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.

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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).

The Demon and the Reformed Man

Many people become fed up with the havoc and pain in their lives and turn to religion for relief. They go to church, give up bad habits, pray with sincerity, share their new found faith with others, but after a time abandon it all.

Jesus told a parable about this kind of person in Matthew 12:43-45.

In His parable, an unclean spirit chooses to leave a man’s body. The demon isn’t cast out nor is the man born again, the demon merely leaves to look for a more suitable home. After not finding a better place, the demon decides to return to my house, showing his ownership over the man he left.

Arriving back, the demon finds the man’s life reformed, swept, and put in order. Some degree of morality and clean living are evident in the man’s life. He appears a reformed man, yet despite his religious lifestyle, the demon finds him empty of another occupant (Mt 12:44). The demon enters back into his house and invites seven other demons worse than itself as roommates.

When a sinner is born again, the Holy Spirit takes up personal and permanent residence within the convert (Jn 14:16-17). In salvation, the sin and spiritual darkness of the unconverted life is cleansed – not by the sinner or religion or self-help – but by God, and a new life is begun in the power of the Spirit of God (2 Cor 5:17).

When a person’s nature isn’t changed, morality can’t be maintained.

If You See a Crowd

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Daniel and I were invited to a baseball game this past summer. It was a scorching 100-plus degree day, and after finding our seats, I left Daniel and went to buy 2 Cokes. I got in a line that looked like it led to the refreshments. About 10 minutes later I realized I was in a line for the bathrooms.

No one is ever born a Christian, raised a Christian, or becomes a Christian by accident. Eternal life is found and only a few ever find it.

Think a moment about 3 of Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13-14: narrow, difficult, and few. Those are stark words.

More than 8 of 10 Americans claim to be Christians. We see churches filled with people on Sunday morning, some by tens of thousands of people. I heard a pastor say he could get anyone saved in just 10 minutes. Anyone.

How does this match those 3 words of Jesus: narrow, difficult, few?

Salvation isn’t for those desiring an easy entrance into Heaven while walking their own pathway. Christianity isn’t for those looking for health, wealth, and a prosperous life here on Earth. Jesus isn’t an add-on to our lives; rather, He makes all things new. Christ Jesus is for those who are spiritually helpless, who mourn over their sin, and hunger and thirst after a righteousness only He provides (Mt 5:3, 4, 6).

God’s way of salvation is quite simple: trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sin.

There are many people on the broad and easy road, yet God’s way of salvation is so narrow and difficult that only a few ever find the Gate. So if you see a crowd, you’re probably on the wrong road.

Many are called; but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14).