Like a Blowing Wind

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

My wife is the daughter of an Episcopal priest and though she went to church all her life, she wasn’t a Christian. Christianity isn’t about going to church or holding a Bible, it’s about a life definitely transformed by Christ Jesus.

As an adult, Kim read Isaiah 53 and a change took place in her thinking. For the first time, she understood she was a sinner and that Jesus died specifically for her sins. She realized that what was happening in her wasn’t because of anything she did or could have done. Suddenly and completely, all things became new. This is what Jesus called the new birth.

Late one evening Jesus was answering questions from a Jewish religious leader. Nicodemus had heard Jesus preach and wondered how he could get to Heaven.  Christ’s answer confused the learned Nicodemus: You must be born again (Jn 3:7).

Salvation isn’t the result of saying a prayer, joining a church, or doing a religious thing. It is a work of the Holy Spirit you can’t predict, control, or even assist. The new birth is like a blowing wind.

Jesus didn’t say that the Holy Spirit is like the wind, but those who are born of the Spirit are like the wind. You nor I can predict when or how the wind will blow. We can’t control it or help it blow harder or in a certain direction. God creates and controls the wind (Ps 135:7), the best we can do is observe when it blows.

Human efforts always result in human effects, but when God does the work, the results are always divine. There is no formula I can walk you through to be saved. There are no 3 easy steps to salvation. Like the blowing wind, salvation is beyond the ability of anyone but God; all anyone can do is present the gospel. However, when God works faith in the heart of a sinner, the blowing of the wind is noticed by everyone.

As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: where were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

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The Believer’s Hope and Joy

Have a walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (Ephesians 4:1).

Yesterday we learned of the death of Dr RC Sproul (1939-2017), a man who had a profound impact on both my beliefs and my preaching. Even at the end of his life, when he could no longer breathe, he made every effort to continue teaching the Bible. For a preacher, it’s all you can do!

The Bible says that for the believer, to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord in Heaven (2 Cor 5:8). Upon hearing the news of Dr Sproul’s entrance into the presence of God, I thought of Jesus calling His apostles.

In Matthew 4:18-22 we’re told Jesus found brothers Peter and Andrew hard at their job as fishermen. He said, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. The Bible says the two immediately left their nets and followed Him (Mt 4:20). A bit further on Jesus found two more brothers, James and John in the boat with Zebedee their father … and He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Mt 4:21, 22).

Imagine, in both instances, those whom Jesus called left everything to immediately be with Jesus. Without hesitation they left their employment. They abandoned their livelihood. They departed from their own families. Can you image what Zebedee said when his two sons left in the middle of the work day?

When Jesus called Dr Sproul, he didn’t linger. He didn’t say, “Lord, just give me a few more days with my family. Heal me so I can live a longer and more productive life.” No, when Jesus called, RC immediately left this world behind to be with Jesus. He lived to be worthy of the One who called him.

Suppose I was going to Disneyland. You wouldn’t be sad that I was going to California to be welcomed by Mickey Mouse into his Magic Kingdom. You would be glad. Your sadness would be that you’re not going along. So it is with God’s people whom He calls home.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Ps 116:15). We should rejoice in what God rejoices. So we are reminded that in death we do not sorrow as others who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13). Death for the child of God is not a time to mourn like those with no hope, but a time for joy and personal longing to also be with Jesus.

The Throne of His Father David

The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33).

Two thousand years ago, the angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to a Son who would rule and reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. This King was foreshadowed in the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs, foretold by prophets, announced by angels over Bethlehem, peeked at on the Mount of Transfiguration, proven in words and works at His First Coming, and set as a promise in a Second Coming.

Jesus was propelled forcefully by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (Mark 1:12, 13). One of His temptations was Satan’s offer to receive all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Mt 4:8). In a moment of time (Luke 4:5) Satan showed Jesus the glories of every kingdom throughout human history. Satan continued, All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish (Luke 4:6). Jesus could have the kingdoms of this world for but a moment of worship.

God is in control of all things and nothing happens outside of His good pleasure. He ordains the leaders of every nation (Rom 13:1) and has set both national boundaries and their times (Acts 17:26), yet the governments of this world are under the leadership of the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). This is why Christians must be careful that patriotism not be our religion nor politicians our hope.

The glories of human history were offered to Jesus for a simple act of declaring the worth-ship of Satan. Instead, He went to the cross to redeem sinners. By His obedience to the Father, He will one day destroy the kingdoms of this world and create a glorious kingdom of God upon the earth that will have no end.

Give Me Jesus

I was surprised on my first visit to Mexico in 1998 to find so many men named Jesus in one place. In this culturally Catholic nation, about 1 in 10 males is named Jesus. It reminded me of the Apostle’s warning of pastors offering another Jesus we have not preached (2 Corinthians 11:4).

We expect an un-Biblical Jesus from the Mormons, whose Jesus is the blood-brother of Satan. We’re aware of the Jehovah’s Witness belief that Jesus is the embodiment of the angel Michael. But other Jesuses are sprouting up in places that should bring us pause.

A Grammy-winning Christian singer denies that Adam, Eve, and Noah were real people despite what Jesus said of them (Mt 19:4; 24:37).

We’re told that the real Jesus was a transgendered, homosexual, refugee, gun-hating, abortion-loving Socialist.

We can go to the theater to watch a movie which denies the Trinity, Hell, sin, and teaches that Jesus is nothing more than an example of what it means to love.

Without the Biblical Jesus, there is no payment for sin, no righteousness, no satisfaction of God’s wrath, no victory over sin or Satan or death or Hell. Modern theology leaves us with the empty figure of a man who inspires hopey-changey feelings but did nothing to solve humanity’s greatest problem: Sin.

A Jesus who doesn’t fulfill the Scriptures can’t do anything in the Scriptures. A false Jesus isn’t the Way, the Truth, or the Life leading us to God the Father; every substitute Jesus only leads away from the Father (Jn 14:6).

I’ll take the Jesus of God’s Word.

Even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be cursed (Galatians 1:8).

Justice For All

Justice is getting what you deserve.

So what do you deserve?

Coretta grew up in the back country of Virginia during the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s. She was politically angry at what she perceived as injustice against herself, her family, and her black ancestors. She’d lived for the fight of justice.

One Sunday morning I was preaching from the Biblical Book of Philemon. It’s the story of a runaway slave in ancient Rome, being sent back to his master by the Apostle Paul, and how both men should act to reflect Christ Jesus.

In my sermon I stressed the fact that Paul never urged either man to demand justice, but to show mercy. Getting what we deserve from God means eternity in the Lake of Fire, for the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). As sinners, eternal death is what we deserve. But God, who is rich in mercy … made us alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4, 5). Mercy is compassion, pity, love-in-action.

Coretta interrupted my sermon. Standing, tears rolling down her face she said, “Pastor, all my life I’ve been angrily demanding justice from politicians and people, but what I’ve really been needing is mercy. May God have mercy on me, a sinner!

No matter who you are, you will never experience justice in this world; even in America. Do you really want what you deserve? Seek ye first justice instead of righteousness. Demand what you think you deserve. Stir up strife and hatred in the name of justice. After all is said and done, you’ll be let down because true justice only comes from God who will make it certain in His day of Judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

Desire mercy.

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

There used to be a gossip tabloid advertised with the line, Enquiring minds want to know. It’s true! The human mind is seldom satisfied with what it knows and mankind thirsts to know more.

Wanting to know more more sent Christopher Columbus to adventure out from Europe in 1492 and sail to North America. In 1804, the longing to know more brought adventurers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark into the Pacific Northwest and the west coast into the fledgling American nation. The search to know more about our solar system rocketed three Americans onto the moon in 1969.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to know more, but our need to know can also lead us astray spiritually. Americans now spend more than 2 billion dollars a year on fortune-telling, palm-reading, and other occult divinations. We study our horoscope to explain our behavior. Mediums and seers are sought for solving our problems. Prophets, tarot cards, and Ouija boards are consulted for advice about tomorrow.

But God, who knows all things, is quiet about most of the things we hunger to know. He hasn’t revealed everything we’d like to know, but what He has revealed in the pages of Scripture is sufficient to make us wise for salvation and lead us into all spiritual truth (2 Tim 3:15-16). The Bible is sufficient to grow us in living godly lives (2 Pet 1:3-4). Our quest for additional spiritual knowledge must be pushed to the side and our focus made upon the truths that God has revealed in His Word.

Yes, God has secret things that belong only to Him (Deut 29:29), but all that we need to know is found in the pages of the Bible.

Honor Your Father

Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12).

Mark lived nearly 400 miles from his childhood home, but he visited his father when he could, which wasn’t often. Mark sent cards on major holidays and prayed for his dad every day. Mark had a life and family of his own, worked hard and lived simply like his dad had done.

As a teenager, Mark rejected his father’s beliefs. It didn’t take long living in the real world for Mark to realize that there was a reason his father lived and believed as he did. He learned to take to heart the man his father was and taught via his life. His father was a godly man, for whom his faith was always preeminent. His spiritual health and the kingdom of God always came first. Always. Mark lived the same way … now.

Mark’s younger brother David kept busy with his wife and two sons. During the week David overspent his time begrudgingly maintaining the family business with his dad. He had to work long and hard to pay for his ever-increasing lifestyle: mortgage, two cars, the new iPhone X, and everything else the modern person feels necessary.

Weekends were just as hectic filled with soccer games, Boy Scout meetings, and a constant list of honey-do chores on the home and yard. There were chores for his ailing father. Sunday was his only day off, so he spent it on himself watching television sports, playing golf, or fishing.

David was his own man who longed to make his own choices. The only real choice he’d ever made was to not be like his father. There would be time, especially for religion, later in life when life settled down. He was a good enough guy anyway.

When their father died, David angrily took responsibility of making the funeral arrangements. He blamed Mark for not being there to help when their father got sick. Now Mark wasn’t able to attend the funeral and pay his final respects.

Which son honored his father?

Acts and Evangelism

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The Book of Acts is an historical record of the spread of early Christianity throughout the Roman world. It’s a record of sermons and prayers, miracles and disappointments, angels and demons, arguments and love, murder and intrigue.

As Christians lived out their daily lives, God made opportunities for these believers to share their faith. Sometimes those opportunities were to hostile crowds, to a lone man headed home from a business trip, travelers in a shipwreck, or even to a judge during a court trial. None of these events were planned but came in the ordinary course of daily living.

In each of the instances of sharing the gospel of Jesus in the Book of Acts, not one person ever gave an “invitation” to be saved. No Christian ever asked, “Do you want to be saved?” In every case the person hearing the gospel asked what he needed to do to be saved. The Holy Spirit prompted the need to know within the unsaved person.

Churches are filled with un-saved converts. These are people who accept a man-made invitation apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Man-centered evangelism forces the listener to make a decision and act in some way; in Biblical evangelism, the Spirit of God prompts the sinner to ask what he must do to be saved.

Be careful not to take over the Holy Spirit’s ministry and create false believers. If someone is to be saved, the Spirit will have already been at work revealing his sin to him and he’s just waiting for the gospel solution to be proclaimed.

Strength to Resist

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word (Psalm 119:9).

The daily struggle of the Christian against sin isn’t easy. The Bible prescribes a simple way of resisting temptation and sin.

In His temptation, Jesus didn’t curse the Devil, bind spirits, or beg for deliverance in prayer. In fact, Jesus didn’t pray at all. Instead He turned to the Word of God for the strength to resist (Lk 4:1-13).

Your Word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11).

God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life

Speaking of God, the Bible says: You have broken the teeth of the ungodly (Psalm 3:7).

We were reading the Bible together before leaving home for work. My wife read Psalm 3 where David calls out to God for deliverance from his enemies. She paused after verse 7, then said, So much for the people who say that God loves everyone and has a wonderful plan for their lives.

Having God knock out all your teeth snarled in anger isn’t a wonderful plan, unless that weakness brings you to repentance from ungodliness and sin. God does have a wonderful plan of eternal life, but that wonderful plan is limited to those who believe upon Christ Jesus.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).