Having compassion, meeting a need, compelling to come

In the past couple of weeks, I have been slowly reading through the book of Matthew. Normally when I read the Bible I have a certain amount of chapters I like to read each day so I can read through the Bible in a certain amount of time, but every once in a while, I like to slow down and just read a chapter or two a day spending the same amount of time I would normally, but just read one or two chapters. Just slowly soak up the Word of God, chew on it, meditate on it, think on it. I love the word of God and sometimes I just need to take a slow journey through it. I love when I can spend extra time in His Word just meditating on it, praying and talking to the Lord about each verse and sometimes each phrase or word.

This is what I was doing when I came to chapter nine of the book of Matthew, and the Lord really impressed upon me the below four verses. I guess I had never really thought about the process that happened in these verses in my previous readings of them. It just struck me, that many times in order for us to truly see the need or truly realize the need, we need to be willing to first go. Once we then truly see the need, or truly realize the need it should motivate us to do something about the need. We should be “moved with compassion” just like our Savior, we should seek to minister to the needs of people and introduce them to the One who can meet and satisfy all their needs.

Matthew 9:35-38And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

There are several actions taken by our Savior Jesus that I want to point out for us notice, to examine ourselves in light of, and to ponder or mediate on His example to us in this passage:

First, is just simply that – Jesus Went (v.35) – Notice the Bible says in verse thirty-five; Jesus went. He went. If we would just simply go – we do not need to be polished or practiced – but we do need to go. Jesus went to where the people were. He went to where the people needed His witness, where they needed His Word, where they needed His love and care in their life. He went, and by going, He then was able to see their need. Of course Jesus knew their need before, He knows all things, but this passage is in the Word of God in part to teach us that we first need to be willing to go, so we can then see. We need to go.

Jesus Shared the Gospel (v.35) – Do we go and share the gospel? Do we pass out tracts? Do we let others know about Jesus? Do we tell others of our testimony? Do we tell them of their only hope for Heaven? Do we invite others to our church? Are we faithful in telling others of the God that “… so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)?

Jesus Met Physical Needs (v.35) – Jesus not only shared the gospel with others, He did so while also ministering to their needs. How often do we seek to meet a need and use that as an opportunity to share the gospel with others? We need to be looking for needs to be met and use the meeting of those needs as opportunities to share the Gospel of Christ. A great way to do evangelism is to seek to meet a need, be a witness of the love of Christ in deed as you are a witness of the love of Christ in words.

Jesus Saw (v.36) – He saw something that affected Him emotionally. He went, and He saw the multitudes. He saw multitudes of people in need of saving. He saw multitudes of people in need of a Savior. He saw multitudes of people who needed someone to come alongside of them and minister to them, reach out to them, pray for them, demonstrate the love of God to them, and try to win them to the Lord.

We too need to go, we too need to see, and we too, like Jesus did, need to let our seeing affect our heart so that we may do something about the needs we see in the multitudes (their greatest need of course being the gospel and their eternal salvation). The prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament gave a testimony very similar to what we see here with Jesus in Matthew chapter nine when Jeremiah wrote, “Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city” (Lamentations 3:51). We need to allow our eyes to affect our heart. We need to go, we need to see the need, then we need to allow our hearts to be affected by that need. We need to seek to meet those needs and use that as opportunities to share the gospel message.

Jesus Was Moved with Compassion (v.36) – Notice in verse thirty-six of our passage that it says Jesus “was moved with compassion.” He first went, He then saw, and seeing the multitudes and their many needs of a Savior, He was moved with compassion for them. We need to have soft hearts like our Lord. When we see the multitudes, most of whom are dying and going to a Christless eternity, we need to get moved with compassion.

If we are not being moved with compassion, we need to ask the Lord to fix our “mover”, to soften our hearts, we need a heart that is soft enough that our eyes can affect it to move it with compassion for all those in need of Jesus in their life. For all those that need someone to come alongside them in their time of need and encourage them with the love of God, encourage them with the Word of the Lord, to witness to them about Jesus, to show them the only and true source of joy in this world; which is a personal relationship with the Savior of the world – Jesus Christ – the Son of the only true and living God.

Jesus was moved with compassion – are you moved with compassion when you look at the multitudes around you in need of a Savior? We need to pray that our eyes will always affect our hearts, we need to pray we do not grow callous to the worlds need of Jesus. We need to go, we need to see, we need to be moved with compassion!

Jesus Commands Us to Pray for Laborers (v.38) – Jesus does not just tell us, or suggest to us in verse thirty-eight to pray for laborers for His harvest; He commands us to pray for laborers for His harvest. The construct of this sentence is an imperative, it is a command – Jesus is giving us a command to pray for laborers for His harvest. This should be something that is on our prayer list. This need should be on our hearts. This need should be a burden us. We should pray for laborers for the Lords harvest, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few.” We are to pray for laborers, we are to pray the Lord “will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Matthew 28:19-20Go 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.

In this passage – Jesus Tells Us to Go (v.19) – We are not only commanded to pray for laborers for the Lords harvest, here in Matthew 28:19-20 we are personally commanded to go. We are to go. Just like Jesus went, we are to go. We are to pray for laborers, then we are to be one of those laborers.

Are you being a laborer to help bring in the harvest of our Lord? Are you going? Are you allowing yourself to see the need, to be moved with compassion by the need? Are you going? Are you telling others about the Savior of the world? Are you going? This going does not just start in foreign lands, this going starts right where you are. It starts in your town or city. We are to “Go” to all nations, but that going starts right where you are in your nation, in your state, in your town. Yes, the Lord may call you to leave where you are one day and go someplace else, but the going starts right where you are. Are you willing to go?

Luke 14:22-23And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

Jesus Also Said to “Compel them to come in – Compel means more than just to suggest, it means more than just to mention your church, it means to constrain them to come, to necessitate them to come. We are to strive; we are to work hard at inviting people to church. We are to keep at it. We are to “compel them” to come to Jesus, “compel them” to accept Christ as Savior, we are to “compel them” to Jesus.

Conclusion

We have seen in this brief study that we are simply to go, to allow ourselves to see the need, to have a soft and pliable heart that can and should be moved with compassion for the needs of the multitudes for Jesus. We are to work to meet those needs, to witness, to share the gospel. We are to pray for laborers for the harvest of the Lord. We are to also go as laborers ourselves into that harvest and compel those in need of Jesus to come to Him, to accept Him as their Savior. Are we doing this? Are you doing this? Are you willing to do this? Will you surrender to do this? Are you, like our Lord was, being “moved with compassion” for the multitudes, and is that compassion moving you to share the gospel with them? Is that compassion moving you to demonstrate the love of Christ with deeds and words, and is that compassion moving you to compel them to come in to Jesus and accept His free gift of salvation?

We are to be willing to go, so we might see the overwhelming need of the world – and that is the need of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ – the Savior of the world. We are to have hearts of compassion, and that compassion should cause us to have a burden for the lost, a burden for the hurting, and it should in turn motivate us to do something, to take action like our Lord did. We should be moved with compassion, then that compassion should be moving us to ministry.

What kind of servant are you?

Luke 19:11-27 (Parable of the Ten Pounds)

Background

In Luke chapter nineteen Jesus was getting close to Jerusalem and there were people with Him who thought the Kingdom of God was going to soon appear (19:11). So, Jesus told them this parable about seizing the opportunity to accept what the Lord invests in us of His resources and to diligently work at using those resources for His profit to the best of our ability.

Introduction

In verse twelve of Luke chapter nineteen is the simple outline of God’s plan about the kingdom, “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return” (19:12).

  • Jesus is gone to Heaven.
  • There at the right hand of the Father, in due time, He will receive the kingdom and return.
  • So the kingdom in its public manifestation and completion awaits the personal, bodily return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

Leaving His Servants

A man leaves his servants in charge of a portion of His wealth while he leaves to go to a distant country to be appointed King and then he would return. He calls his ten servants and gives them ten pounds. He tells them to put this money to work for me, “Occupy till I come” (19:13).

The Charge: “Occupy Till I Come

Their Master leaves them and now they have great work to do. When he parted he gave them each a pound, not to use for personal enrichment, not to hoard away, not to hide and never use for the Master’s profit, no he told them to “Occupy till I come” – all Christians have business to do for Christ in this world.

Personal Responsibility

It is not difficult for us to draw parallels between this parable and Jesus Himself. Jesus was the one who would leave in order to become a king. We are the servants in the parable who are vested with what belongs to Him and for which we have responsibility and accountability.

We, as Christians, are sent forth to spread the gospel, to share the gospel, to live out the gospel, to preach the gospel, to set up churches for Christ, to bring nations to the obedience of faith, to build up and disciple new believers, we are called to be busy occupying till He comes. For those He gives resources, gifts, and blessings to, He expects service from.

Until He comes, we have the responsibility to put to use the resources He has entrusted us with. We who now live in this New Testament age are like the ten servants occupying for the Nobleman, our Master, while He has gone to Heaven, occupying until He shall return.

Personal Accountability

The amount and nature of those resources the Master gives will vary from person to person, but when He returns we will be accountable for what we have done with what we have had, regardless of the amount or type of resource.

The amount that was given to each servant is not the important part of this parable, but what was done with what was given to them is. Everything we have, including life itself, is a gift from God that is given to us to be used for godly purposes and not to be squandered or squirreled away.

The mere fact that we are taking care of something that belongs to another is the recognition that we have nothing in and of ourselves, everything we have is given to us. We are therefore stewards and not owners, we are caretakers of the Masters gifts. What have you done with the gifts the Lord has seen fit to bestow upon you? Can you say as Paul stated in Acts 20:20 “I kept back nothing…” or are you keeping back parts of your life, are you not using the gifts the Lord has given you profitably for His service? Are you a profitable servant or are you hiding your gifts from the world, are you helping to advance His kingdom, or are you on the sidelines just watching the other servants trying to do their part and your part? What kind of servant are you?

Reckoning and Rewards

There were those in the parable who did not like the idea of the man returning to be their king (19:14). But when he did return as king, he called the servants in order to find out what they had gained (19:15) with the pounds he had given them. One had gained ten more (19:16), and another had gained five more (19:18). To each of them, the king gave a corresponding number of cities for them to take charge of.

The First Servant

One servant had so used the money given him that he had gained ten pounds and the nobleman who had now become king said, “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (19:17), that is the daily handling of some money for his lord would pale in comparison to the privilege he would now have of ruling ten cities. What we do now for the Lord, what service we do, what trials we endure, what ridicule we face, all will be nothing compared to the rewards we will get in glory for our faithful service today.

The Second Servant

The second servant’s pound gained five pounds and the nobleman, now king, said, “Be thou also over five cities” (19:19). Now we must emphasize a principle we were just taught in this parable and that is eternal blessedness and usefulness of a Christian in Heaven will depend somewhat on his service on earth. Salvation is free and all alike are saved by the blood of Christ without works by grace alone, but after He saves us, God will reward us for our service also.

The Third Servant

The third servant returned the pound that was originally given to him, having squandered all opportunity to do anything with it. He told the king he kept it hidden away, no one ever saw it, it was never used in any way to bring profit to the king (19:20). He said he did so because he was afraid of the king, “because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow” (19:21). Does not the nobleman, now king, have a right to expect some return on his investment in his servant though?

Has God given you certain talents and abilities and are you using them for Him? Or are you perhaps too scared, or too nervous, or too shy, or too (fill in the blank) to use them for Him? Are you keeping them back from Him and from service for Him? Be a Paul and determine to say with a clear conscience “I kept back nothing”!

The response of the King was to take the pound from the third servant and give it to the one that was given ten pounds. The king said, “That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him” (19:26). Jesus reinforced the principle expressed earlier that if you are trustworthy with a few things, you will be considered trustworthy with more. Further, to do nothing with what you have been given is unacceptable. To do nothing with what you have been given is sinful, and not only that but it is tragic to waste your God-given potential for the Lord and His service. Are you wasting in anyway what the Lord has given you?

What Kind of Servant Are You?

Are you earning rewards today? Are you using what the Master has given you wisely for Him? Will you receive ten cities or will what you have been given be taken from you and given to another? What kind of servant are you right now? Will you make a decision to be a ten city servant today? Will you make a decision to be a “keep back nothing” kind of servant?

The Citizens That Hated Him

This nobleman had an estate and servants.  But citizens of the country “hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us” (19:14). Now the parable speaks not of Christians but of those who rejected Christ, and the end promised to Christ-rejecters is tragic. This parable ends with a very sad and tragic pronouncement, “But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (19:27). Those who will not have Christ to reign over them will be dealt with as His enemies. Whoever will not be ruled by the grace of Christ through salvation in Him, will inevitably be judged for their sins and have to face the wrath of Christ, instead of rejoicing forever more in His love (John 3:17-18 – For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.)

Judgment

How you choose to use what you have been given will result in a judgment of accountability and reward. Your relationship toward the King, however, will result in a judgment of eternal consequence. The Bible teaches that there will be two judgments. There will be the Judgment Seat of Christ, where believers will be held accountable for the works, or lack thereof, that they have done for Christ. This judgment will be based on the quality of their life’s labors for the Lord (I Corinthians 3:12-15). And there will be the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), where unbelievers will be cast into the Lake of Fire forever, those that rejected the King and did not want Him to come back, and did not want Him to rule over them.

Personal Assessment

God has placed things in our hands, and we have opportunity to invest them in ways that will increase to His benefit and our blessing. Whether we think we are gifted with much or little, we are to put what we have been given to use for Him. The opportunity to do something for the Lord with what we have been given by Him needs to be seized and diligently put to good use, or that gift, or that opportunity to use that gift will be taken away.

  • Have you seized every opportunity the Lord has given you to be profitable servants for Him?
  • Or have you rejected Christ and His lordship of your life? – Don’t be like the third servant and squander away all your gifts and opportunities to serve the Master
  • Are you “occupying til He comes”?
  • Are you using your gifts and resources to their fullest for Christ?
  • Can you think of something you are keeping back from the Lord?  Are you keeping back time, are you keeping back treasure, are you keeping back talent?
  • Are you surrendered to what the Lord has gifted you to do and called you to do?

Our time on this earth is but a vapor the Bible tells us. Consider this challenge, consider the questions that were just asked and if you need to surrender anything to the Lord – jot that down right now and put today’s date on it, and pray right now to the Lord and surrender that to Him. It may be your gift you have kept hidden away and never used for Him, it may be treasure, it may be a talent, whatever the Holy Spirit may have brought to mind seek to be a profitable servant for your Master, seek to hear a well done when you see your Savior face to face. Make a commitment today that you will no longer keep anything back from God. Surrender all to Him, commit all to Him. Keep back nothing from Him!

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;)

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