The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

(John 10:1-15)

God pictures His care for His people through the image of a Shepherd and his sheep. In Psalm 80:1 God is called the “Shepherd of Israel.” In John Chapter 9 Jesus has just healed a blind man. When the man who had been healed would not denounce Jesus he was kicked out of the synagogue.

The religious leaders left him to wander alone fending for himself, but he didn’t remain alone for very long. Jesus found him. The false-shepherds of Israel neglected the sheep. They were reckless and destructive.

But God hadn’t forgotten His people. He sent a Good Shepherd, a righteous loving and perfect Shepard to rescue and care for His sheep. Jesus is that Good Shepherd that God sent to care for His sheep.

Jesus Gathers His Sheep

John 10:1-6 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.

 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

 6 This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.”

If you have believed on Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are His sheep and you will never be forgotten. Others may cast you aside, but your Shepherd will come and gather you to Himself.

Jesus here highlights the relationship between the Shepherd and his sheep. The sheep are in a sheepfold. The only legitimate way to collect the sheep is through the gate.

  • The Shepherd calls each sheep gently by name.
  • Jesus knows each of His sheep personally.
  • He is a personal Shepherd. He knows your strengths and your weaknesses.
  • He knows if you’re an older sheep who walks a little slower. He knows if you’re younger sheep full of energy and enthusiasm.
  • He knows when you need to rest and when you need to eat. He knows everything about you.

The Good Shepherd calls His sheep by name. He brings out those who are His own, those who have believed on Him. Jesus said in John 6:37 “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Jesus came and His sheep responded — their response is simple they hear, they believe, and they follow.

Now being called a sheep is not a compliment.

Sheep are not known for their intelligence. In fact, they are known for the opposite of intelligence. The reason they need a Shepherd is because they are dull and defenseless. They will wander off a cliff or into a gully. They have no natural means to defend themselves.

This image of the unitelligent sheep needing constant guiding and supervision, should help stem our pride in ourselves and in what we think we can do for ourselves. Even on our best days we are still helpless sheep desperately in need of a Shepherd.

Now, Jesus not only gathers His sheep…

Jesus Guards His Sheep

John 10:7-10 “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

9 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

Jesus changes the metaphor slightly. He is not just a Shepherd He’s also the gate or the door for the sheep. The gate keeps out those who intend to harm the sheep. Jesus promises to guard and protect His sheep from those who desire to hurt them.

In chapter nine of John the religious leaders rejected a man because he publicly confessed his faith in Jesus.  In response to this Jesus reminds them that God called those religious leaders wicked shepherds who would harm the sheep.

Now at this point, those listening to Jesus, might be thinking who can I trust then?  And the answer to that question is simple – Jesus – the Good Shepherd. We can trust Him. We can come to Him.

Through Him you will find protection from the thieves and the robbers. When you enter the flock of the Good Shepherd, He will guard you, He will protect you.

Everything in our life must center on Jesus Christ. He is our Shepherd. He bids us to come through Him into the fold. He is the door and the door offers us protection.

The door offers peace, It offers us security from those who would attempt to turn us from following the Shepherd.

Entering the flock of God through Jesus Christ not only protects us from danger but it also protects us from hunger. Jesus wants to have life and to have it more abundantly.

He protects us wherever we go. Through Him we find the best pasture to feast on to our hearts content. Through Him we find the blessings of life and the joy that only comes through a personal relationship with Him.

The Christian life is not simply being saved from something we are also saved to something – we are saved to an abundant life in Jesus – the Good Shepherd.

We are not just protected from the distraction of sin. We are given the joy of walking with Jesus. Now Jesus does not promise us a troubled free life. What He does promise though, is joy that is bigger and lasts longer than our troubles.

So that even when we walk through the Valley of the shadow of death, we do not have to fear any evil. Even we feel like enemies are encamped around us Jesus will prepare a table for us in the presence of those enemies.

Christianity is about joy, about peace, about comfort, about security. God made us to enjoy Him, to trust Him and to have peace in this life through Him – not matter the circumstances.

If your life is about any thing other than Jesus Christ that thing will steal your joy. It will rob you of the delight God wants you to have in Jesus. If you pursue anything as ultimate in your life other than Jesus Christ it will fail, it will disappoint, it will be found lacking.

But in Jesus Christ, regardless of your circumstances, you can discover unshakable joy and an abundant life. Not at abundance of possessions or even an abundance of laughs but a life overflowing with joy in Jesus.

He promises the closer we walk with Him and the more intimately we follow Him the greater our joy will be. Jesus called us to feast at His table to rejoice in His presence.

Jesus is the gate; He is the door. Through Him we rest in the safety of the fold and rejoice in the sweetness of the field. Jesus the Good Shepherd lovingly gathers His sheep to Himself and then guards them from all danger.

Jesus Gives His Life for the Sheep

John 10:11-15 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

13  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

15 As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

In one act we see most clearly the Shepherds care for the sheep. When the sheep are in imminent danger the Shepherd gives His life to save them – He lays down His life for the sheep.

Jesus is different from the religious leaders of His day, in many ways Jesus points to their relationship with the sheep and says in effect you’re simply hired hands. To them tending the sheep was a job, a way to make extra money.

A hired hand loves his life more than he loves the sheep. But Jesus is not a hired hand. These sheep are His and He loves them more than He loves His own life. That is why He lays down His life to protect His sheep.

Over and over again, Jesus promises to lay down His life for His sheep.

Jesus is the hero of the story when He sees the Wolf coming, He doesn’t run away. He steps in front of the sheep. He will not out allow anything to hurt or harm them.

No price is too great to pay for His sheep. No price is to great to pay – for the Good Shepherd loves His sheep, the Good Shepherd loves us.

Jesus came to take away our sin, He came to die for us, to pay sins penalty for us, so that we might have life and have it more abundantly through Him.

John 1:29 “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

John 5:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

Jesus came to give us life, to give us eternal life. Jesus the Good Shepherd gave His life to protect His sheep from predators to protect His sheep from sin, to protect His sheep from judgment and from death.

Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

So where does His death leave us? Are we shepherdless? Not at all! Jesus death defeated sin and death in judgment because He did not stay dead. He arose!

Death could not defeat Him.  Jesus continues to Shepherd His sheep. He is victorious! He is risen! He is a living glorious and victorious Shepherd!

If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then what you need to do is simple – you need to follow Jesus. Don’t look elsewhere. Don’t wander away. Recognize that in Him we have everything we could ever need.

When we’re tired, He brings us to rest in green pastures. When we’re thirsty He leads us beside the still waters. When we’re uncertain He leads us on the paths of righteousness. When were afraid He comforts us with His presence.

Follow the Good Shepherd. As you follow Him goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life and on His timetable, He will lead you to His house where you will dwell with Him forever.

 

 

The Irrational Call: “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”

This Epistle is likely the first book of the New Testament written: and what does the Holy Spirit lead James to pen as some of the first Words of the New Testament? – “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” – The first thing the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate to Christians is that we would have trials, many trials, and we should find joy in the midst of them.

James wrote this book to explain the purpose of trials and temptations, to explain to a people who had been rooted in ritualism the meaning of genuine faith that changes lives, and to warn them of carnality and worldliness using practical applications. It was written to help us understand and attain spiritual maturity “that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” James 1:4. James desired us to become spiritually mature Christians, Christians of character, Christians of integrity, and with no spiritual weak spots.

One thing is very clear the dominant theme of the book of James is “Faith that is real works practically in one’s life, and that true faith is a faith that works.”

James shows us how to have a living faith, a breathing faith, and a productive faith in a fallen world. In this short book alone there are fifty-four imperatives. James is a “Do this!”, “Do that!” kind of book, which if taken to heart and implemented into our lives will dynamically effect our lives on every level.

James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;”

JAMES IRRATIONAL CALL

“Divers temptations” – means various trials.

Notice that James assumes we will all experience trials – He doesn’t say “if” but “when.” This is because Christians must expect trials, so said Jesus in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Paul also said as much in – Acts 14:22. We are told the nature of these trials are “various”:

  • Some trials come simply because we are human: sickness, accidents, disappointments, death
  • Other trials come because we are Christians (I Peter 4:12. II Timothy 3:12). Because Satan fights against us, and the world opposes us, so we can expect trials!

The trials that afflict you,

The sorrows you endure:

What are they but the testing

That makes you calling sure?

(John Mason Neale)

“God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis

What is to be a Christians response to trials? – “Count it all joy”, this is the Irrational Call of James. What does James command, to “count it all joy” when we are hit with trials and troubles, really mean? Fist let’s clarify what it does not mean. James does not mean that we are to have an all-encompassing joyful emotional state during severe trials and situations. He is not demanding that we enjoy our trials. James knows all too well, as the writer of Hebrews put it, that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:” (Hebrews 12:11)

What James is doing here is commending the conscious embrace of a Christian understanding of life which brings joy into trials.

Count it all joy” – means here to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy even in times of trouble. – Is this even possible? – According to Scripture it is:

II Corinthians 7:4 “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.”

Acts 5:40-41 “And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.”

Acts 16:25 “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”

Illustration: Many years ago a pastor underwent the worst year of his life. His wife had undergone five surgeries, plus chemotherapy and radiation, fighting a hopeless battle, several of his staff members had quit, large problems loomed everywhere he looked, and discouragement was attacking him from all directions. This is what he wrote:

“The greatest discovery that I have made in the midst of all the difficulties is that I can have joy when I can’t feel like it – artesian joy. When I had every reason to feel beaten, I felt joy. In spite of everything. God gave me the conviction to being loved and the certainty that nothing could separate me from Him. It was not happiness, gush, or jolliness, but a constant flow of the Spirit through me. At no time did He give me the easy confidence that everything would work out as I wanted it on my timetable, but that He was in charge and would give me and my family enough courage for each day: grace. Joy is always the result of that.”

James is telling us with this command “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” to thoughtfully find joy in our own trying experiences –when we feel alienated, when we feel unwanted, to find joy even in great difficulty and tragedy. Such joy finding may seem irrational, but Christ is perfectly rational and perfectly able to flow His joy straight through us just as we need it the most. Right thinking always comes before right practice. We need to think the way we are commanded to think about problems and just rely on the Lord and trust in Him.

James is not saying the trials are good in themselves. But there is a joy that is independent of circumstances which may be found in remembering God’s sovereignty and purposes.

James 1:3-4Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

THE RATIONALE FOR THE IRRATIONAL CALL

trying” – This word has the idea of a precious metal that is heated in a furnace to refine its impurities. God has a good purpose for the “trying” of our faith.

God has a goal in mind – You can count on that. James is speaking here about the attitude of your heart toward your trouble. How are you reacting to it? We should have an attitude of faith and trust God in the trial. Trials are meaningless, suffering is senseless, and testing is irrational unless there is some good purpose for them. God says there is a reason for them, and it is a good reason.

Faith tested produces “patience.” (Romans 5:3-4 – And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:)

  • In the Bible – “Patience” is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. The Greek word denotes the ability to exhibit steadfastness and consistency in the face of the most formidable difficulty! It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering! It is the continuing on even when it is rough, despite the circumstances.

The word “Perfect” in James 1:4 means “completeness, wholeness, maturity.” In the New Testament, it is used of those who: Have attained to spiritual maturity in Christ and who have reached full maturity and understanding in spiritual matters.

Such maturity comes only when patience has had time to work! Consider, for example, an endurance runner in his training: To be a mature runner requires letting patience do its work. If we wish to run the race well spiritually speaking, we need to develop patience.

  • Which comes only through a form of spiritual “resistance training.”
  • That is, trials in which our faith is put to the test!

Adversity is like a stress test, pushing us up to and beyond our limits, so that we will recognize our dependence upon God, and call on Him for help in the time of trouble. Adversity is designed to produce endurance in our lives. And this endurance perfects us, so that we will become complete, and lacking nothing.

James forces us to look at ourselves – in an entirely different light. So many people think of themselves as basically okay, except for their sin. They admit that they need Jesus to forgive their sins, but they feel that the rest of their life does not need any radical change. When we think that we are sufficient in and of ourselves, we deceive ourselves. God brings adversity into our lives to show us our deficiencies, and as we see these deficiencies, we realize that we must cry out to God to supply what we lack.

The entire Christian life is a process of recognizing our deficiencies, and seeking His grace to supply our needs. He has amply provided for our every deficiency. To resist and detest adversity is to resist the sanctifying and perfecting work of God in our lives, but to rejoice or have joy is to embrace His perfecting work in us.

So, what is the Rationale for this Irrational call of James?

The rationale for such joy comes from knowing that the various trials we face have spiritual value. James says there is a two-step process through which our trials evaluate us.

  • First step is to understand that the testing of our faith develops perseverance or staying power (vs.3). Another commentator called it “heroic endurance” and another “fortitude.” How does this work?
  • We develop this perseverance or fortitude in our life by repeatedly being tested and prevailing.
  • There is no way anyone can develop this kind of staying power or toughness without testing. The spiritual endurance, toughness or staying power of the Apostle Paul, or William Carey did not come overnight, and did not come without trials (Romans 5:3).
  • We can see the same principle in nature. If we were to free a butterfly from its cocoon and eliminate its struggle to free itself, you would destroy its life, it would never develop the strength it needed to soar in its life as it should.
  • God wants us to soar! So He develops our spiritual strength through trials.
  • When fortitude is lacking in one of God’s children, He has a time-tested remedy – “the trying of your faith” Now with this in mind, James irrational call “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” makes perfect sense, and is an indication of God working in our life to perfect us to His image.
  • The rationale becomes even clearer when we observe the second step: Perseverance produces maturity. Spiritual perseverance or toughness produces a dynamic maturity. Mature: refers to a personality which has reached its full development.
  • The perfection that James is speaking of is more that just a maturing character, it is also a rounding out as more and more “parts” of righteous character are added.
  • This maturity is a dynamic state in which a thousand parts of us are honed, shaped, tempered, and brought together, making a dynamic wholeness.
  • It is commonly taught that trials bring maturity, but that is not so. Rather, fortitude and perseverance in times of testing produces maturity. Our reaction to trials and how we navigate them, produces spiritual maturity. As we endure trials of economic stress, disappointments, criticisms, domestic pressures, persecution for our faith, illness, etc. – many different parts of us are being touched with grace and honed into His image:

To illustrate this someone once wrote about how a pearl is made:

Life on earth would not be worth much if every source of irritation were removed. Yet most of us rebel against the things that irritate us, and count as heavy loss what ought to be rich gain. We are told that the oyster is wiser; that when an irritating object, like a bit of sand, gets under the “mantle” of his shell, he simply covers it with the most precious part of his being and makes it a pearl. The irritation that it was causing is stopped by encrusting it with the pearly formation. A true pearl is therefore simply a victory over irritation. Every irritation that gets into our lives today is an opportunity for pearl culture. The more irritations the devil flings at us, the more pearls we may have. We need only to welcome them and cover them completely with love, that most precious part of us, and the irritation will be smothered out as the pearl comes into being. What a store of pearls we may have, if we will!

CONCLUSION

Our Savior also experienced great trials. He experienced them in His human body. He understands our frailties. He set the example for us on how to endure the “trying” of our faith. Christ endured His trials with joy in His mind, just as James commands us to consider our trials with joy, so too did Christ. Joy coexists with suffering where there are higher and better prospects in view. For us the great motivation to endure with joy is to look to the end of the process in which God is at work. Jesus suffered with joy in mind as He too looked toward the end of the process, in which God was at work, with us in mind. (Hebrews 12:2 – Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.)

Paul told Timothy the truth “… all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” II Timothy 3:12. Life will always be full of testing for the true Christian. Trials are not a sign of God’s displeasure but are opportunities to mature in spirit, and in character.  James command the irrational “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” But it does not seem irrational once we learn the reasoning behind it:

  • Testing brings spiritual toughness – “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:3
  • Spiritual toughness brings dynamic maturity – “But let patience have herperfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:4

James calls for a decisive act, to consider our troubles opportunities for joy and endurance. May we in prayer so acknowledge today and it days to come.

Spiritual maturity is not a goal that will ever be entirely achieved in this life, because we shall never be free of ‘self and pride’ until Christ comes and sin is no more. None the less this is God’s purpose, and the hope of our glorious future provides us with the joy and encouragement we need to progress towards it through trials and heed to the Irrational Call of James to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations!”

 

God doth deliver from trouble

II Corinthians 1:8-11 “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”

In my devotions this morning I started reading II Corinthians and the Lord really spoke to me through verses 8-11 in chapter one.

We will have troubles and trials – “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia” (v.8) – Paul is letting us know we are all going to have troubles, we are going to have trials, we are going to have perplexing issues and circumstances come into our life – even as we are in the middle of God’s will for our life – we will, it is guaranteed, we will have problems, trials, and troubles.

Our trials, our problems, our troubles can seem overwhelming and absolutely unbearable in their severity at times – “we were pressed out of measure, above strength” (v.8), – Paul is telling the Corinthians and us that these problems, these trials he had, were overwhelming in their emotional immensity, toil, and strain on him. He was “pressed” by these problems, by these issues, he was “pressed” by this circumstance, “out of measure, above strength” beyond what he thought he could get through.

We may despair “even of life (v.8) – He was, what we might say “stressed out,” he was on the verge of giving up, he just wanted it to end “insomuch that we despaired even of life” (v.8).  Paul was weighed down with an emotional load, due to this trouble, that was too heavy for him to bear. But God knew just how much Paul could take and He knows how much we can take, and God will keep the situation in control. We do not know what the specific “trouble” was for Paul (and I think that is intentional so we can apply these verses to our circumstances), but this trial for Paul was great enough to make him think he was going to die. Whether it was peril from his many enemies, a serious illness or a threat of one, or special satanic attack, we do not know; but we do know that God controlled the circumstances and protected His servant. “When God puts His children into the furnace, He keeps His hand on the thermostat and His eye on the thermometer Paul may have despaired of life, but God did not despair of Paul.”[1]

Don’t trust yourself in the trial – Trust God in the trial – “that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God” (v.9) – We need to put our trust in God in the trials and not ourselves. But why should we trust God? – Because we know He is a miracle working God, “God which raiseth the dead” (v.9). Even if our trial, God forbid, ends in our death – we serve the God that “raiseth the dead!” – We do not even have to fear death itself. Trust God, trust the God that “raiseth the dead.”  He is a miracle working God. He can help when it seems help is not possible. He can solve the problems that look unsolvable. He can rescue you when it seems impossible. He will provide, He will work, and He will rescue, all in His timing – we just need to trust and obey.

Our God “doth deliver”! (v.10) – Our God will deliver us from our trials, from our problems, from our terrible circumstances. Paul testified of this fact in verse ten when he said that God “delivered us from so great a death.” God delivered Paul from this great trial, and He will deliver us too. Notice the wording is this verse it says “doth deliver” that is present tense delivering. That pertains to us today as much as it did to Paul 2000 years ago – our God “doth deliver!” He delivers His children from the fire of trials and trouble.

We need to trust Him that He will deliver us – don’t lose your faith “in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (v.10) – We need to put our trust in Him. We need to trust God with the problem. Remember we were already reminded to not trust in ourselves in the trial, now we are being specifically reminded to trust God in the trials. We need to trust God to “deliver us” from the trial. Paul tells us, in the midst of a trial that makes us despair “even of life” (v.8) to trust God for “he will yet deliver us!” (v.10).  Praise God! Don’t lose hope, don’t lose faith, and keep in mind, we serve the God that, present tense, “doth deliver” and “will yet deliver us!”

Finally, we need to help each other by praying for each other in trials – “Ye also helping together by prayer for us,” – You know the best way we can help each other is to pray for each other. Of course we ought to help in any way we can, but the best source of help for each of us is prayer. We need to help each other, we need to help our fellow believers, we need to help our brothers and sisters in Christ, by prayer.

Do we pray for each other like we should? Paul says “Ye also helping together by prayer for us” (v.11).  These believers, were nowhere near Paul when he was in this deep despair, this incredible trial, yet they helped him. How did they do that? How did they help Paul when he was not near and they could not physically do anything for Him? – They helped him because they were praying for him. They helped him by prayer. It says they were “helping together by prayer.” We need to pray with each other especially in trying times and trials. Pray “together” with other Christians, have some prayer partners, and pray for each other in times of need, pray for each other in times of trouble, pray for each other in times of despairing “even of life” (v.8). Pray for each other. Pray together for others in need. Seek to be part of the “Ye” in verse 11, “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.” Be a help to others – pray for them!

[1] (Wiersbe, 2007)

Justification Brings Joy in Sufferings

Romans 5:3-5 “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”

Justification Brings Joy in Sufferings

Life is complex, it involves pain, sometimes as much as pleasure.  When life is “going well” we can savor and enjoy, but when things are “going badly” for us, what difference does the “peace with God,” the “access by faith,” and the “hope of the glory of God” actually make in our life?  – Paul tells us they make all the difference. Paul says we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” but he says right after, that we also “glory in tribulations” or we glory in trials and troubles.   In effect, Paul is saying, “Not only do we have these joys, but these joys remain joys in our sorrow, and even help us to find joy in our sorrow.” A Christian can and should possess joy in their soul, this will not always necessarily equal happiness, but true joy should permeate a Christian.  Someone once said, “Happiness comes from happenings, but joy is a state of being.

 “We glory in tribulations” – Christians rejoice in sufferings.  This does not mean there is joy in the actual troubles themselves. A Christian knows, as Paul tells us in these verses, that sufferings will have beneficial results for us. “A Christian is not a stoic, who faces suffering by just gritting their teeth. Christians “look through” the suffering to their certainties.[1] We can look through the suffering, the pain, and the trial, to Jesus, and because He has suffered Himself, He is able to comfort us. He is able to give us a state of being that is joy filled even in the midst of the greatest of trials. (Hebrews 2:18 –  For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.)

Illustration: The faith that can’t be shaken is the faith that has been shaken

God tells us “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (I Peter 1:7).

There was a woman named Alice sitting at a restaurant, talking with a friend about painful challenges in their lives. They frequently mentioned the Lord in their conversation. Alice noticed a young woman at the table next to them who had a radiant and joyful face. The young woman smiled and said she had overheard their conversation. Speaking softly, she encouraged Alice and her friend that God understood and cared about their heartaches, and nothing could separate them from God’s love.

Alice continued talking with her friend but realized something was different. The young woman’s words had refreshed them. When the smiling woman got up to leave, Alice saw that she wore bulky shoes, carried a walking stick, and moved with a very pronounced limp.

The waitress told Alice this woman had been in a near-fatal automobile accident the year before. She had been in and out of the hospital and rehabilitation. Her husband divorced her as he grew tired of caring for her. Their home had been sold, and she had just moved into her own apartment. She used public transportation because she could not drive. She had been unable thus far to find a job.

Alice sat stunned. She said, “The young woman’s conversation had been filled with delights of the Lord. There had been no weariness about her. She had encouraged us with words of praise and promise. Meeting her that day, we never would have suspected that storms were raging in her life. Even as she stepped outside into the cold winter wind, she seemed to carry God’s warm shelter of hope with her.”[2]

As Christians we can have joy in the Lord in the midst of trials, as this young woman did as many storms were raging in her life, she let the joy of the Lord shine through her to others. As Paul says, we should “glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts…”

What are the positive results of suffering?

That heading may not sound right; how can suffering be positive? – Remember that Paul is telling us how suffering affects a person who knows he or she is justified strictly by grace, not works, in that case Paul says suffering begins a chain reaction.

  • Suffering leads to “patience” or single-mindedness (v.3) – Suffering makes us focus – it helps us to focus on what is really important. It helps us to re-align our priorities, it removes distractions.
  • Patience leads to “experience” or to character (v.4) – the Greek word used here means “testedness” or “trustiness.” Someone described it this way, “It is a quality of confidence that comes from having been through an experience. It only comes from following through and doing your duty despite it all. And the result is a growing poise that only comes from the experience.[3] Suffering, if it leads you to first focus on God and proper priorities, will lead you to greater confidence, greater peace and greater joy in the Lord as you come through it.
  • All this leads to growth in “hope,” which is a stronger assurance of and confidence in one’s peace, access to God, and future glory. (v.4) – Suffering removes from our life rival sources of confidence and hope; other places we may look to for our sense that, deep down inside, we are OK, that everything will be OK. Suffering drives us to the only place that we can get real hope, to the only place that we can have an authentic feeling of being OK, to the only place where we can have real confidence and real certainty and that place is God.

[1] (Keller, 2014)

[2] (Alcorn, 2009)

[3] (Keller, 2014)

Salvation Explained by Paul

Romans 3:24-26 “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

Vernon McGee shed greater light on the use of the word “justified” in verse twenty-four, he explained it this way:

You see, justification by faith is actually more than subtraction of our sins – that is, forgiveness. It is the addition of the righteousness of Christ. In other words, we are not merely restored to Adam’s former position, but now we are placed in Christ where we shall be throughout the endless ages of eternity sons of God!

Salvation Explained by Paul

We learn seven things about salvation from Paul in verses 24-26 of chapter three:

1.) Salvation is free (v.24) – The word “freely” in verse twenty-four is translated from the Greek word which means “without a cause.” Paul is saying we are justified freely “without a cause” originating from our self, there is no basis for our justification. There is no explanation in us for it.

2.) Salvation is by and through grace (v.24) – there is nothing a sinner can do to earn his own salvation, it is a gift from God, given to us through His grace. “It is by His grace, which means that there is no merit on our part. Grace is unmerited favor; it is love in action.”[1]

3.) Salvation is by and through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 24, 25) – Redemption means to buy back; one person put it this way, “redemption is a buying, by means of a price paid.[2] Jesus bought us back at the tremendous price of His shed blood. Oliver B. Green said this about this point:

All men belong to God by creation – the devil never created man, nor could he ever create a man – but only those who are saved belong to God by redemption. Jesus bought back everything Adam sold to the devil in the Garden of Eden.”[3]

Jesus is our “propitiation” – “In human terms, “propitiation” means appeasing someone who is angry, usually by a gift. But this is not what it means in the Bible. “Propitiation” means the satisfying of God’s holy law, the meeting of its just demands, so that God can freely forgive those who come to Christ. The word blood tells us what the price was. Jesus had to die on the cross in order to satisfy the law and justify lost sinners.”[4]

To be a propitiation” – this phrase points back to the time almost two thousand years ago when Christ was “set forth” as the Savior. The veil of the temple, in accordance with God’s commands, hid the mercy seat, and only the high priest could go in past that veil. The purpose of the veil was to hide and to bar everyone from entering the symbolic presence of God except the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. The only way the High Priest could stand alive on the other side of the veil was by sprinkling on the veil the blood of his substitute. The purpose of the veil was to keep people out of the Holy of Holies. It told sinful man that he could not approach God except by His prescribed means. It stood in the way to God’s presence. It was a closed door. The only person who could enter the Holy of Holies and remain alive was the High Priest with the blood of the substitute sacrifice, and then only on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 26:31-35; Leviticus 16). But he could never enter without the blood. It was a constant reminder that sin separates the sinner from God and that sin required the shedding of blood to cover it.

Christ has been set forth as the mercy seat. No longer hidden behind a veil, no longer is our approach barred, Christ came once and offered His blood for the payment of sin, with His death and the shedding of His blood “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom”[5] and now all can approach God freely for salvation through that very same shed blood.

4.) Salvation is for those who believe “through faith (v.25) – Only believers have salvation. You can be a church member and not be saved. You can embrace “religion” and not be saved. Those who have salvation, received salvation though faith.

5.) Salvation is based upon the shedding of blood “though faith in his blood (v.25) – It was by the blood atonement on the mercy seat – the offering of the bullock on the great day of atonement – that the reconciliation was effected in the Old Testament era.[6] Our salvation is also by blood atonement – but it is by His (Christ’s) own blood. The Bible tells us that “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Oliver B. Green put it this way, “No person – Jew or Gentile – will ever step inside God’s Celestial City unless he is covered by the blood … HIS blood.”[7]

6.) Salvation is retrospective in its effect “to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past (v.25) – Oliver B. Green explains this point very well:

It was this ‘passing over’ of sins before the cross in the sense that God saved sinners without having their sins paid for, thus bestowing mercy without having justice satisfied – which would make God appear as having condoned sin – that had to be set right in the eyes of men. The matter was always right in God’s eyes, because He knew Jesus would die on the cross. But the cross had to come, for a righteous God could not pass by sin. The sin-debt had to be paid.”[8]

7.) Salvation is also prospective in its effect “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus (v.26) – The cross took care of all the sins of the Old Testament era and also declares a believing sinner in this Day of Grace is saved not only by the mercy of God, but by the righteousness of God – for his salvation rests upon the fact that his sins have been paid for and justice “Thus God is just and at the same time the One who justifies the believing sinner.[9]

[1] (McGee, 1991)

[2] Henry Alford (1810-1871) – theologian and writer

[3] (Greene, 1962)

[4] (Wiersbe, 2007)

[5] Matthew 27:51

[6] (Greene, 1962)

[7] (Greene, 1962)

[8] (Greene, 1962)

[9] (Greene, 1962)

“That Every Mouth May Be Stopped”

Romans 3:19-20 “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

That Every Mouth May Be Stopped”

The spiritual condition of silence – the effect of knowing the law, or the effect of knowing the truths of God’s word, the effect of knowing our true sinful state before God and what we deserve as a result of that guilty sinful state should be “that every mouth may be stopped,” it should silence us. Whenever someone reads God’s law, no matter how loyal, how kind, how generous, or how thoughtful they are, their response should be only that: I am a sinner. I have nothing to say to God, no defense to make or offer to make. I am in desperate trouble.

This is a bleak, stark truth, but hard truth is better than sweet lies. Hard truth saves souls, sweet lies send people to hell. Preachers and Bible teachers that speak hard truth are demonstrating love to people, “preachers” and Bible “teachers” that speak sweet sounding lies, are demonstrating the opposite. Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century mathematician, philosopher and Christian apologist, put it this way, “Nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine, yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves.” A silent mouth is thus a spiritual condition. It is the condition of the person who knows that they cannot save themselves.

The way to God is wide open. There is nothing standing between the sinner and his God. He has immediate and unimpeded access to the Savior. There is nothing to hinder. No sin can hold you back, because God offers justification to the ungodly. Nothing now stands between the sinner and God but the sinners ‘good works.’ Nothing can keep him from Christ but his delusion… that he has good works of his own that can satisfy God… All they need is need. All they must have is nothing… But alas, sinners cannot part with their ‘virtue’s.’ They have none that are not imaginary, but they are real to them. So grace becomes unreal. The real grace of God they spurn in order to hold on to the illusory virtues of their own. Their eyes fixed on a mirage, they will not drink real water. They die of thirst with water all about them.[1]

[1] (Gerstner, 1997)

Obligated Debtor

Romans 1:14 “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”

Obligated Debtor

The Greek word translated as “Debtor” in verse 14 has the meaning of being obligated and indebted to, that one owes something to someone and has a responsibility to see that obligation met. Paul sees himself as obligated to “Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” that is he sees himself obligated to the Greeks and non-Greeks, to the wise and to the foolish; he sees himself obligated or indebted to everyone, no matter their ethnic background or intellectual capabilities. But, Paul has never met the Roman church, far less the greater human population, yet he says he is indebted to all of them. So in what sense is he indebted?

Paul and we are indebted to the whole world. God paid our sin debt. God also gave us the gospel, to give out to others who owe a sin debt of themselves. We have the means of the payment of their sin debt in our possession in the form of the gospel, and we have been told to give them this so their sin debt can be paid just as ours was. It is in this sense we are indebted to the world, since God has trusted us by giving us the gospel to give to others, until we give it to others we are indebted to them. Let us say I owe you $100 – therefore I am in debt to you until I pay this sum back. But, someone else may have given me the $100 to pay you back, and as long as I hang unto that $100 from someone else I am still in debt to you.  It is in this way, we are indebted to the world, until we give that $100 (or the gospel) to them, we as Christians are indebted to all men until we give the gospel out to them. “Just as Paul was a debtor, every true born again child of God is a debtor to those who do not know Christ as Savior.”[1]

In verse 15 we see Paul’s eagerness to settle this debt, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel.” Paul had a burning desire to settle this debt by passing on the gospel to all the people he could.

We are in debt to all peoples, regardless of their color, class or creed. We who know the truth of the pure Gospel of grace should not be satisfied until we have done all in our power to preach this message to all people, regardless of who they are.”[2]

Do we have a burning desire to settle this debt we all owe if we are Christians? Everyone needs the gospel. Everyone has a sin debt that needs to be paid. We have all been commissioned, as Paul was, to reach the world with the gospel message, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).

[1] (Greene, 1962)

[2] (Greene, 1962)

Keep Praying, Keep Fighting

Keep Praying, Keep Fighting

Daniel 10:2-3,12-13, 16-21 “In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. [notice Daniel was fasting and praying for an answer to his prayer] Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength. [a terrible vision, terrible news, a terrible announcement took all his strength] For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, [God through His angel strengthened Daniel supernaturally to carry the burden he was under] And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. [God will encourage us when we go to Him in prayer, even when we think there is no way I can be encouraged] Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.”

Introduction

Keep praying and keep fighting for what you know to be right, there is an invisible war (10:10–21) going on all around us that we know nothing about. For three weeks Daniel received no answer to his prayer, but unknown to him, from the very instant he started praying, God started answering and sent one of His angels to give the answer to Daniel, but a dreadful and fearful spiritual battle was raging for those three weeks. Satan was doing his best to stop or delay this angel of the Lord from fulfilling his mission to give Daniel an answer to his prayer. Just because all may seem lost, just because we do not get the answer in the timeframe in which we expect, does not mean God and His angels are not working and are not actively fighting in the spiritual realm on our behalf.

Angelic Help

We get the impression that the glorious man clothed in linen vanished from the scene and one of the angels, perhaps Gabriel, touched Daniel. The old prophet was on his face on the ground, but the ministry of the angel enabled him to lift himself to his hands and knees. Then the angel spoke to him, and this gave him the strength to stand upright. This is not unlike when Jesus was in the Garden and the angels ministered unto Him. This is the third time Daniel was touched by an angel (Dan. 8:18; 9:21; and see 10:16, 18–19). Perhaps we, unknown to us, have had and angel sent down from God to touch us and give us strength, when we had none left, and give us a will to carry on, when all our spirit was spent and depleted. Perhaps, in our greatest hour of need, the Lord may do what He did here with Daniel and send an angel to give us a touch, to help us face the unfaceable, to help us endure, the unendurable; just perhaps, if you are in such a situation right now, God has an angel on his way to give you that kind of touch too.

Greatly Beloved

“Greatly beloved” – Daniel was addressed as “greatly beloved.” We recall that our Lord Jesus Christ was spoken of this way by the Father. Because we are His children, in and through Christ, the Father loves us as He loves His Son (John 17:23, 26). So, to the Lord in Heaven, we too are His “greatly beloved” as Daniel was. To God we are His “greatly beloved”, and a Father who loves His children that much, only wants what is best for us, and is working toward that end in all the situations in our life.

An Invisible War

Daniel’s conversation with the angel reveals to us the important fact that there is an “invisible war” going on in the spiritual realm between the forces of evil and the forces of God. For three weeks, Daniel had been praying for wisdom to understand the visions he had already seen, but the answer to that prayer was delayed. Why would the Lord not immediately answer the petitions of His “greatly beloved?” Because “the prince of the kingdom of Persia”—an evil angel—had attacked the angel bearing the answer, probably Gabriel. Michael, the archangel then assisted Gabriel and together they won the battle. Maybe that delay in the answer to your pray, could be because angels, sent from God on your behalf, are caught up in a great spiritual battle, an “invisible war” with the forces of evil.

Well-meaning people may scoff at the idea of demonic forces and good and evil angels, but the fact remains that this is solid biblical theology. When Lucifer rebelled against God and was judged, some of the angels fell with him and became the demonic evil angels that oppose Christ and obey Satan (Revelation 12:7–12 – And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.)

According to Ephesians 6:10–18, Satan has a well-organized army of evil spirits that obey his every command. But through His sacrificial work on the cross, Christ defeated Satan and his army and we can claim that victory by faith. The believer’s responsibility is to put on the whole armor of God by faith and use the Word of God and believing prayer to oppose and defeat the wicked one. Paul told the Ephesian believers that the Christian’s battle was not against flesh and blood but against demonic forces in a spiritual realm that oppose the holy angels who always do God’s will. When a Christian prays, God will direct the armies of Heaven to fight on our behalf, even though we may know nothing about the battles that are being waged in this invisible war all around us. (II Kings 6:17 –  And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.) What might you see that God has placed of His Heavenly host all around you on your behalf, what battle might you see, what evil force might you notice being blocked from reaching you by an angel from God, what might you see if you could catch a glimpse of the spiritual realm all around you? An incredible thought to contemplate.

Daniel had been involved in a cosmic spiritual conflict and had no idea it was even going on. The Lord was even using some of His highest angels to answer his prayers! This knowledge certainly puts our prayers, and what we think of them and how we consider them, on a whole other level of importance. The neglect of prayer is the reason why many churches and individual believers are so weak and defeated. Someone once said, “Much prayer, much power; no prayer, no power!” Jesus taught His disciples that the demonic forces could not be defeated except by prayer and fasting, the very activities that Daniel had been involved in for three weeks (Matthew 17:21– Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.).

A Caution

Our Lord Jesus took seriously the reality of Satan and his demonic forces, and we should too. A cautious caveat needs to be added here though, this does not mean we should blame every headache, interruption, and delay in the answer to our prayers on demons, but it does mean we should respect Satan’s power because the Bible tells us that he “as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” I Peter 5:8.

Notice in Daniel chapter ten, twice the angels tell him, to “Fear not” (Daniel 10:12, 19). God does not want us to have a spirit of fear, we should put our trust in Him at all times and in all circumstances (II Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.) Notice it was the Lord through His angels that gave Daniel the strength he needed also notice what God tells us in Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

Conclusion

Finally, the angel made it clear that the battle was not yet over. The battle is not over till we see Jesus, so keep praying and keep fighting for what you know to be right in the Lord. As soon as he finished instructing Daniel, Gabriel would return to assist Michael in battling the prince of Persia and the prince of Grecia, two satanic evil angels who were opposing the plans of the Lord. Keep praying, keep having faith, one answer may come, but the “invisible war” could still be raging all around you, don’t let up, keep praying, keep having faith, keep fighting and keep living for the Lord. Do not let your guard down to the Devil. Think of all the things in your life that have already been changed because you and others have fervently prayed.

A delay does not mean that God has not already dispatched His angels on your behalf. A delay does not mean that God is not working in the situation. Keep praying, fast and pray when needed, keep having faith. God will give you strength when you do not have one drop of it left. God will encourage you when you think it is impossible to ever be encouraged again. God and His angels never quit, honor the Lords commitment to you and keep pressing forward in your life for Him. Take the next step, keep on bended knee and trust it all to Him. (II Corinthians 10:4-5 – (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;)

The Power of Influence

The Unfortunate Power of a Bad Influence

The wrong kind of influence can lead others into sin – Proverbs 22:24-25 “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” Notice how is says “lest thou learn his ways” – because you could be influenced by them to sin. Be on guard for who may be influencing you!

Some examples of a bad influence

Solomon (I Kings 11:3-4 – And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.) – These verses provide us a dual example of bad influences.

First, Solomon left a terrible influence on his children, his followers and future kings by him taking 700 hundred wives and 300 concubines. This evil adulterous influence and legacy led to much sin and heartbreak.

Second, his many worldly wives eventually had a bad influence on him and turned him even further away from God.

This goes to remind us and show us, influence is a two-way street, we have influence on others and others have influence on us. We need to be vigilant and guard both. We need to guard our influence on others to make sure it is always Christ-like and we need to be diligent in gauging the influence others have on us to make sure we are getting the best kind of influence; or if we are in a situation where we cannot always get that Christ-like influence, to be aware of that and ask Christ’s help to filter out the bad influences and do our best to not let it influence us for the worst.

Ahaziah King of Judah (II Chronicles 22:3-4 – He also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab: for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly. Wherefore he did evil in the sight of the LORD like the house of Ahab: for they were his counsellors after the death of his father to his destruction.) – Notice the duality of influence found again in these verses. He was influenced by evil counselors, they had a sinful destructive influence on him, and he in turn had an evil and destructive influence on others. We need to guard the kind of influences we have in our life and seek out Godly influences and be spiritually aware of the evil influences in our life and if possible stay away from them, and if not, guard against them while we are being exposed to them.

What Kind of Attitude Should We Have Toward Our Influence?

We need to be making sure, to the best of our ability and circumstances, that the influences in our life are the right kind of influences, influences that point us to Christ and have a Godly impact on us.

We need to guard our influence that we have on others and seek to make sure it is the right kind of influence. We need to make sure, again as much as our circumstances allow, that our influencers and our influence we give out are both anchored in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Hebrews 6:19 – Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;)

How is your Influence?

We should stay away from anything that will hurt our influence – Romans 14:13-16 “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of:

We should avoid as much as possible all evil and sinful influences. Keep in mind many things are not necessarily wrong in themselves, but they may lead you or someone you influence to sin, so we need to stay away from those influences as well as much as possible too – I Thessalonians 5:21-23 “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Conclusion

The power of a good example and influences, and bad  influences lives on past death (Hebrews 11:4– By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh). The power of Abel’s good influence and example lives on and unfortunately the power of Cain’s bad influence and example lives on. What kind of influence will you be known for years from now to have had on others? What kind of impact will you have had on the world with your influence? We all have influence, how will you use yours for Christ? Or will you let it be used by Satan? Our influence as Christians cannot be overemphasized. We have an effect on others. This fact is illustrated well by the poem “Touching Others“.

The slightest breeze that ever blew
Some slender grass has wavered,
The smallest life I ever knew
Some other life has flavored.

We cannot live our lives alone
For other lives we touch
Are either strengthened by our own,
Or weakened just as much.

How is your Influence?

Check your influence – What kind of influence are you personally having on others? What kind of example are you setting for those around you, to those that look up to you, to those that love you? Make sure you are that Christ-like influence to others and make sure you are around the right kind of influences. Decide that today; determine that today, with Christ’s help!

Illustration

In 1874 Richard L. Dugdale was employed by the New York Prison Commission to visit the state prisons. As he visited he was surprised to find criminals in six different prisons whose relatives were mostly criminals or paupers, and the more surprised to discover that these six criminals were all descended from the same family.

This led him to study their relatives, living and dead. He studied the court and prison records, reports of town poorhouses, and the testimony of old neighbors and employers. He learned the details of 540 descendants of the patriarch of this family born about 1720. He traced others linked to the family bringing the number up to 1,200 persons of the family of the Jukes (Juke was not the real name of the family). They were described this way:

“The almost universal traits of the family were idleness, ignorance, and vulgarity. They would not work, they could not be made to study, and they loved vulgarity…. It is very difficult to find anyone who is honest and industrious, pure and prosperous.”

In 1897 A. E. Winship was asked by a scholarly organization to prepare a paper on Jonathan Edwards. In the course of his studies he discovered the descendants of Edwards presided over the New York Prison Commission which housed many of the Juke descendants. This led Winship to a study in contrast between Jukes and Edwards. Jonathan Edwards’ great-great-grandfather, Richard Edwards, was a clergyman. Among the first men of the Edwards family to come to the colonies in New England was William, a son of this clergyman, born about 1620.

The results of this study of contrast between the Edwards and the Jukes, is also an observation of the power of influence on a family. The Edwards family had the influence of a preacher as the patriarch, the Jukes family had the influence of a man of poor morals and poor work habits as their patriarch. There life affected more than them. There choices affected more than just them. Their influence affected more than those just around them, it affected multiple generations of their descendants.

The Jukes family:

  • 310 of the 1,200 were professional paupers—more than one in four.
  • 300 of the 1,200—one in four—died in infancy from lack of good care and good conditions, as a result of their poor work ethic.
  • 50 women who lived lives of harlotry.
  • 400 men and women ruined their health early in life by their own sinful lifestyles.
  • 7 were murderers.
  • 60 were habitual thieves who spent on the average twelve years each in prison.
  • 130 more were criminals who were convicted of other crimes.

What a terrible example, and it all started with the Patriarch of this family in 1720, what a terrible influence he had and look at all the ruined lives as a result of that one man’s evil influence.

The Edwards family:

  • 1 U.S. Vice-President (Aaron Burr)
  • 3 U.S. Senators
  • 3 Governors
  • 3 Mayors
  • 13 College Presidents
  • 30 Judges
  • 65 College Professors
  • 80 Public office holders
  • 100 Lawyers
  • 100 missionaries, pastors and theologians.

What a drastic difference in these two families, they illustrate well the power of influence. Your life affects others. More than you may think it does. How are you influencing others? How are you influencing the generations coming up behind you?

Numbers 14:18 “The Lord is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.”

How is your influence? Your life and how you live it affects more than just you. It can affect generations to come. Influence your family towards the Lord and leave them a Godly heritage.

How is your Influence?

 

Are We Having a Good Influence?

We need to make sure our influence is setting the right kind of example (I Timothy 4:12 – Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity).

Let no man despise thy youth” – It is clear from this that Timothy was then a young man, but he commanded a lot of respect even while being so young. You can have such a godly influence on others even in your youth that you will be well respected among all men, older and younger.

But be thou an example of the believers” – One of the constant duties of a Christian, no matter what their age, is to live a life so closely to Christ that it points others to Him and influences others that do not know Christ to want get to know Him and to want to have what that Christian has that makes them so joyfully different than the world. Do people notice that joyful difference in your life? – Or is there no joyful difference?

In conversation” – or lifestyle in general. Does your lifestyle reflect Christ to others; does your lifestyle influence others to Christ?

In charity” – Love to the brethren, and to all. Are you setting the right example in this area or are you a respecter of persons perhaps? (Romans 2:11 – For there is no respect of persons with God.) – How is your influence in this area?

In spirit” – In the government of your passions, and in a mild, meek, forgiving disposition.

In faith” – At all times, and in all trials, show believers by your example, how they ought to maintain unshaken confidence in God.

We need to consistently be the right kind of influence to others (Titus 2:7 – In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity).  We need to be consistently demonstrating a good influence to others in our life and we should be seeking companionship and friendship with those who themselves show a “pattern of good works” for Christ.

The Power of a Good Influence

We can win souls to Christ, we can influence people of the world, and the lost we know personally, to change their mindset about Christ, we can demonstrate, with a Christ-like influence, what true Christianity is like to the lost world. Are we doing this?

I Corinthians 7:16 “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?”

I Peter 2:11-12 “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

A good Godly influence can cause the unsaved sinner conviction and shame over their actions and decisions. Are you living out a Christ-like influence among your friends and family? Are you being the kind of influence you should be, that you need to be?

Some examples of a good influence

Joshua (Joshua 24:23 & 31 – Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.)

Joshua had such a great influence on his people when he was alive that he bent their hearts and wills toward God, he put them on the right path in their life and in their faith. He influenced them to live right for the Lord. Are you having a “Joshua” influence on someone?

Joshua set such a good example in living for the Lord and he made such an impression on the people by his good example that his Godly influence to his people continued on after his death. What kind of influence are you having on others? Is it a Godly influence? Are you pointing them to Christ with your influence on them? We all have an influence on someone. Remember we will all give an account one day of our actions and the influence we had on others to Christ. Let that reckoning day with Christ be one of rewards for having a good Christ-like influence on others. (II Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.)

Jesus had a profound influence on the Apostle John

Notice John’s attitude at firstLuke 9:54 “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?”

Notice John’s attitude after he had been with Jesus for awhileI John 4:6-11 “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”

Are we having a positive impact for Christ on others? Are we having a “Joshua” influence on our friends and family? Are we influencing them to live Christ-like lives? How is our influence? Look at the influence Jesus had on John, in the first passage John was suggesting burning people to death, in the second passage after the influence of Jesus on his life, he had become the Apostle of Love. How are we influencing those around us? Are we having a positive impact on them or are we having a negative impact on them?

How is your influence?

What is your influence?

 

 

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