Friday, May 29, 2015

How Do We Hear the Word?

Jesus went about His ministry speaking in parables. It says in Mark 4:34 "But without a parable He did not speak to them." Jesus spoke in parables so that they could more easily understand what He was trying to say to the people. One parable that Jesus spoke about concerns "the sower". This parable is found in Mark 4:3-20 and in Matthew 13:18-23. In Mark’s account of this parable Jesus said: "Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." (Mark 4:3-8). Of all the parables that Jesus told, this one in particular really cuts to the heart of why man does not always respond to the preaching and teaching of the gospel of Christ. Jesus points out to us that there are four kinds of hearers out here in the world. You and I are one of these kind. So which one are we? The one we are depends on what we do with the Word of God once we have heard it. Assuming that each of us has heard God’s Word, now let’s see where we stand in relationship to this parable that Jesus told.

Are We Shallow?
As the Word of God is sown or preached, and we hear the Word, do we immediately let Satan come along and lead us back into sin and the ways of the world? Some are very shallow, allowing Satan to immediately get his grips back in them. The Word that they heard quickly leaves them as they again become servants of Satan and not the Lord Jesus (Mark 4:15).

Are We Rootless?
Again as God’s Word is taught are we like the seed that fell on the stony ground? Did we receive God’s Word with great gladness of heart and get excited about it for just a short time, only to see it quickly fade away? If this is so, then we are "rootless!" When tribulation and persecution comes our way we quickly succumb to the pressures of having to uphold the Word of God and we immediately stumble away. There are many who have eagerly received the Word of God, got excited about it for a short time but then drifted back into the world, letting Satan take command and control of their life! Individuals like this are simply rootless!

Are We Entangled?
This is where I believe most people are today. They are entangled with the affairs of this world and not the affairs of God. Jesus said that this type of person is the one that is likened to the thorny ground. The Word of God is heard but the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things choke out the Word to the extent that no fruit can ever be realized. Many today are entangled in the affairs of the world because they neglect the first commandment that Jesus taught and that is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). When we do not truly love God with all of our inner being then certainly the cares of the world and the lusts of it will take over and we will become entangled with them.

Are We Fruitful?
The one who hears the Word of God, accepts it, and bears fruit because of it is the one that will inherit eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9). We must make sure that our ground (heart) is fertile, always ready and willing to receive God’s Word and DO what He asks of us! Let us all long for a fertile heart, and be anxious to bear fruit.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Memorial Day - Celebrated Weekly

Tomorrow, May 25th is "Memorial Day," a time when our nation pauses to reflect on the thousands of military men and women that 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!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

You Are a Very Influential Person

Whether you want to admit it or not, you are very influential! Your influence follows you closer than your own shadow. From the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, no matter what you did or did not do, your influence completed a hard days work. There are some things you can be and there are some things you can't be, but there is one thing you will ALWAYS be, whether you try or not, and that is to be an influence before others.

Your Influence Is Important
Do you know who is watching you, trying to imitate your actions or words each day? Could it be a co-worker, the grocery store clerk, the banker, a friend, your spouse, or even your children? No, you don't know who is watching you, trusting in you, or holding to your example as you walk your daily walk. That is why it is so vitally important that we examine ourselves daily to ensure that we are walking in the light as Jesus is the light (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 1:7). Our influence could very well mean the difference between one that will want to seek Jesus or turn them off to Christianity. None of us would ever want to be held responsible at the judgment for causing someone to be lost because of our influence before them. That is why it is so vitally important for us to strive to be the right influence before God and man!

We Have Many Good Influences To Imitate
In the pages of the Old Testament there are many individuals that we can read about that set themselves up as good influences. There was Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Solomon, Josiah, Esther, God's prophets, and others. In the New Testament we have the positive influence of Peter, Timothy, Titus, Lydia, Paul and others. We also have the greatest influence that ever was and that is Jesus Christ. We have many good Bible individuals to look to as examples for us because their influence was for good. And if we would put our greatest trust and love in Jesus Christ, and follow his unwavering influence then we also will have a positive effect on others as He has on us! Peter said: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:" (1 Peter 2:21). Let's notice the seriousness of the following poem:

There isn't a word that a preacher can say,
No matter how lovely or true,
Nor is there a prayer that his eager lips pray,
That can preach such a sermon as you.
You vowed to serve Christ and men know that you did,
They're watching the things that you do;
There isn't one action of yours that is hid,
Men are watching and studying you.
You say you're no preacher? Yes, but you preach
A wonderful sermon each day.
The acts of your life are the things that you teach,
It isn't the things that you say.
So, Christians, remember you bear his dear name;
Your lives are for others to view.
You are living examples, men praise you, or blame,
And measure all Christians by YOU!

We should never be afraid to let others imitate our lives - the apostle Paul wasn't. He said: "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Philippians 4:9), and "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Let Christ live in YOU so you can be a very influential person to others in a positive way!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Inspiration of the Bible

Do you really believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God? Your answer to that question should affect how you use the Bible and its teachings in your personal life. We must understand that the Bible is not the product of man. The inspired apostle Peter writes: "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). B.B. Warfield, ISBE, III: page 1473 states: "inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of what their writings are given Divine trustworthiness." How we view the inspiration of the Bible will have practical effects upon our faith, life, and eternity (Romans 10:17; Matthew 4:4).

Various passages of scripture claim the inspiration of the word. Please take a few minutes and read the following passages: John 14:26, John 16:13, Galatians 1:12, and 1 Thessalonians 2:13. We also learn that the Bible writers claimed to be speaking the very word of God. "Thus saith the Lord" or something equivalent occurs over 2,000 times in the Old Testament. Three prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel said the following: "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken…" (Isaiah 1:2). "Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD…" (Jeremiah 10:1-2). "The word of the LORD came expressly to Ezekiel the priest…" (Ezekiel 1:3).

We further learn that the Bible is verbally inspired. God directed men to speak His will using words. He revealed to them the very words that He wanted them to speak. God did not inspire men with "concepts" or "ideas" and then leave them to their own creative abilities to speak for God. Again, please take a few minutes and read the following scriptures that pertain to this point: 1 Corinthians 2:10-13, 2 Samuel 23:2, Jeremiah 1:9, 36:4. This process of inspiration is summed up in Zechariah 7:12: "Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts."

God’s inspired Scriptures are incorruptible, in that His word will continue forever. Peter writes: Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you" (1 Peter 1:22-25). Scripture is the Authoritative word of God. "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37).

The inspiration of the Bible is supported by its unity and fulfilled prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), and it completely equips a person to do God’s will (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Divine inspiration secures the Bible’s authenticity, credibility and reliability. We must build and maintain our trust in the verbally-inspired word of God because it alone has 1) The power to save (Romans 1:16), 2) The power to defeat error (Jude 3; Acts 6:10), and 3) The power to give life (John 12:48-50).

May we strive to resist every infringement on the inspiration of the Bible, the word of God — truly, the Bible is the inspired word of God!