Encouragement

Hebrews 10:19-25

These scriptures focus on some very important principles on what we have in Christ, and our responsibilities as individuals and as a church toward one another. We have (1)Boldness to enter in to the Holiest of Holies by the blood of Jesus Christ. (2) A freshly slain and living way to through the veil. And (3) A great High Priest over the House of God. Because we have such important gifts from God the Father, we have certain responsibilities that we are to focus on as individuals and as a church. They are to:

  • Draw Near
  • Hold Fast Our Confession
  • Consider One Another
  • Assemble Together
  • Exhort One Another

The responsibilities covered in this scripture are the foundation of church life. Church life is not just showing up once or twice a week and being entertained for an hour or so and then going out to eat at a restaurant and never considering the impact of Christ in our lives and in the lives of our brethren.

We are invited into the very presence of God. That way is made possible because of the covering we receive from the blood of Jesus. We are able to enter into the Holy of Holies to do service to God. The Levitical High Priest could only enter the presence of God once a year. The purpose was to offer sacrifices for the House of Israel for sins they had committed throughout the year. In the book of Exodus the process for the priests to enter the Holy of Holies is outlined. The clothes that Aaron and the priests were to wear had to first be washed with water. Then Aaron was to be robed and anointed with a specially made oil. Only after the washing, the robing, and the anointing could Aaron enter the presence of God with confidence that he would not be destroyed. This complete sacrificial system was superseded by the complete sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross. Jesus is our cleansing, sanctification and access to the Father. His living sacrifice is what gives us boldness to enter the presence of God.

Our sins are therefore, not only covered, but removed from us. Psalm 103:12 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Do you know that no matter how far east you go, you can never find the west? Nor can you find the east from going west. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) Jesus became the great High Priest, because of his righteousness toward God. Now that Jesus is risen He is continuously before the Father offering up prayers and interceding for us. This gives us a clean conscience by which we can enter with confidence in to the presence of God.

Draw Near

            The Lord Almighty had extended salvation to us, and an invitation to renew our fellowship with him. We must move on past the basic milk of the gospel. We have to move on to the meat and potatoes of our relationship with God the Father. Genesis 5:24 says that “Enoch walked with God.” Genesis 6:9 says that “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generation, and Noah walked with God.” We have the same ability right now. Jesus had made it possible to walk in the presence of the Creator of the Universe! – Amen! We can draw near to God and into his very presence through prayer, scripture study, and fellowship. “And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8:11) We have become priests to God, and there is now no veil between his presence and our priesthood. We need to come to God with a “true heart” and in “full assurance of faith.” A true heart has full faith and acceptance that one can into the presence of God.

Hold Fast Our Confession

These times we live in are hazardous to Christians. Groups like ISIS are torturing and killing Christians by the truck load. Hostility towards Christians and the scriptures is toxic even here in the United States. Christians are losing their jobs, educational opportunities, and freedoms of open worship all across this country. Sharing the Love of Christ is often met with “hater” rhetoric and standing up for your Christian faith can even lead to civil and criminal charges in many states.

Now this should not surprise us, Jesus made more than one warning that we would be mistreated and persecuted for embracing Him. I will not expand on it here, but read Matthew 24: 4-13 to see what Jesus warned we would face in the last days. But remember the importance of taking up his cross. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or shat shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Sond of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels: and then He shall reward every man according to his works.”(Matthew 16:24-27) (Matthew 24:4-13) (Daniel 7:13-14) Keeping in mind that this is our end game, we should assist one another and keep each other’s sufferings and needs in mind. In case you missed it, Jesus is RETURNING – Amen!

Consider One Another

In the 17th chapter of John it is recorded that Jesus prayed for us. “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from evil… Sanctify them through Your truth, Your Word is truth.” (John 17:15) Jesus not only prayed for His apostles, but for every believer in the world and anytime. If it is so important for our savior to consider our needs and to pray for us. How much more should we pray for one another in our daily lives. In James 5:16 it says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”

Assemble Together

Assembling together is not just something to be done on Sundays. The assembling with believers is mandated over and over in the New Testament. Assembling together puts us right in the presence of Jesus. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) Assembling together gives us a support structure through accountability and encouragement.

I am a recovering alcoholic, and as such, I cannot go and hang out with old friends who drink. Instead I have to be around other recovering alcoholic and abusers. My old friends are still living in there destructive lifestyle and would only encourage me to return to my old ways. I would be foolish to put myself in that situation. It is not that my old friends wish me harm. They just miss the guy I use to be.

But those who are striving to leave the old ways behind, and know the consequence of failure, are more likely not to let me return to my old ways. In addition, they can more readily see the signs of when someone is on their way to return to drinking or abusing. Then they can intercede and stop me from making a foolish mistake, in a moment of weakness, which could cost my life. In fact the first signs that someone is recovering is that they stop going to meetings, and stop communicating with their sponsor. It is very simple. “Birds of a feather, flock together”; so this gives us strength in numbers.

Exhort One Another

Living a life for Christ, even in American, can have its hazards. It takes courage and love to go our on a daily basis and talk to people about Christ. Even in environments where your expected to. Ministry takes a lot of overcoming insecurities, and self criticisms. Preaching the gospel, caring for the poor and homeless, the elderly, diseased, and those imprisoned takes personal sacrifices. These sacrifices include time, money, family relationships, employment, and sometimes social status. Wow, just thinking of it can be daunting.

Without encouragement fellow believers would fail. Encouragement is more than just patting on the back and saying hang in there. Encouragement is interceding for one another, supporting one another financially, and reinforcing the heart and mind with scriptures. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Some other scriptures of encouragement are: Psalm 9:9, Psalm 23:4, Palm 25:22, Matthew 11:28-29

So in closing, I encourage you to pray one for another, do not forsake the gathering together with believers, remember the sacrament of the breaking of bread, and draw close to Jesus. “And let the peace of Christ rule your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body, and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15) – Amen!

 

References

Newell, William R. Hebrews, Verse by Verse. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1987. Print.

Strong, James. The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996. Print.

Carson, D. A., Douglas J. Moo, and Andrew David Naselli. Introducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Print.

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print.

Henry, Matthew, and Leslie F. Church. Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Genesis to Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1961. Print.

Advertisements

Psalm 1:1 Guard Your Company

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, not standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (Psalms 1:1)

The key words in this text for today’s message are:

  • blessed
  • ungodly
  • sinners
  • scornful

In order to move ahead with this message, we have to make sure we all have the same understanding of these words.  What the intent of the writer is and how the ancient Hebrews would have most likely interpreted the meaning of these and then put them into context.  I will attempt to do this for us.

*References are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 

Blessed

The Hebrew root for the word used in blessed is ashar, meaning to go straight, go on, or advance.  Many scholars translate the intent of this word to mean “level”, or “sturdy”.  We could go on to say that this is a good foundation, in order to move ahead.  That you’re on the “right path”, if you follow what is about to be said.  Interestingly enough, this is the same term that Jesus starts his 1st sermon of his public ministry.  In the sermon we have come to know as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus begins with the “Be-attitudes”.  He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)  This shows the understanding that God has for us.  Jesus’ first sermon and the 1st Psalm start off with an encouragement to us.  Be happy, you’re on the right path!  Be of good cheer, you are right with God.

Ungodly

The Hebrew root for the word use for ungodly is rasha: wicked, criminal.  A criminal or someone who is wicked, is someone who made a choice to be in err.  The Latin term would be “Malum in Se”, this means that something is just wrong in itself.  No one needs to tell you that murder, rape, burglary, robbery are wrong.  Those that commit these crimes are wicked.

Sinners

The Hebrew root for the word used for sinners is chata: to miss, go wrong, sin.  This is to fall short.  Like a basketball player that just cannot make a basket.  There is a standard and it is not being reached.  The term we are probably most familiar with would be “lost”.

Scornful

The Hebrew root for the word used for scornful is luts: have in derision, make a mock, mocker.  These are those who make fun of the righteous.  Who question the authority of scripture.  Those who elevate their own craftiness, who think they are smarter then God.  Those who believe in their own wisdom.  Those who are arrogant.  The saying goes, “He is too smart for his own good”.  The 1st Cor. 3:19 says, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.”

So from the Hebrew perspective it would read more like:

Steady or Level is the man that;

                Does not walk in the counsel of those who depart from the path;

                Does not stand in the way of those who miss the mark;

                Does not sit in the seat of those who imitate (mock) the truth.

 We can even say, “At peace with God are those who:

                Do not follow those that have strayed from the true path;

                Do not hang out with those who miss the mark;

                Do not believe there is no God.

 

A sinful man is one who misses the mark, stumbles and fails.  A sinful person makes mistakes.  An evil man is one who is bent on hurting someone and who has a life style of injuring others.  No Christian should ever want to just hurt anyone.  Sin is progressive. “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse…” (2nd Timothy 3:13)

Every evil person was once just a sinner. Sin causes separation from God and hardens the heart. If you hang out with people who have no morals, or have gray areas, or do not have a definite truth, then you will eventually adopt this way of thinking.  Somehow we think that we can hang around evil people, people who take the Lord’s name in vain, who lie, steal, and cheat on their spouses, and think that we will not be corrupted.  Have you not read? “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” (Galatians 5:9 NIV)  We are warned of this fact over and over in the scriptures.

(Proverbs 4:14-16) “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.  For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.”

Eventually this evil will get inside of you, and you will start thinking about the evil desires and it will grow in your heart.  That is why Jesus let us know that if a man even looks on a woman in lust, he has created adultery already.  This is just one example of how impurity corrupts the heart and mind of a man.  Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) It starts with a suggestion, grows into a thought, then a desire.  This desire may manifest itself in words first, then before you know it, you have committed the act.  James 1:15 says, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

When someone is living a certain lifestyle contrary to what others perceive as right, they will at first hide this lifestyle.  They will lie and deceive the ones they love, to protect this lifestyle.  Then they will seek out others who live this same lifestyle, this gives them a sense of acceptance.

Even though they still know it is wrong inside.  Then they move on to trying to convert others to their lifestyle.  This is a progressive hardening of the heart.  Once the heart has grown callas then they turn and attack the ones that tried to keep them from going down the forbidden path.  They turn vicious and try to destroy the ones who care about them and who try to show them the way that they should have come.

They will try to say there is no God, because if there is no God then there is not absolute truth.  Without truth there is no moral compass.  Without a moral compass there is no judgement.  Without judgement there is no penalty.

In reality God does exists, man knows it, and has turned their back on Him.  Psalms 14:1 “The fool hath said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”  We have all missed the mark, we have as a whole and individually been corrupted.  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 KJV)  You will die and be judged.  Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for every, including a time to die. (Ecclesiastes 3:2) After this we will all be judged.  “and as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement:” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV)

What is the judgement?  What is the criteria? Why are you condemned? You have turned your back on Jesus and rejected Him, even allowed yourself to be fooled by the mockers, and you have no excuse.  You are personally responsible to Jesus.  “And this is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil.”(John 3:19 KJV)  The consequence of the judgement is that you will be cast out of the presence of God.  Much like those who violate the laws of society, they are thrown into prison and the fellow prisoners do what they will.

“For without are dogs, and sorcerers the sexually immoral, the murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:15)

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men,” (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV)

If you are on a trip and decide that you no longer want to go to the destination, how do you prevent arriving there?  Your make a decision, and get off the course you’re going and correct your course.  If you hang out with evil men you will become evil.  Paul writes to us, “But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler.  Do not even eat with such people.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Hiding from your sin will do you no good, “Whosoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  Jesus is the only way to be forgiven of your sin and have death Passover you.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

“God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood-to be received by faith.  He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.” (Romans 3:25 NIV)  Turn away from your sins, confess to Jesus your sins, and receive him as the atonement for your sins.  Serve him as Lord of your life.  You have a life debt to Him.

If you are a Christian and not doing what you should, forsake your life and confess, take up your cross and follow Him.  The time for salvation is today.

This is the way to blessings.  Being in fellowship with Jesus, who is God.  The blessings of God are peace, joy, love, forgiveness, and fellowship with the One who created everything that is seen and unseen.  He is a marvelous God who sacrificed all to make a way for you to experience His love.  Hold fast to that which you have been told.  Guard your mind and your heart from the ones who seek to destroy your fellowship with Jesus.

 

Get Back to the Basics

Sitting here watching the rains come down by the gallons, I wondered away in thought.  It is kind of scary how far off our thoughts can get.  Well at least mine.  We have been reading in 1st Corinthians and I wondered.  How could the first century church get to far off from what the gospel was about?  I mean, the Apostle Paul is still alive, and writing to them.  They had Apollos, Cephas, and other spirit filled followers, of the Way, right there with them.  Paul even sent Timothy to follow up with them and make sure that they were following the teachings they had received.

Jesus commanded us, as believers, to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe ALL I’ve commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The word observe has several meanings, but they all come down to follow with the eyes of the mind and stick to correctly, or conform ones actions or practice to.  So another way of putting it could be that Jesus said to teach them to conform to the commandments I gave you.  This is what discipleship is.  With that in mind.  What are the most important commandments of Jesus?

If we took all of his teachings and commandments, and the way he lived his life and put it all together, what would be the result?  What are we to conform our lives to?  Now I’m talking to believers, those who have repented, confessed Jesus as Lord, taken up their cross and are followers of the Way of Christ.

Does anyone remember what kind of house Jesus lived in?  Wasn’t it the biggest one on the block?  Wasn’t his chariot the newest thing out of Rome?  Does anyone recall when he was on the Mount of Olive and he said, those who are rich are welcome in the kingdom and the poor need to wait outside?  Well if you remember all these things you have a very different version of the New Testament then I do.

No he said that the Son of man has not where to lay his head.  He walked almost everywhere he went.  He said it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven then for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  He said if you give to the poor and the hungry and visit the prisoners, then you did so to him.

So what is the command?  Couldn’t he just come out and say it?  I can be pretty thick headed.  Hmmm… Well, thanks to Jesus thinking of me, and how I would need to have my hand held all the way, he did tell us very plainly.

When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”  He not only answered, plainly, but went the extra mile.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all our mind.  This is the first commandment.  And the second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, KJV)

Once again Jesus reiterated, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)  By these two commandment, everything Jesus wanted us to observe is made perfect.

Just to make sure we understood how important these commandments are Jesus tells us in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”  So… In loving the Lord we keep his commandments to love the Lord your God and to love one another.  But how do we love the Lord?  How do we express the way to love the Lord?  We live in a world where all we are taught is how to love ourselves.

Let us start with something basic.  Most of us being selfish, still know how to show love to our children, a spouse, a sibling, a pet, a close friend, or to parents.  I know, not all at the same time, but we have at least a starting point. You can express love to the Lord in the same way you express love to one of these that you do love.  Now this is only a beginning and meant to get you to find your own ways to express love for the Lord.

  • Give Thanks
  • Do Things For Him
  • Spend Time
  • Shut Up and Listen
  • Give Praise and Brag on Him

Give Thanks

Let’s start with being thankful. Expressing thanks to someone you love just for being there is a great way to show your love.  I love the fact that my wife is there for me, even when she doesn’t realize it, her presence lifts me up.  Sometimes I just reach over and tell her, Thanks for no reason.  When my son cuts the grass for me, I tell him thanks, because he did not have to do that.  When my wife brings me diner, and yes she does bring me diner.  I know in this day and age that is not the norm, so I thank her for it without fail.  She is not my servant, but shows her love for me in this manner. The Lord does things for you all the time, even when you do not know.  Show your love and appreciation by thanking him, as often as you need to. You should thank Him, as soon as you think of it.

Do Things for Him

That brings us to another point.  Do things for the Lord that He enjoys.  I help my wife with cooking, and dishes, and other household chores.  I make her little drawings, I by her flowers for no reason.  So what are some things we can do for the Lord?  Funny you should ask, because he told us in Matthew 25: 34-40,

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Spend Time

I love to just sit on the bed, or go for a drive with my wife and just enjoy being with her.  I love sitting on a peer with my son and fishing, or just being in the presence of my family without the phone in my hand, or theirs.  Just spending time with them lets them know they are important to me.  Spend time with the Lord.  Get up early and go to sit by the water and just enjoy His presence, or have a cup of coffee and meditate on His goodness.  Spend time with him and let him know you enjoy the time he has to spend with you.  Enjoy his voice.

Shut Up and Listen

Most of the time I spend with family is sitting in the living room or at the dinner table and they just talk about their day.  Most of the time they talk to fast I can hardly keep up with the conversation, much less add my own thoughts.  I often have to stop them and make them start over so I can understand.  They laugh at me a little sometimes, and sometimes they even repeat what they said, to make sure I know what was went on with them.  But just taking the time to listen, and try to understand is another way I show my love.  I care about what they are trying to say, even if I don’t always understand it the first time.  Spending time with the Lord in Prayer and study is a very good way to not only learn more about God, but to show Him that you love Him enough to try to understand Him.  Remember the Lord says to Seek and you shall find.  Ask and it will be given.  Set a specific time of day just to spend in prayer and study His Word.

Give Praise and Brag on Him

When my wife gives me a pat on the back, or brags about me to others, “Boy Howdy!”  I love it because I know she thinks about me, when I’m not there.  I will honestly tell you my wife is the best cook I have ever known.  I mean, I will lay money on it.  She knows it and so does everyone else.  I love to brag at work and tell everyone the latest culinary masterpiece that she developed in the cooking channel that is our kitchen.

The same way is with my son’s playing of the trumpet, everyone in the stadium knows that he is the best trumpet player in the band, and it they didn’t know before I got there, they do when I have left.  Or that my other son is the hardest working, biggest hearted man I know, who will literally give you the shirt off his back. The gentleness in his heart makes me cry every single time I think about him.

This is the way we should brag and praise the Lord.  Hey! Your God is the one who SAVED you from death.  Y our God is the one who formed you in the womb. our God is He who provides everything you have.  Your God is He who parted the Red Sea, and destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.  He is the creator or all that is see and unseen.  He is coming back to wipe away the heavens and the earth and create a new heavens and earth, and guess what, your gona have a front row seat!  Praise God! Brag in Him. “ I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart;  I will tell of all your marvelous works.” Psalms 9:1

Knowing that someone loves you is euphoric.  We are created in God’s image.  The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are one awesome God and deserve our love and our outward expression of love. So rejoice in the Lord and brag about being His beloved.  “For the Lord gives to His beloved even in their sleep.” (Psalms 127:2) Don’t take Him for granted.  Tell others how much He loves you and them.

This is only a short list of ways to love the Lord your God.  I am sure you have already thought of many more.  It is time to move away from the milk of the gospel and onto to cereals of the doctrine of love in Christ Jesus.  There is no division in Christ.  If you are a follower of Jesus there is no Jew, Catholic, or Protestant.  We are one church.  We are all baptized in to one resurrection, and by His love they shall know we are one in Him.

What is Repentance?

Jesus said, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32)  What then is repentance? Why is it so important?  What does it look like?

I will tell you first what repentance is not. Repentance is not just being sorry because you got caught.  Although, being caught can be a motivation towards repentance.  Sorrow for being caught and apologizing is not repentance in itself.  In truth, repentance does not require an emotional response either.  Yes emotions can be a factor in bringing someone to repentance.

What is required for repentance?

  • Repentance requires an understanding of a wrong that was committed.
  • Repentance requires an understanding of consequences that have a cause and effect from act committed. Repentance requires ownership of the act committed.
  • Repentance requires a sincere commitment not to re-commit the wrong that was committed.

For Christian repentance it requires acceptance that Jesus paid the consequence for the wrong committed.  Christian repentance requires that we commit our lives to God through Jesus.  Acts 20:21 tell us that it is “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”.  So then, repentance is a decision, a change of mind, resulting in an inward and outward action of turning from your old way of life to a better life in fellowship with God through Jesus the Savior.

Repentance is a gift that God has given us.  We have all been hurt by someone in our past, by someone we really loved and trusted.  We have all felt so betrayed that we didn’t see how we could ever trust anyone again.  No one could make us love again.  No one would ever be allowed to get that close to use again.  We have all felt that loneliness that comes with the anger and isolation of mistrust.  For those of us who have overcome and have someone in our lives we can trust again, how did we do that?  Better yet for those who still struggle with trust issues, how do you overcome?

How do you trust someone again?  Can anyone EARN your trust?  I think the answer is no.  No one can earn your trust.  So then what?  This is the way… you have to give someone your trust.  You have to take a chance.  You have to give it away.  You have to forgive. This is what I mean by, repentance is a gift from God.  We cannot earn Gods trust any more than someone can earn yours, if you have been hurt.  God chooses to give us a way to come into His graces.  God chose to make the sacrifice of blood that was necessary to bring us in to his fellowship again.  Why?  Because like you, God wants to be close to the ones that He loves.  Because God knows that having a relationship with you as an individual is worth the sacrifice.

Repentance is a part of the foundation of Christianity.  Acts 17:30 states, “…but [God] now commandeth all men [women] everywhere to repent.”, and again in Luke 13:13 we discover that unless we do repent, we will perish.  So then the way to eternal life starts with repentance… a choice to change.  Peter announced in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Repentance is necessary for salvation.  How can a husband who has wronged his wife expect to be forgiven and trusted if he is still committing the offences that lead to his separation from his wife?  How can an employee make amends to an employer if they are still stealing from the employer?  How can an addict be trusted if they are still using?  It doesn’t make much sense does it?  It is one thing to be sorry, it’s another to choose to change.  Repentance is yet more than these, you have to put your faith in Jesus.  You have to trust that He has the power and the will to deliver you.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, the first few steps to recovery are to admit you have a problem. Know that you are powerless to stop it. You have to take a moral inventory of yourself. Know that you can be delivered from the behavior by a higher power.  Then commit to that power, and continue in the way you are led.  I can think of no better example of repentance.

When you repent, you have to put your faith in Jesus to deliver you from your moral bankruptcy.  You have to commit to Jesus for life.  The phrase “Let go and let God.” Does not mean to quit trying.  It means to submit to Jesus.

“Know ye not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether to sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness:  But God be thanked, that ye were servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Romans 6:16-18)

This is the doctrine of salvation – “For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who know no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus stepped in and took blame for everything you ever did, or will do against God, and paid the price with His life.  You say I didn’t do anything against God.  Well the truth is you have. Every lie, everything you took that wasn’t yours.  Every vile thought, every time you talked about someone behind their back.  Every time you judged the homeless, or ignored a widows tears, or a child’s hunger.  When you chose to use your pain to hold judgement against someone else, you did those and more against God.  Just because you call yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you don’t need to repent either.

1John 1:8-9 was talking to followers when he said, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  The church of Pergamos was warned, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)  Examine yourself today and confess aloud your sin to Jesus and recommit your way.

The Lord Himself commanded us to take up our crosses daily.  This way you can be in fellowship with God today.  “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” (1 John 1:3-4)

This is a gift from God toward us, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1)

Always Be Prepared to Give an Answer

I was at work one day.  Working on a customer’s computer and I was there about an hour.  She quietly watched as I progressed through the tasks at hand.  Every now and then, she would ask me a question about her computer or my work related experience.  I courteously answered and explained as best I could.  She was an intelligent person, so I didn’t want to assume that she didn’t understand what I was saying, so I asked her questions about her questions, in order to determine what she really wanted to know.

Once I had completed the work and answered her questions, she told me she had two more questions.  I jokingly told her, I would answer as honestly as I could.  She smiled and said, “You’re a Christian aren’t you?”  I told her, “Yes ma’am”.  She said, “I could tell, by the way you act.”  I told her that was an amazing complement, and one I could never forget.  She then asked how I became a Christian.

So I sat down and told her my story.  When I had completed, she told me, you have to tell someone else now.  Your testimony is the most important way to saving someone else, and not enough Christians tell their story these days. I thought that kind of odd that she would say such a thing.  Once I left her office, I could not get her statement out of my head.

I remembered when I was young, and it seemed that everyone was telling their testimony when I went to church, or school, and even in the supermarket.  Now I can’t even remember the last time I heard someone’s testimony at church.  Did we forget?  Did we become afraid?  Did we become complacent?

Remember the scripture says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1st Peter 3:15, 1980)  So how do we give our testimony?  Is there some kind of method to convey to others what God has done for us. Is there an example in the bible?

I remembered then, that when I was in Youth For Christ, that part of the discipleship was to show and tell new believers how to share their testimony.  Maybe that is what we have forgotten.  So, I will tell you that there are 3 parts to your testimony that you should make sure you include.  You probably already know them, but I’m gona tell you anyway, just to make sure you know. The 3 parts to a testimony are:

  • Before
  • During
  • After

That seems kinda simple doesn’t it?  Can it be that simple?  Don’t I have to tell everyone my deep dark secrets?  Don’t I have to show them what a terrible person I was?  Don’t I have to confess to everyone I see, what vile and depraved things I did before?  Let’s look at Paul’s example in Acts 26.

In verses 9-11 Paul outlines what his life was like before Christ.  He starts saying, “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 26:9) Paul goes on to describe how he acted in general terms, but never confesses specific incidences. He gives enough information so that his audience can identify with the type of person he was before he met Jesus the Messiah.  This should be fairly simple, after all you lived your life, you’re not making it up or embellishing in any way.

So think, what was your life like before Jesus?  What thoughts did you entertain?  What kind of self-serving acts did you do?  What did it drive you to?  How did you feel? What were your insecurities? How did you fool yourself?  Did you try to hide it by abuse… drugs… sex… alcohol?  Did you think that money, education, friends, or work could save you, or make you feel better about yourself?  Did you grow up in a church home and think that it just covered you, or gave you an excuse? Did you even care? A simple summary of this portion of your life is good.

Then Paul moved on in, verse 12-18, and described in detail, how he me the Lord.  Where he was at, what his condition was, what he was thinking, how he felt.  Where were you when the Lord touched you?  When did you experience real Christianity?  Why did you need the Lord?  How did you talk to the Lord?  What did you hear from the Lord?  This portion of your testimony lets the use see how someone can meet the Lord for themselves, it shows the process of accepting Christ and the forgiveness that is there at the throne of mercy.

After Paul explained how he met the Lord.  He immediately told what his life was like now.  The Lord gives us all a command to go forth and testify.  Tell how your life has changed.  Don’t use generic terms like “I’m so blessed now.”  Instead, give specific examples like of how following Jesus has changed your life, restored relationships, given your courage to face the past mistakes.  How life with Jesus has given you the ability to love others.  How studying scriptures has helped to give you a better understanding of God.  Explain the hope you have in the future and in life, because of the faithfulness God has shown you, by example.  What prayers has he answered?  Don’t forget to tell how you are faithful to God.  What changes have you made in your lifestyle, how has those changes benefited your life.  How do you serve God now?  Some of the people you testify to are going to be old friends who have not seen you in a while, and will still remember how you used to be.  This then becomes a re-affirmation of faith.

Take the time today to be alone with God and examine yourself.  Write out your testimony and remember these few points.  There are many different things you can say.  Many different approaches to take.  You need to take the time to find your story and your approach.  Your testimony does not need to be a long drawn out affair.  Keep it simple and short and to the point.  Once you have your draft, then go to a mirror and speak it to yourself, share your testimony with a fellow Christian.  Then take it to the streets.

Yes it will change depending on who you talk to and the circumstances.  You do not need to have some static script memorized.  You don’t need to preach to the individual you are sharing your story with. This is your story of how you met Jesus. Take your time with who you share it with.

Sometimes I talk to someone over a course of months, revealing parts of my testimony as the situation arrives.  Cultivating a relationship with the individual is very important.  The important thing is to share.  Remember, it is the Spirits job to convict and to lead to Jesus.  Your job is just to share what you know.  You know Jesus.

Pod Casts for The Way of Christ

Christ: His Resurrection

Reading from Matthew 28:1-7a

 

Today in the face of mounting hostility toward Christ and his followers throughout the world, it is important that we cling to the faith we have in Him and stand ready to give an answer to that faith when asked. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15

You are an ambassador of Christ here in this world. You have full authority to tell others of the kingdom of God and the Messiah Jesus.  In fact you were commanded to such as a Way of Life.  But how can you tell someone your faith, if all you know of your faith is what someone has told you, and you just took their word on it?  The Apostle Paul said, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

There are some pretty smart people out there with degrees and coaching’s from demonic powers and spiritual powers that do not want the truth to be told. They live in the grey areas, the flexible truths, the little white lies, or “are you sure that’s what it says” innuendos.  So as far as this resurrection of life is concerned, how can we discern the truth?  How can we with a sound mind believe in such a thing?  Why is the resurrection so important? Why is the resurrection so important?  Simply put, if the resurrection did not happen, then the whole cornerstone of Christianity is sinking sand.  The resurrection is the ultimate miracle of Jesus.  It is so important that Jesus referred to it multiple times in his ministry. The book of Isaiah even prophesized the resurrection.
Turn to Isaiah 26:19 and read, “Your dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise, awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust: for your dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”  In 2nd Corinthians Paul states, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; you are yet in your sins”.

The scriptures make it clear that as man fell in to sin and death because of one man, man is resurrected because of one sinless man, who conquered death. This is directly told to us in Romans when the author states, For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”(Romans 5:19) So we can look forward to our resurrection because Jesus was resurrected. Without the resurrection there is no reason to follow Jesus.  That is a simple to the point reason why the resurrection is so important.

That is why the enemy looks to discount the resurrection. There are many arguments on the resurrection.  Interesting enough, there are no real arguments on if the tomb was actually empty.  The following are some arguments that seem most prevalent.

  • Jesus was not actually dead
  • The Disciples moved the body
  • The Religious Leaders or Romans moved the body

Jesus Was Not Actually Dead

When we consider this possibility, we have to really look at our own constitution. How much damage can your body take?  Now I am a strong man, and my wife would say I’m a little hard headed.  She even tells me sometimes that I always push myself too hard and too far.  But what Jesus went through in the 24 hour period prior to his death is something I don’t think I would have survived.  After his arrest Jesus went through 6 trials, at each of those trials he received a physical beating as punishment and motivation to confess to crimes he did not commit.

He had his beard ripped from his face. He had a professional flogging from a Roman soldier who had experience in dealing out such punishments.  He was whipped with a cat-of-nine tails.  This is a weapon used to flog prisoners that had bits of bone and metal woven into the whip tails, it pulled muscles from the bones and severed nerves and tore skin.  Most people who received a Roman flogging did not survive this brutal assault.

His head an brow were pierced with a crown made of thorns. Now I do some gardening, and we have rose bushes, and every now and then I get caught by one of those thorns, and it burns and has even left scars once the wound was healed, that is just one thorn.  If you have ever seen a head wound they bleed profusely.  From the flogging and the thorns there would have been a massive amount of blood lose.  This alone would have caused  extreme exhaustion and possibly shock.

Jesus was so exhausted that he fell 3 times carrying his cross to the place of his crucifixion. The Romans even had to have a bystander carry the cross for Jesus, for the final portion of the road to his execution.  Then he was nailed to the cross.  Where the hands were nailed in the Roman ritual was not accidental.  The nail pierced a major nerve that runs down the arm, causing severe pain from the cut nerve.  The position of the feet and the body made it so that the diaphragm expanded filling the lungs with air.  The problem was that the victim could not push the air out of their lungs.  So they suffocated slowly.  When the Romans went out to break the legs of the 3 men that were being crucified, Jesus was already dead.  So they pierced his heart with a spear as confirmation.

The death of Jesus was witnessed up close by his mother, Mary Magdalene, and John one of his disciples.   The death of Jesus was also confirmed by at least 2 Roman soldiers.  These are professional soldiers who know what death looks like.  In addition, his body was removed from the cross, and then prepared for burial prior to being put into the tomb made of solid rock. A very large stone, estimated to weigh about 2 tons, was then rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb.

The Disciples Moved the Body

After this boulder was in place, a minimum of 4 Roman soldiers was assigned to secure the tomb. Some pictures you may have seen show one or two men standing around in mini-skirts, holding a spear in their hands, or as a recent movie depicted that they were getting drunk. Dereliction of duty was punishable by death in the Roman army. Do you really think, the soldiers would take a chance on their own lives just to get over on one night of guard duty?

Jesus had 11 dedicated followers and thousands of believers, heck he was crucified according to the High Priest because he would incite riots. Surely if they feared his body disappearing, then there would have been a larger mustering of arms. Most theologians believe there would have been up to 16 Roman soldiers at the tomb.  (http://sntjohnny.com/front/how-many-guards-at-the-tomb-of-jesus/485.html) In addition, the tomb was sealed with a roman seal. (Matthew 27:66) Breaking of this seal by anyone unauthorized would have meant imprisonment, punishment and even the possibility of death. When Jesus was arrested, all of his disciples fled in fear.  Peter, his right hand man, denied he even knew him.  For weeks after, even after they knew Jesus was alive, they still hid in fear.  I think reason would put this at highly unlikely that with all this security in place, a group of cowards removed the body?

The Religious Leaders or Romans Moved the Body

Another possibility would be that the religious leaders disposed of the body of Jesus. This argument seems the least thought out and I have a hard time taking any conversation serious that concerns this approach to disclaiming the resurrection. If this were to be true then the Roman Governor, and or, the Jewish religious leaders would have been total fools.  We know that the Hebrew priests took their jobs seriously, were very adept politicians, and went through years of training in all manner of subject of law and customs.  For someone to rise to the rank of Governor in the Roman Empire they have to be equally crafty, with schooling and favor from Caesar.

The suggestion that one or both of these powers conspired to hide the body is preposterous simply because they would only be supporting the resurrection idealism. The High Priest requested that the tomb be sealed and a contingent of guards to be placed on the tomb specifically to stop anyone from removing the body, and claiming Jesus had risen from the dead.  If they had the body of Jesus, all they would have to do is to parade the body and Christianity would have been derailed immediately.

The ultimate proof of the resurrection though is provided in the testimony of his early disciples.  Jesus was seen by over 500 witnesses over a period of 40 days. Acts 1:3 says that, “After His suffering, He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”

Peter who, denied Jesus, later preached in the heart of Jerusalem and proclaimed in Acts 2:32: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” Peter later wrote a letter reaffirming that the resurrection was not a tale made up by the disciples, He explained in 2 Peter 1:16: “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we make known to you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”

People who saw Jesus after his resurrection had changed lives.  All of the original 12 disciples to include Paul were imprisoned, beaten, tortured, and died for their testimony.  All left friends, family, and even homes to let others know about the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.  They all overcame their fear of death.  People telling a lie, seldom die for it.  Listen to how they died and see if it sounds like they were just making up the Resurrection: •Matthew was killed in Ethiopia

•Mark was dragged through the streets until he was dead

•Peter, Simeon, Andrew, and Philip were crucified

•James was beheaded

•Bartholomew was flayed alive

•Thomas was pierced with lances

•James, the less, was thrown from the temple and stoned to death

•Jude was shot to death with arrows •Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded

*John was poisoned and then exiled to Patmos where he wrote the Revelation of Jesus
None of these men ever recanted their testimony of the resurrection. As I mentioned when I opened that we are commanded by Jesus to tell what we know. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” Matthew 28:20

Behold Thy King Cometh!

Palm Sunday: Behold Thy King Cometh!

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem:  behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zachariah 9:9)

Palm Sunday is also referred to as Passion Sunday. This is the Sunday prior to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus entered into Jerusalem knowing that his mission here on earth was coming to an end and that he would die in Jerusalem.  This event marked the public affirmation by Jesus that He IS the messiah, King of Israel promised in Zachariah.  This occurrence is one of the few stories that appear in all four gospels.

Jesus sent two of his disciples into the city to get a donkey that had never been ridden.  He entered Jerusalem on this colt to purposely fulfill the prophecy of the Old Testament. “All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,” (Matthew 21:4) Jesus wanted his disciples to understand what he was doing and what it meant.  He was openly declaring himself the promised One of Jehovah.   Jesus wants us all to know, that he did fulfill all of the Law and Prophecy, and to have no doubt that he is the way of Salvation.

Jesus declared through this fulfilling of the prophecy that he is the Way to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.  If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7).  According to all the accounts, Jesus rode into Jerusalem and a great multitude of people met him, laying palm branches and cloaks on the ground in from of him.  They declared him as the Son of David, the King of Israel.  They cried out Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna is a Greek translation that is a derivative of two words combined, this essentially means, “Save Us Now”.  This was a shout of praise for deliverance.  We could say, “Praise you, Son of David for Deliverance!”  What the people, and even his disciples did not understand was that he came to deliver salvation from sin, not to fight the Romans.

He came humbly riding on a donkey.  Not riding on a horse.  In ancient times when a king entered a city on a donkey it meant he was coming in peace, not as a conqueror.  Even though Jesus had told his disciples in advance that he must go to Jerusalem, and that he must die, and that he would rise again, they did not see the significance of this triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  We can look at this and celebrate, and thank Him for such an open declaration.  He boldly declared that He is the messiah, the salvation of man, the redeemer of creation.

He was born of a virgin. He was from Bethlehem. He was called out of Egypt. He did enter Jerusalem on a Donkey.  He did not hide himself from us.  He did suffer and die.  He did arise from the grave.  He will return again.  He will establish His kingdom in Jerusalem.  Hosanna in the Highest!


References:


 

Zechariah 9:9

Matthew 21:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

Luke 19:28-44

John 14:6-7

John 12:12-19

http://www.gotquestions.org/triumphal-entry.html

http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/293/translation-of-hosanna-%E1%BD%A1%CF%83%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%BD%CE%AC