Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Help in Praying

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. --Romans 8:26-28

These verses, I think, are some of the most important when we think about the subject of prayer. Paul is saying that because we are weak we don't really know what to pray for. You say wait a second, Pastor, are you telling me that I don't know what to pray? Not me! Paul is telling us that we don't know how to pray for what we need.

Let's see what he has to say...

First, who is Paul writing to?

Romans 8:1 says that "there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus which walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Yet in verse 26 it says that the Spirit helpeth our "infirmities" or weakness.

Paul is writing to weak Christians who...

  1. ...have no condemnation.
  2. ...are in Christ Jesus.
  3. ...walk after the Spirit.
  4. ...are weak praying.

These Christians have no condemnation, are led by the Spirit, have been make free from the Law of sin and death, but Paul says they need help in praying!

Do you know that Jesus needed help in His last days on earth because of weakness?

"And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." --Luke 22:39-43

If Jesus Christ came to the place in His life where He needed God's help, then we must realize that we need help!

Two reasons why we need help praying:

  1. We can't pray right because we can't see the future .
  2. We can't pray right because we don't know what's best for us.

C.H. Dodd puts it this way. "We cannot know our own real need; we cannot with our finite minds grasp God's plan in our own way."

We know what to pray for as to objects, but we do not know what to pray for "as we ought" it is the manner of the prayer which perplexes us. The word of God does teach that we need to ask.

"And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." --Matthew 21:22

The word does say "Knock and it shall be opened unto you."

"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." --Matthew 7:7-8

If we ask, and if we knock, what will be given, or what shall be opened? The Will of God.

Praying isn't like a food bar at a restaurant where we can pick and choose and most of the time get things that we don't need and make us sick, but rather it is like a hospital where we get what the doctor orders.

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." --Romans 8:28

Jesus saw the need of placing everything in the hands of God the Father. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, Not my will but thy will be done."

I know not what it is my inmost spirit needs; or if I know it, I know not how to frame my petition aright before thee. It is in such a plight as this that the Holy Ghost aids us with his divine help. and hence he is "a very present help in time of trouble." Our difficulty is that we know not what we should pray for; but the Holy Spirit does know, and therefore he helps us by enabling us to pray intelligently, knowing what we are asking for.

The text speaks "of the mind of the Spirit." What a mind that must be—the mind of that Spirit who arranged all the order which now pervades this earth! There once was chaos and confusion, but the Holy Spirit brooded over all, and His mind is the originator of that beautiful arrangement which we so admire in the visible creation.

What a mind His must be! The Holy Spirit's mind is seen in our intercessions when under His sacred influence we put our case before the Lord, and plead with holy wisdom for things convenient and necessary.

What wise and admirable desires must those be which the Spirit of Wisdom Himself works in us!

The Holy Spirit's intercession creates prayers offered in a proper manner. I showed you that the difficulty is that we know not what we should pray for "as we ought," and the Spirit meets that difficulty by making intercession for us in a right manner. The Holy Spirit works in us humility, earnestness, intensity, importunity, faith, and resignation, and all else that is acceptable to God in our supplications

C.H. Dodd said: "Prayer is the divine in us appealing to the Divine above us."

The Holy Spirit puts such force of His own mind into our poor weak thoughts and desires and hopes, that He Himself maketh intercession for us, working in us to will and to pray according to His good pleasure.

All the prayers which the Spirit of God inspires in us will succeed, because:

A. There is a meaning in them, put there by the Holy Spirit which God reads and approves.

When the Spirit of God writes a prayer upon a man's heart, the man himself may be in such a state of mind that he does not altogether know what it is. His interpretation of it is a groan, and that is all. Perhaps he does not even get so far as that in expressing the mind of the Spirit, but he feels groanings which he cannot utter, he cannot find a door of utterance for his inward grief. Yet our heavenly Father, who looks immediately upon the heart, reads what the Spirit of God has indited there, and does not need even our groans to explain the meaning. He reads the heart itself: "He knoweth,' says the text, "what is the mind of the Spirit." God knows what is in the heart and He knows what is in the mind of the Spirit!

And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. --Romans 8:27

B. We cannot succeed in prayer until we are willing to accept what God has for us.

When we accept what God has, we find peace about what we are praying about. If we struggle against what God wants to do , then we go against His will and purpose. If a person loves and trusts and accepts God , and He is convinced that God is the all wise and all loving Father, then he can humbly accept all that he sends him.

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" --Romans 8:31-32

I want to share three short stories in closing:

A heart-broken little girl began to kneel and pour out her heart to God in the altar at her local church. She did not know what to say. As she wept speechless, she began to remember what her Father had told her, "God knows your needs even before you pray, and he can answer when you don't even know for what to ask."

So she began to say her alphabet. A concerned adult from the church knelt beside her and heard her sobbing and saying her ABC's and inquired what exactly she was trying to do. The little girl told this caring adult, "I'm praying to God from my heart."

But the adult answered, "It sounds to me more like your are saying the alphabet!"

"Yes," she said, "But God knows more about what I need than I do, and he can take all these letters and arrange them in just the right way to hear and answer my prayers!"

In the Guideposts in 2005 Jimmy Stewart shared the story about the filming of the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. "It's hard to explain. I, for one, had things happen to me during the filming that never happened in any other picture I've made. In one scene, for example, George Bailey is faced with unjust criminal charges and, not knowing where to turn, ends up in a little roadside restaurant. He is unaware that most of the people in town are arduously praying for him. In this scene, at the lowest point in George Bailey's life, Frank Capra was shooting a long shot of me slumped in despair. In agony I raise my eyes and, following the script, plead, ‘God . . . God . . . dear Father in heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I'm at the end of my rope, Show me the way, God. . . .' As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears."

There was a man marooned on an island who was desperately looking for a boat to come by and rescue him. After many days praying and asking God to send a boat to rescue him, he sighted a ship and his hopes were lifted. He ran out on the beach took some shirts and began waving them to get the attention of the boat. But they didn't see him signaling and went on by. He was so downhearted and so downcast he began to accuse God. "God, why didn't you answer my prayer? God, why didn't they see me?"

As he walked back to the hut he had constructed, he saw that the hut had caught on fire and was going up in smoke. He said "Now, God. What have you done? The boat passed by and missed me and the hut that I'm living in has burned down, " About that time he heard the ship coming back. When he was rescued he asked them, "I waved my shirts until I was exhausted. Why didn't you stop the first time by?" Their reply, "We didn't see you we saw your fire."

It's time that we understand that we need help in prayer and the Holy Spirit is waiting to help us.

Amen!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boundaries for a Spiritual Life

Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear. Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness." --Psalm 119:33-40
Occasionally we see people wearing bright orange vests, standing on or near the roads that we travel. In their hands are poles, also striped in bright orange, some of which are on tripods surrounded by cones of orange, and special devices they look through. What are they doing? Are they looking for something that has been lost? No, they are surveying property for a project of some kind - highway reconstruction or construction, a new housing development, or a new business. They are looking for boundaries. They are attempting to determine where one property line ends and another begins.

Some in the church world today feel like they need a set of guidelines or rules to show people how to live a Christian life. They compile them into a book that is called a manual. It’s a list of things that a Christian can or can’t do in order to be a part of the church. They add to what God has laid out for the church. These types of rules lead many to confusion. The Word of God does not need any help!

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: --Revelation 22:18

Paul had the same problem with the Church of his day.

Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religions busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances- knife-happy circumcises, I call them. The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry , filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it- even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eight day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devote adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law book. The very credentials these people are waving around as some-thing special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash-along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant- dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ-God’s righteousness. --From Philippians 3, The Message.

How do you experience God’s ways in life? How do we identify and stay within the boundaries of life that God has put in place? By man’s law or by the word of God? The Psalmist says by God’s word.

Teach me, O Lord to follow every one of your principles. Give me understanding and I will obey your law; I will put it into practice with all my heart. Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found. --Psalm 119:33

We learn to live within the boundaries of God’s way when we... follow God’s principles.

Understand and obey God’s law by putting it wholeheartedly into practice. Walk along the path of God’s commands.

An interesting definition of follow is "to engage in as a way of life." And if we use this definition of follow then what the Psalmist is saying in these verses is, "I want to engage in your way of life, God. I want to do what I need to do to live life your way." To follow someone or something implies loyalty to that someone or something.

For example, what would you say two explosives experts are loyal to when their motto is: "If you see us running, you had better catch up?" What are they loyal to? Living!

The way of engagement (the way of loyalty?) for the Psalmist is through following not just a few, but every one of God’s principles. Now, what are principles? What does it mean to follow principles?

Someone has written that when a man says he approves of something in principle, it means that he hasn’t the slightest intention of putting it into practice. Is this what principles means in this verse? I think not!

Keeping in mind the first part of the verse-- "Teach me, O Lord" --the Psalmist is describing more of what we would call ethics or "the code of conduct or behavior governing an individual or a group." The Israelite code of conduct was the Law given to Moses by God for the Israelites to follow. And God gave it for two specific reasons:

  1. To help the Israelites live for Him among people who believed in many gods.
  2. It was the first step in God’s plan of salvation for all humanity.

It is this code of conduct that the writer willingly desires to follow.

When you look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 what is the first commandment? "Do not worship any other gods besides me." The first part of the Israelite code of conduct is therefore one of loyalty and obedience to only one God.

In the New Testament Jesus says the same thing for the New Testament Christian!

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. --I John 2:3-6

But the Psalmist indicates that he desires to follow, to be loyal to, all ten, not just some, of the Commandments. In fact he desires to follow, to be loyal to all, not a portion, but to all of the Law given to Moses by God!

It is all of these principles; this entire code of conduct, the Psalmist seeks to follow. He is passionate about the whole guidance and help of God not just a portion of it. He wants God to teach him everyone one of them.

We learn to live within the boundaries of God’s way when we... pray for understanding .

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. --Psalm 119:34

God expected some things from them if they were to be His people. The only way that the Psalmist could live this kind of life was with the direction and help of God. In this verse the Psalmist speaks of understanding as an action of obedience.

One way we engage in this action of obedience is in learning. When we learn we move from being exposed to information, to understanding the meaning of that information, and then to putting that information and it’s meaning into practice. Learning to follow God and live within His boundaries requires this same approach to learning.

Some may understand some things in the Word more so than others but the important thing is that each learn and grow spiritual from learning what each is learning about God.

The Psalmist moves beyond being taught the principles, the code of conduct, to understanding that code of conduct and then putting into wholehearted practice in the form of obeying it, of doing what the Law says to do.

Now what is the Law? Here is an excellent definition: "the revelation of the divine will set forth in the word.." The Law of which the Psalmist speaks is God revealing His will, His way of life, to the Israelites. And it is this law, this way of life, this code of conduct that the Psalmist wants to obey and "put into practice with all my heart." For us today, the Bible is the written revelation of the divine will for us. It contains the Christian code of conduct. How well do we understand it?

What grabs me as I read this verse is the passion, the enthusiasm for God’s way. The Psalmist does not look at the Law as something to be feared but something that gives life, that gives direction, gives hope to him and those around him. It is the heart cry of a person who wants God to live in the lives of those he cares about.

In verse 35, the image is one of a person who is under someone’s orders like a recruit or an athlete in training.

Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. --Psalm 119:35

The commands given in these situations are directives that are for the purpose of developing certain skills and abilities as well as attitudes of respect and obedience.

Those here today who have served in the military understand what I am saying. Those of us who have participated in organized athletics understand this as well. In fact the words commandment and commands are very closely related terms aren’t they? They can both mean "orders."

We learn to live within the boundaries of God’s way when we... willingly obey.

In our scripture passage for today, we have a person who says to God, "Help me to walk your way. Help me to walk the right direction, the right path that your directives, your way requires." It is not a forced obedience. It is a willing obedience. God honors and blesses our willing obedience. He wants us to follow Him willingly and joyfully.

Why is the Psalmist this way? "...for that is where my happiness is found." The Psalmist speaks of a relationship, a faith in which there is joy and happiness not boredom or drudgery. How does this compare with our societal view of happiness?

Happiness is often defined as "no limits, no boundaries. I am happy when I can do what I want to do, when I want to do it."

Happiness is found on the path of God’s commands. A narrower way. But, is it really? So how do we experience God’s ways in life? How do we live joyfully and contentedly within His boundaries?

Three key words from this passage give us directions: follow, obey, and walk.

We learn to live within the boundaries of God’s way when we...

  • ...follow every one of God’s principles.
  • ...understand and obey God’s law by putting it wholeheartedly into practice.
  • ...walk joyfully along the path of God’s commands.

What are you, as God’s person, following these days? Do you follow what you understand in Bible? Do you understand, as God’s person, what it means and are you willing to walk along the path of God’s directives for you life? We have the capacity to be just about anything. The question is who or what is shaping our lives? It is us or is it God?

If we choose to live life within the boundaries of God then it means that God must shape us. And He will shape us and our lives as we follow Him, obey Him, and walk with Him.

I believe that God has so much that He wants to give us. More than we can imagine! I believe that the riches of Christ, that the word speaks of, are beyond our wildest dreams. And I also believe that some of them are for us now, in this life. But, they require us to surrender and live within the boundaries of God.

"That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." --Ephesians 3:16-20

C.P. Jones wrote the words to a song that is my heart-cry:

Deeper, deeper, in the love of Jesus daily let me go;
Higher. Higher in the school of wisdom, More of grace to know.
Deeper, deeper! Blessed Holy Spirit, Take me deeper still,
Till my life is wholly lost in Jesus and His perfect will.

Oh, deeper yet, I pray and higher every day, and wiser, blessed Lord, In thy precious, holy word.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sunday, October 14, 2007

True Fellowship

The word "communion" means fellowship. True Christian fellowship is based around Jesus Christ and what He did for all. In the church at Corinth there were contentions which caused a division among the church.

There was contention about who the leader was. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? ~~I Corinthians 1:11-12

There was contention about the observance of the Lord’s Supper. The early Christians often ate a fellowship meal together which concluded with the Lord’s supper. At this meal they all put their food together and ate in common. But at Corinth the rich were keeping their food and eating lavishly in front of those with nothing thus forcing them to go hungry. This practice had invaded the fellowship and had a bad effect on the sacred rite accompanying the meal.
These divisions promoted wrong attitudes in the church. Paul reminded them that such revelry makes it impossible to observe the beauty and reality of the Lord’s supper , whether it was observed prior to, during, or after the common meal.

Let's think first about the Authority of the Lord’s Supper.

The drama of the Lord’s Supper makes God’s action vital in the life of the church. It is so important that Paul reminds them of what Jesus said and did. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread." Paul refused to accept the ordinance as based on tradition or coming from humans but rather through divine revelation.
And he said unto them, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer." ~~Luke 22:15
His obvious planning shows how deeply significant the meal was for Jesus. He intended to spend this Passover time with the twelve before His death and approached it with deep desire, both for the intimacy of their fellowship and for the established of the covenant relationship with them.

The real reason we have the Lord's Supper is because the Lord didn’t want us to forget Him and He wanted to have fellowship with us. "This do in remembrance of me."

Let's look at the Elements of the Lord’s Supper.

A. The Bread.
That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me." I Corinthians 11:23-24
At that time Jesus was offering them His own life. His body was the vehicle through which the sacrifice of His life on their behalf was made. The very life of God was being broken and distributed foe each to share. The Scripture says, "The word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

Jesus was a self-giving Sacrifice on behalf of all of us. The Lord broke bread as a symbol of His body being broken on the cross.
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." Then said they unto him, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." And Jesus said unto them, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst."

" I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Then Jesus said unto them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever." ~~John 6:31-35, 47-58
B. The Cup.
After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, "This cup is the new testament in my blood." ~~ I Corinthians 11:25
In Matthew and Mark the expression is, "...this is my blood of the new testament." Paul is speaking of the blood of the covenant.

Scriptures from Hebrews about the Lord’s supper contain a reference to the past, the present, and the future.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. ~~Hebrews 9:11-15
In the Old Testament worship centered in the sacrifice of unblemished lambs. Jesus was to be the Passover Lamb. He was God’s provision for our redemption. He desired to have a few last hours with His disciples to instruct them of some last things. "This do"—was the way of showing forth his death. At the Lord’s table we call to mind the high cost of our Salvation. While it is free to us, it cost Christ dearly—His very body and life’s blood. Sometimes, in the things we do, we don’t show forth His death as much as He requires. Instead, we try to crucify Him anew.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. ~~Hebrews 13:20-21
So God in Christ promised to confer all the promised blessings to those who receive the cup and embrace the covenant of grace and bind themselves in obedience to the Lord’s will.

The word "communion" is an action word which means: "fellowship, participating in, sharing together, having in common." The observance is not simply keeping a dead memory alive. It is entering into the presence of one who lived, died, was raised from the dead by the power of God, and is alive forevermore. Above all that He is present with us here and now. Jesus wanted to have communion with His disciples. He wanted them to think often of Him. We are a fellowship of believers. When we sit at the Lord’s table, it is as if we were present with Jesus during that final meal. Most definitely, He is with us.
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. ~~Hebrews 10:16-17
For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death till he comes. ~~1 Corinthians 11:26
You proclaim the Lord’s death "till He comes." Did three words ever tell more? Jesus spoke of His coming kingdom. He was preparing the disciples for the work ahead. They did not fully understand what Jesus was telling them, but they were faithful. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are to remember the promise of His return. We have our instructions from Jesus the same as the disciples had their instructions. Are we as faithful as they were?

The Warning and Instruction.
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. ~~I Corinthians 11:27-32
We are not to judge each other. Rather let a person present themselves to God for examination. Let a person be honest before God, and ask two questions:
  1. Have I accepted Christ as my Lord?
  2. Am I committed to the Lord now?
The way we have self examination is to be open before God and let the Holy Spirit show us our hearts.
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. ~~I John 3:20-24
He who treats the symbols of Christ’s body and blood irreverently is guilty of irreverence toward the Lord himself.
Come to this sacred table, not because you must, but because you may;
Come not to testify to your righteousness,
but that you sincerely love our Lord Jesus Christ and desire to be His true disciple;
Come not because your goodness gives you a right to come,
but because in your frailty and sin you stand in need of heaven’s mercy and help;
Come because you love the Lord a little and want to love Him more;
Come because He loved you and gave Himself to you;
Lift up your hearts, above your cares and fears;
Let this bread and juice be a sign of God’s grace to you
and a pledge of your love to the Lord Jesus Christ;
Receive the love of God and consecrate your life new and afresh
to Christian obedience and service,
to discover and do the will of God in humble faith.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Monday, October 8, 2007

Getting Together

This past Saturday I went to the Northwest Arkansas airport to pick up my wife. On the way I counted over 350 motorcycles. There were all kinds… big, small, bikes with side cars. As I traveled along I remembered that it was the weekend of Bikes, Blues and BBQ. Later I found out through the news that there were over 400 thousand people in northwest Arkansas and 85 thousand motorcycles!

The next morning at church, I asked why they had such a thing. The bikers just wanted to get together and eat and listen to music as they talked about their bikes. There was one common thing that brought them together: motorcycles!

If there was a call for all truly born-again Christians to gather together for fellowship and food and music, I wonder how many would come together? How many would say, “I would go but my church is different than yours…” and “I can’t fellowship with you because you don’t belong to my church…”? How many would say, “I dress different than you and I can’t come…” or, “We don't believe like they do…”?

I think that God is unhappy with His children in this day because we are so divided over things that we think are so important. Really they cause us to be divided. In heaven they will amount to nothing.

Satan is doing his job well. The church of Jesus Christ could be a great power today if all of God’s children could get along. After all is said and done, won’t we spend Forever together?

We need to get together once in awhile and talk about Jesus, the one who died for all of us and the one who loves us all. By His command we should love each other.

And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. ~~ I John 3:23

If bikers can get together and fellowship because they all have bikes, then surely Christians could lay aside their differences long enough to fellowship with each other and talk about Jesus.

Just something to think about…

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Finding Real Joy in the Light of God

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." I John 1

Webster says that "joy" is "condition or feeling of great pleasure or happiness." In the Greek this word indicates cheerfulness or calm delight.

There is a great difference between temporal joy and spiritual joy. Temporal joy is earthly or temporary. Spiritual joy is eternal. The world, as a whole, gets the two mixed up. They are trying to find eternal Joy in earthly places and things. In this chapter John is talking about spiritual eternal joy. Real joy that lasts.

Finding real spiritual joy should be the goal of everyone in the world. It’s amazing to me where people look and what people do to find joy, only to find temporal joy. It’s because they are looking in the wrong place!

Let's ask ourselves three questions this morning.

  1. Where do we find this joy?
  2. What does real joy do for us?
  3. What will our true joy do for others?

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. Chapter 2: 8-11

1. Where do we find this spiritual joy?

Before we can understand where to find this real joy, we must understand that there is a lack of Spiritual joy in the world today. Let's look at Isaiah:

Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him. The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant... There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. ~~Isaiah 24:1-5, 11

Why was the joy darkened? Here was a people and priest who had known the Lord and walked with Him and turn their backs on Him and began to walk in darkness! Isn’t that happening in this day? Everywhere we look people are transgressing the Word of God, churches and preachers are either taking away from or adding to the word. We are seeing people who once knew the Lord breaking the covenant they made with God. Because of all of this there is lack of real joy.

Where do we find this real joy?

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. ~~I John 1:3

John had been an eyewitness of the Word of Life. He had touched Him and experienced His presence. He had heard Him speak of the truths of God. He had walked and talked with Him. He had seen the miracles. He watched Him die on the cross. He had seen the empty tomb.He was with the other disciples when the risen Lord had suddenly appeared and spoken peace to them. He had shared the joy of seeing the Lord.

According to the word of God we will find joy in fellowship with Christ. John caught a vision of a risen Lord and what joy He gave to those who would have fellowship with Him. Eternal life is the point of fellowship between the Father and the Son, and all who receive this eternal life through Christ are brought into that fellowship .

T. E. Martin said: "The story of man that is called history is a story of man seeking for life. He has constantly striven for the fuller and richer life. To His disappointment, when he thought he had found the secret of it, he often experienced only failure."

In Christ alone there is the answer to man’s deepest longing. The fellowship in Christ is not of our own making. But rather it is the work of the Holy Spirit. The fellowship of eternal life with Christ was God’s original intention for man. So the fellowship with Christ Jesus is the source of real joy. Real joy comes from having fellowship with Christ who is the light of the world.

And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. ~~I John 1:4-5

To find real joy we must walk in the light of God. The Christian message begins with the premise that God is light. There is no darkness in Him!

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. ~~Revelation 21:23

Light symbolizes two things: illumination and revelation. Only when we walk in His light can we began to catch a vision of who Christ is. When we begin to see Him, He reveals Himself and His truths to us. So God invites us into the light of His presence that we can find real joy.

Think of a large circle and in that circle is God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The only real light that is found is in that circle. Everything else is darkness. A message comes out of the circle to everyone: Come walk with us within the circle!

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." ~~I John 1:5-7

Who could not find real joy there? Real joy comes from walking in the light of His truth!

2. What does real joy do for us?

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. ~~I John 1:7

Two things are seen here: fellowship and cleansing. Like the sun, God sheds the light of His truth everywhere. All who will accept the truth will see themselves and their need. To walk in the light of His truth is to ask for and receive His forgiveness. That’s when real joy is found.

Fellowship with Him means forgiveness and cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ for all sins. Walking in the light is synonymous with Christian victory.

"The truth of God means the realization of potential. The truth of God is not just to make us admit what we are but it is, as we are willing to receive it, the revelation of what He intends us to be."

I think Haldor Lillenas describes this thought best in His song Walking in the Beautiful Light of God:

What a blessed peace we know as we travel here below,
While we’re walking in the beautiful light of God.
Brighter fairer grows the way as we journey day by day,
while we’re walking in the beautiful light of God.

Like the sunlight from above God reveals His wondrous love,
while we're walking in the beautiful light of God.
Here redemption’s crimson flow making us whiter than snow,
while we're walking in the beautiful light of God.

Holding sweet communion here with our blessed Lord so dear,
while we're walking in the beautiful light of God.
From all condemnation free, having perfect victory,
while we're walking in the beautiful light of God.

3. What will true Joy do for others?

Having found true joy through walking in the light we should want others to enjoy this life also!

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth... If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. ~~I John 3:14-18, 4:20-21

The basic foundation of Christian experience and relationship is to found in the love of God. God is Love! Everything God is and does is an expression of His love. Because His nature is Love, I think that when we are born again God installs that nature of love within us. If God is love (and He is!) then when we receive Him into our hearts then we receive that love into our hearts also. John saw the love of God as an ongoing stream. The true response to God’s love is not only to love God but to love others who have been created in the likeness of God. The mark of realization that Christ redeemed us in love is that we love!

He forgives us freely. He asks that we freely forgive.

Love is not just saying "I love you" but letting our action speak louder than our words.

But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? ~~I John 3:17

The love that brings assurance and fellowship and real joy to the Christian is not something of the Christian’s own doing. It is something that God first had for us. The Christian does not have to develop a way to love God or others. The love we have for God and others comes from the indwelling presence of God in our hearts. We need only to respond to the nature that has been installed by Christ in us. Loving others, even those who we find hard to love , is not so tall an order when we understand that it is God’s love in us that is producing the action of love. The initiative is God’s work. We do not perfect His love. He does! God can be seen in the outflow of His love from the hearts that are filled with this love.

A missionary was seated on a plane next to a well-dressed young man and they soon began conversing. The missionary asked him what he did for a living.
He answered, "I’m in big business."
"So am I," replied the missionary.
With that the young man remarked, "I cover the entire U.S. with my business."
"Well," said the missionary, "I’ve traveled all over the world in connection with mine."
The young man continued: "I’m in partnership with my father. He’s a millionaire."
The missionary smiled and said, "I, too, am in partnership with my Father. He’s a multimillionaire."
The young man said, "We have representatives in most states."
The missionary replied, "We have representatives in almost every country in the world."
By this time the young man looked at the missionary and said, "What sort of business are you in, anyway?"
When the missionary explained, the young man said, "Sir, you’re not just in big business. You’re in the biggest!"

We have a big job to share our joy, our light, and our love to this world that we live in. May God help us to do it!

I realize that I have only began to cover this great subject, because it is as vast as God is Himself. But as I am walking with Him each day He is teaching me and more about His great joy that comes through His great Love.

I have found His grace is all complete,
He supplieth every need.
While I sit and learn at Jesus feet,
I am free, yes, free indeed.
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Oh the half has never yet been told!"

I have found the joy no tongue can tell.
How its waves of glory roll!
It is like a great o’er-flowing well,
Springing up within my soul!
It is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Oh, the half has never yet been told.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007