Sealed And Sent

Revelation 7:3
“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Revelation 7 begins with four angels holding the winds of judgment in their hands, waiting to be released upon a Christ-rejecting world. Fortunately, before they are allowed to begin, another angel is released from heaven to seal those who belong to God. We are not told exactly what this seal looks like, but we know that it is a mark that God places upon the forehead of these believers. It indicates that they belong to Him. There is a similar picture to this found in Ezekiel 9, where prior to judgment coming upon Israel, a messenger of God clothed in linen, marks all who belong to God rescuing them from divine judgment.

Ephesians 1:13 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . .”

While it is clear, Revelation 7 is speaking of a particular group of people, sealed during the great tribulation, it is also true that all who trust in Christ receive a seal which marks them as God’s possession. That seal is the Holy Spirit, who indwells us at the moment we trust Christ for salvation. Paul tells us, upon receiving the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.

Just yesterday, I was privileged to meet a woman and watch as she made a decision to trust Christ. She was beaming with joy so great, she could hardly contain it. All the pain and anguish of the difficulties of life, both past and present, seemed to be overshadowed by the intense joy that filled her upon receiving Christ. She was sealed with the spirit of promise.

Revelation 7:9-10 “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”

Those sealed by the Lord did not simply stand around and discuss how they had been sealed. Instead, they looked upon the world they lived in, and saw multitudes in need of Christ, and they declared the Gospel. What an amazing thing it will be, to stand in heaven and meet those who you helped lead to Christ.

Recently, I met a woman, who when she learned I was from America, began to thank me for those missionaries who came to the former Soviet Union in the early 90′s. She and her husband, along with many friends, had come to Christ through the ministry of one such missionary. What she did not know, the man standing with me, was one of those early missionaries. Fresh out of High School, he had given a year of his life to take the Gospel to Eastern Europe. What joy filled her eyes as she met, not the man who led her to Christ, but one who symbolized for her, all who loved her enough to risk it all for the Kingdom. What a joy! One day we will be in heaven with saints from every tribe and tongue, who have been washed in the Blood of the lamb and sealed with the Spirit.

Pastor Jim

 

The World 

Galatians 1:4
Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”

We spend a lot of time, effort, and energy, seeking to determine the will of God for our lives. Right now, many of us are facing circumstances where we are not exactly sure what God wants us to do. Should I go ahead with Plan A or is it time to implement Plan B? Should I take the new job, or wait this one out a little longer? Should we let the kids do this, or is it best to wait till they are a little older? Needless to say, we are plagued with questions that we need the will of God to answer. While this text does not address those questions specifically, it does give us some keen insight into the will of God for our lives. Paul associates the will of God to the giving of His Son and delivering us from evil.

The Bible has much to say regarding God’s relationship to the world. We are told, because of sin, the inhabitants of the world live separated from God and will die separated from Him. We also read, the love of God moved Him to send His Son to redeem us from the curse of sin, making it possible for us to have eternal life. As we walk through the Gospel stories, we find that Jesus was the friend of sinners. It is common to find Him talking, walking and eating with sinners in order to draw them out of sin and into relationship with God. We can conclude, whatever the will of God is for our lives right now, it is wrapped up in a desire to use us to declare the Gospel message to the lost. Your current circumstances are divinely ordained to reach others for the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Bible also has much to say about our relationship with the world. This verse reminds us, it is the will of God that we be delivered from this present evil age. The word delivered means to be rescued. Jesus died to set us free from sin. It is always sad when we see a brother or sister in Christ tangled in sin. Paul had a friend named Demas, who once served Christ along-side him, but later left because he fell in love with the world again. Sadly, Demas is not an isolated case. Many who begin to follow Christ, stumble along the way, getting tangled up in sin. Paul reminds us that it is the will of God for us to be set free from sin. Sometimes, we are drawn away from the Lord because of perspective. We look at sin as something harmless and enjoyable, while God declares that it is evil. Rather than looking at sin the way it is portrayed on the TV screen, we should look at it as it is described in the Word of God.

As you seek to determine what God wants you to do today, remember that He loves the world and hates sin. He desires to keep you from sin and use you to lead others to Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

Sorrow 

Romans 9:2-3
“That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”

We have all had experiences that have saddened us. Sometimes the word ‘sad’ is too shallow to describe what we are feeling, we might say we are sorrowful or even consumed with grief. When a relationship comes to an end or someone we love dies, the sadness is often so deep it becomes difficult to manage.

I find it challenging as I read what saddened Paul so deeply. He does not describe himself as sorrowful when he writes of the great difficulties he faced while following Jesus. It was not shipwrecks, beatings, prison or hunger that broke his heart. Instead, it was the spiritual condition of his family and friends. When he writes of his countrymen, he is referring to the Jewish people. They were the ones he grew up with, went to school with, worked with and hung around, before coming to Christ. As he looks at the accomplishments of his years of serving Christ, he is still saddened by the fact that many, so close to him, have yet to come to Christ. The sadness is so deep, he states that were it possible (which of course it is not), he would trade places with them, taking the punishment of separation from God that they might be saved.

As he continues to pour out his heart for his friends, he gives us insight into the reason for their condition. He speaks of how years before they were born, God had planned for their salvation, yet they refused to believe in Christ and receive the pardon for sin.

Their unbelief was caused by a number of things. First, the message of the cross was a stumbling block to them, because Jesus was not the Messiah they were expecting. Their expectation had them looking for a powerful military leader who would overthrow the Roman oppression and restore the nation to the glory days. Instead, a humble Messiah arrived on a donkey and died on a cross. It is very common today for some to respond to Christ only to reject Him later, because their expectations are not being met. They assumed, following Jesus would mean their troubles would be behind them, their marriages fixed, or their financial burdens removed. When that did not happen, they turned from Christ, returning to the old life. Second, many rejected Christ because of popular opinion.

In the grand scheme of things, only a few of the Jewish people were responding to Christ. Most rejected Him, causing others to reject Him as well. This is still happening today. In a world where Jesus is looked down upon, and belief in the Bible is ridiculed, many refuse Christ because they want to be accepted by others. Third, another reason for refusing to believe in Christ was pride. Pride will always keep a person from Christ. We must humble ourselves and freely receive the gift of Christ to be saved.

Let’s pray we develop a heart like Paul’s, that would break at the thought of people rejecting Christ, and would compel us to share the love of Christ with a dying world.

Pastor Jim

 

They So Spoke

Acts 14:1
Now it happened in Iconium that they went together to the synagogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed.”

We read, they spoke in a way that resulted in many believing in Christ; which in turn, results in eternal life. It is worth noting that there is a way to speak which will have an impact upon others for eternity. Their speaking included at least three things:

First, they spoke with boldness. Having experienced persecution in Cyprus and Antioch, Paul and Barnabas refused to cower, but confidently continued to share Christ with the people of Iconium. For some reason, people react to the name of Jesus. Many receive Him gladly and watch as He transforms their lives. Others become angry, even hostile, once the name of Christ is mentioned. Any who have attempted to share Christ, have experienced this hostility in one form or another. If we want to speak in a way that results in people coming to Christ, we must be willing to endure the backlash and persecution.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Matthew 5:11

Second, they spoke the Gospel. Paul later wrote to the Roman Christians and declared that the Gospel is the power of God that results in salvation (Romans1:16). When people hear the truth (that they are sinners separated from God, but that God loves them, and Jesus died for them), something stirs in their hearts. There is a realization, that although they may have never heard the Gospel before, they know it to be true. Faith is being ignited as a result of hearing the Good News of Christ. Too often, when we are attempting to win someone to Christ, we allow ourselves to get sidetracked. We end up arguing over politics, origins, or the church. If we want to win others with our speech, let’s be sure to share the simplicity of the Gospel.

Finally, their speech was empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul was a brilliant man. He was well educated, not only in the Scriptures, but in the philosophy of the day. He was also, what the Victorian era referred to as a gentleman. Later, when he spoke in Lystra, they compared him to Hermes, the Greek God of oration. Yet, even with all of these natural abilities, Paul did not rely upon his human wisdom. He wrote to the Corinthian Christians about how to speak when sharing Christ.

“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

When sharing Christ, we can be confident that God will show up and provide us with words that are able to penetrate the heart, stir up faith, and lead a person to decision time.

If we want to speak in a way that leads people to Christ, we must step out in faith, unhindered by the opposition we may receive. We can be sure, sharing the simple truths of the Gospel, and relying on the fact that even if we are not sure what to say, the Holy Spirit will give us what we need.

Until the whole world hears…

Pastor Jim

 

Lot’s Wife

Luke 17:32
“Remember Lot’s wife.”

Lot and his family represent the Christian. Jesus tells us, if we want to save our lives, we must lose them. In other words, life, true life, abundant life, will not be found in holding things back from the Lord, but by giving up all to follow the Lord. Matthew modeled that idea when he left his tax table, Peter and John when they left the fishing business, and you and I when we leave behind our past life, and seek to live for Christ. Unfortunately, even after we determine to follow Christ, we face temptation to return to the things from which we were saved. Satan even has a way of making the sin life which we used to live, look better than it really was. Knowing this, Paul exhorts us,

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

Lot’s wife illustrates the one who ignores the warning and allows herself to be entangled, again, in the things of the world. She was so caught up with life in Sodom, that when God brought her out, she ignored the warnings and looked back. Her looking back was not a glance brought on by the loud sound of thunder or a flash of lightning. Her look back was a longing. It was as if her heart cried out for one more night in Sodom, one more experience of the sin which she had been called to forsake. Not many have been turned to salt, but multitudes of professing Christians have been doomed by the desire for one more experience of the sin from which they were set free. One more look, one more taste, one more night, one more… And they are entangled again in the sin of the world.

Remember Lot’s wife! Don’t look back, but press on toward the upward call of God in Christ.

Pastor Jim

 

The Great Gulf

Luke 16:26
“There is a great gulf fixed . . .”

20140228-065056.jpgBetween man and God there is a great gulf of separation. This gap is caused by sin, and makes it impossible for us to have fellowship with God. This is precisely the reason Jesus came. He bled and died on Calvary’s cross to bridge the gap; to make it possible for us to know God now, and spend eternity with Him. This life will come to an end, and when it does, only what we have done with Christ will really matter. In this story, the rich man reveals what happens to those who refuse Christ. Not only do they live separated from God, but they die that way.

Since every thing we have wears out, it is difficult for us to understand the concept of eternity, yet the Bible teaches us that the life to come has no end. Our response to Jesus determines our eternal destiny. Sadly, some are unwilling to surrender to Christ because of the lifestyle they enjoy. I beg you, learn the lesson from the rich man, and give up the passing pleasure of sin, for the eternal reward.

Pastor Jim

 

Invitation To Come

Luke 14:15
“Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Jesus tells a story to reveal His desire for all men everywhere to be saved. The cast includes God, played by the man giving the feast; the Christian, played by the servants sent out to invite people to the feast; and the population of planet earth, played by those who receive the invitation. Notice the excuses given by those who reject the offer. Two of the three who reject the invitation use business as an excuse. Perhaps they were driven by a sense of responsibility. Thinking they did not have time for spiritual things, but must provide for their families. Or perhaps, they were caught up in the desire for more. I believe it was Rockefeller, who, when asked how much money was enough said, “Just a little more than you have.” The third person refused to come, using His family as an excuse. Perhaps he even desired to come, but thought his wife would not be interested. Notice he said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” He may have been thinking, I will eventually come, but now is not a good time for me.

These excuses are as common today as they were then. God has sent His church with a message for every man, woman and child, inviting them to Heaven’s banquet. Sadly, for many, an unwillingness to let go of the things of earth is keeping them from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Finally, notice how God responds.

“Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.”

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

God’s heart breaks for those who refuse, but that doesn’t stop His desire for reaching the world with the invitation to heaven.

Pastor Jim