In the book of Acts we have recorded for us several messages that Paul the Apostle preached. All of these messages, as with the other Apostles, pointed people to Jesus Christ. In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas are new on the mission field. They arrive in a town called Lystra and during Paul’s conveying of the Gospel a man who was “impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb…” was healed miraculously by God through Paul’s actions. In verse 10, faith is seen both in Paul and the impotent man. Unfortunately, those who witnessed the preaching and the miracle that had taken place wrongly understood what it meant.
As this situation progressed, it became understood by Paul and Barnabas that these idolaters believed Paul and Barnabas were gods. In verse 13 the Bible declares that the “priest of Jupiter” began to commence leading worship of the two missionaries. Of course, once the apostles “heard of” it, Paul began to convey the truth. One phrase in particular I would like to draw your attention to is in verse 15. Paul in speaking to these states, “We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein:…”
The direct phrase here really sums up the choice that every man must make. We must turn from these vanities unto the living God.
In Psalm 31:6 the Bible uses a similar phrase and speaks of “lying vanities…” Jonah in his prayer from the fishes belly cries out using the exact same expression stating, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah 2:8)
What exactly are these vanities that are spoken of? In this passage the vanities are lies concerning false ‘gods’ that the people had believed and held onto. In fact, the very stone and wooden idols that these lost people worshipped were themselves vain (false or worthless). This word employed by Paul is an adjective describing what the people had chosen.
As we go back to Acts 14 let us make note of a few items declared in this passage. First of all, we can be admonished that:
All People Are Of Like Passions
Paul started his correction of these people’s behavior explaining that “We also are men of like passions with you…” (In our text the miraculous healing of the impotent man influenced their thoughts toward Paul and Barnabas.) Sometimes those that are without get the idea that Christians are ‘holier than thou.’ In this case, Paul was exhibiting great faith in God and was used in the miraculous healing of this man. Paul wanted to set the story straight that they were men of like passions. These idolaters looked at Paul and Barnabas because of their superstition as being ‘gods.’ If we are not careful, we will allow people to think we are something other than sinners to whom Christ has saved and transformed. The truth is that Christians are different. They are children of Light rather than children of darkness (John 8:44; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13; I Thessalonians 5:5). However, the difference is Jesus Christ! Paul was careful to explain, we are “…men of like passions...” In other words, we are not “gods” we are Christians. We are sinners that have trusted in Jesus Christ as our Saviour!
Secondly, we can glean that all men:
Should Turn From Vanities
Paul is expressing a matter of principle here, that all people have a God-given ability to choose (individual Soul liberty). He signifies this by stating these people “should” turn from these vanities. He does not state that the people would turn from them. All around us, there are people that are choosing the empty and the worthless over the all-sufficient God. Christians are not immune from this sad state either. Oftentimes, we choose the empty and worthless over fellowship with God. Learning from the passage in the book of Psalms and Jonah above, we find that these vanities lie to us with promises of fulfillment but have no ability to provide what God can only give us.
Not only should all people turn from these vanities, but they:
Should Turn To The Living God
These people needed to turn to Jesus Christ. The great need of the day is for all men to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. The lost person needs to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. The Christian needs to turn from lying vanities to the Living God. As we survey the Bible we see God’s message of Salvation. It is the story of God reconciling man unto Himself. But God has given you and I the choice to turn from vanities to Him. May we pray fervently in this new year that God would help us to always look to our wonderful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and forsake the lying vanities of this world.
- James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” Psalms 19:14
The Psalmist David speaks of three things in this Psalm; one, the Power and beauty of the Heavens, or what is the natural world; two, the Power and beauty of the law of God; and thirdly, David closes the psalm with two verses that speak on the subject of himself, his standing before God and his sin; either known or unknown. After he wonderfully declares the glory and honor of God, David concludes by looking upon himself in contrast to God’s magnificence. This is wisdom. The majesty and glory of God ought to act as a mirror; causing us to look at ourselves in the light of it.
In the final verses of the psalm, he asks the Lord to keep him from sin; both those that are evident, and those that come with subtly. He reminds the Lord that God alone is the keeper of His soul and that the Lord will deliver him from the ‘great transgression’. How we need to remindourselves the Lord of His goodness towards us in the giving of His Son; how that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God and delivers us from the great transgression. David desires that the words of his mouth, and the meditation of his heart be acceptable in the sight of God. David understands that the two, the heart and our words, go hand in hand. He understands, as we ought to understand, that the meditation of our heart is often reflected in our words. The things we say testify to the greater part of what we think and believe; or what is the meditation of our heart.
Peter, the night that the Lord was arrested, sitting outside the palace of the High Priest, denied he knew the Lord three times; Peter, that great apostle! This was certainly a Peter far different from the one we heard say earlier, “though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” You would think, by the way that he portrayed himself before Jesus’ arrest, that he would rather have choked to death on those words than to ever let them out of his mouth. Yet his words revealed a truth; a condition of the heart. We also know what became of Peter, how through the power of the Holy Spirit of God his heart would become equal to his boldness in the Lord.Jesus makes the same connection of the heart and our words in Luke 6:45, saying, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh”.
Brother Paul, in his letter to the Romans, in that life changing passage we know as ‘Roman’s road’ (vss 10:8-10), he again reinforces the importance of that relationship between the heart and our words. That even in the process and act of how we might believe upon Christ and be saved, they are again found together. There is power in both the heart and our words when referred to separately, but O’ how powerful they are when referenced together. David finishes his song reminding us of how important this is concerning our heart and our words; reminding us that it is the power God and His strength alone that keeps them both. So Like David, let me ask of God that my heart and my words be acceptable to Him first. Let me ask of the Lord as David did in Psalms 141:3, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
Notice, at the end of Verse 14, David declares the answers to his desires that he lays out in the verse’s beginning; He answers the How and the Why.
Desire: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight..”
Answer: “…O LORD, My Strength and my redeemer."
Let us meditate day and night on the Word of God, storing up in our hearts His truths, which cleanse and purify and are able to keep us from falling; presenting us faultless through Jesus our Savior. Let us confess our sins daily, calling upon Christ, resisting the devil that he may flee from us.
To God’s glory Let our words reveal in us a clean heart, a pure heart; words that are seasoned with salt, edifying to the hearer and so being acceptable to the Lord.
How? Because He is my Strength
Why? Because He is my Redeemer
- Spencer Close, Bus Ministry Director, Sharon Baptist Church
I'm not sure if you’re aware of it or not, but God's Word has something to say about the "beginning of months" and "years." Take for instance the passage in Exodus 12:2 were the Word says, "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you."
When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, not only was their way of life changed, but even the way they kept track of time. A new calendar was started by the Lord beginning around the time of the Exodus. Each new year would automatically make them remember their beginning when God led them out of bondage from Egypt. Perhaps it would do us good as God's children to see the start of the new year as a time of personal reflection and a time of remembering of what God has done for us during the past year and leading us out of the bondage of sin at the moment of our salvation.
Then in Deuteronomy 11:12 we find these words, "A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year." We know that in the context of this verse God is speaking to Moses and is referring to the promise land that He prepared for the nation of Israel. But I believe that these two verses can have meaning for Christians today as we prepare to launch into a new year and a new decade.
Often times there is an inward and outward transformation that takes place at the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. It is as if I can hear Paul audibly speak as he pens down the words of scripture in Philippians 3:13 "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."
To be quite honest, some of us need to leave some things behind in the old year. I’m referring to those things that have been hindering our walk with Christ, those things that weaken our testimony, and those things that are in clear disobedience to the will and way of Christ. Leave them behind in 2019 and stretch forth to those things that are before us in 2020.
Stretch forth to things such as prayer, faithful church attendance, serving and ministering within the local church. We also must include meditating on God's Word, regular support of our local New Testament church by our tithes and offerings, and our obligation to reach others with the Gospel of Christ through Grace Giving Missions and personal Soul-Winning.
Paul writes in Hebrews 12:1b "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Would you be willing to do that as we enter into the new year? Do you have the desire to experience the joy of a cleansed heart by confession and repentance? If we are willing to do that, only then will we be able to say, "Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness." (Psalm 65:11)
While contemplating those questions, remember that "The eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:12)
- Pastor Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
I call the Christmas Season “The Seasons of Love” because "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," and "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (John 3:16; 1:14).
We all love this time of year, but perhaps for different reasons. Some love to buy gifts and presents for family and friends. Still others, like my brother in Christ John, love the cold and crispness in the air anticipating and even praying for the first snow fall during the holiday season. Many people love the spirit of Christmas that abounds in the air beginning the day after Thanksgiving lasting all the way till January 2nd. Multitudes enjoy the feasting, fellowship, worship, and the wonderful Christmas music that this time of year brings.
Do you fit in among those reasons I listed above? Or maybe you have another reason why you love this time of the year. As for me, during this "season of love," lately I have felt myself becoming more conscious of others, their needs, their hurts, fears, and joys. Two overriding questions are, "do they have the love of Christ dwelling in them" and "do I show the love of Christ to others?" These thoughts should drive us to our knees in prayer and we meditate on the answers. We don't have to buy expensive gifts to make others love us. We don't have to go out of our way to have an expensive Christmas, trying to outshine the 'Jones's.' We only need to show love among our fellow men, the same way our God showed us love so many years ago sending His Son into the world that we might be saved.
This Christmas season in which we celebrate the birth of Jesus, let us keep our minds stayed on the “reason for the season” and the love that shines forth from God's dear Son. Let us be more like Him to be able to love without attachments, requirements, and let our light so shine that people will see the love of God shining in our lives every day. Remember to thank God for sending His Son to earth to rescue the lost, to love the worst of us, never condemning, but showing us the way through love and you will experience a Merry Christmas. May God bless you all with His amazing love!
The chorus of a hymn called "And Can It Be" speaks about this amazing love. "Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me! Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me!"
Because of His amazing love,
- Diana Carroll, Senior Pastor's Wife, Sharon Baptist Church
I dare say that if we would examine our lives and the things we allow in, each and every one of us have something we have allowed into our eye gate, or ear gate that we should not have allowed. Whether it is on accident or on purpose does not matter.
The question then would be are you continuing to allow these things? What do you watch on TV or look at on the computer or even allow yourself to be a part of in a conversation? This is a subject that I believe is very important in our day and age for Christians; however I understand that this will rub some folks the wrong way. As believers the Apostle Paul instructs us to "warn" the brethren. I Corinthians 4:14 "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you." We MUST be seeking to please our Heavenly Father and bring Honor and Glory to Him in everything we do. We are in a battle (Ephesians 6:12) and we must be warning others (I Thes 5:14) of the sin and dangers they have fallen into.
Take the time to think about the things in your life. Does what you allow in your life line up with the Bible? TV shows and movies have either an emphasis or blatant immoral relationships outside of marriage or infidelity in a marriage, cursing, homosexuality....you name it. Yet, because it's not the "main" focus of the show and its' only one small portion you continue to watch it. Even secular music like rock and country contain messages that are sinful. What are the messages in these songs? What God calls an abomination is today's entertainment! The more you allow these things into your life, the more you WILL become desensitized (having been made less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering by overexposure to such images) towards them. Pride right now tells you, "No it doesn't," but it does. What we watch and listen to affects our heart, it's impossible to separate the two.
Think about the things Christians will find humor in and joke about or laugh at. It's not funny to joke about your spouse having a boyfriend or girlfriend. It's not funny to joke about someone being gay. It's not funny to laugh at the sins of others, and it's not funny to joke about going to Hell. How does this separate us from the world? How does this help edify and uplift our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? It doesn't, it brings them down.
The warnings are in the Bible Psalm 101:3 "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me." It's all in this one verse. Don't put evil before your eyes! Don't hang around with those that do! I will not allow it to be a part of my life!
Have you ever gotten in a swimming pool and when you first stepped in it was cold and honestly you wanted to get out, but because your family and friends were around you didn't want to look weak, so you continued in. You go a little farther to your knees, then your waist, each time cold but now you are getting use to it!
Are you seeing the point here? It is the same with sin and being desensitized to sin. The longer you let it in the less it affects you. My plea to Christians is to examine everything you allow in. Is it in line with God's standard of purity and holiness? If not, get it out of your life now before it grows anymore! If you see it but don't know how to get rid of it, seek counsel from your Pastor. Don't be afraid or ashamed of what he might think. He will be happy to help you and see you thrive in your fellowship with the Lord!
- Shannon Grandinetti, Women's Missionary Fellowship Director, Sharon Baptist Church
=In the months of June and July of 2018, an incredible rescue took place in the Chiang Rai Province of Thailand. 12 members of a youth soccer team and their 25-year-old coach became trapped in a commonly visited cave called Tham Luang. After an extensive search and rescue operation was put into action, they would all be rescued and brought to safety on July 10th, a full 18 days later. On June 23rd, just after soccer practice, the team decided to visit the cave just as they had done many times before. But this excursion would quickly become a death trap, as heavy rains from hours before, would begin to fill the low areas and cut off their exit. As the water continued to inundate the cavern, they were forced to retreat deeper and deeper into the cave until they finally came upon higher ground. They were now almost 2.5 miles from the cave entrance. Their trip was supposed to last an hour or so, but those few hours quickly turned into several days, not knowing how or when they would be rescued, or even if they would survive at all. They had no provisions, no heavy clothing and only a couple flashlights. Most were in gym shorts and t-shirts. They even left their shoes at the entrance with their bicycles. In view of their circumstances, it seems that their fate was surely sealed, along with any hope of ever being found alive, or found at all. It would be hard to render their situation anymore desperate. With no light, no food, no clothing and no tools and no exit, the chance of them being delivered under their own power was at absolute zero: they were 100% helpless. Once they were listed as missing, it would take another 18 days before they were all rescued. It took 10,000 workers, including over 100 divers, 900 police, 2,000 soldiers and tons of equipment, pumps, helicopters and ambulances. Ten days would elapse until a British BCRC Diver (British Cave Rescue Council) would find the group. It would take another 8 days to extract all twelve of them. In the process, a former Thai Navy Seal lost his life while he was transferring three oxygen tanks to a base area called Chamber 3. He lost consciousness underwater and could not be revived. As sad as it is, that one involved in the rescue of those young men had perished, we can still thank God that the operation was a success. They were all rescued and delivered from what could have been the loss of twelve more souls.
In the spiritual sense, this event is one that can easily be applied to the saving and rescuing of the lost in this world. The rescue mission is to deliver a sinful and doomed race that has no means of delivering itself. A Rescuer was sent to save the lost from the impending judgment of the just and righteous Creator. It draws a distinct parallel, that those young men who were trapped had no way of producing a remedy of their own. They could in no way save or deliver themselves. All they could do was hope upon hope that a rescuer would eventually come. As for a lost and dying world we have a Rescuer the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. He came into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. God sent His Son to rescue the perishing, whereas God laid upon His son the wages of our sin; paying in full the debt of our sin with His own sinless life. Thanks be to God that He sent a Savior, a Rescuer to deliver us from certain death and eternal separation from God himself, translating us from death unto life eternal.
Let's take a few moments and think about:
The Rescue and the Rescuer
Because Jesus has given every believer the ministry of sharing the gospel with the world, we are in the same sense likened to that of a “rescuer” to those that are lost. And because we have that ministry, the Lord has made sure to supply every need to His people to see the mission out. We have the Holy Spirit, we have the discernment and wisdom of God; we have all of Heaven at our disposal. But there is one vital element that the Lord has left solely in the hands of His people to supply, and that is the willingness to carry it out: this He has left to us.
So what constitutes a Rescue?
a. Something must be lost or trapped
b. Something must be in danger, or cut off from safety
c. Something must be unable to deliver itself from its peril
A rescue implicitly requires also a rescuer. We should understand that in order for the rescue to be successful there must be a rescuer, but what are the requirements of that rescuer?
First, they must be qualified to do so. The rescuer must have the proper “credentials”. The Lord has provided His Church with every possible avenue needed to witness and share the Gospel of Christ to the world. I Corinthians chapter 12 provides us with a detailed list of those diverse gifts needed to accomplish the mission. Although the gifts may differ in this list, they are all provided and given to believers according to His divine will. Every believer has at least one spiritual gift. And all of these operations are “…given to every man to profit withal" (vs 12:7b). We are all, in some way or another, the recipients of those blessed administrations and the Lord expects them to be exercised. In John 20:21 we find these words concerning this very fact, “Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Then in II Corinthians 3: 5,6 we find these words, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” So we discover this truth that Jesus has qualified every believer to be a rescuer.
Surely there is more to this than being qualified. And there is, the rescuer must also be equipped and trained (Spirit filled and Bible literate). The rescuer must have the proper equipment to operate as such and be successful. The believer must have a relationship with the Word of God and an understanding of its contents. The Holy Spirit of God is our infallible, inerrant and inexhaustible resource; He enables us, He protects us, He guides and empowers us to reach the lost with the gospel.
Acts 1:8 tells us, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." The Holy Ghost gives us wisdom and understanding to rightly share the Word with others. In John 14:26 speaking of this Jesus Christ stated, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." What possible good would a “rescuer” have been if he arrives on the scene lacking the equipment to swim thru 2.5 miles of a pitch black, flooded cave? Of course, the answer is he would be no good at all. Not only myself they be equipped and trained but thirdly, they must also be familiar with the condition of those they are rescuing.
Just as the rescuers understood the conditions of their peril, the born again are also familiar with the hazards of sin and its deception. We were once the enemies of God, but now His ministers. Colossians 1:21 tell us, “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled”. The Lord, who was touched with the feelings of our infirmities, (Romans 8:26) has also given to us the ministry of reconciliation; “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation” II Corinthians 5:18
Fourthly, A rescuer must be prepared by having a plan. The “entry” plan and “exit” plan to save those boys was understood by all involved. They didn’t just rush headlong into the darkness without knowing the dangers. So, how are we to prepare and ready ourselves as the Lord’s rescuers? We must be solely dependent upon the empowerment and direction of the Holy Spirit of God…it is GOD’s Will, not mine; John 15:5b, “…for without me ye can do NOTHING”.
Here are just a few ways we can be prepared:
• We Prepare through the Preaching/Teaching of the Word of God :
“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17
• We Prepare through Prayer:
Matthew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Luke 9:11-13 (vs9), "And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”
• We Prepare through Fellowship:
Hebrews 2:11 "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,"
Hebrews 10:25 "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."
Fifth, we also should understand that the rescuer must be willing. No matter the amount of preparation, equipment, training, review and re-review of the plan, nothing moves until a willingness emerges from it; the rescuer has got to go to the work of getting them out. Without a willing vessel, those boys would remain trapped and lost in that darkness even now. Without a willingness of God’s servants to fulfill the Lord’s Commission, the preparation and making ready would all come to nothing.
Notice the following verses concerning this very thing:
"Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing" Matthew 24:46
"For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Galatians 1:10
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." I Corinthians 15:58
"For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." II Corinthians 8:12
Lastly, the rescuer must know the goal. Nothing solidifies and motivates a worker more than knowing the goal. For those in the cave rescue, it was to save lives, even at the cost of their own if needed. They were determined to get those boys out alive. They prepared and exhausted every available resource to realize the goal. In Christ, we have been graciously given great insight into some very extraordinary matters; we have been made privy to the spiritual warfare that rages about us. We even know, by the Word of God, that the victory is ours, Amen! Yet there are those that still remain in darkness, locked in caves of sin and despair. And it is the work and the commission of His Church to bring them out into the wonderful light of His dear Son, Jesus Christ.
Ask yourself these questions:
Why are we doing what we are doing? Is our motivation right with God?
What is an allowable loss? How many are we willing to pass by without giving the gospel? Jesus says that He is not willing that any should perish…what do we say?
What are the consequences if I fail? We know the end of the wicked, and Praise God somebody told me!
What is the reward of success?
What a moment it must have been when all those involved in the cave rescue saw all twelve of those souls emerge from that horrible darkness. If we could have been there to see their faces, the faces of their family members and loved ones. What a moment that must have been. Well dear Brother, Sister, we in Christ will also have our day of rejoicing when we come to see our Savior face to face, knowing in full what Jesus as accomplished for you and I. And to add to that rejoicing we will see the faces of those that we had a part in rescuing; the multitudes of those that were saved by our faithfulness in sharing the Word of God with them. As the song goes, “What a day, glorious day that will be!”
“He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” Psalms 126:6
- Spencer Close, Bus Director, Sharon Baptist Church
When we take up the Word of God in our hands and begin to read, we must reckon that what we are reading is powerful; the very words of God! So much so, that even one phrase recorded for us by our Lord and Savior is astounding when we consider all that is packed into it. In John 20 verse 21 we find such a phrase. It is here that Jesus instructs His disciples with the mission they are to carry out in His stead. Notice His instruction:
"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." John 20:21
This instruction begins with the phrase, "Peace be unto you:..." Three times in this chapter our Lord issues this statement of peace to those troubled men. (John 20:19, 21, 26) The task they would set forth on required the peace of God upon their lives. In fact, in this very statement of commission, they would find peace. What do we notice about the words that follow this statement of peace?
First we see the:
Pattern of the Commission
What was the pattern of the commission? We see that the pattern begins with God. Notice that God the Father sent God the Son. "...as my Father hath sent me..." How are we to understand this? Among the many deep things of God mentioned in the Bible, this is hard to comprehend. But we can understand what God has given us to understand in His Word. For example in Acts 2: 22, 23 the Bible tells us:
"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:"
This sending of Jesus Christ by the Father is outlined for us in the phrase, "...Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken..." By the way, these words given to us in the book of Acts make it clear that those who delivered Christ were in no wise relieved in their responsibility, but yet God is still sovereign. Then in Colossians 1:18 we find this about our wonderful Lord and Savior:
"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
The preeminence of Christ speaks to Him being chief or first. Jesus Christ is to whom we are to be conformed. Just as He was commissioned by God the Father, so we are commissioned by the Son of God. The pattern for our lives is ever before us in the Bible. It was necessary in all things that He might have the preeminence. Books upon books have been written concerning this matter we call "the Great Commission" and yet the Book contains the pattern for you and I.
Not only do we see the pattern of the Commission but we also see the
Pattern of our Commission
In this verse we go from the macro to the micro. The big picture is God's reconciling of man unto Himself. Jesus Christ is able to save us to the uttermost. The work of redemption is "finished” and so our labor follows His work. The Lord gives us the pattern of our Commission and we notice first that He is our example. When we look at how we are to engage people, not only Jesus is our Lord and Savior, but He is also our teacher and example. Albert Barnes in commenting on this passage had this to say concerning verse 21, "As God sent me to preach, to be persecuted, and to suffer; to make known his will, and to offer pardon to men, so I send you. This is the design and the extent of the commission of the ministers of the Lord Jesus. He is their model; and they will be successful only as they study his character and imitate his example.” Please note that the Biblical term is to be conformed to the image of Christ not simply imitation. This Commission is often isolated in our teaching to Soul-Winning, but truly our Commission is a calling for us to die to self and live our lives "in Christ." Paul put it this way, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
In Matthew 4:19, we are further shown this in Jesus' statement to the disciples. "And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." The word used here for follow gives the indication of "in the footsteps of" or "after Jesus." We follow in His footsteps. We walk the Calvary road to a place of death to self. Although the terms walking alongside of Jesus and the popular plaque depicting "footprints of Jesus" abound, the truth is we are called to the cross. Every Christian desires the fruit, but by necessity the fruit entails abiding in the vine. There is no such thing as a trouble-less Christ follower. He is our example.
Secondly we find this great truth: our enablement. The two words used by our Savior for "sending" speak both to "a setting apart" and also "a divine enablement." This is clear as in one verse later (vs. 22) we find, "And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:" Our enablement is dependent upon the indwelling presence and work of Holy Ghost; "...Christ in you, the hope of glory:" (Colossians 1:27) We find the equipping necessary for the task when our Savior said "...so send I you." We can thank the Lord that He is sending us for without Him we can do nothing! His abiding presence and our yielding to Him enable us for the impossible task of delivering the precious seed, the Word of God. We can rejoice and know the very words are true when our Saviour stated, "...and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:20)
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
The book of Isaiah starts with a very brief introduction and then thunders into a striking message. The message is for the rejecting nation of Israel. It speaks to a nation that had come full circle, from rejoicing in Jehovah God to living in a purely religious emptiness. In verse 2 the prophet communicates the Words of God, telling Israel how God had brought them up as a child and yet they rebelled against Him. In verse 3 the prophet uses striking analogies to depict the foolishness of this rebellion. The ox and the donkey knew who their master was but Israel did not.
“Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward."
Backsliding is the term we would use today. For the Christian this means turning from a vibrant walk with God to the beggarly elements of the world. In the next 7 verses the Bible uses scathing vibrant language intended to arrest the attention of these people. Let me however call your attention to verse 11. Starting in verse 11 down through verse 20 we find the Old religion. What is the Old Religion? It is the religion that has lost any worth, an empty ritualistic worship. Notice with me these several verses:
“11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19 If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20 But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it..”
First, we see that the Old Religion had become thoughtless. Notice the provoking words in verse 11, 12.
“11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?”
The thoughtlessness of their worship of God completely devalued their actions. Were they not sacrificing abundantly? Yes they were. Did it hold any value or meaning? No. The Lord asks “Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” In other words, why are you doing what you are doing? This question starts with the number one item that is lost when someone backslides, and that is the who of the why. The ‘who of the why’ is what we lose because our eyes have drifted away from God to something else. God is the who that gives us the why. Without God, there is no worship. In the New Testament we are told that “the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:” (II Corinthians 5:14) When we live our lives in light of what Jesus Christ has done, the love of Christ certainly constrains us and we are dead to self. The nation of Israel was thoughtlessly sacrificing. How do we know this? Because their lives were not different from their worship of God. How can someone be walking in the presence of God and not be changed? How can someone approach the glory of God and not discover their own wickedness? How can Light not reveal what is in the darkness? God wanted them to turn back to Him.
Secondly, we see the worthlessness of the Old Religion. In verse 13, the Lord uses the phrase “Bring no more vain oblations;…” The word vain used here gives the connotation of being evil and useless. In looking at the list God gives over the next several verses we would be shocked to discover that though they were doing a lot it had no usefulness. As a matter of fact, God goes even further and calls their worship “iniquity” in verse 13. How terrible would it be to realize that all the time, energy, and effort in our religious exercises were not only worthless, but also sinful? What was the problem with this Old Religion? Well let’s recap:
It was thoughtless.
It was therefore worthless.
It was full of sinfulness.
This Old Religion was full of doing, with no heart. It was knowledgeable, but had no application. We could look at it today in our worship services as well. It would be as if we come to church and sing without singing unto the Lord from our heart. We give a tithe and an offering without any thought as to the tithe and offering we are giving. We hear the preaching of the Word of God, but truly instead of hearing the truth we hear wah-wah-wah-wah-wah. We come to an altar and bend a knee, but we do not bend our heart.
All of us have experienced this before, but the difference here is that this was the common state of the nation of Israel. Never is empty religion acceptable to God, but this describes an ongoing state. This was not just a time or two, when the world had been able to secure their attention, this was their everyday. So, what is to be done in a situation like this? Let me suggest two items. The first is stated very clearly.
“Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
The Christian knows the only way to be washed is by going to God admitting our sinfulness (John 13:10, I John 1:9). In doing so there must be a putting away of evil. There must be a heart that is seeking judgment and righteousness. In other words, a heart-willingness to learn to do well. Then there is of course the action of this heart attitude. Notice the Bible says “relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” Simply put, Do right! Lip service without life service is what this verse is speaking against.
The second application can be made in verse 18.
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
This speaks to the cleansing that can only take place when someone is saved;it is the crimson to wool, the scarlet to white. Only Jesus Christ and what he did through His death, burial, and resurrection can take our scarlet sins and make them white as snow. Perhaps it is for some that the reason their worship is empty is because their heart is empty. Titus 3: 5-7 tells us “5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost is necessary for regeneration. No amount of works of righteousness whether in a church setting or not can save anyone.
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Going through the book of Psalms we find many challenging heart statements by the psalmists. These Psalms were written in the heart of the Bible and give the careful reader a picture of the Christian life. Many times, the psalmist is pouring out his praises and thanksgivings before God. In some of the Psalms we are given reports of God’s goodness and providence. In other places you can sense the frustration of the sojourner as he deals with the enemies that have beset him round about.
One helpful tool to the Christian today is to take use of the very words of Scripture in our prayers to our wonderful God. We certainly can identify with the heart cries found throughout these hymns of the Hebrews.
One such verse that struck my heart is found in Psalm 69 verse 5.
“O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.”
What a tremendous statement concerning our daily sinfulness. Our sin is not a popular conversation to be taken up before God. We would like to think of our goodness rather than our transgressions. But it is certainly true that daily we need to have our “feet” cleansed from walking in this sin-cursed world (John 13:10). Notice that the first two words in this verse:
The psalmist begins by declaring “O God…” These two simple words both declare an anguish of heart and also an admission to the supremacy of Almighty God. This perspective sets up the following declaration of humility before God. Notice that the next few words:
“thou knowest my foolishness…” The psalmist declares as he sees God through the eyes of faith that indeed his sinfulness is foolish and known by God. It recognizes the holiness of God and our struggle with our own flesh and declares God’s goodness in contrast with our failures. Next the psalmist agrees with what God has already revealed and we find that the last few words:
The psalmist in this landmark statement says, “my sins are not hid from thee.” Oftentimes we point out our neighbors’ sin while disregarding our own. Here the psalmist takes responsibility and agrees with God that “my sins” are not hid from my Lord and Saviour. The truth is we should spend some time in prayer everyday asking God to cleanse us from our unrighteousness. It is not a matter of whether or not we will sin, it is a matter of whether we submit ourselves to God with our sin.
As a child of God our sin in totality is paid for by Jesus Christ the moment we place our trust in Him. But we must seek God’s face for a clear fellowship daily (I John 1:6,7,9) declaring as the psalmist did:
“O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.”
Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Some of the most remarkable passages in the Bible that have been recorded for us are prayers. In Nehemiah chapter 1 we find a prayer contained in verses 4-11 which would be answered some four months later. No doubt as we would study the book of Nehemiah this prayer was perhaps one of many that transpired in the months leading up to king Artaxerxes’ releasing Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem.
While so much could be dealt with looking at Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1, the last portion in verse 11 shows us something wonderful and encouraging concerning the faith that Nehemiah had.
Please make note of the following verse:
v11 “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.”
Nehemiah as he closes his prayer recognizes by faith something we should all keep in mind. His prayer as illustrious as it is, concludes with the truth that he is one of many. Nehemiah exhibited great faith that there were others praying even as he was doing at that very moment.
Too often we are tempted to think that we are all alone in the fight of faith. We become overwhelmed by the reports that we hear.
Nehemiah had received such a report from Hanani. When Nehemiah asked how things faired concerning Jerusalem, the news received was depressing to say the least.
v3 “And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.”
The situation it seemed was hopeless. This of course spawned the contrition in his heart found in the following verse (v4), which led to fasting and prayer. Nehemiah knew the situation was bleak, but he also knew God was great and always has a remnant.
Spurgeon in his comments on this very phrase puts it this way, “There are other good people elsewhere in the world who are as earnest in prayer as we are. If we begin to suppose that we are the only ones left who hold sound doctrine, we will become bigots. And if we think we are the only praying persons on the earth, we will most likely prove to be self-righteous. If we fancy we are the only ones who have a deep spiritual experience, we will probably be doing a great wrong to the Lord’s other servants and speaking evil of those he has accepted. It is far better to believe with Nehemiah that our prayerful voice is not a solitary one and that there are many who, like ourselves, cry day and night to God.” – Charles Spurgeon
Remember the great strait that Elijah found himself in when he declared, “and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (I Kings 19:10b) And yet the LORD declared, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” (I Kings 19:18)
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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