complete gratefulness and transformation. He immediately wanted to make right anything that he could, giving away his money and paying back those whom he had defrauded. These are things that will happen when Jesus comes to our house. Many of us are Christians who have felt this complete change of heart. This desire to make up for anything we have done against our neighbor and from then on to completely live for Jesus. It is a radical change that comes over us on the day we invite Him in. Our lives have never been the same! This demonstration of Zaccheus salvation is so touching and reminds us again of that day that Jesus came to our homes. The reason I wanted to ask the question, “How will you receive Him?” is because sometimes we forget our first love and we push Jesus out of our house as we bring things in that are displeasing to Him. Jesus makes His exit slowly as we allow these other things to take His place until finally we forget all about Him or even notice that He is gone. Our lives are too busy to notice that He has gone. Then one day as we are cleaning we see a Bible lying on corner table under a pile of magazines and coffee cups and realize that it has been a very long time since we actually sat down seriously for an evening with God. We don’t remember why we haven’t but something must have come up as it always does the moment you try and set aside some time for God. And suddenly we realize that we have allowed all sorts of vices and temptations to take root in the house and that it will need a thorough cleaning if we are going to invite Him back in again.
     So, again my question is, how will you receive Him? With gladness or with heartache that He will require you to let go of the things that have displaced Him from your house? Are you willing for Him to take charge of cleaning your house from the things that displease Him? We have a very crafty and intelligent enemy who is always looking to infiltrate our home with the things that corrupt our minds and hearts. Things that make us forget what was so wrong with the world’s pleasures and pursuits. The Devil’s goal is to get us into arguments with our conscience over whether or not something is really that bad. The argument worked with Eve in the garden and it still works today. Are we willing to take an honest look at our lives and see how they measure up to the Ten Commandments? Are we willing to not let ourselves off the hook so easily and ask ourselves if we are really obeying them? Obedience to God’s laws will change our lives and seem to restrict us from the things we are so used to doing. Are we willing to accept the fact that God’s laws will not change and that it is we who must change. God’s Ten Commandments will be our laws for eternity. If we don’t like them now then we won’t like them in eternity either. This is a simple truth and is a good point to ponder. In John 3 Jesus talks about bringing the Light and that men loved darkness rather than the Light. What is the Light? It is the clear view of the perfection of God and His glorious righteousness. And why do men hate it? Because they love to live outside of God’s rules. Jesus calls it Lawlessness, that is, breaking the laws of God. Jesus is not going to change His laws simple because man does not want to obey them. The law shall remain. Jesus says that if we love Him we will keep His commandments, that is, we will strive to live in obedience to His laws. He also says that if we love Him we will not find His commandments to be burdensome. And David says it clearly in the Psalms that his delight was in keeping the laws of God. Obedience is delightful and full of the fruits of joy!
     Jesus says that we will have joy in our trials. However there are two types of trials, trials that come because we have broken the law and trials that come because we are obeying the law. The trials that come from breaking the law are meant as chastisement and not meant to be joyful anymore than you would expect your child to enjoy being punished for doing something wrong. In fact, it would be very inappropriate for him to be joyful in being punished, but rather, you expect him to humble himself and apologize for his actions. The other trial comes from obedience to Gods laws and having an enemy who is bent on keeping us from obeying them and encouraging others to do the same. There is joy that comes from God which comes welling up within our hearts when we keep away from temptation and honor His laws. Every day that goes by in which we stay out of the sins that have continually made us stumble in the past, our joy grows stronger. Our time of reading the Bible becomes clearer with greater understanding and our love for the Lord grows. This is why Solomon said that the fear of the Lord brings wisdom. The fear of the discipline of the Lord keeps us from sinning and the farther we stay from sin the more God gives us understanding in His ways. A child that drinks poison every day will live in an unhealthy state without the full use of his mind, but the moment he stops drinking the poison his mind starts to recover. Sin is poison! We need to stop drinking it!
     So I just want to encourage each of us to look closely at our lives and ask God how He wants us to live and then to be willing to have our lives cleaned up and made fresh and clean. Jesus is coming to our homes; let us receive Him with gladness!