TODAY’S SCRIPTURE: After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. Job 42:16, NIV

TODAY’S WORD: Nearly overnight, Job’s life was shattered by great personal losses and covered in a season of darkness. He could have given up on his faith. Even his wife told him to “curse God and die.” In the midst of the difficulty, Job looked up and said, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” He was saying, “I know God is still on the throne. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” When you can give God praise when life doesn’t make sense, God will release you into a new level of your destiny.

Notice that “after this” difficulty, Job came out with twice what he’d had before and lived for another 140 blessed years. Just because you experience a setback doesn’t mean your life is over. God has an “after this” coming. When you go through tough times, He’s not only going to bring you out, He’s going to bring you out increased, promoted, and better than you were before.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: “Father, thank You that nothing and no one can upset Your plans for my life. Thank You that You have an ‘after this’ for difficult seasons and my story doesn’t end there. Help me to declare that You live and are on the throne in the tough times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”


All Or Nothing

We live in a society that loves bargains. Everybody loves a bargain. It is a great feeling when you pay very little but you get a lot. Bargain hunters are everywhere.  They go to garage sales.  They search the classified, they wait for the sales in big stores, they use e-bay. And the basic mantra of the bargain hunter is, “What is the least amount I have to pay in order to get as many benefits as possible. How do I sacrifice a little and still get all the good stuff?” Everybody loves a bargain.
Now sometimes the bargain we are looking for isn’t always a material thing. Sometimes we search for bargains in or spiritual life.  What I mean is this.  There are times in our spiritual lives when we want all the blessings of heaven, but with the least amount of sacrifice possible. There are times when we lives our Christian lives are lived in such a way that we seem to be saying, “What is the least amount that I have to do and still receive all the good stuff of heaven?”
Now this kind of attitude is nothing new to our generation.  This kind of attitude has been around for thousands of years, including the time when Jesus walked on this earth. Luke tells us in chapter 9:51, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.”  (Luke 9:51) Now Jerusalem was the place where Jesus would ultimately die on the cross.  So when the Bible tells us that Jesus was going to Jerusalem it is saying that Jesus was choosing to go to the place where eventually he would give his life for those he loved.
Now most people had no clue that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to give up his life on a cross. To them Jesus was a
-Miracle worker
-A healer
-A powerful Teacher and preacher
-Someone who would lead them out of the oppression from the Romans and into freedom. And so thousands of people followed Jesus.
Now you would think that Jesus would have been thrilled with the number of people following him.
As the Bible says, “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus.” (Luke 14:25) But numbers didn’t matter so much to Jesus. What mattered to him was commitment. And so Jesus stops in order to thin out the crowd. And his method of doing this was to use several images and parables to drive home the point that in order to be a follower of Jesus we need to be one hundred percent commitment to him.  It’s all or nothing.  There is no bargain hunting here.
Now the first thing that Jesus says to the crowd in his attempt to thin them out is this, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life –he cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:26) Now it would seem strange that Jesus would say that we have to hate those we love. Especially since everywhere else he tells us that we have to love everyone.  .Love God.  Love others.  This is what we are commanded to do.
So what does he mean in this passage when he says that we have to hate those we are supposed to love the most? Somehow this command seems a little out of place.  It seems a bit weird. One of the reasons why this is a weird saying to us is that it is a literal translation of a figure of speech or a “saying” from a different language. And what sometimes happens when you translate figures of speech from one language to another is that something gets lost or confused in the translation.
For example, we have interesting figures of speech or sayings in English that would probably sound odd in a different language if it was translated word for word. Sayings such as, “You are driving me up the wall,” or, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” In a different language these sayings make no sense. This is what has happened with this particular phrase. So how are we supposed to understand this?
Well when we look at the history of this particular saying in the original language, to hate something is  ”to give less priority too.” Actually Matthew captures the heart of this saying when he says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”  (Matthew 10:37) So when Jesus says that we aught to hate those who are closest in relationship to us he is saying that we are to love him more than our most important relationships. That means we need to desire him more than we desire our spouses and our children.
But what does this mean? Well what it means is that more than anything else we need to pursue the character of Christ (his love, his forgiveness, his grace, his understanding, his joy, his gratitude, his servant attitude). It means that when we wake up in the morning, we need to make the pursuit of Christ and his character the number one item on our to do list. And to display that character in everything that I do: In my marriage, in my job, at my school, by business practices, my entertainment.  Everything. Jesus says, if we do not love him more than life itself, we cannot be his disciple.
Another image that Jesus uses to thin out the crowd is the image of the cross. He says, “And anyone who does not carry his own cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”  (Luke 14:27) Now people in those days knew what crosses were, and they knew that a cross was not some cute medallion you hung around your neck or some nice church ornament. They knew that a cross is where people died for crimes they had committed. And these crosses lined the roads to deter people from breaking the law. And in a little while Jesus himself would be hanging on one of those crosses – executed like a criminal. So a cross was a symbol of death.  And Jesus says that if we want to be his disciples we must bear our cross.
Sometimes we misunderstand what it means to carry our cross.  Sometime we think that a cross is something that happens to us. For example, we experience some misfortune, or we have some physical ailment, or have to deal with some cranky relative, and we say,  “I suppose that this is the cross I have to bear.” But Jesus isn’t speaking of carrying our cross in this way.  He is not talking about a cross as something that happens to us. He is speaking of a cross as something that we choose. It is the choice that we make to put things to death.  And those things that we need to put to death are those things that hinder us from displaying Christ’s character and love to those around us.
And what are these things? Well Paul gives us some clarity to this in Colossians 3:5 and following, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:  Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:5-10) So what Paul is talking about is sin.  Sin prevents the character of Christ to grow in us. And if we are not willing to take our sin to the cross where it can die, we will not experience the joy and the wholeness of the empty tomb. Jesus said, unless we are willing to sacrifice everything, we cannot be his disciples.
To drive home the point even more, Jesus uses three word pictures. The first is that of a tower builder. Now a tower in those days represented security and comfort. It is something that all of us want.  So this guy, says Jesus, wants comfort and security.  So he sets out to build it. So he starts with the foundation, and he gets his footings in place.  Then he begins to frame the building.  And things are going along quite nicely when suddenly he realizes that he has to put bricks and plumbing, and electricity and a roof and everything else to make this building secure. And he puts his hands in his pockets and decides that all this stuff is going to cost him more than he is willing to give.  So he stops building. So there he sits with a foundation and a partially built tower. When people walk by they ridicule him saying, “This fellow began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”
This says Jesus, is what people who don’t count the cost of following him, are like.  In other words, what this parable says is that there are a lot of people who call themselves followers of Jesus and they want nothing more than to have comfort and security in life. Now as they are going along living their Christian lives, they encounter a situation that challenges them spiritually.  And it demands of them more than they are willing to give. For example:  Someone hurts them deeply, and they are challenged through the Bible that they have to forgive as Christ forgave. And they think, “That is more than I am willing to give.  I am not going to do it.”
Or they have been confronted with some sin or wrong doing, and they are in a position where they need to confess and say those very difficult words, I’m wrong and I’m sorry.  And I will do all that I can to make it right. But doing this is more than they are willing to give. And rather than push through and keep following Jesus, they stop.  And they say, “I can’t do it, because it is going to cost me more than I can give.” So they quit.  And when this happens, says, Jesus, people notice. And some of these people will point their fingers and say, “Hey, I thought you were supposed to be a Christian.  Don’t you go to that church over there?   Well how come you are still so bitter?  Or how come you are still so angry, or how come you are still so selfish? Where is your comfort?  Where is your security? You see Just going to church isn’t comfort or security. True comfort and true security comes when we are willing to follow Jesus in all things. But if we are not willing to follow him in every way then we cannot be his disciples.  We may as well pack our bags and go home. So the first word picture is that of a tower builder.
 The second word picture that Jesus uses is that of a warring king. And this king has an army.  And this king wants peace.  Just like we all want peace.  Now says, Jesus, suppose another king comes along and he’s got an army twice the size.  It would be foolish for the king with the smaller army to try and establish peace by trying to conquer this guy.  It would be much wiser for the king with the small army to look for a way to negotiate peace?  Or in plain English, if the king with the small army wants peace, the wise thing to do would be to surrender.
Now basically what Jesus is saying to the crowd is this.  Listen.  You represent the king with the little army. And God represents the king with the big army. And God is on the move to transform us, with his Holy Spirit.  He wants to change us into people who love like Jesus loves. Now the foolish thing for us to do would be to fight against God. The foolish thing would be to resist the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It would be foolish for us to say, “No God, I will not confess, I will never say I’m sorry”, or “No God I will never forgive him,” or “No God, I will not think of you first with my income.”
This kind of resistance to the Spirit of God is foolishness, because anyone who finds himself resisting God and fighting against him will find himself on the loosing end of things. And as a result you will end up feeling, restless, empty, frustrated, anxious, tired, and joyless. To fight God is just plain foolish. The wise thing to do is just to surrender and negotiate peace before it becomes a battle. The wise thing to do is to come before God and say, “God here I am.  I fully surrender to you. Take my unforgiving attitude, take my selfishness, take my pride, my lust, take it all Lord. And as you do this Lord, I ask that you fill me with your peace.” You see, without a fully surrendered heart we will never not know this peace. So the second word picture is of a king who negotiates peace.
And the final word picture is that of salt. Now among other things, salt was used to add flavor to food.  In other words it had the power to transform things and make it better. Now over time, if the salt was not used, it would eventually loose its saltiness, and its ability to flavor food would be useless. It was good for nothing.  As a matter of fact, Jesus said,  it was good nothing more than the manure pile. Basically Jesus uses this word picture to tell us that if we are following him, and surrendering all to him and allowing him to change us, than we become like salt.  And we have this power to make our world better. But if we are not willing to follow him in everything, if we are resisting him in any way, and if we are not willing to let him transform us, than we are not making this world better.  And then all this faith we profess is useless.  It is not even good for the manure pile.  It is worthless crap.
You see the only way that we will truly impact this world is if our desire is be like Jesus in  everything we do. It means complete surrender and then asking him to help us become what he wants us to be. It means being willing to give whatever it takes, to let his love transform us.
You see Christianity isn’t for bargain hunters. It is not for people who want the most for the least. It’s a place for people who are willing to surrender all. Which are we going to choose?  Amen.
Let us pray.
Lord, thank you for giving everything for us.  Thank you that you held nothing back but you surrendered all, in order that we could have peace and security and comfort.  We ask, Father, that you will help us as we live our lives for you.  Help us to give everything that we have to you, in order that we may live the lives that you have called us to live.  We pray this in Jesus name, Amen.
Hymn #288“Take My Life and Let It Be”
God’s Parting Blessing.  Holy God as we leave this place we pray that you may be gracious to us and bless us and make your face to shine upon us so that your ways may be known on the earth and your salvation among the nations.  Amen.


Proper conduct towards unbelievers

Colossians 4:5-6
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone,” Col. 4:5-6. (NIV)
How do you behave with and toward unbelievers? Do you like them? Do you hate them? Do you tolerate them? Are you concerned about their salvation? Do you act like them when you aren’t in Christian company? Do you snub them if they aren’t holy? Some Christians think that being kind to unbelievers is like throwing pearls before swine. Then there are Christians who stand on street corners, in malls, and in front of abortion clinics to witness to unbelievers. Others just don’t care one way or another. Where do you fit in? Do you share your faith using hugs or headlocks? Honey or a hammer? Or do you even share your faith at all?
The Word of God is very specific about how you as a Christian are to conduct yourself toward the non-Christian. Turn with me to Col. 4:5-6 and we will read together what God wants you as a Christian to do.
The literal translation of Col. 4:5-6 is
“In wisdom, walk toward the ones outside, redeeming the time. Let your word be always in grace, having been seasoned with salt, to know how it is necessary for each one of you to answer.”
God wants you to conduct yourselves with wisdom toward unbelievers, v. 5
First of all, before anything else is said, we need to focus on something very important: the cross of Christ.
It is because of the cross and our redemption found there that we are able to seek to be wise and good towards unbelievers.
The sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, forgiven us our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us. As we were once against God in our unbelief, God was gracious and kind to us. Because of Jesus, we are to be kind to others.
Literally the Greek says to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.”
To the Jew, every non-Jew was an outsider. To the Christian, every non-Christian is an outsider, that is, outside the church–outside of a relationship with the Lord Jesus.
The context of the church: “In the days of the early church believers were often slandered by these outsiders. Christians were called atheists because they served no visible gods, unpatriotic because they did not burn incense before the image of the emperor, and immoral because, of necessity, they would often meet behind locked doors.”
Today there is still an attack on the church. Christians are called bigots because they condemn homosexuality, intolerant because they oppose abortion, religious extremists because they condemn sin, and narrow-minded because they believe there is “one faith, one Lord, and one baptism” (Eph. 4:5).
Yet, in spite of these attacks, we are to remain humble, loving, caring, kind, and gentle. If we are not, if we do not show love and forbearance in the face of cruelty, insult, intolerance, and ridicule, then you are not showing the world that we know Jesus?
That is why it is so important to have wise conduct before unbelievers.
One reason is so you aren’t made a fool.
The reputation of the gospel depends on you.
The world judges Christianity by what it sees in you.

Are you representing it well with kindness, holiness, consistent reverence to the Lord?
Also, unfortunately, the world judges Christianity by what it sees on television where lies about Christians and Christianity are broadcast as the pagans version of the “gospel truth.” All the more reason to live holy lives.

I remember years ago watching Miami vice. It opened with two Christians preaching. There was this bad guy who tripped and fell at the feet of two “Christians” who had Bibles and had been preaching. When the bad guy fell at their feet, the Christians started hitting him with their Bibles, kicking him, and yelling mean things at him.
On another show, “Renegade” there was coffee house scene where a Christian couple behaved rudely, bigoted, cowardly, and stupid.
Nevertheless, in spite of the insults, you are to be wise.
God wants your conduct to be with wisdom. This conduct is your manner of behavior. This means you are to be
sympathetic (this could be in counseling, listening, etc.,)
compassionate and humble (1 Pet. 3:8).
“To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.”
And loving
“Don’t repay evil for evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing repay the evil cast at you,” (1 Pet. 3:9).
patient–You are to be considerate and lonsuffering with the unbeliever.
know when not to speak
That is often one of the hardest things to do. It is so often the best thing to simply listen to a person and wait for a better opportunity.
If your conduct is indeed with wisdom, then the name of Christ will not be maligned.
The unbeliever will have no basis to mock Christ, His church, or His people.
And, he may be brought into the fold of Christ.
God wants you to make the most of the opportunity with unbelievers, v. 5.
Literally the Greek says “redeeming the time,” or “buying up the opportunity.” The sense then would be “Do not just sit there and wait for opportunity to fall into your lap but go after it. Yes, buy it.”
There is definitely a time to be aggressive in your relationship with an unbeliever.
I would hope that as Christians you would not become complacent about evangelism. God uses the Gospel to call His people out of the world.
The time is short, and the world is evil: Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”
God wants you to let your speech to always be gracious with unbelievers, v. 6.
Paul is asking the Colossians to be careful with their tongues.
Careful when they speak in public and private, no gossip.
Careful when they speak to an equal or someone in power, no slander.
Careful when they speak to the poor and the rich, no favoritism.
Careful not only when speaking of the gospel but also when speaking of the weather, the economy, politicians, the authorities.
In all your conversation be good.
Gracious: God wants you to be careful, gracious, kind in your speech.
Grace is getting what you do not deserve. Give them kindness, love, compassion, and patience.
And note the word, “always.”
In all situations at all times.
playing a sport, watching a movie, driving, shopping, business, in church, out of church, at work . . . 
Being gracious means to be kind, gentle, positive, helpful, and insightful.
A further description of this kind of gracious speech is: seasoned with salt, v. 6.
Those whom the Lord calls “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) must not be tasteless.
I f you work at a place where all the people around you are unbelievers. Their conversations are often vile, crass, filled with not so clean jokes–all to get that sense of belonging and being “in” with the rest of the group.
Don’t be like the ungodly around you.
Salt prevents corruption.
Elsewhere Paul said, “Do not let any corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” (Eph. 4:29).
God wants you to know how to answer everyone, v. 6.
Speak the right word and the right time to the right person.
1 Pet. 3:15 says, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Part of having answers means being wise.
Proverbs, as well as the rest of Scripture, is the only source of true wisdom. With wisdom you will be properly be able to answer in times of counseling and heartache, joy and sorrow, and in times when morality is an issue.
Part of having answers means knowing doctrine.
Know the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message, the resurrection, the return of Christ, and the rest of what the Bible teaches.
Part of having answers means studying difficult issues.
Study evolution, cults, and other religions.
You don’t have to master them. Just be familiar with them.
And don’t forget, in your wisdom and grace toward them, pray for them.
They need to be granted the faith that God gives (John 6:28ff
They need to be granted the repentance that God gives (2 Tim. 2:25).
They need to be granted the belief that God gives (Phil. 1:29).
You can make a difference in your prayers (James 5:16).
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

So what difference do these verses make in your lives? Plenty. Your conduct and speech before an unbeliever is vitally important. Your conduct should be with wisdom and your speech with grace.
I know a Christian who years ago worked with an unbeliever. For two years, this Christian answered the unbeliever’s questions. He was gentle and kind in his conduct in all situations and always tried to point his friend to Christ. He sought to be wise and gracious. Today that unbeliever has become a pastor. The Lord used that Christian, his wise conduct, his gracious speech, to help bring another into His kingdom. To Jesus be the glory. Amen.


Being a Peacemaker

Scriptures: Matthew 5:9
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). Into a world that is ugly with violence and hate, Jesus sends us as peacemakers. We aren’t given the choice of whether or not we would like to be peacemakers and we certainly aren’t given the choice of what kind of world we would like to live in. As bad as things may be, this is the only world we have and if we are going to be true to our Lord, we must be peacemakers. But, what did he mean by peacemakers?
I. The misconceptions of peacemaker
First, let’s dispel the misconceptions of peacemakers. Peacemaking is not the
Absence of conflict. Peace in the Bible is never to be confused with pacifism.
Avoidance of strife. Never are we instructed to run from conflict. Putting our head in the sand, hoping that the conflict will end, only delays the inevitable.
Appeasement of parties. The “peace at any price” mentality is far from biblical command. I have discovered that you can never make everyone happy all the time.
Accommodation of issues.
The person who glosses over the problems, acting as if everything is alright when it is not is not a peacemaker.
II. The meaning of peacemakers
So what did Jesus mean by peacemaker? A working definition of a peacemaker is someone who is actively seeking to reconcile people to God and to one another. Let’s look closely at the word peacemaker. Easily we can see that this compound word is comprised of two very common words: “peace” and “maker.”
The word peace is the Hebrew word shalom. Often used as a greeting word or a departing word in much the same way we would utter “hello” or “goodbye,” it is a broad term related to health, prosperity, harmony, and wholeness. It means perfect welfare, serenity, fulfillment, freedom from trouble, and liberation from anything which hinders contentment. When a Jew said “Shalom” they were wishing on another the full presence, peace, and prosperity of all the blessedness of God. The famous Aaronic benediction of Numbers 6:24-26 brings out this idea very clearly: “The LORD bless you and protect you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-25).
It is important to remember that peace in the Bible is always based on justice and righteousness. Where justice prevails and righteousness rules, there you will also have peace. But without those two virtues, lasting peace is not possible.
The word make in the term “peacemakers” comes from the Greek verb that means “to do” or “to make.” It is a word bursting with energy. It mandates action and initiative. Someone has to drag the combatants to the table and give them a reason to put down their arms. Notice Jesus did not say “Blessed are the peacewishers or the peacehopers or the peacedreamers or the peacelovers or the peacetalkers.” Peace must be made. Peace never happens by chance. A peacemaker is never passive. They always take the initiative. They are up and doing.
So when these two words are taken together, “peace” and “maker,” it describes one who actively pursues peace. The peacemaker pursues more than the absence of conflict; they don’t avoid strife (in fact, sometimes, peacemaking will create strife); they aren’t merely seeking to appease the warring parties; they aren’t trying to accommodate everyone. Instead, they are pursuing all the beauty and blessedness of God upon another. As William Barclay translates this verse, “They are people who produce right relationships in every sphere of life.”
III. The model peacemaker
Peacemaking is a divine work. God is the author of peace. And, Jesus is the supreme Peacemaker. Jesus came to establish peace; his message explained peace; his death purchased peace; and his resurrected presence enables peace. The messianic predictions were that he would be the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). The angels announced his birth by singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth (B) to people He favors!” (Luke 2:14). Jesus’ persistent word of absolution to sinners was, “Go in peace!” Just before he was crucified, Jesus’ last will and testament was, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27). When the Lord returned after the resurrection, his first word to the disciples was “Shalom.” “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36).
The life of Jesus was saturated with his mission to bring the peace of God and to initiate the healing relationships of peace with God. He paid an enormous price for us to experience peace. In fact, the very same word, peacemakers, which is used of us in this Beatitude, is applied by the apostle Paul to what God has done through Christ so that we could be at peace with God. Through Christ God was pleased “. . . to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). Furthermore, the apostle Paul informed us that Jesus “. . . might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace” (Eph. 2:15). Jesus saw the gravity of our problem and he refused to sweep it under the rug or stick his head in the sand. Only a drastic solution would suffice, so he “made peace” by shedding his blood on the cross. Christ is our supreme example in bringing peace in our hearts, our relationships, our church, our nation, and our world.
IV. The method of peacemaking
That task, however, will not be easy nor will it be pretty. And, those who do it will often be misunderstood. In 1781 Ben Franklin wrote to John Adams, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ is, I suppose, for another world. In this world they are frequently cursed.” Unfortunately, that’s true.
Unfortunately, when we read the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” we smile blandly and say, “Oh, that’s nice.” But peacemaking is not nice. Peacemaking is messy and wrenching work. It takes time and a lot of emotional energy. It is like crossing a fast moving creek on slippery rocks. The journey is needed. The work is risky. And, sometimes you fall. You get bruised. And, sometimes you don’t make it across the stream.
And, let me be honest, sometimes, peacemaking doesn’t work. In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he exhorted, “If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). We are to live at peace with everyone. That is a pretty clear command. But Paul adds that all important phrase, “If it is possible.” Sometimes peace isn’t possible. There are those cantankerous types who just go through life picking fights with everyone they meet. You can’t always live at peace with people like that.
However, let’s focus on the phrase “as far as it depends on you.” The hallmark of a Christian is the ability to get along with other people. The testimony of a church is its ability to get along with other people. We have a God-given, scripturally-directed responsibility to pursue peace. The apostle Paul declared, “God has called you to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). Does that mean we agree with everything others say or do? No. Sometimes we agree to disagree, agreeably. God wants his children to be bridge builders. What can you and I do to build those bridges of peace? What steps, what methods, can we employ to actively reconcile people to God and to one another?
A. Talk to God
I find it crucial to talk to the Lord about what I’ve done or what people have done to me before I talk to them. It gives me perspective and tenderness. The Lord helps me see the deeper needs in the relationship and what has caused the problem. He, also, shows me my part, and often, my wrong words, behavior, or attitude that is hindering the reconciliation. Even if the other person is 95 percent in the wrong and I am only 5 percent in the wrong, I still have to confess my error. Then, I surrender the conflict to the Lord.
B. Take the first step
Jesus is real clear on this action. Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). This, I believe, is the most ignored verse in the Bible. Later, Jesus said, “”If your brother sins against you,  go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Matt. 18:15). You are to make the first move. Peacemakers take the initiative. “But,” you say, “Why should I go to the person when they are the one that hurt me.” Do you want the biblical answer? Because Jesus says so. Conflict is never resolved accidentally. That first step may be a letter, a phone call, or a visit. If someone has wrong you or you have wronged someone else, take action today. Your peace of mind and your Christian witness depends on your taking the first step. Happiness awaits action.
C. Tell the other person how you feel
When you take the first step and speak to the other person, before you speak, remember the words of Solomon and Paul. Solomon wrote, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” (Prov. 15:1). Paul wrote, “No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Empathize with their feelings. Consider their situation. Attack the problem not the person. Clarify don’t confront. Cooperate as much as possible. Emphasize reconciliation not resolution. Reconciliation is more crucial than being right.
D. Stop talking about the people who have hurt you to other people
Nothing disqualifies us in being peacemakers more than talking about people rather than talking to them. The old Spanish proverb is correct: “Whoever gossips to you will gossip of you.” A peacemaker never says anything about another person that she or he has not first said to that person directly. After that, why tell anyone else?
V. The mantel of peacemaking
When you put the above steps into practice, you earn a recognition that far exceeds anything that you can imagine. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). The word called means to be officially designated as holding a particular rank or office, as when you name a chair or choose a captain or designate a spokesman.
Jesus says that those who are peacemakers will be known and recognized as what they really are – the sons of God. You may assume at first glance that “sons of God” means the same as “children of God.” But the terms are not quite identical. A “child of God” is one who is a part of the family. It is a statement of position. A “son of God” is one who is like the family. It is a statement of character. A son of God is one who not only carries on the family name but bears the family resemblance and reputation. Jesus is saying that as his followers become known as peacemakers, they will be recognized as the sons of God who share his name and share his mission.
Do the people in your life recognize the family resemblance based on your efforts of peacemaking? You may be a child of God because you accepted Christ, but you are a Son of God because you pursue peace. Are you actively seeking to reconcile people to God and one another – putting two neighbors back on speaking terms, restoring unity within a family, or making amends with a brother or sister? Are you recognized as assisting in God’s activity in our world? We are doing what God himself has done for us through Christ and doing to others what God intends of us.
The opposite must be pointed out as well. The opposite of peacemakers is troublemakers. People who are mean-spirited, stirring up strife, creating conflict. Allow me to quote pastor and author Kent Hughes: “If we are not peacemakers, but instead are troublemakers, there is every likelihood that we are not true children of God.” Notice his word choice. Troublemakers definitely are not bearing the character of Jesus. In fact, Hughes questions their position in the family of God.
Peacemakers are sometimes troublemakers to bring peace, but troublemakers make trouble for the sake of trouble. If our character is such that we spread rumors and gossip about others; if we are constantly fomenting discontent; if we find joy in the report of trouble and scandal; if we are omnicritical, always faultfinding; if we are unwilling to be involved in peacemaking; if we are mean – if these negative qualities characterize our lives, there is a good chance we are not Christians.
Notice I did not say, if we fall into these things or are struggling to control them; but rather if these elements are a part of our character. If this is what we are like, then we need to take a day off from work or school and spend it with the Scriptures open before us, seeking the face of God. True children of God are not troublemakers!”
Those are sobering words. The good news of the gospel is that a troublemaker can become a peacemaker. My experience with troublemakers is that they are creating conflict in their external world because they have internal strife. They can change. They “must” change to experience the reward and benefit of this beatitude.
VI. The ‘must’ of peacemaking
The radicalness of Christ’s call to peacemaking demands a radical remaking of human personality. One must first have a profound experience of the shalom of God. No one can become a peacemaker until he has found peace himself. We cannot give what is not real to us. Peacemaking begins with an experience of peace in our own hearts.
The salutation of the Apostle Paul’s letters almost always begin “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:2). Reading his letters, you never find the order reversed to “peace and grace.” Grace always comes before peace. We have to experience the grace of God before we can experience the peace of God. We have to come into relationship with God through his son Jesus Christ before we can be purveyors of peace to others. We have to know peace ourselves before we can make peace in our relationships. In other words, we can’t make peace if we don’t have peace
Do you know the Peacemaker? Have you come into a relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace?
Our Lord is on a recruiting mission this morning. He’s looking for a few volunteers to join God’s Peace Corps. He’s looking for a few good men and a few good women who will spread God’s peace all over the world.
So much war, so much strife, so much pain exists in the world. That’s means there is plenty of work for you and me to do. Will we take up the mantel of peacemaker? Every tiny step, every pure action, receives God’s blessing!
How do you get involved in the world? Be a peacemaker! What will you be called? A son of God!
Some 700 years ago a remarkable man was born. Although he was the son of an Italian cloth merchant and destined to be a knight, he forsook the path of wealth and fame, choosing instead to wear a ragged cloak tied with a rope borrowed from a scarecrow. He spent his days preaching and giving to others. He chose to live in utter poverty.
History records that he was a noble, kind, humble, Christlike man – one of the greatest Christians who ever lived. We know him today as St. Francis of Assisi. Centuries after his death, someone translated one of his prayers into English. It was later set to music. Many of you know these words by heart.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
“For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”



2 Corinthians 5:1-5
Of all the fears that plague the heart of man, none is greater than the fear of death. It is our greatest fear, the sum of all other fears.
We are afraid to die.
We are afraid of what happens when we die.
Death is the fundamental human problem.
Life is short and so uncertain. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14b). Moses said to the Lord in Psalm 90:5-6, “You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning-though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.” It is sometimes said that nothing is certain in life except death and taxes. But that is not wholly true. A clever man with a good lawyer can find a way around most if not all of his taxes, but no one escapes death. As George Bernard Shaw remarked, “The statistics on death have not changed. One out of one person dies.”
Worldwide, there are approximately 56,600,000 deaths each year. That works out to 4.7 million per month, 155,000 per day, 6,500 per hour, 107 per minute, and 1.8 per second. The Greek playwright Sophocles said it this way: “Of all the great wonders, none is greater than man. Only for death can he find no cure.”
Does death win in the end? On this side of the grave it’s hard to tell. Left to our observations, we don’t know much beyond the familiar words of Ecclesiastes. There is “a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Visit any cemetery and you can’t really tell much difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. Oh, you can intuit something by reading the markers, but the dead lie buried side by side, six feet underground. There they are, all grouped together, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, famous and infamous, Christians and nonbelievers.
Does death win in the end? On this side of the grave it’s hard to tell. 
Or so it seems.
Death is not the end of the story for those who know the Lord. The Bible tells us what lies ahead for those who know Jesus. As we come to 2 Corinthians 5, we discover wonderful truths that give us hope as we face death with all its dark fears.
This passage as a whole is one of the most difficult among all the things Paul wrote, and yet once you get past the difficulties, there is a simplicity about it that attracts the believing heart. Even if we do not understand every detail, the first impression it leaves with the reader gives hope as we look ahead to the end of our earthly journey and wonder, “What’s next?” Paul tells us in very picturesque language that we have nothing to fear, that no matter how we die or when or where, and no matter what may be our physical condition at the moment of death, we have a promise from God that death itself cannot break.
I. The Certainty of the Resurrection Body 
“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (verse 1).
Surely the most important part of this verse comes in the first three words. “Now we know.” Death itself confronts us with many mysteries. No one who reads these words can say with certainty how much longer they will live. In the last few months I celebrated my 20th birthday. Will I live to celebrate my 21st? The odds are in my favor, but the odds are nothing more than actuarial calculations. Every single breath we take is a gift from God. I’ve been breathing more or less continually for 20 years and not thinking much about it, but it’s true. Every single breath is gift from the Almighty. I am not guaranteed another day, much less another year.
As to what happens after we die, science has nothing useful to tell us. The great researchers have no certain knowledge about what happens a minute after we die. We will not get the answer from philosophy or from history. If you visit a vast cemetery, all you know for certain is it is full of dead people who once were alive. Try as you might, you cannot divine from studying the dead what happens when we die.


Faith without works is dead

I want to start today’s message with a story. There was this very rich man who lived in the United States, who had heard of a man that lived in France that was very famous for walking the tightrope. According to what he had heard, the Frenchman had the reputation of walking the tightrope at high altitudes, while blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow; however, this was something that the American couldn’t believe. The American then wrote to the Frenchman and said; I don’t believe that what I’ve heard about you is true; I don’t believe that there is a person who can do what you’re credited with. However, I offer you a million dollars to come to the United States, and perform your act over Niagara Falls and walk the tightrope from Canada to New York. The Frenchman immediately replied and said that he would do it.
The day of performance finally came, and many gathered to see this dangerous act. The Frenchman climbed up to the tightrope, someone blindfolded him, and then he started to walk across it pushing the wheelbarrow, while the American looked on and waited for him at the other end of the rope. Everyone was fascinated to see the agility that this man demonstrated while walking, and he soon crossed from one side to another without any problems. Upon reaching the other side, the Frenchman approached the American and said: do you believe that I can do this? To which the American responded; I just finished seeing you with my own eyes, this was something impressive. And the Frenchman answered; no, no, do you believe that I can do this? To which the American answered; we all saw what you did, it was something genuinely worthy of appreciation. And the Frenchman replied; but do you believe that I can do this? And the American answered; I just finished witnessing it with my eyes, of course I believe. To which the Frenchman answered; then get in the wheelbarrow, we are going back. Funny, isn’t it? This message serves to illustrate the subject that we will be exploring today. Today we are going to explore our faith. Let’s now turn to the Word of God.
James 2:14-26 – What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22Do you see that faith was working together
with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
One of the more serious problems that has confronted Christ’s church from the very beginning is that through history, and at present time, there are many that profess the Christian faith, but that do nothing or very little to prove their faith. In other words, that don’t behave and act in the ways that a Christian should. How must Christians act and behave? The main way that Christians should act and behave is clearly defined in 1 Peter 1:16 when we read: “…Be holy, for I am holy…” In other words, we have to persevere in leading a holy life. But this is something that we are not always willing to do.
I would say that one of the greatest temptations that we confront is to profess our faith, and not having works to back it up. But the truth is that faith without works is a contradiction in terms. Now, I want to make a brief pause here to clarify something. I want to do this because some may think that there is a contradiction between what Paul teaches about salvation, as found in Ephesians 2:8-9 when we read: “…For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast…” And what James teaches us in these verses; however, there is no contradiction at all.
I say this because when Paul first visited the church in Ephesus, he found that there were only twelve believers in the entire city. And these twelve believers had been won over for the Lord by the immature and pompous Apolos. As a result, they had been misinformed about the presence of the Holy Spirit. They appeared to have a lack of consciousness about the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer, and that He was already present in the world[1]. All of this is something that is clearly illustrated in Acts 19:1-7 when we read: “…And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him,

that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7Now the men were about twelve in all…” As we can appreciate with this here, in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul was focusing his message to all of those who had not yet received salvation, and James epistle is more focused for those who already had received salvation. Therefore, we can confidently say that James’ teaching are not a contradiction, but rather that it teaches us that once we have received salvation, and that we establish a genuine relationship with God, then works that reflect our relationship with God must flow from within us[2]. Keeping this clarification in mind, let’s now continue with our study for today.
In order for you to have a better understanding of what I’m trying to relay to you today, let’s look at all of this from a modern perspective. Now I ask: can an automobile work without gasoline? The answer to this question is NO. Just like an automobile can’t work without gasoline, our faith will not be able to properly function without works. In other words, for our faith to be effective, it has to be accompanied and nourished by works. And this is why here we find that we are told: “…What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?..” This here is a crucial point. I say this because saying that we have faith is something very easily done; saying that we have faith is something that easily flow from our lips, but just because we are able to utter these words doesn’t mean that we possess a genuine faith.
The truth of the matter is that we are capable of saying many things, but words are cheap and what really counts are our actions. This is the main point that James is making in these verses, and it’s the main point that I want to make very clear today. It’s extremely important to understand that our faith must be accompanied by works. What works am I referring to? Works in the sense that when we genuinely accept Christ in our heart, then a drastic change must occur in our life. This is something that is better expressed by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when we read: “…Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new…”
The truth of the matter is that if we say that we have genuinely accepted Christ, then we can’t continue to lead a life in the same fashion that we once did. We can’t continue to lead a sinful life, but rather we must strive towards holiness. This is why in Ephesians 4:22 we find that we are told: “…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the
deceitful lusts…” We can’t say that we possess a genuine faith if a radical change has not taken place in our life. By professing that we are Christians and not to changing we only lie to ourselves.
Professing that we are Christians and not changing is just a bunch of empty words, because if we don’t change our heart will never be in the appropriate place, as we in fact are not living for Christ.
This concept is something that is well reflected in the words of our Lord as found in Matthew 15:8 when we read: “…These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me…” Allow me to explain the main point that I’m trying to make in a different way. Let’s say that an adulterer, or fornicator, or homicidal, or homosexual person arrives to church. Let’s say that this person at that time repents of their sins, and declares that he/she has accepted Christ as the Lord and Savior; up to here everything is well and good. But let’s also say that once this person leaves the church he/she continues in the same sins. Can we honestly say that this person truly received Christ as the Lord and Savior? The answer is NO. The truth of the matter is that this person acted out of emotion and not conviction.
We must always bear in mind what James teaches about faith, and we must constantly reflect on our life. I say this because if we think that we are saved, but continue to lead a sinful life, in other words, we continue to disobey God’s Word, then we must know that we’re lying to ourselves. The reality is that continuing to lead our life without persevering in holiness only produces a feigned faith, and a feigned faith will never allow us to enter God’s kingdom. This is something that is very well stated by the Lord in Revelation 22:14-15 when we read: “…Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie…” And this is exactly why if we say that we are Christians, then our faith must be accompanied by works.
I also want us to note something here that is of the utmost importance. The Word of God tells us: “…If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?..” Now I’m going to say something that perhaps may upset some. These verses here directly deal with a material need; they directly deal with a physical need. Now I ask, do we at times behave in the way that is described in these verses
will act or behave in this fashion, but the sad truth is that most do. However, if we behave and act in this fashion, then we must recognize that if being able to help others, and the key words here are “being able”, we don’t do it, then our faith is in fact dead. In other words, our faith is not producing the desired results that God wants it to produce.
In the verses that we are exploring today we see that James makes reference to Abraham and Rahab, and this is something of extreme importance. I say this because Abraham’s faith was not the only thing that justified him in God’s eyes. Abraham’s faith was accompanied by works. I say this because Abraham obeyed God, and he was willing to give God the very best that he could give Him. Abraham was willing to offer unto God his only begotten son as a sacrifice. This is something that is clearly stated in Genesis 22:9-10 when we read: “…Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son…”
Rahab’s faith was not the only thing that saved her; Rahabs faith was accompanied by works. What type of faith did Rahab have? The answer to this question is well reflected when Rahab, after having received orders from the King of Jericho to throw out the spies from her home, approached the men and said: “…I know that the LORD has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you…” (Joshua 2:9). Tell the person sitting next to you: Rahab had an undoubting faith.
By faith and through faith Rahab knew that God had given Jericho to the Israelites, and it was this faith that led her to hide the spies in her home, and to show them the safe path that they must take to avoid being captured. This is something that is clearly reflected in Joshua 2:15-16 when we read: “…Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was on the city wall; she dwelt on the wall. 16And she said to them, “Get to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you. Hide there three days, until the pursuers have returned. Afterward you may go your way…”
With these two examples we clearly see that faith has to be accompanied by works. Let’s never forget that faith without works does not speak of God’s love, power, mercy and sovereignty. Let’s never forget that faith without works will not serve to edify the church, but rather to discredit God.
In conclusion; in Matthew 5:16 we find that the Lord tells us: “…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven…” What is the Lord telling us with this? With
seeing the needs of others? Needless to say that not everyone here
this the Lord clearly tells us that our faith must be accompanied by works. Why are works so important? The reason is because our works is our behavior; our Works is what reveals to the non believer the identity of our God. Our works and our behavior is what tells the world that we serve the King of King and the Lord of Lords. Our faith accompanied by works is what separates us from this sinful and wicked world.
Let’s never forget that: “…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also…” I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I’ve told you today. I’ve not said that we can be saved by works, anyone who says this is very, but very wrong.
Salvation is only through faith and the redeeming work and grace of God. However, I do say that if our faith is not accompanied by works, then we can’t say that we have a genuine faith. Just like the rich man in the story that I told you at the beginning of the service, it’s quite easy to say that we can believe, and that we do believe; however, the question is: will you get in the wheelbarrow?


Having a friend in high places

(John 14:1-31)

I believe God graciously granted my request, but just late enough to remind me, once again, that preaching (like all Christian living) is divinely enabled. As our Lord puts it in chapter 15, “apart from me, you can accomplish nothing” (verse 5). We can understand this one chapter in John’s Gospel only as we understand the context in which it is found. Chapters 13-17 contain the “Upper Room Discourse” and High Priestly Prayer of our Lord for His disciples. The matters dealt with here are not found in the Synoptic Gospels, but only in John. The events which occur and the words spoken by our Lord take place in a small window of time when our Lord is finally able to enjoy a private moment with His disciples. Jesus has already dismissed Judas, and he is now in the process of betraying the Master (see 13:27; 18:1-3). In his absence, Jesus can speak freely with His true disciples.
The disciples are confused, perplexed, and greatly troubled by what Jesus has just told them: “Children, I am still with you for a little while. You will look for me, and just as I said to the Jewish authorities, ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’ now I tell you the same” (13:33). Jesus had given them some shocking news. One of the 12 would betray Him, and besides this He informs them that He is leaving to go somewhere else, without them. Peter questions Jesus further about this, and seeks to assure Him of his loyalty, but Jesus silences him by telling him that he will deny Him three times before the cock crows (13:38).
The words recorded in chapter 14 (indeed, in 13-17) are intended to minister to the troubled spirits of the disciples—but not to give them immediate comfort. Have you ever noticed that virtually every advertisement for pain relievers claims the same thing—fast relief? I have yet to find any advertisement which says: “Our product will not give you quick relief. If you purchase it and take the recommended dosage, nothing will happen for some time. …” The “relief” which our text offers is not “fast” relief. The Upper Room Discourse is not a “play by play” account of the events that took place in the Upper Room, as the disciples experienced and perceived them at the time. The Upper Room Discourse is a reconstruction of these events, recorded years later, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord. These words were written by John after the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, who enabled the disciples to recall and understand what they had seen and heard in their last hours with the Lord (see 16:12-16).
The immediate effect of our Lord’s words to His disciples was confusion and sadness. I would like to suggest that this was exactly what our Lord intended them to produce—for the moment. Suppose the disciples really did grasp what Jesus was about to do. Suppose, for example, that the disciples understood that Judas was about to betray our Lord and to hand Him over to the Jewish authorities, so that they could carry out a mock trial and crucify the Son of God on the cross of Calvary. I think I know what Peter would have done—he would have used his sword on Judas, rather than the high priest’s slave. I believe the disciples would have attempted to prevent what was about to happen, had they known what that was. But the confusion our Lord’s words produced threw them off balance. The result was that when Jesus was arrested, they fled. They did not die trying to defend the Savior, and in part this was because they were utterly confused by what was happening. Jesus’ words were not intended to produce instant “relief,” but eternal joy. The confusion and sadness that the Upper Room Discourse created in the disciples enabled Jesus to die just as He knew He must, just as it had been planned, purposed, and promised long before. The disciples were surely not “in control” at this point in time, but, as always, the Master was.
While our Lord’s words in the Upper Room are intended to comfort and encourage His disciples later on, they are also words that apply to Christians today as well. Whose spirit does not find comfort in these words: “Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you …”? Let us turn, then, to this assuring, comforting text to find peace for our souls in these troubled times.
News” Is Really “Good News” 
1 “Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 There are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. Otherwise, I would have told you. I am going away to make ready a place for you. 3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be too.”
The disciples are told what will give their troubled hearts relief: faith—faith in God the Father and in God the Son. I have read the words of verse 1 many times before, but have not really understood them. I suspect I am not alone in this, because there is considerable discussion in the commentaries about how we should take the word “believe.”23 As I now understand this passage, I would paraphrase our Lord’s words in verse 1 in this way:
“Don’t be distressed that I am going away, and that you cannot come with me right now. You believe in God, don’t you? Can you see Him? Does He have a physical body that you can see and touch? No. I am going away, and you will not be able to see Me as you have for these past three years. I challenge you, therefore, to believe in Me in the same way that you believe in God the Father, as your unseen Lord. I will be just as real in My absence as I have ever been while dwelling among you.”
I don’t think that I’m overreaching the text here. I believe that the word “also” in verse 1 is intended to link the way the disciples believe in the Father with the way they must also believe in the Son. The disciples are in danger of a temptation as old as the Garden of Eden.


Spiritual Growth

Spiritual growth is detailed in 2 Peter 1:3-8, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, spiritual growth includes: (1) increasing in your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, (2) decreasing in your frequency and severity of sin, (3) increasing in your practice of Christ-like qualities, and (4) increasing in your faith and trust in God. Perhaps the best summary of spiritual growth is becoming more like Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of what it truly means to be spiritual.

Spiritual Growth – How is it done?
In order for spiritual growth to occur, you first need to make sure you possess a true spiritual life through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). When you believe in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit lives inside of you (John 14:16-17) and you are a new creation in Christ! 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Your old nature, which is dominated by sin, is replaced with a new nature that is under the influence of God’s Spirit (Romans 6-7). Spiritual growth can only occur in a person who knows the Lord Jesus Christ as his or her Savior.

Learning how to grow spiritually is a life-long journey which occurs as you read and apply God’s Word to your life. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches us, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In order for spiritual growth to occur, we must be taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained by God’s Word. Then we will be thoroughly equipped for every good work. This is the essence of spiritual growth.

Another key to Christian growth is walking in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-18, 24-26explains, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Walking in the Spirit is allowing Him to fill you (Ephesians 5:18), control you, and guide you. This is brought about by consciously choosing by faith to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you in thought, word, and deed (Romans 6:11-14). Failure to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance will result in a believer not living up to the calling and standing that salvation provides. Ephesians 4:1 says, “…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

Spiritual Growth – What are the results?
Spiritual growth is a life-long process of manifesting the acts of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) less and less and producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) more and more. Notice that it is the Holy Spirit who produces the fruit in us. Yes, we must submit ourselves to the Spirit’s leading, but it is the Spirit who produces the fruit of spiritual growth in our lives. What does spiritual growth look like? Galatians 5:22-23 has the answer, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” If you are becoming more loving, more joyful, more kind, more self-controlled, etc., then you can rest assured that spiritual growth is genuinely occurring in your life.

God works in different people in different ways. Some people grow rapidly, while others grow slowly, but steadily. Our focus should not be on comparing ourselves with others, but on comparing ourselves with God’s Word. The Scriptures are the mirror to show us what we are like spiritually and to shine light on the areas that need to experience and learn spiritual growth. James 1:23-25 declares, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”

Grow More!

WHAT DO YOU THINK? – We have all sinned and deserve God’s judgment. God, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him. Jesus, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He died for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was buried, and rose from the dead according to the Bible. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your Savior, declaring, “Jesus is Lord,” you will be saved from judgment and spend eternity with God in heaven.

What is your response?


Portrait of the blood pt 2

In Analysis: The Blood Is Perfect 
The virgin birth of Christ established His righteousness. 
Judas cried out. “I have betrayed innocent blood.” 
Paul explained, “For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 
Pilate said, “I find in him no fault at all.” John 18:38 
Jesus Himself said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” John 8:46 
He was spoken of as, “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” Hebrews 7:26 
Again, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” I Peter 2:22 
John added, “in Him is no sin.” I John 3:5

A natural father would have imparted the sin-nature of Adam
to Christ and His death would not have provided redemption. The virgin birth is absolutely essential to the salvation of our souls.
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin and did not have original sin. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet saying, 
Matthew 1:23 
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 

Jeremiah the prophet had spoken years before on this. He said, “The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth, a woman shall compass a man.” Jeremiah 31:22 
It certainly was a new thing for a woman without a man to give birth to a child. The Adamic nature is passed to the offspring by the blood line of the man. There were no impurities in the blood of Christ. Everything about Christ was perfect including His blood.

II. In Application: The Blood Is Pure 
One of reasons we use grape juice in our Communion Service instead of wine is because wine has to go through a process of fermentation. The process of fermentation is actually bacteria working in the juice. It is a rotting process. This could never give a proper picture of the sinless Blood of Christ. For all that is holy, Satan has his counterfeit…and communion is no exception! Pure grape juice is the true symbol of the pure Blood of the Lord Jesus, just as the bread is to be without leaven.

When Dr. Curtis Hutson was struggling with cancer, on a number of occasions he went through a treatment called “Keylation.” Keylation is similar to dialysis in that the blood is removed from the body and sent through a machine that cleanses the impurities from it and then pumps it back into the body. This treatment prolonged Dr. Hutson’s life for a good long time.
After his blood had been purged of germs, disease, and bad cells, it was then able to work against the enemy cells that were at war with his system. 
The writer of Hebrews stated, “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?” Hebrews 9:13,14
When the pure blood of the Saviour is applied to the sinner, it provides cleansing. John explained, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” I John 1:7

“What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus
what can make me whole again?
Nothing but the Blood of Jesus
Oh, precious is the flow
that makes me white as snow
No other fount I know
nothing but the Blood of Jesus.

Peter wrote, “For as much as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Peter 1:18, 19
and because it is pure, it is purifying!

III. In Action: The Blood Is Perpetual 
the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were continuous year after year. The blood of bulls and goats provided forgiveness and pardon temporarily only because it pointed to the sacrifice of Christ and His blood being shed for the covering of our sin.
The writer of Hebrews speaks of Christ as one, “Who needed not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:27

Again Paul tells us that it was, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood had he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 9:12 
Then again, “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Hebrews 9:26
The Bible states, “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God.” Hebrews 10:12.

The death of Christ set into motion a continuous cleansing for those who trust in Him. We are given the gift of eternal life that He purchased with His blood. Thank God we are washed once and for all, forever.
The Bible speaks of the “blood of the everlasting Covenant.” Hebrews 13:20. Our faith in His blood is all it takes to settle it forever and ever.

IV. In Accomplishment: The Blood Is Powerful!
The song writer wrote: 
Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There is power in the Blood
would you over evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the Blood
there is power, power wonder working power
In the Blood of the Lamb
There is power, power wonder working power
in the precious Blood of the Lamb

John wrote, “Thou hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” Revelation 5:9
It takes amazing power to do that! We are told that they overcame the wicked one, Satan, by the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 12:11 
It takes a lot of power to do that, too!
False religion has always denied the blood and its power.
Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science movement wrote, “The material blood of Jesus is no more efficacious to cleanse from sin when it was shed upon the cursed tree than when it was flowing through His veins.”
R. B. Theime, a Bible teacher in Texas, declared, “The red liquid that ran through the veins and arteries of Jesus’ mortal body is not related to our salvation.”
Of course, these teachers and many like them stand in complete opposition to the Bible that declares, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22

V. In Acquittal: The Blood Is Permanent
Joke—a woman at a photography studio said : “do me justice”/photographer replied, you don’t need justice, you need mercy!

“Acquit” is a heavy word…it means to pay off, to free, to clear, to absolve. It has a far reaching meaning extending from the past all the way to the future.
Ill.—OJ Simpson wacome back on him now in a court of law. Not even “new evidence” can be presented.
You say, yeah, but I don’t believe justice was done. Well, neither do I… but you and I are guilty and we know it…and we don’t want justice, we want mercy! And we need it to be permanent…sins forgiven AND forgotten! “His mercies are new every morning,” the Bible says.Not only our past sin was covered but also our present and future sins are put under the blood when we trust in Christ as Savior.
Jesus’ blood cleanses from our past sins. Isaiah said, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”Isaiah 44:22
David spoke to this when he stated, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12 
He promised not to remember them again. “I will remember them no more against you forever.”
Jesus’ blood covers our present sins, both the sins of omission and the sins of commission. Whether it be things we ought to be doing and are not doing or whether it be things we are doing that we ought not to be doing. These are covered fully by His Blood atonement.
Jesus’ blood continues to atone for future sins. This is not to say we can just go ahead and sin…a truly saved person won’t have that attitude. But we can know that despite our very best efforts, we are sinners, and will yet sin, but we don’t have to get saved again. Do we need to confess it to God and make it right? Of course! As we continue to walk thru this life we’ll need daily foot washings, but praise God that one time “all over bath” secures us from all sin: past, present, and future!
“The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” I John 1:7 
Jesus’ blood conquers all sin!

VI. In Appraisal: The Blood Is Precious
We love to sing, “Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know. Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.”
Peter used the term precious to describe the Blood of Christ. He said, “But with the precious Blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Peter 1:19


Portrait of the blood

Without blood there cannot be life in the physical body. That is just as true in the Bible. Blood flows through the Bible just as it does through our veins. The blood of Christ keeps Christianity alive. Someone has said, “Cut the Bible anywhere and it will bleed.” The blood is spoken of 427 times in our Bible, so it is easy to see, this is not a minor theme. Without the blood, the Gospel is dead and we are deprived of eternal life.
Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26:28
Paul added, “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without the shedding of blood is no remission.” He also explained, “We have redemption through the blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14. 
Peter added, “We are not redeemed with silver and gold, and precious stones, but with the precious blood of Christ.” I Peter 1:18 
Then John agreed with Peter and Paul, He wrote, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” I John 1:7

The early church understood the blood…the 22 sermons recorded by the four preachers in the Book of Acts all give the same message, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They understood that His death and the provision of “covering by the blood” was the essential ingredient of the Gospel. [“There, that should cover it!” – The idea of payment to cover as well as hiding it from sight.]
– “His gaze always passes thru rose-colored glasses every time He looks on my heart.” Wayne Watson

Can you see this portrait of the blood? It’s hard to see blood…it’s internal. To make it external hurts…you have to be cut or injured. But the Bible paints in broad strokes the blood on a canvas, and then in minute detail God’s Word breaks it down to the cellular level—the importance of the blood of Christ! We can see this today…but even more important is that God sees the blood applied to our lives, and passes over us!

Let’s put the blood of Christ under the microscope and do some forensic study…then we’ll get the complete picture—a portrait of the blood.

I. In Analysis: The Blood Is Perfect 
The virgin birth of Christ established His righteousness. 
Judas cried out. “I have betrayed innocent blood.” 
Paul explained, “For He (God) hath made Him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 
Pilate said, “I find in him no fault at all.” John 18:38 
Jesus Himself said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” John 8:46 
He was spoken of as, “Holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.” Hebrews 7:26 
Again, “Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” I Peter 2:22 
John added, “in Him is no sin.” I John 3:5

A natural father would have imparted the sin-nature of Adam
to Christ and His death would not have provided redemption. The virgin birth is absolutely essential to the salvation of our souls.
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin and did not have original sin. Matthew quotes Isaiah the prophet saying, 
Matthew 1:23 
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 

Jeremiah the prophet had spoken years before on this. He said, “The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth, a woman shall compass a man.” Jeremiah 31:22 
It certainly was a new thing for a woman without a man to give birth to a child. The Adamic nature is passed to the offspring by the blood line of the man. There were no impurities in the blood of Christ. Everything about Christ was perfect including His blood