Ears to Hear

Saturday, January 30, 2016, 7:38 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give God the Glory.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 4:1-20 (ESV).

The Parable (vv. 1-9)

Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Ears to Hear (vv. 10-12)

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

Jesus spoke in parables as a way of separating those whose hearts were receptive to his teaching from those who were intolerant of his words and who scorned his words. Those who desired to learn more from the Lord, and to understand the truths of God’s word, upon hearing the parables, would be drawn to inquire of the Lord and to seek him out for understanding. They would desire to learn from him that they might take to heart his word and apply its truths to their hearts and lives.

Nonetheless, for those folks who were not inclined to take to heart his words, to listen to them, and to obey them, the parables would mean nothing to them, or they would have no effect on their lives, for those people were dull of hearing, and their spiritual eyes were blinded to the truth of what Jesus was teaching.

Yet, for all who truly listen with ears receptive to God’s Word, with hearts willing to learn and to understand, and who desire to have spiritual sight, because the Father has drawn them to Christ, they will have their hearts turned from darkness (sin) to the light (the gospel of salvation), and from the power of Satan over their lives to God, to walk in his ways and in his holiness. They will receive forgiveness of their sins, and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives (See: Ac. 26:16-18; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24).

The Word is Sown (vv. 13-20)

And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

I believe there are four types of responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ which this passage of scripture depicts for us here. I also believe that all four of these responses to the gospel message exist within people who gather regularly together for what we call “church,” i.e. they meet weekly together for the purpose of worship of God, Bible study, prayer and fellowship. The first response is from people who hear the preaching of the gospel, but immediately Satan snatches the truth from their hearts, so they never do believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. They are what we call “unbelievers.”

The second heart response to the gospel of Jesus Christ is to initially receive it with joy and enthusiasm. The problem with this heart response, though, is that the gospel never takes root in their lives. This could be because what they heard was not the true gospel, but was a watered down version that told them they did not have to turn from their sins, and that they did not have to obey the Lord, and that salvation merely meant an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when they die. Or, it could be that they did hear the true gospel, but a true heart transformation never took place because they only accepted the parts that they liked, but they still continued to operate in the flesh. Either way, their profession of Christ was surface only, and so when things got tough, they fell away.

The third type of heart response, I believe, is from those who genuinely trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. Yet, over time, the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of worldly things begin to creep into their hearts and steal away their pure devotion to their Lord. Time spent in the Word and in prayer begins to dwindle, and more and more of the world begins to take priority in their lives, such as TV shows, movies, video games, the internet, social media, sports, careers, entertainment, and possessions, etc. So, they become unfruitful in their Christian lives, in their testimonies and witness for Jesus Christ, and in their spiritual service to their Lord, in walking in his ways, and in doing what he says to do. They are still Christians, but they are in great need of revival.

The fourth type of heart response to the gospel is also from those who genuinely trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, who have a spiritual transformation of the Spirit of God in their lives, and who have died with Christ to sin, and who have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). They walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. They desire what God desires, and they live to please him in all that they do and say. They are not perfect people, i.e. they do not live in sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but they walk by the Light of truth and no longer in the darkness – all in the power and working of the Holy Spirit within them who empowers, strengthens, leads and guides them in the way they should go. They do not resist the Spirit, but they yield to the Spirit’s control. And, so the Spirit of God is able to produce within them much fruit for God’s eternal kingdom.

The Call

God is calling out to the people of this world and to those who make a profession only of the name of Jesus Christ to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, to die with Christ to sin, and to live with Christ to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel, for Jesus Christ did not die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The Christian life is a crucified life; a life committed to Christ to walk in his ways and in his truth.

God is also calling out to those who are his children by faith in Jesus Christ, but who have strayed from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ, and who have allowed the world to creep back into their lives. He is calling them to repent of their sins, and to turn back to him to walk in his ways and in his truth (See: Rev. 2-3). He wants to revive your hearts, and to restore you to pure unadulterated fellowship with him. He does not want you to have divided hearts, but to give him your whole hearts and devotion, so that you might bear fruit for his kingdom and for his glory. So, will you hear him calling, and answer his call today?

Give God the Glory / An Original Work
Based off Psalm 19 / March 10, 2014

All of creation now proclaims:
“Give God the glory; honor His name!”
Each day the stars in heav’n above
Show forth His wisdom; tell of His love.

They do not speak. They have no voice.
Yet, they declare we have a choice:
“Worship the God of heav’n above;
Believe in Jesus; trust in His love.”

God’s word is perfect, just and good,
Refreshing souls who trust in the Lord;
Makes wise the simple; radiant –
Lighting our lives with God’s righteousness.

Joy to the heart His words now speak;
Pure and enduring, now we seek.
They are more precious than our gold;
Sweeter than honey; never grow old.

Keeping the word brings great reward.
By the word Jesus speaks and He warns,
Convicting hearts of all their sin;
Forgiving all who call upon Him.

Praying You keep me, Lord, from sins.
May they not rule my life again.
Then will I walk in all Your ways,
Following Jesus all of my days.

Come to Jesus

Friday, January 29, 2016, 4:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give Me Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 1:35-2:17 (Select vv. NASB).

He Preached (Mk. 1:35-39)

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human form, and walked this earth as fully God yet fully man. He suffered like we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. When he began his earthly ministry, he preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God in heaven. He confronted sin in sinful human beings, warned of judgment to come, called people to repentance and to faith in him, and promised eternal life with God in heaven for all who repent and believe.

Jesus said this was the reason he came, to preach. So, what did he preach? He preached that we are blessed if we are humble, repentant, merciful and pure in heart; when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake; and when we hunger and thirst for righteousness. He preached against such sins as murder, adultery, divorce (except for marital unfaithfulness), revenge and hate. He encouraged compassion, forgiveness, mercy and generosity. He taught his followers how to pray, and he warned against religious hypocrisy. As well, he taught that we should not worry, but that we should trust in him to supply all we need. He counseled his followers against hypocritical judging, and encouraged praying in faith. And, he continually preached the gospel of our salvation and so much more (See: Matt. 5-7).

So, what was the gospel he taught? He said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin) and follow (obey) him. He said that the path which leads to life (in him) is narrow and few find it. As well, he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” And, he taught that not only must we hear his words, but we must put them into practice, for then we are like a wise man who built his house on a rock, and when the storm came, his house did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock (See: Matt. 7; Lu. 9).

In other words, the gospel Jesus taught was one of death to sin and self, following him in obedience and full surrender, and putting into practice what the Word says, doing God’s will. The NT apostles preached the same message for salvation. Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel.

He Has Compassion (Mk. 1:40-42)

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

Not only did Jesus preach the gospel of our salvation from sin, but he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, delivered from demons, comforted the sorrowful, and he encouraged the weak and the timid. Jesus Christ is God, full of compassion, mercy, tenderness, and kindness. He cares about our needs and our hurts. He is our healer and our comforter, if we call on him in faith. He encourages us when we are down, or when we are lacking in strength or courage. He then lifts us up by speaking truth into our hearts. He calms our fears, fills us with his peace, and he heals our hurts. He is the one who made us, so he knows all about us. Nothing that goes on in our lives escapes his notice. We are not forgotten by God, no matter what we are going through. He loves and he cares about us.

He Forgives Sins (Mk. 2:9-12)

“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Jesus Christ, when he died on the cross for our sins, took upon himself the sins of the entire world. When he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. By his grace, through faith in him, we can be forgiven our sins, delivered both from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation) and from slavery to sin, and be set free to now come under the control of his righteousness, and to have the promise of eternal life with God. God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Co. 5:21). By his stripes we are healed.

Jesus Christ cleanses our hearts from sin when we respond to the gospel in faith, and in the power of the Spirit working within us in spiritual transformation we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Coming to faith in Jesus Christ is not an intellectual assent to what he did for us in dying for our sins. It is not an emotional decision we make at an altar to invite Christ into our hearts. Jesus said we must be “born again,” or “born from above.” In other words, becoming a Christian is like going from a caterpillar to a butterfly. It is a metamorphosis. We no longer walk according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live.

He Calls Sinners (Mk. 2:15-17)

And it happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners?” And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus does not accept us because of our own righteousness. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. No amount of good works we might do can get us into heaven. Our good will never outweigh our bad. When we are born into this world, we are born with sin natures, destined for hell, without God and without hope. We do not have the ability to affect our own salvation. Only by God’s grace, because of Jesus’ blood sacrifice for our sins, can we be forgiven our sin, be set free from slavery to sin, and be given new lives in Christ to be lived in the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness.

Yet, we must believe in him in order to be saved. Only those who acknowledge that they are sinners and that they need a Savior are in the right frame of mind and heart to receive God’s free gift of salvation. If we are filled with self-righteousness, we will never see our need of Christ and of his salvation. We must humble ourselves before God, repent of our sins, believe in what he did for us on the cross in dying for our sin, and turn to follow him with our lives in obedience to his Word and to his will for our lives. This is why Jesus died, not just to deliver us out of hell and to promise us heaven when we die, but to set us free from our slavery to sin and the control of Satan over our lives, and to put within us the life of himself that we might now come under the control of his righteousness and walk in his Spirit the rest of our days, not in absolute sinless perfection, but daily walking in his grace and mercy, putting off the “old man,” and daily putting on Christ and his holiness.

Give Me Jesus
Oh, What Gladness!

An Original Work / December 2, 2013

Give me Jesus. He’s my Savior.
I’ll walk with Him in His favor.
I’ll abide in His love always;
Follow His ways to the end.

Jesus is the Son of God.
He died upon a cruel cross.
He’s forgiven all my failures
By His mercy and His love.

Give me Jesus – His compassion,
And His mercy; loving kindness.
Let Him teach me how to love Him,
And to please Him. He’s my friend.

Jesus died for all our sin
So we could have eternal life.
He will free you from your bondage
If you trust Him with your life.

Give me Jesus. Let me trust Him.
May I listen to His teachings.
May I follow where He leads me
In His service. He’s my Lord.

Jesus Christ will come again
To take His bride to be with Him.
Oh, what gladness; free from sadness
When I meet Him in the air.

Preaching the Gospel

Thursday, January 28, 2016, 5:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “What the Lord Says.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 1:14-20 (NASB).

Repent and Believe (vv. 14-15)

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

There are many people these days who purportedly are preaching the gospel of God (of Jesus Christ). And, yet, their messages are not all the same. In other words, there are many different teachings out there which fall under the name of “Gospel of Jesus Christ,” but not all of them are truly teaching the “Gospel of God.” So, how do we know which ones are teaching the true gospel, and which ones are not? How can we discern truth from error?

Paul said that he did not shrink from declaring “the whole counsel of God.” So, what does that mean? It means he did not, out of fear of consequences, withhold any truth with regard to God’s will and purpose for us in salvation. He did not disguise the gospel or withhold any imperative truth contained therein in order to appease people, or to not offend, or to make people feel good about themselves. He did not twist the words of scripture in order to make them more culturally relevant, either. He also did not concern himself with being “seeker sensitive,” i.e. with trying to present the gospel in a way which would be friendlier and not so hard for the listeners to receive. He taught what Jesus taught about our salvation.

When Jesus called Paul to preach the gospel he told him that he was sending him to open the eyes of the (spiritually) blind, to turn them from darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus, the truth, righteousness), and from the power of Satan (away from his control over our lives) to God (to come under his control), “that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (See: Ac. 26:16-18).

Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin), and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). And, Paul said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

So, here in Mark’s gospel it is stated that Jesus, in preaching the gospel, said that we must repent and believe in the gospel. Many preachers today are telling people they don’t have to repent, or else they are saying that “repent” merely means to have a change of mind, and that change of mind takes place when someone decides to believe in Jesus. True, that is a change of mind, but when Scripture uses the term “repent,” in most all cases, in context, it is speaking of a change of mind about sin, i.e. it is in reference to forsaking our former way of living for sin and self, and it is about dying with Christ to sin so that we can be resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24).

Peter said that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (See: 1 Pet. 2:24). This is the essence of the gospel, not that he died merely to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but that he died that our sinful flesh would be crucified with him, and that we might now live to God’s righteousness in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, and not in our own flesh. The message of the gospel is death to sin, alive with Christ, living to righteousness.

Follow Him (vv. 16-20)

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

I love this depiction of what it means to follow Jesus Christ. It means we leave our former way of living behind us and we follow him in obedience and go the way he goes, wherever he goes. Yet, there were people in Jesus’ day who said they wanted to follow him, but they had not yet counted the cost of what it would mean to follow him, and/or they said they had other things they needed to do first. So, Jesus let them know the cost of following him, and he reprimanded at least one of them by telling him that anyone who looks back, i.e. who is still engaged in the things of this world, is not fit for the kingdom of God. He let them all know that following Christ does not mean we have security in the things of this world, but now our security is in heaven and in what is of God’s eternal kingdom. He told them that following him was to be an immediate response of leaving all behind (See: Lu. 9:57-62).

Although it is true that the Christian life is a growth process, and that daily, by the Spirit, we are to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh – and that we are being conformed into the likeness of Christ, and that we are being made holy – we cannot enter into a true relationship with Jesus Christ thinking we can still hold on to our old lives and that we can just gradually let go of things when we decide. We can’t say, “I will follow you Jesus, but first let me continue to live my life the way I want, and then later, when it is convenient for me, I will follow you.” Jesus demands total surrender, but not sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1). Yet, the Word teaches us that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue to walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), that we are liars, and the truth is not in us (See: 1 Jn. 1:6). If we continue to walk according to the flesh, we will die, and we won’t have an inheritance with God in heaven. We can’t serve two masters – the flesh and Christ. One will cancel out the other, i.e. we can’t serve Christ and the flesh, too.

Yet, not only does following Christ mean we cease going the direction we were headed with our lives, and now we go the opposite direction in following Christ with our lives, but it means a life of service to our Lord, to do his will, his way. When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, we were bought with a price, so our lives are no longer our own to be lived the way we choose (See: 1 Co. 6:20). We were crucified with Christ so that we no longer live, but Christ now lives within us, and the life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and who gave himself up for us (See: Gal. 2:20). Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life for us (See: 2 Co. 5:15). A saved life is a crucified life. A saved life is a surrendered life. Jesus said that his sheep (followers) know his voice, they listen to him, and they follow (obey) him (Jn. 10:27-30).

So, if we want to follow Jesus Christ with our lives, we must leave our old lives of living for sin and self behind us, and daily we must die to sin and self and follow our Lord in surrender and obedience to his will for our lives – all in the power and working of the Spirit of God within us, as we yield our lives to the Spirit. We must listen to him, and do what he says. And, we must live our lives as though they are not our own, but as though we belong to Jesus, and he is the one now in control, and as though he is the one calling all the shots.

A saved life is a life of service to our God. It is a life that is called of God for a very specific purpose, which is to live holy lives, pleasing to God. To believe in the gospel means we live like we believe that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Our walk matches our talk. So, when the temptations or trials of this life weigh in on us, we commit our way to the Lord. And, we keep following him, trusting him with the results.

What the Lord Says / An Original Work

February 24, 2014 / Based off Isaiah 43:1-44:5

This is what the Lord says to you:
Fear not, for I have chosen you.
I have summoned you by your name.
You are mine. I died, you to save.

When you go through your trials, so deep,
I will be with you; you will not sink.
You are so precious always to me.
Trust in your Lord, Savior and King.

This is what the Lord says to you:
He who gave salvation to you;
Who delivered you from your sin;
Takes your burdens now upon Him:

Forget the former things of your life.
Give of your heart not now up to strife.
See all the new things I have for you.
Walk in vict’ry. Trust in what’s true.

This is what the Lord says to you:
He who made you; who will help you:
Do not fear what humans may do.
Walk in freedom. Follow what’s true.

Drink of my Spirit given for you.
Trust in my mercy, for I love you.
I have a plan for all of your life.
Follow my ways. Do what is right.

Going Against Fear

Monday, January 25, 2016, 7:17 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Weary of Heart.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 28 (NASB).

Go and Tell (vv. 1-10)

Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Jesus Christ was betrayed by one of his closest companions, disowned three times by another and abandoned by all twelve of his closest disciples. He was falsely arrested, given a mock trial, spat upon, beaten, mocked, and scourged beyond recognition. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering, and men hid their faces from him. Then, they hung him on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong. Yet, he did not remain dead. He was resurrected from the dead on the third day, just as he had said he would.

These women, who were followers of Christ, came to the tomb where Jesus had been buried, fully expecting to see that their Lord was in the tomb, but he had risen. The angel told them not to be afraid, but to “go quickly” and tell his disciples. While they were on their way to tell the disciples, Jesus appeared to them. He also told them not to be afraid, but to go and take his word to his brethren.

Jesus is still giving his followers today this same message: “Do not fear. Go quickly. Take my word and tell it to those to whom I have sent you.” He may send us to those who have never heard the gospel of salvation. And/or he may send us to those who profess the name of Jesus but who need a word of encouragement, urging, comfort, edification or counsel. Yet, there may be many reasons why we may feel fear and have to go against our fears in order to do what our Lord has instructed.

For one, these women had just witnessed the brutality with which Jesus had been treated by his opponents. If they went and told others, and word got out that this is what they were doing, they risked being treated in like manner as was Jesus, because they were following him and they were taking his message to others. They were also saddened by the loss of their Lord to death, and most certainly confused and bewildered by the appearance of this angel telling them Christ had risen. Sometimes we might be tempted to withdraw in fear because we don’t understand what is happening to us or to those we love, and we may fear moving out into the unknown, not knowing what awaits us. Yet, we must not be afraid!

As well, these were women, and women were not often given the value and esteem a woman of today, in particular in America, might receive. So, most certainly when they chose to obey their Lord and take his message to men whom may reject them and even scoff at them, they had to go against their fears and accept whatever response they may receive from the men in order to obey Jesus. Yet, times haven’t changed all that much. Although women are not to have authority over men, and they are not to be elders within the church, they are gifted equally with men of the Spirit of God and have been called of God, too, to prophesy, i.e. to take God’s word to whomever the Spirit directs, and to proclaim the word of God in all practicality in application to our lives today. And, because they are women, they, as well, may meet with opposition from men (and women, too).

Make Disciples (vv. 11-20)

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Another possible cause for fear is that there are those who not only may oppose us in one way or another for speaking out the word of God to people, but who are working against the message of the gospel itself by spreading lies about what Jesus and his NT apostles taught. They make up their own version of the story of the gospel for the sole purpose to deceive and to try to discredit the true story so that it will not be believed by people. And, they try to convince others that those who are giving out the true (full) gospel message are teaching works-based salvation, are liars, are false teachers, are legalists, and/or are intolerant, bigoted, hateful and fear mongers. Yet, they do this through the twisting of truth and a diluted gospel message which ignores the bulk of scriptures on salvation and centers around a few select passages of scripture, often taken out of context. So, when we face such strong opposition, we may be tempted to fear their rebukes and to retreat. Yet, we should not!

Another possible cause for fear is our own doubts. Sometimes when things don’t go the way we expect, or when God operates outside the box we have put him inside, or when his actions don’t fit with the theology we were taught from early on, we may doubt what we see, and find it difficult to trust and to believe. A lot of people are afraid of the Holy Spirit, for instance, because they can’t control him, and they don’t understand how he works, and so rather than learn from the word, and grow in their understanding, they quench and grieve the Holy Spirit by shutting him out and trying to control things with man’s logic and reasoning. Certainly we must be diligent about testing the spirits to see if they are of God, but we must guard against putting out the Spirit’s fire by our own doubts and fears.

Yet, we must not be afraid. We must have courage and speak the words God gives us to speak from his word to whomever he sends us no matter what kind of reception we may encounter. We must be students of the Word ourselves so that we know the Word of which we speak, and so we can discern error from truth. And, we must not fear what humans might do to us, for God is with us. He will not leave us or forsake us, but he will give us strength, courage, and empowerment from on high to speak the Word of God with boldness, and to persevere in giving testimony for Jesus Christ and for his gospel of grace.

The Word of God teaches us that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). It teaches us that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be a blood sacrifice for our sins so that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who no longer conduct our lives according to the sinful flesh, but who now walk (live) in accordance with the Spirit of God. If we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14). It teaches us that God’s grace is not a free license to continue in sin once we profess to have received Christ as Savior of our lives, but God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (See: Tit. 2:11-14).

The Word of God also teaches us that it is by grace we are saved, through faith. It is the gift of God and not of ourselves; not of works lest we should boast that we somehow earned or deserved our own salvation (See: Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, the Word also says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). And, James said that faith, if not accompanied by works (action) is dead (See: Jas. 2:14-26). As well, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, and yet we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). Paul said that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means death to our old lives of living for sin and self, being transformed in heart and mind away from sin to God, and being given new lives in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Ro. 6; Ro. 8; Gal. 2:20; Ac. 26:16-18; Lu. 9:23-25).

So, if we are going to make disciples (followers) of Christ of people of all nations, we must teach them to obey what Christ commanded his followers when he walked this earth, unless the instructions were obviously intended for a particular group of people for a specific period of time. If the NT apostles taught the same things Jesus taught, and they taught them to the church for them to follow, then we know these are instructions we must follow, too, unless they are obviously cultural or intended only for a specific period of time. The fact that the NT apostles taught we must die to sin and live to righteousness, and that continuing in a lifestyle of sin after we say we “believe” means death, whereas following Christ in obedience and in lifestyle according the Spirit means life, which is what Jesus taught, it means we should believe this, and we must follow this.

Paul’s commission was to open blinded eyes, so they may turn from darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus, purity, righteousness, truth), and from the dominion of Satan (the power he had over our lives) to God (to come under his control – the control of his righteousness), so we might receive forgiveness of sins, and have a place (inheritance) among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (Ac. 26:16-18). So, although we can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation, but it is only by the blood of Christ shed on the cross for our sins that we have been given such a great salvation, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to righteousness; no longer conducting our lives after our sinful flesh, but now walking in the Spirit, in the power of the Spirit, and not in the power of our flesh.

Weary of Heart

An Original Work / January 23, 2016
Based off Isaiah 40

You who bring the Good News,
Lift up your voice.
Do not fear. Shout it out:
“Here is your God!”
The sovereign Lord comes
With power and strength.
He gathers His tender lambs
In His arms.

Lift up your eyes and look:
“Who made all things?”
God, our creator knows
All about you.
Your cause is not
Disregarded by God.
He will not leave;
He’ll not abandon you.

When you are troubled
And weary of heart,
Trust the Lord with your life.
Do not despair.
He will empower you;
Strengthen within.
Soar on wings like eagles,
Walk and not faint.

For Righteousness’ Sake

Sunday, January 24, 2016, 12:08 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All Through the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 26:47-27:54 (Select vv. NASB).

Betrayed with a Kiss (Matt. 26:47-50)

Jesus had just celebrated the Passover with his disciples. He foretold both Judas’ betrayal of him and Peter’s disowning of him, as well as how all his disciples would fall away on account of him that very night. Then, he went with his disciples to Gethsemane where he prayed to the Father, “If it is not possible for this cup to be taken away from me unless I drink it, may your will be done.” He asked some of his disciples to keep watch with him, but they fell asleep. Then, Jesus told his disciples he had been betrayed into the hands of sinners.

While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.

During the years Jesus’ disciples followed him in ministry, he told them that, as his followers, they should expect to be treated as he was treated. If he was hated, they would be too. If he was referred to as being of Satan, they would be, as well. So, just as he was betrayed by a close companion, was disowned three times by another, was abandoned by all, was falsely arrested, and was sent to his death, they should expect, as well, that they would be treated in like manner, which they were. And, we will be, too.

False Testimony (Matt. 26:59-68)

Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”

Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”

Satan hates Jesus’ followers. When we were still in slavery to our sin, Satan had power over us. When Jesus Christ delivered us out of slavery to sin, Satan lost his power over us. Ever since then he has been in hot pursuit of us who hold to the testimony of Jesus, who remain faithful to Christ, and who obey the commandments of God (See: Rev. 12:17; 14:12).

If Satan cannot get us back, i.e. if he can’t get us to return to a lifestyle of sin and rebellion against Almighty God, and/or if he can’t get us to become spiritually apathetic and adulterous, he will go on the offensive and will attack our character, making up lies against us, and even producing false evidence against us. He will also twist our words or accuse us of saying what we did not say by putting words in our mouths, figuratively speaking. He will make what is good and holy appear wrong (bad, evil), while making what is wrong (against God) appear holy, good and right. He will cause humans to turn the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ into a hate crime against humanity, and he will promote the blending of all religions into one false religion, completely void of God and his holiness and righteousness.

They Crucified Him (Matt. 27:27-31)

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.

When we follow Jesus Christ with our lives, and we walk in the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh, and we are no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but we have come out and have become separate from (different, unlike) the world of sin, because we are becoming like Jesus, we will be hated. We will be mocked, made fun of, laughed at, ignored, falsely accused, rejected, abandoned, mistreated, persecuted and even killed for our testimonies for Jesus Christ and for his full gospel message of salvation.

Yet, scripture teaches us that we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10-12), and that we are to rejoice that we have been counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus Christ (Ac. 5:41). We are to count it all joy when we encounter various trials (Jas. 1:2-4), and we are to rejoice in our sufferings because they produce endurance, character and hope (Ro. 5:3-5). In suffering, we also learn to not rely on ourselves, but on God, and we are able to comfort others who are going through similar suffering with the encouragement we received from God (2 Co. 1:3-11).

So, don’t lose heart! Trust in the Lord and in his sovereignty over your life. Submit to his will and purposes, and believe him to work it all out for the good of those who love God, and who have been called according to his purpose (See: Ro. 8:28). Keep persevering and trusting in the Lord to give you all that you need to endure and to keep serving and trusting your Lord on this earth until the day he takes you home to be with him forever.

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

Weary of Heart

“As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:13

Our God is not weak. He is strong and powerful. And, yet, he is also gentle and tender like a mother hen is to her chicks. He comforts his children like a mother comforts her young. He gathers us in His arms like a shepherd gathers his sheep, if we are willing.

So, when we, his followers and servants, grow weak and tired; when we are sad or feeling lonely or forgotten; or when we lack the physical or emotional strength to keep going because of hardship, persecution and trouble in our lives, he brings us comfort. He quiets our anxious hearts and fills us with his peace when we call on him in truth, trusting in his love and mercy. He will never leave us or forsake us. He knows what we are going through. He has not forgotten us. He will empower us and give us strength to endure if we trust him.

Weary of Heart

An Original Work / January 23, 2016
Based off Isaiah 40

You who bring the Good News,
Lift up your voice.
Do not fear. Shout it out:
“Here is your God!”
The sovereign Lord comes
With power and strength.
He gathers His tender lambs
In His arms.

Lift up your eyes and look:
“Who made all things?”
God, our creator knows
All about you.
Your cause is not
Disregarded by God.
He will not leave;
He’ll not abandon you.

When you are troubled
And weary of heart,
Trust the Lord with your life.
Do not despair.
He will empower you;
Strengthen within.
Soar on wings like eagles,
Walk and not faint.

He Will Set You Free

Friday, January 22, 2016, 10:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Listen! Listen!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 26:1-30 (NASB).

Jesus told his disciples that the Passover was two days away and that the “Son of Man” (a reference to himself) would be handed over to be crucified. Then the chief priests and the elders of the Jewish temple plotted to arrest Jesus and kill him. After this, Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, agreed to betray Jesus and to hand him over to be killed. Then, Jesus met together with his disciples to celebrate the Passover at a certain man’s house.

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” ~ Matt. 26:26-28

The Passover

The meal Jesus had with his disciples here, although commonly referred to as “The Last Supper,” or “The Lord’s Supper,” was in celebration of the Passover. So, what was the Passover, and why was it celebrated? And why, in celebration of the Passover, did Jesus speak these words to his disciples about eating his body and drinking his blood?

The children of Israel had been enslaved in Egypt for many years. So, God sent Moses to deliver his people out of slavery to Egypt. He sent him to Pharaoh to tell him to let God’s people go. Pharaoh refused, so God sent several plagues to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Still he refused. So, God sent the “plague of the firstborn.” God was going to strike at midnight and kill every firstborn son in Egypt, including Pharaoh’s firstborn son, and the firstborn of all the cattle, too. Yet, the Israelites were to kill a lamb, one for each household, and take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of their houses. When God passed through Egypt and killed the firstborn males, when he saw the blood on their doorframes, he would pass over them, and their males would be spared. Then, God commanded them to commemorate this day for the generations to come.

The reason why Jesus made reference to his death, and to his disciples eating his flesh and drinking his blood, in connection with the celebration of the Passover, was that the Passover was a prefiguring of Jesus’ death on a cross to deliver us, the people of this sinful world, out of slavery to sin. In this case, Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb, and it is his blood applied to our individual lives that insures that God passes over us in judgment, that our lives are spared, and that we are set free, as the Israelites were subsequently freed from their slavery. Yet, we must obey God, and apply his blood sacrifice to our lives if we want to be spared eternal damnation and have the promise of eternal life with God. We do this through faith in Jesus Christ, in death to sin, and in being born of the Spirit of God in living to righteousness. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

Flesh and Blood

Jesus said similar words as these here in Matthew 26 to his disciples at an earlier time, as is recorded for us in John, chapter six. So, this Passover meal with his followers was not the first time he made such a reference to eating his body (his flesh) and drinking his blood.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” ~ John 6:53-56

So, why did Jesus tell his followers this, and what does this symbolize? Well, for one, to eat means to ingest (take in), chew (ponder) and swallow (believe, accept). To eat also means to partake – “to take part in or experience something; to have a share or part of something; and to have some of the qualities of something” (M-W Dictionary). Jesus’ body was given for us in death on a cross for our sins so that we might be forgiven our sins and have life eternal with God, as well as so we might be delivered out of slavery to sin and become servants of Christ’s righteousness while we still live on this earth. So, for us to eat of his body means to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but it also means that we have a part in his death, and that we share some of the qualities of his death in our death to sin, and in our being resurrected to new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord – “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Romans 6 & Romans 8).

In addition, when the mother of James and John requested of Jesus that her sons sit on Jesus’ right and left in his kingdom (See: Matt. 20:20-23), he responded by saying that it was the Father’s decision. Yet, he also answered with a question: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They thought they were. Jesus replied, “My cup you shall drink.” What was the cup Jesus was about to drink? The cup of suffering, i.e. of his arrest, false accusations, mock trial, mockery of him, his scourging and his death on a cross. When he died, he took upon himself the sins of the entire world. He put our sins to death on the cross so we might go free. So, for us to drink of this same cup, we must, by the Spirit of God, die to sin so that we might live to righteousness. By his stripes we are healed! We must also suffer the injustices Jesus suffered for us in that we will be hated, persecuted and even put to death for our faith in Christ and our testimonies for him and for his gospel.

So, is what I just said here supported scripturally in the teachings of the apostles with regard to our salvation from sin and our faith in Jesus Christ? Yes! Paul’s testimony of his conversion and the calling of Jesus on his life tells us that Jesus called him to open blinded eyes, “so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Ac. 26:16-18). In conversion, by the power and working of the Spirit of God in our lives, we turn from sin and from the power of Satan over our lives to faith in Jesus Christ and to obedience to God and to his will for our lives, so we may receive forgiveness of sins, and become part of the family of God, the body of Christ, his church. This is what scripture refers to as being “born again,” or being “born from above” (of the Spirit).

As well, Paul said that the way we learned Christ; that we were taught in him was to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24). He said that Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ who gave his life for us (2 Co. 5: 15). He taught, as well, that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who conduct our lives (our lifestyles) according to the Spirit. If we walk according to the flesh, he pointed out, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Lu. 9:23-25; Gal. 2:20). He said, too, that our conversion means we died to sin. “Our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

Life Application

So, this goes back to the Passover. The ultimate goal of this “plague of the firstborn” was to get Pharaoh to let God’s people go so they would be free from their slavery. If the Israelites wanted to be spared the death of the firstborn, though, it required the blood of a sacrificial lamb applied to the doorframe of their houses, which they had to do. When God saw the blood of the sacrificial lamb, he passed over them, but then he also delivered them out of their slavery and set them free, and he put them on the path to the Promised Land.

This prefigures our own salvation from sin. We were all born into sin, without God and without hope. We were destined to hell and to eternal punishment. We were under the power of Satan, and free from the control of righteousness. Jesus became our sacrificial lamb by dying on the cross for our sins. When we apply to our lives what he did for us in giving his life up for us so we could be set free from slavery to sin and the punishment of sin, and what he did so he could free us to now become servants of his righteousness, we are no longer under the judgment of eternal damnation, but we have eternal life with God. Amen! To apply what he did to our own lives we believe in him, and by faith in Jesus, and in the power and working of the Spirit of God, we die with him to sin, and we are resurrected with him to new lives which we now live to his righteousness in the Spirit of God.

So, if you have not yet believed in Jesus Christ in the putting to death your sinful lifestyle, and in being resurrected with Christ to a new life in Christ, lived in the Spirit in his righteousness, then I pray you would do so today. You may not have tomorrow!

Listen! Listen! / An Original Work / December 20, 2011

Weep and wail o’er your sins, children.
God is calling out to you:
Be ye honest; tell the truth,
And it will set you free.
Harken to Him calling you to
Bow on bended knee today.
Don’t delay to let Him in,
And He’ll cleanse your hearts;
Pure within.

Sinners, won’t you listen to Him
Calling out to you today?
He died so that you would be free
Of your sins always.
Turn from your sin. Turn to Jesus.
Obey Him in ev’ry way.
He wants to set you free of
All your guilt,
For which He did pay.

Listen! Listen!
Don’t close your hearts
To His voice speaking to you.
He will give you all of His peace,
If your hearts be true.
He longs for you to come to Him
Humbly now and repentant.
Obey all of His commandments.
Live with Him eternally.