SHORT and to the POINT - Once in awhile my commentary will be brief but I hope you "get the point."
John 3:17 NKJV - "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."
If God didn't send Jesus to condemn sinners, why do some Christians think God sent them to do so? If Jesus came to save the lost, then let's seek the salvation of the lost as well.
1 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV - "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."
The very next verse after this speaks of God providing a "way of escape" when temptation comes. I'd like to suggest that our Daily Verse is sometimes the "way of escape!"
Think about this. If you have been warned to watch out for pitfalls Satan might use to throw temptations in your path wouldn't it be prudent to steer clear of those pitfalls? In other words, "taking heed" to good advice could keep you from falling into trouble. If you carelessly disregard the counsel, then you don't really have a good excuse for the failure.
Another thing about our Daily Verse is that it warns against pride. Many Christians get into trouble because they thought they were "strong enough" to handle any temptation. They considered their spiritual growth was sufficient to keep them on the right path even if the temptations were powerful. That is foolish!
A Christian must rely on the strength God gives all the time! Just because a person is considered "strong in the Lord" doesn't mean they are impervious to Satan's evil darts. The believer must always hold up the "shield of faith" to quench those darts. And that faith is not in the believer - it is in the Lord!
Be careful Christian friend. The more you grow in the Lord the more you'll be in Satan's cross-hairs. The devil will do whatever he can to bring you down into sin. Learn to follow James 4:7, "Submit yourself therefore to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Luke 10:33 NKJV - "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion."
Ever make a "Samaritan Stop?" Ever have a Good Samaritan stop for you? What would you do if you were the "Samaritan?" Would you be "good" or would you be like the priest or the Levite and "pass by on the other side?"
What happens when you face an obstacle you don't know how to overcome? Do you have a contact list of helpful people who will run to your aid? Great if you do, but a lot of people don't have friends like that. Even to call 911 doesn't necessarily mean that the help that arrives can handle all the need. The loss of a job could mean the loss of an apartment. And there are many people who don't have a relative or a friend who would take them in.
When I ministered at St. Paul's House in New York City it was common to have people come looking for a place to stay. Too many were living "only one pay check from eviction!" And when the pay stopped, so did the apartment. What do you do when that happens to someone you know?
Back in Bible days it was seen as an honor to offer your home to the needy. But not everyone has room. Just ask Joseph and Mary! And she was pregnant! We live in a day when even Christians find the going to be tough. And that's where other Christians need to ask what can they do to help. My wife and I have "housed" six different people over the years, some out of a dire strait. in each case the Lord intervened and provided further assistance. But we know there are many others living in "cardboard shacks" trying to find shelter. One of my co-workers at St. Paul's House lived in such a place for four years under the Brooklyn Bridge! It wasn't until a pastor found him and sent him to our mission. Not everybody is so fortunate.
Christian, we're living in a tough time. And it may soon happen that being a Christian is cause enough to become homeless. Jesus said that people hated Him and those who follow Him will face the same animosity. Part of our response should be what the early church taught: care for the poor. You might become one of them!
1 Corinthians 9:24 NKJV - "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it."
What's the point of a contest? WIN! You usually don't enter a contest merely to try to win. You enter to be the one who gets top prize!
But what about a marathon? Sure, there are a number of racers who really believe they can be first. And they train for years to achieve that goal. But what about the rest? What's the point of running in a marathon? FINISH! You run, even though you're more than positive you won't be anywhere near the topmost racers, but that's not the point! You run to say that you finished. You ran the full 26.2 miles and you crossed the "finish line." Note, they don't call it "The First Place Winner Line." Only ONE can get that recognition. But the rest of the runners at least get the chance to say, "Hey, I ran the whole marathon! And I crossed the FINISH LINE!"
I have admired some great Christian preachers and teachers over the years. I won't mention his name, but one man I remember saying, "I don't want to die and go to heaven until I've finished everything that God has called me to do!" He wasn't seeking recognition for doing his ministry, but he wanted to know that when he passed into Glory he had completed the work he was supposed to do. He ran to cross the "finish line."
I admire Paul who said in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race..." He had said earlier in Acts 20:24, "...so that I may finish my race with joy..." And that's a great point: not just finish, but finish with joy!
What's your goal in living your Christian life? Are you just a spectator? Just watching "the game" and see how those other Christians are doing? Are you at least a participant? If so, are you hoping to cross the "finish line." Or are you just a participant with no goal in mind? I hope that's not true.
A dedicated Christian yearns to know that when they finish, they did what God wanted. The kept the faith, they fought a good fight, and they finished, and not just finish, but they finished with joy!
John 14:13,14 NKJV - "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
The following is a combination of thoughts from E. M. Bounds and myself:
The possibilities of prayer run parallel with the promises of God.
God works as we pray. Faith lays hold of the impossible as it asks God to undertake for us. He is the God who can do the impossible! If God can do the “impossible” in saving our souls from hell, there is nothing else so great that He cannot do! Only God can move mountains, but faith and prayer can move God!
John 14:12-14, “Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
If Jesus dwells at the fountain of my life; if the currents of His life have displaced and superseded all self-current; if implicit obedience to Him is the inspiration and force of every movement of my life, then He can safely commit the praying to my will, and pledge Himself, by an obligation as profound as His own nature, that whatever is asked shall be granted. Nothing can be clearer, more distinct, more unlimited both in application and extent, than the exhortation and urgency of Christ.
Faith lives in the present. We can pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and in so doing we are shutting out tomorrow’s grace or tomorrow’s bread. We do not live in tomorrow. We live in today. We do not pray for tomorrow’s grace. We pray for grace for today. We cannot have tomorrow’s grace any more than we can have and eat tomorrow’s bread. Bread given for today is the strongest sort of pledge that there will be bread for tomorrow. Victory today, is the assurance of victory for tomorrow.
Amazing lesson of the simplicity of prayer is praying in Jesus’ Name. All other conditions are depreciated, everything else is renounced, save Jesus only. The name of Christ—the person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—must be supremely sovereign, in the hour of prayer.
Proverbs 10:22 NLT - "The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and He adds no sorrow with it."
The blessings of the Lord have little to do with monetary wealth. We look at His blessings and find their value far exceeds whatever this world can offer. God, who has all riches, doesn't seem to put much emphasis on what we call "valuable." Our money usually has a lot of stress attached to it! We work ever so hard to accumulate wealth, then we worry ever so hard to keep that wealth, and we sicken so quickly when that wealth is gone! The world's wealth has little to do with seeking God's blessing! With gold and silver comes sorrow and heartache.
But with the blessings God gives comes joy, peace, satisfaction, and a desire to be generous with what He's placed in our lives. Where the world suffers sorrow, the believer enjoys gladness and delight. You see, God's blessings do make a person rich, rich in what money can't buy: a good name, a peaceful heart, a great eternal outlook, friendships and relationships that bring even greater joy!
How often do you find yourself craving for this world's "dreams?" Abandon that. Remember what John said in 1 John 2:17 NLT, "And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever." Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3 that God has blessed us "with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places." Just the thought of that causes sorrow to melt away.
Galatians 5:22,23 NKJV - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."
As a fruit tree bears its own fruit so a real Christian life bears Christian fruit. You expect an apple tree to bear apples; an orange tree to bear oranges; a cherry tree to bear cherries. So should a Christian life bear Christian graces, or in this passage, the "Fruits of the Spirit." Long ago I connected John 16:14 with our Daily Verse. In John's passage, where it speaks of the Spirit, it goes on to say, "He shall glorify me." If the Spirit's work is to bring glory to Christ then the fruit of the Spirit is to produce in the believer the very character of Christ. All these graces mentioned in these two verses pretty much describe who Jesus is.
This work of the Spirit begins as soon as a person becomes a believer in Christ. As this new believer begins to pray and read and study God's Word, the indwelling Holy Spirit will lead that believer to grow in the Lord. The believer will not need a list of "do's" and "don'ts" to figure out what they should or should not do with their life. They can trust the Holy Spirit to bring about changes in their lives that will help them be conformed to Jesus. This is the work I look for in someone who is a new believer. I have witnessed this hundreds of times over the years.
When a person turns to the Lord they often show an immediate delight in the things of God. And as they read and learn from God's Word, they begin to see what else should naturally happen now that they are a Christian. They will want to stop lying, cheating, stealing, swearing, etc., and they will want to begin being honest, hard-working, always speaking words to uplift, not tear down. They can't help but see the affects of the Spirit of God on their lives. That is why I don't busy myself with new believers by giving them lists of things to avoid or practice. I teach them what the Bible says and let the Spirit of God take over! He does a marvelous work!
Encourage new believers to spend time with God in prayer and the Word and show them the value of listening to good preachers and teachers as they show them what the Bible says. All of this will be used of the Holy Spirit to produce the Fruit of the Spirit in them.
Colossians 2:20b-22 NKJV - "...why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations--'do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,' which all concern things which perish with the using--according to the commandments and doctrines of men?"
"Chapter and verse?" I'm finding myself asking that whenever I hear someone teach a rule or regulation that other Christians "must follow." My response is, "Show me the chapter and verse where that regulation is clearly taught in the New Testament." If you can't show it then stop teaching it as if God commanded it!
I grew up with rules and regulations as a way for Christians to measure their spiritual growth. If they "did all the Do's" and "didn't do the Don'ts" then they were a good Christian. Never mind if that had a thriving personal time with Christ in daily worship, Bible study and prayer! It was important that Christians "follow the rules!" What a pathetic way to live the Christian life!
God's Holy Spirit was sent to convict this world of sin, righteousness and judgment, John 16:7-11. Basically that meant that if a person of the world continued living in their sin and did not receive the righteousness of Christ, they would face judgment.
But with a Christian the Bible tells us we are "led by the Spirit," Romans 8:14 and we are to keep on being filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18. As a Christian grows to follow the Spirit's leading they will also grow in godliness and Christ-like character. My job as a pastor is to encourage them to do just that. I may have my own personal convictions but I must be careful not to teach them as "commandments of God" unless I can clearly show the "chapter and verse" to support that teaching.
Freedom in Christ is not freedom to sin, but it is freedom to let the Holy Spirit guide your walk that it would be fully pleasing to your Savior. I can trust the Spirit of God to do that for you because I've learned I can trust Him to do that for me.
2 Corinthians 5:18 NKJV - "Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation."
We give what God gave. He gave us reconciliation to His Father and we help others experience the same privilege. The "all things that are become new" of verse 17, are produced by God. And one of those "new things" is this ministry of leading people to Christ. And one of the joys of seeing someone come to Christ is their desire, almost immediately, to find someone else who they can bring to the Savior.
Remember Andrew and Philip of John 1? They both spent one evening with Jesus and the very next thing you see is that Andrew immediately went to find his brother, Peter, and Philip went to find Nathanael. The impact of meeting Jesus meant that these new followers of Christ wanted their brother and friend, respectively, to follow Him too! The same practice is seen all through the book of Acts! The believers in the upper room went out and won over 2,000 people to Christ the first day after they were filled with the Spirit of God! When Saul of Tarsus got saved, also known as Paul the apostle, he "immediately preached Christ," Acts 9:20.
Believer, recognize the joy and honor to serve the Lord as messengers of reconciliation! How many people do you know who are lost and feel God doesn't care about them? Isn't it about time to let them know how much they are loved by their Creator? Isn't it time to let them know this Creator wants to have them know Him as their Savior?
Ask God to show you someone you could help be "reconciled to God" this week.
Luke 15:4 NKJV - "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?"
"He goes until He finds..." Think about that. When a shepherd sees that a sheep, "wandered away," or as Isaiah 53:6 says, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray..." the shepherd doesn't stop looking for it until he finds the lost sheep. You could say that when it came to the shepherd's love for his sheep, he "let nothing between his love for his own." (If you missed yesterday's Daily Verse, you might find it helpful to read. It reflects on my thoughts today).
Have you ever noticed that in all three parables in Luke 15 that in all instances the object lost already belonged to the owner? The lost sheep already belonged to the shepherd. The lost coin already belonged to the woman. The lost son already belonged to the father. They weren't so much looking to "buy more sheep" or "acquire more wealth" or even "have more children." The things that were lost already had an owner. What does that possibly imply about these parables? I think that along with seeing that Jesus is looking for the unsaved, He also is looking for the backslidden believer! For, you see, if something already belongs to the owner, that object, whether sheep, coin, or son, is not disowned by the owner. And the owner will stop at nothing to get back that which has wandered away! Nothing between the owner and that which is lost! The owner wants his possession back!
Do you feel that's the way God has been working in your life? You're saved. You can remember a day when you personally received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But you've wandered away. Your heart isn't in love with Him as it once was. You've taken everything your Father allowed you to have and you squandered it on wasteful living. Or, you've messed up your life so bad you wonder if God would ever take you back. And yet you feel Him tugging at your heart and saying to you, "Come home, come home, ye who are weary, come home!"
You see, Jesus isn't so much looking for what you can give Him or what you can do for Him. He wants you and He wants you to want Him. And when you want Him, you'll find Him! As much as a "lost sheep" needs to be found, so the lost sheep is hoping his shepherd will find him. Do you know that your Shepherd has been looking for you for a long, long time? He won't give up until you're back in fellowship with Him. He will let "nothing between" Himself and you. He wants you.
Daily commentary and insight from Pastor Eckardt.
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Mt Ephraim Baptist Church | 25 S. Black Horse Pike | Mt Ephraim, NJ 08059
Senior Pastor, Stephen A. Eckardt | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone: 856.981.7288