Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day -- Celebrated Weekly

This Monday, May 26th is “Memorial Day,” a time when our nation pauses to reflect on the thousands of military men and women who have given their lives for our country so that we can continue to enjoy our freedom without molestation. These men and women paid the ultimate price as they sacrificed their lives so that you and I and our children might have a better place to live. We can certainly understand their sacrifice knowing that when they died, they would not enjoy the blessings and freedom that they gave to us. We should be very thankful to each one of these individuals that loved and respected our country to the point of death! But in the giving of their lives, this country sets aside only one day per year called “Memorial Day” to remember their lives that were sacrificed for this country.

 The Memorial of Jesus
As Christians we have the opportunity to observe “Memorial Day” in a spiritual sense when we observe the Lord's Supper EVERY first day of the week. The disciples left us a clear example of this in Acts 20:7 “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread....” We are required to “remember” Jesus Christ as we understand that he paid the greatest price of all in that while we were yet sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8). He died so that you and I can have the freedom of everlasting life with Him. We remember Jesus in the emblems that we partake of each and every week. The unleavened bread which represents His body that was broken on the cross for us and the fruit of the vine which represents His blood that was shed for us that we can have forgiveness of our sins. Jesus said that when we partake of these emblems that we are to do so “in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

The Greatest Sacrifice of All
When we remember our men and women once a year on “Memorial Day” that have given their life for this country, we are remembering their sacrifice and the life they gave for us. When we remember our Lord Jesus Christ each “Memorial Day” (first day of the week), we think of His great sacrifice for us. But we remember not just His death, but His resurrection! If Jesus would have simply died and never risen, then His death would have been in vain. But oh what a precious memory it is to know that He arose! And it was through that resurrection that we can have life (John 3:16). As we remember our Lord Jesus on the first day of every week we can remember that He suffered and died for us, but more importantly, that He was risen on the third day, overcoming death, so we too might also live. This remembrance of Jesus is sad in that He had to die for sinners but it was also joyous in that He loved us, even to the point of death. Now as we remember His resurrection, gaining new life, that we too might have new life in Christ. The apostle Paul said it very plainly when he wrote "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:3-11). What a wonderful thing it is as Christians to have the opportunity to have “Memorial Day” every week, as we remember the greatest sacrifice of all!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Conversion of Saul

The book of Acts chapters 9, 22, and 26 tell us of the conversion of Saul, known later as the apostle Paul. By learning about Saul and his conversion we can learn what we must do in order to be a Christian. What kind of man was Saul? When he was talking to young Timothy and explaining that Jesus came into the world to save sinners he added: “of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). He clearly admitted that he was beyond a doubt a sinner before God. Before we can be converted to the Lord, we must first recognize as Saul did that we are a sinner (Romans 3:23). Saul knew he was a sinner even though he came from a very good ancestry (Philippians 3:5), and had a great education (Acts 22:3). So just because we might have a wonderful family background and a great education, that alone can’t save us. No matter how well known our family is and no matter how much college and other schools we have attended and completed, we still must acknowledge we are in sin and need God’s help.

What Was Saul’s Great Sin?
But what was Saul’s great sin that moved him to tell Timothy that he was chief among sinners? He explains in Acts 22:4 that he was involved in persecuting Christians. There it says: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women.” He felt bad that he had delivered Christians up to be killed and thrown into prison. He did this, but he did this ignorantly. He told Timothy “although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). Saul’s mistake was in regard to religion, he thought that he was right, but in fact he was very wrong. In Acts 26:9 he said: “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” 

Paul later admitted before anyone that would listen that he was wrong in what he did. He further stated that when he was doing these things contrary to God’s will that “I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14). And all the time that he was zealously persecuting Christians he did so in all GOOD CONSCIENCE (Acts 23:1; 24:16). What can we learn from Saul’s great sin? We should learn that a person may think he is right, be zealous, have a good conscience and yet still be WRONG!  Until we are willing to open up the Word of God and read what we MUST do in order to be saved, with an honest and open heart, then we too might very well be guilty of doing sin, yet in good conscience. Remember “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). We will never know what it is that we are SUPPOSED to do if we do not read it. We can never gain Bible faith, if we don’t read it!

Saul Becomes an Apostle and a Christian
Let’s take a moment to carefully distinguish between the things that made Paul an apostle and the things that made him a Christian. The things that transpired in Acts 22:6-9 is what allowed Paul to call himself an apostle. The text says: “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? So I answered, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting. And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.” In this reading we can understand that Jesus appeared specifically to Paul (verse 9), not to any other. He understands and explains that this event happened because he was chosen to be a “witness” for Christ. The scripture says: “Then he said, 'The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15).

Saul became a Christian when he OBEYED the voice of the Lord. In Acts 9:6 it says: “So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Why did the Lord tell Saul to go to Damascus and see a man named Ananias? Because that work had been committed into the hands of men. Why was it that Ananias did not tell him to believe? Because Saul was already a believer at this point. Why didn’t Ananias tell Saul to repent? Because he was already penitent. So what was it then that Saul was told to do? In Acts 22:16 it says: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Saul was not saved, was not a Christian, until he was baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27). That is the only way his sins could be washed away. The very same way that sins were washed away (forgiven) on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached the first sermon. At that time Peter commanded the people: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

We can learn a valuable lesson from Saul. When he learned the truth - he OBEYED and was baptized. Have you learned the truth, OBEYED, and been baptized? Tomorrow may be too late!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gospel Meeting with David Lanius

If you are in the Loveland, Colorado area on June 5-8, please come and join for a gospel meeting with David Lanius from Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. In addition to the 7 lessons he will be preaching for us, we will have a congregational singing on Saturday afternoon
at 1:30 P.M. on June 7th. Please come and join us!

Forsaken the Right Way

We read in 2 Peter 2:15 “They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” How sad it is to see those that once walked in the ways of the Lord to abandon His love and go the way of Satan. Yet there are many that have not forsaken the way of the Lord and remain steadfast in His service. These are the ones that understand that the right way, the way leading to eternal life has been dedicated by Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer wrote: “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).

Our Duty to the Right Way
The Christian’s duty is not to forsake the right way of the Lord (2 Peter 2:15). Earlier in verse 15 we can learn where we are not to even speak evil of it, and in Acts 13:10, not to pervert the right way of the Lord. We have a responsibility in this life and that is to FIND the right way and then enter into it. Jesus said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Failure on our part to find and enter the right way will cost us our very soul! Let us be determined to know the right way (Acts 18:26), teach it (Luke 20:21), and then walk in it (Isaiah 35:8-9). Don’t forsake the right way.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Why Some Christians Are Not Devoted

I have wondered many times why it is that some Christians do not seem to be truly devoted to their Christianity. I now believe it is because they do not understand what it means to be a genuine disciple of Christ. One can never hope to be the kind of Christian God intends for one to be if one has not learned discipleship. Webster defines disciple as: “A pupil or follower of any teacher or school; A follower of Jesus". Every Christian must learn that one must forsake every person and every thing and put Christ FIRST in their life. To forsake is to "give up; renounce; leave; abandon; desert.” Those unwilling to do so will not enter into heaven and will never become the servant that Jesus expects one to be! When a Christian can truly grasp the importance of following Christ, doing ALL His commandments, then one will become an effective servant in God's kingdom. When one does not learn this lesson first and foremost, then one will find that they are spinning their wheels and being unstable because "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).

We Must Take A Stand For Jesus Above All Else
Every Christian must first strive to do Christ's will. Jesus said that only those that do His will enter into heaven and those that don't will be cast away into an eternal hell (Matthew 7:21-23). In Matthew 10:32-39 we can learn a valuable lesson on what Jesus truly means by being a true disciple of His. We have got to be willing to confess Jesus each day of our lives before men. No matter where we are, or what we are doing others should see us living a life as a Christian "proclaiming godliness". It is only when we take a stand FOR Christ that He will take a stand for us: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). One of the toughest things we must do as Christians is to go against the personal beliefs of our own parents, brothers, or sisters. Jesus addresses that in this passage. We must be prepared to even put our physical family second to Jesus if we ever hope to have eternal life with Him. He said "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37). When we make decisions to do things with our family at the expense of doing Christ's will then we are not worthy of being His disciple (Matthew 10:35-38).

We Must Be Willing To Deny Self and Serve Jesus
This may be the hardest lesson for a Christian to learn. Until one can put their own interests, passions, and desires, second to serving Christ, then one is not ready to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus said "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24-25). Many will be cast away into hell on the day of judgment because they would not deny their own lusts and desires and put Jesus first!

Excuses Won’t Cut It - We Must Not Look Back
In Luke 9:57-61 Jesus urged several to follow Him. But in each case they made excuse for why they had to do something else first. Jesus sums this up by saying "No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). Then later in Luke 14:16-33 He told the story of the man that made a great supper and invited many. But those that were invited made excuses why they could not attend. Jesus invites us to join Him in teaching others and living the Christian life but many make excuses on why they can't put Jesus first in their life.

A disciple of Christ truly loves Jesus and one another (John 13:34-35; 14:15,21,23) A true disciple will continue in His word. Jesus said: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). See also Acts 14:22. A true disciple will be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). Only a dedicated disciple is worthy to wear the name Christian (Acts 11:26).

Each and every Christian must be determined to follow Jesus. If you do, you can have peace through His word which says; "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" (1 John 1:7). Let us be determined to walk in the light of Christ, serving Him because we have a sincere desire to and not looking back because we KNOW that our reward is ahead of us if we remain faithful to Jesus until the day of our death! May God bless each of us as we strive to put Jesus FIRST each day that we live!