Salvation Among The Nations

Psalms 67:2
“That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.”

Psalm 67 was written by an unknown author. We cannot know for sure who wrote it or what circumstances influenced its content. The one thing we know for sure is that it was penned by a person with a desire for others to come to the Lord. He pleads with God for mercy in his own life, in order that the world around him may come to a saving knowledge of God. The Psalmist is not alone in this. Paul declared

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Romans 10:1).

As a result of this desire, Paul risked his life to bring the gospel message to his countrymen. At the conclusion of his third missionary journey, Paul made his way to Jerusalem with one goal in mind, he wanted to tell others about Christ. He received continual warnings regarding the danger he would face and the beating and imprisonment that lay ahead. Regardless of these threats, Paul pressed forward because his desire was for others to come to Christ.

The pattern of Paul has been followed by saints down through the centuries. Men, like Saint Patrick, who in the 6th century brought the gospel to the unreached pagans of Scotland and his contemporary, Saint Augustine, who brought the gospel to England. Saint Boniface, who in the 8th century brought the gospel to Germany,  Hudson Taylor, whose efforts brought the Gospel deep into China, in the 19th century. CT Studd gave up a life of wealth and comfort to bring the Gospel into Africa. Or the countless unnamed Methodist circuit preachers who took the Gospel to the settlers in the United States.

What the world needs today are men and women with a desire to see others come to Christ, regardless the personal cost.

Psalms 67:2 “That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.”

Pastor Jim

 

Work In Progress 

James 2:14  “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”

James 2:17 “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

James asks a very important question, “What is the profit of faith without works?” He then adds, “Can that faith save?” To help lead us to the right answer, he uses an illustration which reminds us that talk of food will not always satisfy the appetite of a hungry man. In the same way, a dead faith cannot produce life. Right away James recognizes there will be objections to his teaching; some will say, “You have faith, I have works.” This seems to be the objection of those who think there is more than one way to God. They might say, “I am glad you have found something that works for you, but I don’t need that. I am a good person, and when I die, I will go to heaven because of the good things I have done.” James is in no way saying our good deeds will get us into heaven, but that true faith is always accompanied with good works. The person who truly believes, will have actions that support his claims.

Throughout history, James has gotten a whole lot of grief for writing this passage. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that this book does not belong in the Bible. I think it is important that we see James is not presenting a different doctrine than the rest of Scripture, but is in fact, explaining more clearly, the doctrine of justification by faith. James is not alone in teaching that faith without works is dead.

JEREMIAH TAUGHT IT

Jeremiah 7:8 “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.”

JOHN THE BAPTIST TAUGHT IT

Matthew 3:7-8 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance”

PAUL TAUGHT IT

Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

Titus 1:16 “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

PETER TAUGHT IT

2 Peter 1:5 “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; . . .”

JOHN TAUGHT IT

1 John 2:4 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

JESUS TAUGHT IT

Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Matthew 7:19-20 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

Matthew 7:21-23,26,27 “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

James goes on to explain his teaching by stating, faith cannot be seen without action, “I will show you my faith by my works.” He then uses one of the most powerful sermon illustrations ever given. He declares the demons, who believe in God, show by their actions, they are not followers of God. In contrast to the demons, James reminds us of the father of faith. Who showed the reality of his faith with His obedience to the word of God. His action of placing his son on the altar, showed in a striking way, that God was his chief love (Genesis 22:1-12).

Jesus declared, the first commandment is to love God with ALL. This is evidenced in our lives, not simply by words, but by actions. With one final illustration, James brings up Rahab the harlot. Her past life was marked with open sin, although no details are given as to what led her down that path. All we know is when presented with the opportunity, she chose to depart from her old way of life, and determined to join with the believers and follow God. What about us? What are the works that show an account of our faith? In Matthew 7, Jesus stated, we must do the will of the Father. The first work to add to our faith is simple obedience.

Read your Bible and do what it says. When you come to a text that convicts you, make some changes in your living. It is not the change that saves you, but the saved will certainly change.

Pastor Jim

 

Pattern

2 Thessalonians 3:9
“. . . not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

I don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but when I was in the eighth grade, all students were required to take a semester of Home Economics. The eighteen week course was divided between cooking and sewing. In the sewing section we learned the basics of operating a sewing machine and were required to make a pillow as a final project. Most of the students went to the local fabric stores and purchased a pillow pattern. I may have had a slight advantage in that my mom was a seamstress and actually taught textiles and design for fashion students at the university level. When I arrived home with my assignment, instead of purchasing a standard pillow pattern, she made me one in the shape of a surfboard. Needless to say, at the end of the term when I turned in a polka dot pillow, fin and all, I received the highest marks.

“. . . but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.”

Paul desired that the Thessalonians would receive the highest marks, on the day when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ. In order to ensure their success, he made himself an example. Their walk with the Lord was clearly patterned for them by looking at the way Paul lived. In this chapter alone, he sets the example as a man of prayer, as he prayed earnestly for them. As a man of the Word, not simply one who read and memorized it, but as one who was determined that it be shared with others. I love the phrase he uses in verse one, as he asked them to pray that “the Word of the Lord may run swiftly.” It was his desire that all would hear the Gospel, and all would come to faith in Christ. He was also an example in faith. He speaks of wicked men who are opposing them, and yet he is confident in the faithfulness of the Lord.

Finally, this chapter is filled with exhortations to work hard. That famous statement, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” is found here, and Paul exemplified what it meant to work hard so as not to be a burden to others. My father-in-law and I were discussing basic economics when he reminded me, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Someone is paying for it. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that as they worked diligently as unto the Lord, they would in turn be an example to others, showing what it means to follow Christ.

There are a lot of examples out there, but not all of them are worth following. If you want to succeed in following Christ, determine to follow the example Paul set, then go one step beyond, and make yourself a pattern that others may follow.

Pastor Jim

 

Growth

1 Corinthians 3:1
“I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

Paul mentions four types of people in the opening verses of this chapter. He refers to mere men (some versions read natural man), babes in Christ, carnal men, and finally spiritual men. These terms represent a natural development in the spiritual life of an individual. Natural man refers to a person before they place their faith in Christ. The natural man is living, breathing, walking, talking, perhaps even loving, giving, sharing and caring, but the natural man is separated from God, and living in sin. It is when the natural man hears the message of the cross, recognizes his need for a savior, and places his faith in Christ, that his sin is forgiven and he is born again into the family of God. At that point, he becomes a babe in Christ. Like all babies, the new Christian must be cared for. He needs constant companionship, encouragement, example, and a diet of the simple teachings of the Word of God.

Hebrews 6 gives a list of the foundational truths every young Christian must understand: “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

When the young Christian ingests a healthy diet of the Word of God, he will begin to grow. Thoughts, words, and actions change, and many of the practices from the old life, are replaced with practices that are pleasing to God. Soon, the young believer is growing in Christ, and impacting others for the kingdom of God. They are no longer controlled by emotions, or by the influences of the world around them, but are now controlled by the Spirit of God. They begin to live a life that sets an example on earth, and stores up treasures in heaven. Paul refers to that individual as spiritual. Sadly however, this is not the route for every Christian. Some, after placing faith in Christ for salvation, never seem to grow out of infancy. Even years after coming to Christ, they are still struggling with the same doubts, fears and sins. Their Christian life is more like a swinging pendulum, than a walk with God. They “feel” close to Him at moments, and far away other times, they let the influences of the world influence them, and are constantly falling into sin. Sometimes, because of the guilt of constant failure, they seclude themselves from other Christians, and may even accuse the church of wrong doing. It is not uncommon to hear them use phrases like, “Christians are judgmental” to help justify the sins they have not outgrown.

Paul minces no words, he refers to that person as carnal, a word meaning worldly. While it is expected, and even cute, to see a baby act like a baby, it is sad to see someone still acting childish as a an adult. Now would be a good time to evaluate your walk with God. Are you growing? If you have been a Christian for only weeks, you should be seeking to surround yourself with godly influences and get to know the Word of God. If you have been a Christian for many years, you should see a dramatic and constant change in your life, because of the daily investment of the Word of God. The Christian life is a life of growth; like a tree, we only stop growing when we are dead.

Pastor Jim

 

The Gospel

Romans 1:1
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God . . .”

The Gospel was the favorite subject of the Apostle Paul. He used the term four times in the first chapter of Romans, 15 times in the book, and a total of 71 times in his writings. It was the subject of every letter he wrote, and every message he preached.

When writing to the Corinthian church he declared, “For I determined not to know anything among you accept Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

Here, he refers to himself as being “set apart to the Gospel.” The picture he paints is that of an Old Testament Priest, who was set apart to the service of God around the Temple. The priest’s whole life was consumed with the service of the Lord. His daily activities, lifestyle, even his clothing, were ordered by the fact that he was set apart unto the Lord. It is clear, declaring the Gospel was not a random act, a hobby, or even a job for Paul, but rather it was his way of life. He saw every day as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with others, and every encounter as an open door to declare the message of eternal life found in Christ. As this chapter unfolds, Paul gives us at least three reasons why the Gospel message was so important to him.

First, in verses 14 and 15, Paul declares that because of what Jesus has done for him, he sees himself as one who owes a debt to the world. The only way he can repay this great debt is by declaring the hope of eternal life, found in Christ alone. Paul would endure personal suffering, mockery, lack, imprisonment, and ultimately death, in order to ensure that all might hear the message of the cross.

Second, he declares the reason he would risk all for the gospel is because of what the gospel can do. He says it is the power of God to save. The latter half of Romans, Chapter One, declares the condition of man apart from God. This condition would be hopeless if It were not for the Gospel message. God sent His Son to rescue man from the power and penalty of sin.

Finally, when a person puts their trust in Christ, they are redeemed from bondage and restored to a right relationship with God. The gospel alone has the power to accomplish that, and it takes place within a person, as soon as he puts simple faith in Christ. Paul explains, it is then that the righteousness of God is revealed. In other words, when we trust Christ, our sins are taken away, and His righteousness is given to us. This is a transformation that takes place in every person who trusts in Christ. Oh that we would be separated to the gospel!

Pastor Jim

 

Bondservant

Exodus 21:5-6
“But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”

IMG_1429Paul often referred himself as a servant, or a slave. The word he used was “dulous”, which means bond-slave, or a person who was bound to another. It is not difficult to find examples in history of people who have been enslaved. Some are slaves because they were conquered in battle, others for religious or ethnic persecution, and still others because of debt or a criminal offense. It is quite difficult, however, to find examples of people who chose slavery as a way of life. I suppose no ambitious students ever pursued slavery as a career path, seeking a university that offers a good slave training program. Yet Paul refers to himself as a bond slave of Christ. Exodus 21 gives a vivid picture of why Paul would choose to be a slave.

Under the Mosaic Law a person would serve as a slave for a period of six years. Slavery was a form of payment for past debts, and after six years, the debt was cancelled. However, a provision was granted for a person who did not want to be set free. They could choose to have their ear pierced, as a sign that they belonged to their master, and commit to a life of servitude. The reason behind their decision was love.

“I love my master… I will not go free.”

It was the goodness of the master that caused the individual to choose slavery over freedom. Someone, whose master treated him well, might choose to be bound forever, rather than be set free. Perhaps a man, prior to his servitude, had lived in poverty and suffering, but had a master that treated him like a son and gave him all he needed; that man might choose to be bound forever. Paul saw himself as that man. He looked at his life apart from Christ and realized, being under the authority of Christ, gave him greater freedom, than being bound to sin. He realized, the privileges of abiding in Christ, were better than life apart from Him. In a figurative sense, Paul drove an awl through his own ear, and committed himself to a life of following Christ.

Have you chosen to be bound to Christ forever? There is no higher place in life than serving Christ.

Pastor Jim