The Great Commission

The Christian community understands that the Great Commission refers to the charge of Jesus to evangelize the world.  The main Scripture that is associated with this commission is Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  It was also recorded in Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, and referred to in several other scriptures.

A commission comes with certain implications.  First, it is a command and not a request.  It is not based on whether or not you feel like it or if it fits into your schedule.  It is your schedule.  Your life is to include this task as a main theme.  It is of prime importance and not to be regulated into a lesser importance.  People’s eternities are at stake and our love for our Lord as well as our love for others are our motivators.

Second, we are to go into all the world with the gospel message.  God’s message is for everyone and everyone is important to Him.  The Bible declares that it is not God’s will that any perish, but that all come to repentance.  (2 Peter 3:9)  There is no specific plan as to priority of order of importance but ‘as you go’ or maybe ‘where ever you go’ or everywhere you go is the order of the day.  Further, it is an all inclusive plan to include all places.  From the early church it was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.  Your Jerusalem is where you begin and includes that environment.  Your Judea is the region just beyond your Jerusalem.  Your Samaria goes beyond your Judea to include the more difficult places for you to include your prejudices, or your enemies, or some other barrier you will need to cross such as distance or finances.  Your uttermost part of the earth extends to include all peoples in all places and all circumstances.

The third implication is that we are to go in His power and not our own.  It is so often said that I cannot afford to go on missions.  God will finance His missions.  I am not saying that it is a free ride and you have no responsibility in this.  What I am saying is that all resources belong to God, they are not ours.  The first place to go is to the Lord in prayer and seek His power to deal with this situation.  Don’t attempt to do it on your own for you are commissioned to look to Him for the resources to go and the power to do His will.  If you can accomplish the task without His power then it will frustrate the grace of God and you will get the glory.  God has commissioned us to the ministry of reconciliation for more purposes than you can guess.  It is partly for the ministry to others, but just as importantly, for us to grow in our own faith and love.  The struggle to reject our own efforts as the solution and to tap in to God’s power is equally important for us as it is to them.

The final implication that I will address is our witness.  The apostles said that they were witnesses to what they had seen and heard.  If you testify to that which you did not have first hand knowledge, then you become a false witness.  Instead of revealing the God of glory, you now obscure the view and work against the Lord.  You cannot give what you do not possess.  You have to be real and cannot go beyond your own personal revelation.  It is important to remember that you are in partnership with the Lord in this work and as you are being transformed into His image, He then uses you as His illustration of the message.  It is His work and you are a part of that plan.  The success of the word is not on you, but on Him.  You are a witness of that success.

Close Enough

How close is close enough?  I guess that it depends on the circumstances and what you are talking about.  If you are talking about a shave it is within a small fraction of an inch.  If you are talking about horseshoes it is within the span of the mouth of the shoe.  If you are talking about hand grenades, it is within a few feet. If you are talking about a bomb it could be measured in miles.

The real question is not about the distance but about the effect that is desired.  For example, If you have a fire, are you seeking to just get warm, or to cook on it or to destroy with it, the distance will vary a lot.  When it comes to knowing God, do you want to just want to know him like we know the president, or perhaps to get close enough to receive a blessing from Him, or to get close enough to Him to be transformed into His likeness.  How close is close enough for you?

But then, how close is close enough from God’s perspective?  Can you appease Him with a superficial worship and religiously orienting your life?  Will he recognize you because of your good deeds?  Will He be pleased with anything short of the surrender of your will and your conformation to His standards for life and conduct?  How close is close enough?  Is there such a thing as too close?

Mattthew 5:48 Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. God’s standard is perfection.  Close enough just won’t do.  The scripture also states int Ro 3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;  How can a sinful man be made perfect if all men have sinned?  The answer is very clear in the scriptures; he must be born again.  Of himself it is impossible but if the carnal nature is surrendered to the Lord. You cannot make it without the new life that comes in Jesus Christ.  He is the only way and by God’s grace and working, we can be transformed into a new creation and in Him all things become new.   2Corinthians 5:17 Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.

 

 

 

 

Fitting In

Its that time of year when the NFL draft is in full swing.  Teams are making decisions that will complete their team and hopefully propel them through the playoffs.  But what makes them the best fit for a team is not their skill level because all of them have skills, but how well they can play for the team, or how well they fit in.

When I was young we moved several times.  Each move involved cultural, social, economic and environmental changes.  It was always a tremendous challenge for me to figure out how I fit in to the new situation.  Relationships were already established and experiences were already anticipated.  I didn’t have any relationships and often my responses were not what was expected which made me a target.  I was behind right at the beginning so I had to overcome a lot to just start even with others.

Probably the most difficult place for many people to fit in is in church.  They do not have the church language down, they don’t know the history or even know how to maneuver thought the Bible.  They feel out of place like everyone is staring at them and they are quite uncomfortable.

I had one experience that I treasure to this day.  One of the students came up to me as I was walking down the hall and introduced himself and then welcomed me to the school.  It wasn’t a major thing in many respects but it meant the world to me.

Figuring out how to fit in to God’s plan for you in this world is undoubtedly the most important adjustment you will ever make in your life.  A lot of time it is described as your purpose in life.  Jesus underscored its importance in John 3 when He told Nicodemus that “you must be born again.”  God’s plan for you is not just for your comfort in this world but it is eternal in its scope and purpose.  Gods plan for you is first stated in Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  His plan is to complete you in the fashion of Himself and to dwell with you for eternity.  You were chosen before creation ever came to be because God looked down the corridors of time and saw you chose Christ.  To put it another way, God chose all those who choose Christ.

You fit in because you made the decision to be a part of His plan and now follow in obedience, placing your faith in Him and not in yourself.

First Visits

The women at the tomb

The first to visit the tomb on Easter Sunday morning was Mary Magdalene who came while it was still dark.  She found the stone rolled away from the tomb entrance and concluded that Jesus’ body had been moved so she ran to tell Peter and John.  She joined the other women when the sun was risen.  They came to anoint the body with spices but they were confronted with a shocking revelation from the angles that He had risen from the dead.  They went therefore to tell the disciples.

Peter and John

John was the first to arrive and look in to the tomb but waited outside for Peter to arrive.  When Peter arrived he immediately went in. (Note previous my blog on the grave clothes)  They were confronted with evidence that defied normal explanation.  John believed immediately and Peter left in wonderment.

Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus

Mary was so disturbed by not knowing where Jesus body was and her grief of her loss that she didn’t recognize Jesus and thought he was a gardener.  When Jesus spoke, she recognized Him and reached out to hold Him.  Jesus said don’t cling to me for I am not yet ascended to My Father.  He didn’t say don’t touch me but he used the word haptomai which means attach oneself to another or to cling.  She had lost Him once and she didn’t want to lose Him again.  Remember, Jesus told His disciples the it is expedient for you that I go away for if I go not away, the Holy Spirit would not come.  Jesus intended for us to know Him in another way by being indwelt with the Holy Spirit until we receive our resurrected bodies.   Having then been confronted with Christ Himself, she went again to tell the disciples with a new urgency in her report.

The Two On the Road to Emmaus

Emmaus was a town about 8 miles NE from Jerusalem and was located about 3,000 lower in elevation.  One of the two was Cleopas and the other is unnamed.  They were downtrodden and speculated about the events of the crucifixion as they walked.  Jesus, Himself joined them but was unrecognized.  He then engaged them in their conversation and they restated the events including the morning reports from the women.  Then Jesus chided them in being slow to believe and began at the prophets He interpreted the Scriptures concerning Himself. As they arrived at Emmaus they invited Jesus to stay with them since it was evening.  As they were eating Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them.  As they were confronted with the truth of who Jesus is, He vanished out of their site.

These are not the only sighting of Jesus but they are recorded for us so that we too can come to the truth of who Jesus is and that He is resurrected.  You have now been confronted with the truth.  What does it take to convince you HE IS ALIVE!!!

A Guarded Grave

One day as I was going somewhere with another person on some matter and as we passed a cemetery in the country and he spoke up and said, “You see that cemetery over there?”  I answered and said I did.  Then he made an announcement that caught me off guard and said, “They keep a Sheriff and two deputies over there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”  I thought about it for a minute and said “Well, why do they do that?” as I couldn’t think of anything that mandated such an action.  I wasn’t prepared for his answer when he said, “Cause they are dead.”  You see, I was thinking that they were alive.

Easter is all about the resurrection of Christ.  It is not about the easter bunny, or the latest fashion, or candy or a ‘must attend’ religious holiday.  It is about the greatest event in history, and brings hope to a lost and dying world.  There is hope beyond the grave.  Life does not end at death, but rather, in a real sense it is just the beginning of life.  Our eternity is determined by our belief in Christ.  How we respond to Him reveals how we believe.

Yet, it is interesting that the only person to come forth in victory over death is one whose tomb was guarded to keep His body in it.  It is also interesting that those who had repeatedly been told that it would happen were the hardest to convince that it did.  It is also interesting that those who refused to believe in Him, took all the precautions they could to prevent it from happening.

Take a look at Matt 27:62-66 where we find Pilate saying “Ye have a guard; go, make it as sure as ye can.”  So they went and made the sepulcher sure, sealing the stone, the guard being with them.  Notice that they stationed soldier to guard the tomb.  That meant that no outsiders would be able to tamper with it and falsify his resurrection.  It also meant that the religious leaders  were keeping his followers from gathering at the tomb and creating an insurrection out of their grief.  In reality, the soldiers validated the resurrection in that they keep all hands off of the scene. (compliments of Rome).  Secondly, they sealed the tomb with the Roman seal.  To break it would have brought the Roman armies and their power against them.  It was a metal catch, like a lock that fastened the round stone to the rock behind and it was covered in a wax and impressed with the Roman seal.  Though it could have been opened easily it would leave the evidence in the wax that could not be copied again without the seal imprint.

The stone was rounded so that it could be rolled into place at the entrance to the tomb.  It rolled in a channel that was cut out of the rock and guided it into place.  The stone was large enough to cover the tomb entrance and was several inches thick which would have required two or three men to roll it into place.  Yet in Matt 28:2 a lone angel rolled back the stone and then sat upon it.  Some have speculated as to why the stone was rolled back.  It is easy to assume that it was so that Jesus could exit the tomb but later he walked through walls so I don’t think that is the answer.  I believe that it was for the purpose of us being able to look inside the tomb and sharing to the world that He is not here but He is risen from the dead!

Who Are You?

Who are we really? I’ve heard it said that you are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are.  Its a play on words to get you to think about who you really are.  It may be one of the most popular unspoken questions about ourselves that we could ask.  So I ask you, Just who do you think you are?

If you have a low self esteem, you may think little of yourself or your ideas, and not put yourself forward.  Fear may have a great influence over you and your choices.  Your social skills may not be developed very much.  Your goals may not be very high.  Disappointment, embarrassment, and hopelessness may be your closest friends.

On the other hand, you may have a high self esteem and may see yourself being a success in many of the things you do.  You may have a lot of confidence and are not bothered much by what others think of you.  The world is yours for the taking.  You may be popular and have a measure of success.  Still you may have internal questions that leave you feeling hollow or something is missing.

Neither of these positions answer the questions of who you really are.  I found the answer in the Bible.  Ro 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  It is not the name you hang on your door that defines who you are but the values you hold and what controls you.

So if you have become a servant of righteousness as a Christian, then let me ask you again, Who are you really?  For the answer to that question we must again go to the Bible for the answer.  1.  You are the salt of the earth. Matt 5:13  Do you remember the saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?”  Well, I can make him drink.  All I need to do is put salt in his feed.  Then when he is led to the water he will drink of his own choice.  Just create a thirst.  2.  You are the light of the world.  Matt 5:14  The world is in darkness and cannot see the glory of God.  There is a sin barrier between them a God.  You can see the glory of God because the sin issue has been dissolved between you and God, and you can also see those in the world.  You can act as a mirror to reflect His glory to those in darkness.  They can see God in you.  3.  You are the temple of God 1 Cor 3:16  In all of creation the only place that God choose to dwell was in the Christian.  It is an eternal habitation and therefore must be fitted for Him.  He is Holy so we must be Holy.  He is eternal so He offers us eternal life.   1Pe 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: and again in 2 Cor 6:16 “. . .as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  4.  Ye are children of God.  Gal 3: 26  Every person is not a child of God because they were born physically.  That is the first requirement that they be human but there is a second requirement to become a child of God and that is to be born spiritually (from above, of the spirit, born again).  That is what Jesus was talking about to Nicodemus in Joh 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  He explained it further when he said that which is flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  He even  told the Pharisees that their father was the Devil.  5.  Ye are sons (Gal 4:6) . . .heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ . . .(Ro 8:17) A  joint-heir with Christ makes Jesus our brother and we inherit with Christ.  What God has in store for us is so beyond all that we can ever ask or think.  We should so walk that it is clear to all that we are born from above.  6.  . . .ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people. . .  We began in this world but we are not of this world.  We have become a part of God’s eternal plan when we chose Christ as our Lord.  Now it is all over but the happening.  Satan can’t stop it and neither can all the demonic forces of the world together.  We are the apple of God’s eye.  We know who we are when we know who’s we are.

 

 

Sin or Sins

I remember reading a gospel tract entitled “How to get to heaven from Pineville, Kentucky”  It had a catchy title and got me to reading. The truth is that it would read the same from anywhere on the earth.  There is only one way to get to heaven and that is the way that is specified in the Bible.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)  So that begs the question, how do you come “by me?”

It is at this point that there seems to be confusion.  Does that mean to try hard or is it by doing good things like benevolent acts?  Does it mean that I have to quit doing “something”?  Does it mean that I have to give up fun things?  How does it work?  None of these answers are correct for they are all works of man?  Eph 2:8-9 Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The problem between God and man is not what he does but what he is.  He is a sinner, which is another way of describing rebellion against God’s control on our live.  We cannot earn His favor for as soon as we try that avenue, our true nature takes over and our sin nature is exposed. It is at this point that we need to note the difference between Sin and Sins.  Sin is the self life that we hold naturally.  It is all about me; what I want, what I think, what I do.  I don’t want God directing my life because He won’t let me do my thing.  Sins are what we do  because of this attitude. Sins are the symptoms of the rood cause, sin.  We are incapable of paying for our “sin” so God made a way for us to be accepted and that is by our placing our faith in Jesus instead of ourselves.  When we are willing to do that we repent of our sin (that is turn from it) and place our faith in Jesus to make that payment (turn to Jesus as our way).  It is not two separate actions, but one.  It is like a coin.  It has two sides but it is just one coin.  The act of turning moves you from one thing and unto another.

If we continue to deal with the symptoms (sins) we will fail to treat the problem of sin, itself.  Faith in Jesus as the Lord of our life is the way to heaven.

The Gospel

On my last post I shared some basics on writing your personal testimony and pointed out that the key to an effective testimony is the gospel.  It is a word that we Christians use a lot and with a lot of different meanings.  I would like to clarify some of the confusion about what the “Gospel of Christ” really is.

There are a lot of gospel messages going around today.  I even saw one that was titled the gospel of the mechanic.  We need to identify what gospel we are addressing.  When we address the gospel of the Bible we are talking about the good news of Jesus Christ.  This is not the good news of the sports world or financial possibilities, but is specifically about what is the good news about Jesus Christ. The word Gospel means “Good News”, so it begs the question, “What is that good news?”  To be the gospel about Jesus Christ it must be good, that is personally beneficial; and second it must be news, that is current.  Sometimes I hear the definition of the gospel as, the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  However great and wonderful that story is, yet it is not the gospel, but history.  Yet it is not to be dismissed either because it is the foundation of the Gospel of Christ.  Without it the gospel would never have been possible.  So we come back again, What is the gospel of Christ?  It can be summed up in two words, New Life.

It is not a life patched up, it is not a life of doing better, or trying harder.  It is altogether a new kind of existence.  It is the life described in II Cor. 5:17 (the new creation of God).  What was utterly impossible before is now possible when we live our lives by faith in Jesus as Lord of our lives.  I could never live up to the demands of the law but I can follow Jesus by faith in His ability to deliver me spotless and blameless to the Father.  God’s requirement is no longer for me to meet the demands of the law because Jesus has met all those requirements.  God’s requirements for me now is to accept Jesus by faith. He is the provision for the laws requirement and He will then deliver us spotless and without blemish. (Eph 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.)

Provision for a sinner like me has been established that I might be presented spotless to God is indeed, Good News!

Writing your Personal Testimony

In today’s Sunday School class we studied the apostle Paul’s personal testimony and we closed the class with the challenge that if you haven’t written out your personal testimony, then you should.  It is one of the most powerful tools you have as a Christian to share the Gospel with others.  They may disagree with it but they cannot deny it.  Like the song goes, “I was there when it happened, so I guess I ought to know.”

There are three essential elements that go into an effective testimony.  The first element is what were you before you were saved.  You are not trying to tell all of the stories of your life, just enough to validate that you were on the wrong track.  Essentially, it will boil down to I was trying to go through life without Jesus to forgive, love and guide me.

The second essential element is What Happened?  What occurred that caused you to see that you were on the wrong road and how did you discover the right road?  The circumstances will probably be unique and different but the outcome will wind up as a personal experience with the one who died in your place and is now alive and you now know who He is, Jesus.  If this had never happened to you then you still don’t know for sure.  If it has, then it caused a life changing direction in your life and you are now dependent upon and a follower of, Jesus, who is the Christ.  (Jn 7:17)

The third essential element is What changes has this experience made in your life?  If there has been no changes and you are living just as you were before this experience then there is a problem with your testimony.  It could be that you did not meet the Lord but were dependent upon an experience or something other than the Lord.  If you meet him then there will be a change.  It may take a while for you to learn to listen to His voice or to know when He is guiding you but change will certainly happen.  If there is no change then it is worth finding out why.  It could also be because you have some doctrine (teachings) that you hold that contradict with the Bible.  If you truly want to know then read you bible and He will show you the error.  It may be painful to discover that what you always thought was so was really tradition or even superstition.  Another possibility is that you have been deceived in some manner and you need a trustworthy source that will aid you in your search.

You should write it out then review it.  Then see if you can improve it.  Then use it and then go over it some more so that you have the document that accurately relays your story.  It is one of your most effective means of sharing the gospel.

Prisoners 5

The prison in discussion for today is COVETOUSNESS or greed.  Covetousness is the desire to posses, whether it be things, land or wealth.  It is the desire to take ownership when the reality is that all things belong to God.  The closest we can come to ownership is really stewardship, that is to manage it for a time, for the owner.  When a person dies he leaves everything behind and it doesn’t matter how much or how little he had, it is all left behind  :His ownership is temporary at best.

The problem with having possessions is that it is a short step before the pride of wealth possesses you.  1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  This verse does not say the money is the root of all evil but it does say the the “love of money” is the root of all kinds of evil.  Wealth is not evil but the love of it is.  Once the love of money takes control, it demands more and more.  When Howard Hughes was asked how much wealth it would take to satisfy him he answered, “just a little more.”  Wealth becomes the warden and the person becomes the prisoner.  The demand for more drives one to compromise himself and to do almost anything to get more.

As wealth is increased, so also is the demand upon that wealth.   Ec 5:11 When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?  Not only are the demands of its use increased but also the care it takes to protect it.  It is an awful taskmaster and knows no limits in its cruelty.

When a rich man asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life, Jesus answered him, “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me” Matthew 19:21  I don’t know of a better answer to how to be free from the grip of wealth than that plan.  The next verse says he went away grieved; for he had great possessions.  In other words, his faith was in his riches and not in Christ. He could have been free but it was his choice to remain a prisoner.  You must hold possessions loosely for the Lord’s use or the possessions will hold you.