Set Free

John 8:34
“ Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”

James explains the process of sin,

James 1:14-16
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

The gist of what he is saying is, while sin promises to bring pleasure, it can only produce death. We have all found that to be true. We all face temptations, and those temptations make promises, but when sin gets its hooks in us, we find that it really destroys. We find that instead of serving us, we are the slaves of sin. One of the worst elements of slavery is the hopelessness  it produces. When a person is bound up in sin, they see no way out. They may have resolved over and over to quit, but the grip of sin is too great, and they find themselves bound to it once again.

Into this hopeless scene, Jesus enters with a message to liberate captives. Earlier, He declared He came to set the captives free.

John 8:31-32
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”

Jesus promises, what resolve, counseling, even incarceration have been unable to do, He will accomplish through His Word. The process is in two parts. First, believe in Him. When you do, He will come into your life and wash the guilt, and penalty of your sins, away from you. Second, abide in His Word. The same Word that spoke the world into existence, healed the lame and the blind, and even raised the dead, is the same Word that can transform your life. It can unloose the grip sin has on you, giving you true freedom and a fresh start.

Today, if you find yourself enslaved by sin, I am sure you have lost a great deal in life because of it. You have given up personal freedom, and both negatively and drastically, impacted those who you love. I am sure you have also tried everything to be set free. You may even feel like the Pharisees who said;

“How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” John 8:33

Rather than question the promises of Jesus, how about obeying them? Let’s determine together that we will receive Him and daily dive into His Word, trusting that He will transform our lives.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 33- Abundant Life
Numbers 34- Innumerable Promises

Popular Opinion

John 7:13
However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.”

2000 years have passed and this still remains a problem; we withhold the message of Christ out of fear. What are we afraid of? It seems to me Jesus has always been misunderstood. Popular opinion is often based on these misunderstandings. During His life, some were afraid to associate with Him because He was thought to have been a “wine bibber,” a glutton, and even one who condoned sin by hanging out with sinners. Many respectable people were afraid to associate with Christ because of their reputations.

Things have really not changed all that much. Today, many make their decision about Christ based upon popular opinion. They determine who Jesus is, or what Christians are, based upon what they see on television or the big screen. As a result, they think of Jesus as a far right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative politician; a money hungry evangelist; or an extreme legalist. It is not hard to understand why many reject Christ, if that is the only Jesus they have ever known.

Years ago, when I was a young Christian in college, one of my professors made the statement that all Christians had their hand on the button (a figurative devise that would send nukes to the Soviet Union). He said Christians, were anxious to bring on the end of the world. This statement was based on the Christ and Christianity that had been displayed before him. I remember my heart pounding through my chest as I raised my hand and stated, “Mr. Neil, you know me, you know that I am a Christian, and you know that I do not think that way.” He quickly amended his statement.

I believe we can live our lives in such a way as to reveal the real Christ and true Christianity. I believe we can undo the misunderstandings about Christ that have been seared into the minds of those around us. I believe we can do this as we seek to live lives committed to Jesus Christ. We never know what road block stands in someone’s way, keeping them from faith in Christ; or what fears they may have of committing to Jesus. Let’s determine that we will be those who represent true Biblical Christianity.

Take time today to get to know Jesus in His Word.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 31- God Is Just
Numbers 32- That’s Far Enough

Storms

John 6:20
“It is I; do not be afraid.”

Galilee was known for sudden and unpredictable storms. The wind increases rapidly, causing the Sea of Galilee to become a turbulent and dangerous sea. We read, on a few occasions, the lives of the disciples were at risk because of these great storms. In a very practical way, their experience illustrates for us the trials of life.

Jesus went up the mountain to pray and sent the disciples across the sea toward Capernaum. As they traveled, they faced a great storm. John tells us they had been rowing for close to four miles against the wind and the rising sea. Matthew explains they had been rowing all night and adds, they were “Being tossed by the sea because the wind was contrary.” At the rate they were going, it may have seemed this storm would never end and their final resting place would be the bottom of the sea.

Sometimes, life is like that. No matter how hard we work, how faithful we are to the Lord, there are times when life is like rowing against a the storm. We have all faced trials of that kind. We fight and fight just to stay afloat, but it seems like the difficulty will never end. As the story continues, there are two things that encourage me greatly. First, Jesus was aware of what they were going through. While they were rowing, He was praying. The writer of Hebrews explains that one of Jesus’ key roles is to pray for us. No matter what you are facing, you have an advocate with the Father. Jesus, Himself, is watching and praying. Second, I notice that Jesus came to them. In the middle of the sea and the storm, Jesus appeared in a miraculous way. I am struck by their response,

John 6:21 “Then they willingly received Him into the boat”

In the midst of what you are facing, Jesus watches and wants in. Take time today to let Him in.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 29- Once For All
Numbers 30- To Be Honest

Eternal Life

John 5:21
“For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.”

This is amazing! Jesus promises to give life. It is always tragic to watch people killing themselves, in an attempt to find life. Our country, our world, our communities, even many of our homes, are plagued with substance abuse, as people search for life. We seem to have an epidemic of extreme sports, with people risking life in order to experience life. All the while, Jesus is promising to give it away freely to any who will come to Him.

John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from            death into life.”

The life Jesus offers not only gives meaning to living, but is the only way to prepare for death. All of us are on a journey, and that journey will take us through the gateway of death, face to face with the one true God.

John 5:29 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

No matter what road you choose to walk in life, the end of that road will take you to the throne of God. If you choose to reject God for a certain lifestyle, or even denounce the existence of God, you will still find yourself standing before the throne of God, awaiting the sentence of eternity. There is only one way to prepare for that day, that is by receiving Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that as many as believe in Him, will have the privilege of becoming the children of God, and as children, become heirs of eternal life (John1:12). Sadly, even at the time of Christ we read,

John 5:40 “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”

I pray that is not true of you! I pray you will come to Him and receive purpose, meaning, value in living, and the free gift of eternal life.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 27- Supernatural Selection
Numbers 28- Morning And Evenings0

Outcast

John 4:9
For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.”

A few years ago, I was in Serbia speaking at a conference for some of the local churches. On the last day of our trip, we were invited by one of the pastors to visit a Gypsy village, where he had been ministering to the families for some time. Upon arriving, we broke up into groups, and began visiting some of the homes of the sick, and gathering with many of the children. After about an hour, a woman from a nearby town approached us. She stood out to us because she was wearing a beautiful purple dress with a purple overcoat. One of the other pastors approached her; she asked him who we were and what we were doing here. He responded that we were from America, and had come to Serbia to teach the Bible and share Christ. Her response was quite shocking. She said, “I meant what are you doing in the Gypsy’s village. No one cares about the Gypsies.” We were a little shocked by her statement, but began to share with her that Jesus loved all people, even those who were despised by the world. She made a decision to receive Christ that day because of His love for those whom no one else cared.

The world has always been filled with “Samaritans”. Even today, there is no shortage of people about whom no one seems to care. People, whose lifestyle has isolated them from society. It is important to keep in mind that Jesus was always drawn to those who the world rejected. Two thousand years later, and Jesus still “must go through Samaria.” He wants to use us, His church, to reach them with His love.

Keep your eyes open; there is a world out there in need of Christ. A world filled with neglected, even rejected people, who Jesus loves and died for.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 25- Friendship
Numbers 26- Inheritance

Heaven

John 3:13
No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

IMG_1474-0I remember as a sixteen year old asking myself, “What happens when we die?” Then just as quickly I answered, “We go to Heaven.” Then I asked, “What is Heaven?” Again I answered, “Heaven is doing whatever you like to do forever.” Then I asked “Who gets to go to Heaven?” And again I had an answer. “Those who are good.” Finally, I had to ask, “Who was good?” My answer was that I was good, and anyone who did not kill, or rape, but lived a life like mine, was also good. This answer satisfied me. If anyone had asked what would happen if I died I was convinced that I had an answer. The problem was, it was completely made up. It was the product of my imagination.

There is only one person who knows what awaits man on the other side of the grave. That man is Jesus; the one who came down from Heaven. All others are like me, using my imagination to guess what death holds. No matter how deliberate a religious system may become, no matter how many followers it may have, all others have this in common, they have never been to the other side and back. They are only guessing about eternal life based on the experiences of this life. Then there is Jesus. The one who came from heaven and declares to man:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life
.” John3:14-15

What great joy! To prepare for eternity, all we must do is believe on Jesus Christ and receive His free gift of eternal life.

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 23- Different Point Of View
Numbers 24- Victory

Beginning Of Miracles

John 2:11
“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.”

John tells us, the miracle of turning the water into wine was the first of Jesus’ miracles, and its purpose was to make His glory known. The word “glory” is used synonymously in the Bible with the word “name” and speaks of a person’s character. When Moses longed to know God more, he asked God to “Please, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18) God responded, saying, “I will cause My goodness to pass before you and declare My name.” It is in that passage we learn much of the merciful and gracious character of God. Here, at this wedding feast, John tells us that we are to learn something about the character of Christ.

John also tells us, this was the first miracle Jesus accomplished. Think about it. The Son of God, who came to save the world, is going to accomplish His first miracle, and He chose to provide refreshments at a wedding reception. Why? I think it is because He wants us to learn that He did not come for the masses, but the individual. He wants us to understand, He loves and cares about each of us. In the grand scheme of things, a family being embarrassed by running out of refreshments at the reception does not mean much, but it would mean a lot to them, and so it meant a lot to Jesus.

What a blessing to know that Jesus never loses sight of the individual. He knows and cares deeply about each of us and the struggles we are facing. I think it would be wise of us to take the advice of Mary and “Whatever He says to you; do it.”

Pastor Jim

Old Testament:
Numbers 21- Look At That
Numbers 22- Distorted View