Thanksgiving week is finally here. This week children and grandchildren will bring home from school turkeys cut out of construction paper with little feathers pasted on them. They will have pilgrims with funny bonnets, hats, and buckle shoes. Unfortunately though, giving thanks is not a natural attribute in anyone. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not born with good tendencies. The Bible tells us that, "there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12). None of us are born with a thankful heart! Thanksgiving does not spring out of our unregenerate nature. It is only when we are born-again that we become genuinely appreciative to God and to man for our blessings in life. Giving thanks is more than just bowing our heads and praying a little prayer over our daily food. It is also more than just a once-a-year event celebrated with friends, relatives, turkey, and pumpkin pie. It is an attitude of heart and life, that leaves us in humble gratitude before God and men.
In Genesis 8: 20-22 we find that Noah gave thanks to God by an offering immediately once he departed the Ark.
"And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord" (Genesis 8:20)
Of all that Noah could have done, he continued to put first things first. What did Noah do immediately upon exiting the ark? He built an altar to give thanks and honor to the Lord. This act of his worship reflects the priority that should be given to this matter of thanksgiving.
The truth is Thanksgiving should have first place in our attitude.
Proverbs 23:7 tells us "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee."
Our actions are controlled by our attitudes. In other words, what we are determines what we do. We must be right on the inside before we can behave correctly on the outside. For thanksgiving to work its way into our daily living, it must begin in our hearts. Jesus taught this same principle during His earthly ministry. In speaking about this He stated,
"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." (Luke 6:45)
Solomon spoke about this same matter when he penned these words, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (Proverbs 4:23)
There is nothing easy about cultivating an appreciative attitude. It is something that we have to work on constantly in our inward man. But, as we humble ourselves, and cooperate with His Spirit, the "sweet aroma" of a grateful spirit will begin to reveal itself in our lives. Not only should thanksgiving have first place in our attitudes but Thanksgiving should have first place in our actions.
If we are thankful in our hearts, we will be thankful in our daily living. "Thanksgiving is thanks-living!" That is, a thankful spirit is translated into our actions. Realize this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) Therefore we should be determined by the grace of God, to always show our appreciation for His blessings. Not only should we demonstrate our thankfulness to God, but we should demonstrate our thankfulness to those around us. Thanksgiving is not just a vertical principle, it has its horizontal relationships as well. When we are sincerely thankful to God for His blessings, we cannot help but be grateful for the kind deeds of others. That means that you and I should be quick to remember to say "thank you." More often than not, to our shame, these two words of thankfulness do not leave our lips.
Lastly, Thankfulness should have first place in our approach to God. When we think of approaching God, the first thing that usually comes to mind is prayer. But, the Bible teaches us to come before God, not only with "prayer and supplication," but also "with thanksgiving." Here are a few verses that demonstrate that simple fact:
Psalm 100:4 "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalms 69:30 "I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving."
Nehemiah 12:46 "For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God."
As a matter of fact, prayer combined with praise and thanksgiving are often found together in the Scriptures.
Philippians 4:6 "Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God."
Colossians 4:2 "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;" 8
Nehemiah 11:17a "And Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, was the principal (song leader) to begin the thanksgiving in prayer:"
Looking at the account of Noah we can all agree that what he did concerning his approach to God agrees with the Bible. His "prayers" and "giving of thanks" came first. He was quick to give God the glory for what He had done! We need to learn to follow Noah’s pattern of worship.
Let this Thanksgiving Week be the beginning of a new pattern of thankfulness in your life. This surely will bring glory and honor to God!
Psalms 95:2 "Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms."
- Pastor David Carroll Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Acts 16:25
As we read through the account of Acts chapter 16, we are amazed at the response of Paul and Silas. It seems that Paul throughout his entire ministry faced severe opposition to the Gospel. Paul's preaching of the Gospel had such a far reaching impact that he is often the subject of many sermons preached out of the New Testament only second to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But Paul's witness had more depth than just a few verses that he had memorized and often quoted. He and his companions lived a life that was in close fellowship with the Lord. When we come to this account starting at the beginning of chapter 16, we become enamored with the situation that unfolds and perhaps miss a key element in what resulted in souls saved and a local New Testament church being birthed. Notice the order of what transpired in the above verse:
They Prayed to God.
They Praised God.
The Prisoners Heard.
What a wonderful testimony to our great Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Paul and Silas in the midst of severe affliction are helped through their worship of God. Here also the prisoners are affected by Paul and Silas’ worship of God. There is a great lesson for you and I in this passage. Likewise, in the book of James we also find this twofold instruction, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” (James 5:13)
Our testimony to those that are without should raise up Jesus Christ. Our Savior speaking of his impending crucifixion stated, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). Oftentimes though, we put on a sour face and portray God as a hard taskmaster requiring us to do what we do not want to do. And yet here Paul and Silas are affected and affect those around them simply by praying and praising God! Psalm 103 is a tremendous example of the many things that we can praise God for! This list is by no means exhaustive because of God's great goodness and glory, but it does help us to once again focus our attention on how good God is.
So what can we praise God for? Well the psalmist David tells us:
"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;" (v2,3)
1. We can praise God for forgiving all our iniquities (those who have trusted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior). Psalm 103:3
2. We can praise God for our health. Psalm 103:3 – The Great Physician has blessed us with physical and spiritual health.
"Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;" (v4)
3. We can praise God for redeeming “thy life from destruction.” Psalm 103:4 – He has done more than just forgiven us, He has received us into His house.
4. We can praise God because he has shown us “lovingkindness and tender mercies;” Psalm 103:4
"Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's." (v5)
5. We can praise God because he has given us what we need to be satisfied. Psalm 103:5 “No man is ever filled to satisfaction but a believer, and only God himself can satisfy even him.” – Charles Spurgeon The Treasury of David
"The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed." (v6)
6. We can praise God that He is the Just Judge and will continue to execute righteousness and judgement. Psalm 103:6
"He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel." (v7)
7. We can praise God because He has made known His ways unto His children. Psalm 103:7
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." (v8)
8. We can praise God because He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounds in mercy. Psalm 103:8 God is not as man, fickle in forgiveness. God has not stated as Peter, “how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Matthew 18:21 How low we stoop in our mercy towards others!
"He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever." (v9)
9. We can praise God He does not reprove indefinitely. Psalm 103:9 God corrects us perfectly.
10. We can praise God that “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10
"For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him." (v11)
11. We can praise God for His mercy cannot be measured. Psalm 103:11 His mercy is “Like the height of the heaven” if thou can measure that!
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (v12)
12. We can praise God because our sins are gone, nowhere to be found. They are impossibly removed from retrieval. Psalm 103:12 – “Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward, you are further from the west at every beat of your wing. If sin be removed so far, then we may be sure that the scent, the trace, the very memory of it must be entirely gone.” - Charles Spurgeon The Treasury of David
"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him." (v13)
13. We can praise God because He has compassion for you and I. Psalm 103:13
"For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth." (v14,15)
14. We can praise God because He “knoweth our frame;” Psalm 103:14,15 God knows how we are constituted for He is our Maker. “…we are dust….” and our “…days are as grass…”
"But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;" (v17)
15. We can praise God for though we fade away as a flower, His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting; immeasurable. Psalm 103:17 (and 15)
"To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." (v18)
16. We can praise God because He is a covenant keeping God. What He has promised to do, He will do it. Psalm 103:18
17. We can praise God because He expects us to be obedient. Psalm 103:18 What loving God would not guide us in the paths of life?
"The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all." (v19)
18. We can praise God, because He is the Almighty. Psalm 103:19 God’s is sovereign over all, His throne is higher than all ‘thrones.’
"Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word." (v20)
19. We can praise God because of His creation; the heavenly host. Psalm 103:20 “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hebrews 1:14
"Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure."(v21)
20. We can praise God because of His magnificent work. Psalm 103:21 – God in His great plan has chosen to allow you and I to participate in this wonderful work. “Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.” Psalm 103:22
Perhaps if we would be a praying people that are praising the Lord more people would turn to Jesus Christ for salvation and give glory to God!
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Romans 11:1-6 "1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, 3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. 4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
During our last outreach event a gentlemen expressed to me that he went to a "church" that doctrinally believes in a faith plus works salvation; they hold that baptism is required for salvation among other required deeds. It was because of this conversation that I began to meditate on Romans 11:6. This verse is perhaps one of the most explicit dividing verses in the Bible that really cuts to the heart of this matter when we are discussing salvation with 'those that are without.' Is salvation a matter of works or grace? In fact, as we look around, it will be evident that there is an outworking of these "two ways of salvation" (Of course we know there is only one of valid way of salvation according to the Bible).
Our Adversary has so leveraged our own sinfulness against us that to the natural man a way of works is more palatable. We find the way of works in all forms of Religion today (except biblical Christianity) and it fits best in our own Reasoning. It makes sense to us to 'earn' favor with God because of our guilt from our own sinfulness and feeling of separation. Even our understanding of God's love being unconditional is foreign to us because we are so marred by sin.
Paul here in Romans 11 has been for the past two chapters pouring out his heart concerning the nation of Israel. He states in Romans 9: 1-4:
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;"
In chapter 9 Paul is dealing with Israel's past and in chapter 10 he is dealing with their present state. Here in chapter 11 though he is wrestling with the reader about their future. Paul starts the chapter with a rhetorical question that he quickly answers. He states, "Hath God cast away his people (Israel)?" This question plagues us much the same way concerning our present state here in the United States. We could ask the question, Has God cast away the United States? Or maybe we might frame it this way, Is there anyone left but me?
Oh what a troubling time Paul lived in for the nation of Israel and we certainly are living in troubling days... Is God still continuing to save the lost? Paul give us a twofold proof that God had not cast away His people and you and I by application can understand that there are still folks to be saved here in the United States as well.
The first proof we find is in verse number one. Notice what the Bible says, "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin."
Paul tells us the first proof is himself! What a glorious truth to understand! Paul says fervently, No, God has not cast away His people! How do I know? because I am an Israelite and He saved me! You and I can certainly say the same thing in our day. This local New Testament church here in Hampton, Virginia still has the mission given to us by the Savior to proclaim the Gospel. What is the proof? We are still here. God has not sent the Lord Jesus Christ for His bride yet and therefore the mission still stands. What is that mission? The mission is the mandate to spread the Gospel. Consequently then there are still folks that will be saved. Praise the Lord!
In verses 2-4 Paul offers us the second proof that God is not done with Israel yet. Again by application you and I can say the same thing. What proof does Paul offer? Notice what verse 2 states,
"God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,"
The second great proof of God's continuing mission for us is God's Word! In Romans 15:4 we find this encouragement about the Bible, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." My friend there is some patience and comfort to be had by the reading, understanding, and the applying of God's Word. If you want to get upset and quit just spend all your time watching and reading the news, but if you want to have a biblical perspective on what is taking place and find patience and comfort, read your Bible! Paul here references the story of Elijah...Elijah had heard some bad news and wanted to quit, so he went and sat under a juniper tree (I Kings 19:4). Boy does that not describe us sometimes? Elijah cried out to God, "...It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life:..." As Paul continues to recount this Old Testament narrative he states, "But what saith the answer of God unto him?" Friend what does God have to say about our current state of affairs? God has been so good to us to give us the Bible so that we can know what to expect concerning this old sin filled world; but know this, God is still in the saving business today!
2 Peter 3: 9,10 "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
We see the Casting away of some but then Paul also gives us some comfort by expressing the Continuation of Grace. In verse 5 of our passage, Paul states, "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." Just as God had a remnant that had not bowed their knee to Baal in Elijah's day, Paul said God still has a remnant of Jews. Likewise you and I are not alone. There are Christians all over the world still preaching the Gospel and they are still seeing God save people. There are people taking that first step of obedience in believer's baptism and yes, there are even folks still getting discipled. I am reminded of Acts 18:10 where Jesus speaks to Paul concerning that saintly city of Corinth (Corinth was a busy metropolis full of debauchery). "For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city." There are still plenty of people that need to hear the Gospel, therefore you I have a responsibility to be a witness where we are! The truth is there will be some that will reject God and continue down the path of a works-based salvation, but there will be some that will trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith.
Lastly Paul shows us the crux of the matter, which is the Contradiction of Works and Grace. Paul first gives us his thesis concerning works and grace. He states, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Boiling this down into four simple statements we could put it this way:
Grace is one way.
Works is one way.
Grace cannot be works.
Works cannot be grace.
In other words, Paul is making a division between the two as being totally separate and un-mixable! We are saved by God's unmerited favor toward us (Grace) which cannot be earned by any deed, doing or labour! Grace is received and cannot be earned, it is an act of God's divine will. The access to this grace offered to us is through faith (Ephesians 2: 8,9). This is not a works-based salvation because works are meant to produce or purchase. Faith on the other hand is the manner by which we receive that which God has provided by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Works produce, faith receives.
I would encourage all Soul-Winners to add this one simple verse to their memory and underline it in their Bible. This matter of works and grace in the day in which we live is so vitally important. Surely, we must be able to show people that man cannot obtain salvation through works.
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor Sharon Baptist Church
We undoubtedly live in a privileged day. God has certainly given us so much. Those of us who live in the United States live in relative safety. In comparison to the rest of the world even the poorest of us have great abundance. Our country affords us unprecedented freedom that most of the world lacks. We live in a time when God's Word is easily accessible. For all of us we have been partakers of 2000+ years of the preaching and teaching of God's Word. The question is why are we here in this time and in this day? What is our responsibility with all that God has given and taught us?
It brings to mind certainly two verses:
Esther 4:14 shows us the dialogue between Hadassah and Mordecai provoking this same question. Hadassah (Esther) had been allowed to rise to the height of Queen in one of Israel's darkest hours and Mordecai (her Uncle) makes this statement concerning her responsibility. "For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
We can answer that rhetorical question Mordecai poses knowing the rest of the story. Esther certainly was given the stewardship of the high office of Queen for the events that would transpire in the following chapters of that book delivering the Jews from sudden destruction.
Paul in I Corinthians 9:17 expresses a similar thought concerning his stewardship of the Gospel, "For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me."
In other words, Paul understood that he was given a mission for the spreading of the Gospel for 'such a time' as he lived.
Continuing this thought, we must then understand that God has given us His Word in its entirety for a purpose. There is no doubt that we are given His Word so that we might know the Gospel. The great purposes of the Bible not only include our knowledge of salvation but also our knowledge of God Himself and His holiness. But what about a specific passage such as Revelation 16? In understanding the sequence of events in the book of Revelation, those who have trusted in Christ for salvation will be in heaven long before chapter 16 takes place. So to what purpose should we ascribe the knowledge of the horrendous events that will take place in chapter 16 for you and I today?
First let us review what is given to us in that fearful chapter. We find it opens with a statement of God's wrath being poured out.
"And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven angels, Go your ways, and pour out the vials of the wrath of God upon the earth."
This verse speaks to the severity of the judgement of God, the completeness of the judgment (mentioned in 7 vials or bowls), and lastly the certainty of the judgement (indicated by the command "Go your ways, and pour out...") There is no amount of praying that will reverse what follows in this chapter, and because it is written in God's Word we can count on it as surely coming to pass.
We not only see the fullness of God's wrath but also the fulness of the scope of destruction. This is not some localized event that will occur in one place but rather this judgement is "upon the earth." In other words, global destruction. As the chapter continues, of which I would compel you to read for yourself, the following 'vial' judgements are given:
1. Vial 1 - Noisome and grievous sore v2
2. Vial 2 - the Sea "became as the blood of a dead man:" "every living soul in the sea died." v3
3. Vial 3 - Water sources turned to blood "they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." v4-7
4. Vial 4 - Scorching with great heat "men were scorched with great heat..." and yet"they repented not to give him the glory." v8,9
5. Vial 5 - Darkness and pain v10,11
6. Vial 6 - Deception and the gathering of the final rebellion v12,13
7. Vial 7 - Thunderings, lightenings, a great earthquake(islands flee and mountains disappear), and hail (60-100lbs a piece) falls upon man. v17-21
As we look at this list, which our imagination just has the ability to scratch the surface of, we must ask the question, Why did God give us this incite?
Might I suggest at least one reason; that we would be reminded of the impending judgment that will come to pass and be more fervent in our yielding to our Savior to preach the Gospel.
As I am reminded of the power of the Gospel let us leave this gruesome scene by meditating on these two verses:
Acts 26:18 “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.”
Colossians 1: 11-14 "Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:"
Both of these verses give us the hope that today we can, should the Lord tarry, see folks translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son. Our responsibility for 'such a time as this' is to be diligent in witnessing to the lost around us. Let us never forget our stewardship of the Gospel in this late hour.
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
"When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." John 11:4
Our perspective, or as the Bible terms it our vision in life, determines everything from how we move and breath to how we think and feel. Circumstances and even trials will be perceived by our vision of God. The big 'why' question often plaques us, normally in times of difficulty. It is interesting to note that the 'why' question normally does not come during times of great blessing. Our God desires us to have the right vision of Himself. And so as the Bible unfolds from Genesis to Revelation, it not only shows us how to be saved but it also shows us how to live in relation to Him. Seeing our lives God-ward is key to living the abundant Christian life. In other words, our eyes fixed upon the Savior will make all the difference in the world. Over and over again God demonstrates His glory through the pages of Scripture and compels us that we are privileged to glorify Him. In John chapter 11, we are told of a man by the name of Lazarus who has been recorded for all eternity in the pages of God's Word as the man Jesus raised from the dead. Just a few chapters later he would literally be a living testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ. And yet without the perspective given to us in verse 4 of this chapter, people would see Lazarus' sickness and death as nothing more than a tragedy of the present cruelties of this world.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus himself at this point in chapter 11 were grappling with the big question 'why.' No doubt they also had scores of other emotions that come with an untimely sickness that continues to get worse and worse. Knowing that Jesus could heal Lazarus if He wanted to, Mary and Martha sent saying, "Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." (John 11:3) Can you hear the present cry that many of us share in times of difficulty, "He's sick, come quickly, help!" ?
Jesus however gives us (the reader and those present at this statement) some vision concerning our lives in relation to God. Our Lord and Savior states, "This sickness is not unto death, but..." (John 11:4a) But what?? Underline the following statement of heavenly perspective, "but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." (John 11:4b)
Sickness is one thing, but physical death is something entirely different. Temporary inconvenience is unpleasant, but what about a complete giving of our lives that God may be glorified? Do we say Lord I am willing to suffer to a point in this world but only to this point? Are we willing to have the 'all in' heavenly perspective concerning our lives in their present circumstances? I wonder myself, if I were given the knowledge that God was going to take my life for His glory, would I say, "not my will, but thine, be done" even as our Savior said? Knowing the rest of the events in the life of Lazarus it is easy to sit back and say, "No problem, I could deal with that!" If we were to be honest however, all of us have trouble when times get tough.
Notice some startling truths we can see concerning our lives in relation to God.
1. God knows the totality of our circumstances.
This is evident when Jesus states, "...This sickness is not unto death..." (v4) and later in verse 6 we are told "...he abode two days..." The beginning, the ending, and everything in between is known by God. The good times, the sicknesses and the struggles alike are also known to God. The poor decisions and the right choices; none of these things are hid from God. Notice these two compelling verses, "O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee." (Psalm 69:5) "For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings." (Job 34:21) Clearly God knows the totality of our circumstances.
2. Our lives have the potential of glorifying God.
Why was Lazarus chosen to get sick, die, and be raised from the dead? Why were Martha and Mary chosen to witness and be involved in the events surrounding Lazarus' death and raising? Why did Jesus speak these very words in the presence of the disciples concerning the reason for Lazarus' death? The answer is ..."but for the glory of God..." What a privilege it is then to be allowed to glorify God.
3. God loves us.
In case we had doubts about God's goodness toward us we are given verse 5 as an affirmation concerning this present situation with Lazarus. "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Mary and Martha obviously understood this according to verse 3 and we come to understand this also by the Holy Spirit's commentary in verse 5. It is as if the Holy Spirit could here us thinking, "Well if you loved Lazarus, why would you let him suffer and die?" Littered throughout the pages of Scripture we are constantly reaffirmed that God loves us. In fact, He loves us so much that he perfectly demonstrated that love on the cross. (Romans 5:8) This means He loves us even when we cannot see the end and explain the why. This means He loves us even when we cannot explain our current situation or struggles. God assures us by stating and demonstrating over and over again 'I love you.'
These first three truths ought to do much for us in traversing difficult times, not in making our problems go away, but rather giving us some heavenly perspective. But how do we traverse the difficulty? How do we keep going when life is difficult? We understand God loves us, we understand God knows our present circumstances and we also understand we are to glorify God in our lives, but now what? This last truth will help.
4. We are participating in God's unfolding drama of redemption.
Purpose goes a long way when it comes to our actions. Borrowing a title from W. Graham Scroggie's book entitled The Unfolding Drama of Redemption, our vision of God should help us understand that we are participating in His unfolding drama of redemption. In other words, there are so many effects of our participation that we cannot possibly fully understand the end of all of our actions (I dare say we do not in our present earthly tabernacle have the capacity or ability to see the end from the beginning as God does). Let me demonstrate what I am referring to by using this event as an example. Is it possible for anyone to calculate how many people were positively affected by Lazarus' death and raising? We can say for certain that for thousands of years people have been affected by this event simply because it is recorded in God's Word. But even if that were not the case, how many generations of people were affected by this singular event? Think about those present, and then also those who were told by those present. The answer is that none of us have the understanding to know how widespread God is glorified by Lazarus' death and raising. As we study God's Word we would come to the same conclusion about any number of saints that have through the ages gone through challenging times. (Stephen's stoning, Paul's near death experiences, Daniel's night with the lions, Noah's testimony to his children building the Ark and the list could go on...) The same holds true for you and I. How many will be affected by our glorifying of God? And even a more pressing question is this, am I wasting opportunities to glorify God because I have the wrong vision of God and my circumstances? Let our prayers be this then, "God I do not understand this, but I pray you will give me the help to glorify you by it!"
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Acts 5:42 "And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
I am not against inviting people to church. I am not against membership campaigns that churches might carry out. However, I do want you to notice that the Bible does not say that the early church tried to multiply the number of the disciples. What it does say is that every day, publicly and privately, they told people about Jesus Christ. The result, as we find from the next verse, was that "the number of the disciples was multiplied."
One of the mistakes of church building is that church growth should not be the primary goal. We should not wait until we get enough good workers to start a Soul-Winning program. We should be winning souls no matter how many people we have in our churches.
When it comes to Soul-Winning there are a number of misconceptions people have about it. Let me give you five truths about Soul-Winning that will correct some of those misconceptions.
1. Soul-Winning Is A Command, Not A Spiritual Gift
Matthew 28: 19-20 "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."
All those who have been born again should carry out this command. It's not a suggestion to consider; it's a command to obey! You don't need to pray about whether or not you should do it. You just DO it!
We should coach our converts. Look at Matthew 28:20a "Teaching THEM to observe ALL things whatsoever I have commanded YOU." Don't forget that part of the 'teaching them' is doing what is commanded in vs)19. Too many people today want to do the teaching part but not what was initially commanded. Many people have never been trained to go Soul-Winning. But, thank God that we here at SBC have given people numerous opportunities to learn how to win people to Christ.
2. Soul-Winning Is Chief, Not Secondary
1 Timothy 1:15 "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."
Soul-Winning was the motivation of Christ. He came into this world to save sinners. He lived without sin so He could die as a sacrifice for sinners. He died on the cross for sinners. He rose again for sinners. Therefore it is the mission of the church.
Matthew 4:19 says, "And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." If you take to heart 2 Corinthians 5:20a where it says, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ," we see the clear and compelling mission of the church.
It is the main emphasis of the church. Every ministry of the church is either to win souls or to strengthen Christians so that they are able to win souls. If a ministry is not doing that we have forgotten what the main emphasis of the church ought to be.
3. Soul-Winning Is Charity, Not Solicitation
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Some businesses today try to forbid Soul-Winning on their property with a posted notice against solicitation. However, Soul-Winning is not solicitation. To solicit is "to ask for or plead for, especially in reference to receiving payment or money."
We offer a fantastic gift - eternal life. What can be better than spending an eternity with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ in heaven. Nobody can offer us eternal life except for Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 3:15 "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Some have tried to find the fountain of youth, others have spent millions of dollars in hope cryogenics will preserve them so they can one day be brought back to life to be healed. But Jesus said in Matthew 25:46, speaking of all those who reject Him as Saviour, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
We offer a free gift. It's free, but it's not cheap! It was paid for by the most precious substance in the universe, the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can't buy it. You can't earn it. You can't work in order to get it. You can only receive it as a free gift from God by faith in Christ Jesus. What was the cost of this gift? It was none other than the life blood of Jesus Christ.
Peter 1: 18-22 "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:"
4. Soul-Winning Is Cooperation, Not A Single Effort
In 1 Corinthians 3:6 Paul says, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase."
The Bible makes it clear that we don't win souls by our self. We cooperate with our Saviour. Paul writing to the Corinthian church tells us that in 1 Corinthians 3:9a "For we are labourers together with God." Throughout the Bible we are taught that God requires the work of man, and that he will not help those who will do nothing for themselves or for him. The world was to be evangelized not by sudden miracle, but by faithful human labour. Mark 16:20 states, "And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen."
We cooperate with other Soul-Winners. Luke 10:1 "After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come." I believe it's the Lord's plan for us to go out two by two in our Soul-Winning and evangelistic efforts. King Solomon said, "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour" (Ecclesiastes 4:9). What joy and fellowship I have experienced down through the years as we shared the gospel to a lost and dying world with my Soul-Winning partners.
5. Soul-Winning Is Continuous, Not Sporadic
From out text we find these words, "and daily." Our Soul-Winning should be daily. I'm for churches having a night for organized Soul-Winning and visitation, but we should be winning souls every day! As a matter of fact, if the church as a whole would win souls on a daily basis our churches would be overflowing with new converts.
Our Soul-Winning should be deliberate. Jesus told His disciples to follow Him, and He would make them fishers of men. People don't catch fish by accident; they catch them on purpose. The reason Christians don't win souls is that they do not make a deliberate choice and plan to do it.
I challenge you to just do it! Let's go after sinners as we're commanded to do! No excuses, no lies, no alibis and no reason why not, just do it!
Dr. Jack Hyles went to be with the Lord years ago and wrote the following little poem entitled "Incomplete."
Like a fire with no glow, Like a winter with no snow,
Like a river with no flow, Like a conviction without a "NO,"
Like an oar without a row, Like a wind without a blow,
Like a scale without a do, Like a pitcher without a throw,
Like a harvest without a sow, Like a trip without a go,
Like a kneader without dough, Like a Santa without a Ho,
Like excess without overflow, Like a foot without a toe,
Like a gardener without a hoe, Like a cock without a crow,
Like a con without a pro, Like a high without a low,
Like a truth without a know, Like a fast without a slow,
Like a buck without a doe, Like an actor without a show,
Like above without below, Like a to without a fro,
Like violins without a bow,
IS A CHRISTIAN WHO WILL NOT GO.
- Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Proverbs 4:23 "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
I don't know about you, but I've heard this verse and quoted and said, "Yep that's good and so true!" But recently I really started thinking about it...what does this mean??...keep our heart? So I began to study it out some. The first place I went was to my study bible and it's explanation said this, "Heart could often be translated "mind". Since the Hebrews had no separate word for "mind" the word "heart" often served to represent the seat of the intellect. The key to the whole man is his mind! Whatever captures the mind captures the man.
Wow, this really began to open my eyes and help me understand the importance of guarding my mind. So we could say keep thy mind with all diligence. When I hear the word diligence or diligent I think of consistent, hard work. But as I was studying this out I found that guarded is another word that is used to describe diligence and for me that was the 'WOW' moment . We MUST guard our minds!
I would dare say we have all fallen prey to wrong and negative thinking at times.
Philippians 4:8 instructs us on the things we must think on: things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. What we think on WILL control us. The evil that is in this world constantly tries to engage our minds and if we entertain wrong thoughts, before you know it you will be so far out there you have come up with all kinds of "imaginations." II Corinthians 10:5-6 tell us we must cast down these imaginations and bring our thoughts captive.
"5 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: 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is full. " (II Corinthians 10: 5-6)
I love these two verses and we could teach an entire lesson from these. But we must be bringing out thoughts captive and guarding our minds. Listen to this situation and see if you can relate:
"Every morning when Laurie comes in to work she stops and chats with Susie. Well this particular morning Laurie comes in walks right past Susie's desk, doesn't look doesn't speak, nothing. Well Susie is all worked up now thinking well what is wrong with Laurie. She's mad at me? What did I do? Frustrated and upset the day goes on. Susie then sees Laurie down the hall go into the boss's office. Oh great Susie thinks, now she's going to tell the boss I'm a horrible worker and get me in trouble. How could she do this to me ? I thought we were friends. The anger and frustration for Susie builds. At lunch time Susie is in the break room eating and Laurie comes in. "Susie, you are not going to believe my morning! As I drove up to work this morning I did not think I would make it in the building, my stomach was so upset It was all I could do but run to the bathroom. It's been awful. Then the boss called me into her office to discuss that project I was working on last week. My it's been a crazy mourning for me. How has your morning been?"
Do we not do the same things? Jumping to conclusions before we know what the entire story is? Our thoughts can get us in a world of trouble and bring us down. If we start thinking on wrong things or past mistakes or looking at around at what others do and don't do. We are now no longer guarded. We can go in all kinds of wrong directions with our thoughts, But we can also go in the right direction and that is to follow the Philippians 4:8 pattern. BUT WE MUST CHOOSE to think rightly. The only way we can accomplish this is by filling our minds with the correct things. First and foremost this is done with God's Word. We find strength, help and instruction from God in His Word. It makes it harder for Satan to get his ugly clinches in you if you are diligently, as the first part of the verse says, in His Word daily.
The second part of this verse : for out of it are the issues of life. What's going on in our mind and thoughts will flow out into our daily living. That's plain and simple I think.
I've heard the saying what you feed grows. If we are feeding our minds with God's Word and right thinking then it will flow out in our lives by how we act and treat others. If we are not, well whatever else we are putting in will flow out! Whether it be wrong thoughts, wrong books, wrong movies, you fill in the blank it will affect your daily life and how you treat others.
Think about this I read this from the commentary Biblical Illustrator referencing our physical heart as an organ. "It is the fountain of life, through which the blood passes, to be distributed to every part of the system. Stop the heart, and death follows!!!!"
Wow, think about that with our minds. Stop right thinking, right feelings and you are shutting down our entire purpose of living, which is bringing honour and glory to our Saviour Jesus Christ!
Shannon Grandinetti, Women's Missionary Fellowship Director, Sharon Baptist Church
Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousnesses; and all these things shall be added unto you." An important study is the use of the word "first" in the New Testament. I think it would do us all some good to consider the priority of items mentioned by the word "first."
1. The Priority In Our Understanding Of What Is Real Unconditional Love:
Concerning the world and His love 1 John 4:19 tells us "We love Him, because He first loved us." John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He have his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Concerning our relationship with God in Mark 12:30 Jesus said, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all the mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
2. The Priority In Having Our Lives Clean Inside As Well As Outside
Matthew 23:26 says, "Cleanse first that which is within the cup and the platter, that the outside of them may be clean also."
It seems the Lord wants us to understand that the thoughts of our heart will inevitably controls the words that comes forth from our mouth and the actions of our lives.
3. The Priority In Our Awareness Of The Times In Which We Live
The primary opposing doctrine is the anti-god philosophy which is mentioned in 2 Peter 4: 3-4. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last day's scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."
4. The Priority In Our Sharing The Gospel
1 Corinthians 15: 1-5 "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:"
That same gospel that was "delivered" unto Paul first then others is the same gospel that you and I are commanded to take to a lost and dying world.
Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
5. Priority In Our Prayer Life And Thankfulness
1 Timothy 2:1 "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;"
In the day and age that we live in, most Christians spend less time with God in His Word, praying and simply thanking the Lord for His blessing than any generation before us.
6. Priority In Our Giving
2 Corinthians 8: 1-5 "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God."
I believe the context of this passage is talking about Grace Giving or as we used to call it, Faith Promise Missionary Giving. Our gifts are acceptable to God when offered by first giving ourselves to Christ that enables us to give by faith. In fact, all that we are and all that we have including our time, talents, and treasures all belong to the Lord.
7. Our Priority In All Of Life's Decisions
Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, commanded that our first priority in every decision of life should be to do that which honors the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Matthew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." It must be Christ first in every nook and cranny or our lives.
Paul says in Philippians 4:20 "Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Let me close with this illustration from an unknown source.
Surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl stadium, a diehard fan remarked about it to a woman sitting nearby. "It was my husband's," the woman explained, "But he died." "I'm very sorry," said the man. "Yet I'm really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn't jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for him." "Beats me," she said. "They all insisted on going to the funeral."
In closing, may the Lord have the priority in our lives and the ministries He has entrusted us with.
- Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
In Matthew 11:20 – 30, some of the most scathing words pass from our Savior’s lips concerning those cities that had rejected the Messiah. The phrase “Woe unto thee” uttered against Chorazin and Bethsaida signifies a dreadful judgement. No doubt as the passage continues the same could be said of Capernaum as well. These cities that had been given ‘woe’ judgments are compared to Tyre, Sidon, and the famed city of Sodom. Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were known for their opulence and prosperity but were pitiful centers of sinful activity. Those rich cities had received the judgement of God. Now the Savior was comparing those sinful cities to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum; putting them on notice that they should have repented based on the great Light that they were given. As Matthew 4:16 tells us, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” But yet even at this, these people rejected the Messiah. As the warning had gone out the precious words of our Savior are spoken as He lifts up a prayer and compels those who will listen to a life of holiness. Transitioning from those remarkable words the Savior begins to lift up a prayer and also gives us some needful instruction. Mark what the Savior says:
"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:25-30)
In these verses we see that the Lord lifts up a Prayer of Praise. He praises His Father the ‘Lord of heaven and earth’. As the only begotten Son of the Father, He states His reason for the praise, “because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The wise and prudent have the truth hidden from them. Those proud in worldly knowledge; those who by selfish desire, that have rejected the Gospel, have not the ability to see the truth. Paul stated such in
I Corinthians 1: 26, 27 “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” In that same chapter Paul earlier states, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
(I Corinthians 1:21) Worldly wisdom will never lead people to our Savior Jesus Christ. But it is God who has revealed Himself unto us. It is in this that you and I should lift up a prayer of praise. God in His great love, mercy, and grace called us unto Himself. When is the last time you praised the Lord for revealing Himself unto you?
Jesus goes on to state, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” We not only have the Prayer of Praise but secondly, we see the Path to Peace. The Lord emphatically tells us there is no way to the Father but through the Son. Those who will know the heavenly Father must come through the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, it is our Lord and Savior tells us “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) This path to peace can only be found through Jesus Christ. God’s Word declares for us that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 8,9) As the hymn writer Dr. John Moore penned, “Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary; Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.” Dr. Moore recounts for us that he wrote this hymn after being at the bedside of a Seamen who accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. Dr. Moore asked this young man, “Do you feel this burden on your back today?” speaking of the young man’s burden of sin. And as Dr. Moore recounts, “We prayed together and never shall I forget the smile of peace and assurance that lit up his face when he said that his burden was lifted!” It was from these magnificent words “My burden was lifted!” that Dr. Moore could not get past till he penned the blessed hymn Burdens are lifted at Calvary. The path to peace surely is the most blessed wonderous treasure. Let us never forget to give praise, glory, and honor to Him that sitteth on the throne for ever and ever!
We have found not only the prayer of praise and discovered the path to peace, but lastly our Savior tells us of an unusual rest; the Place for Perfecting. Many of us have observed that all men as they live upon this earth have burdens. There are financial burdens, physical burdens, social burdens, emotional burdens and most of all spiritual burdens. The burdens of life are upon us all. But yet the Lord gives us such great strength and encouragement. He states, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This idea of taking upon you a yoke speaks of strenuous labor. But it is when we discover who our yokefellow is that we can find “rest unto” our “souls.” Jesus gives the invitation to all that are burdened with the deceitfulness of this world and the bondage of sin to “Come unto me.” The question then becomes, are you tired? Are you heavy laden? Is your back buckling under the pressures of this dying world? Our Savior says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;” So many today are searching for rest. Much to our dismay many Christians are still buckling under the weight of this world because they have yet to submit to the place for perfecting; the yoke of Jesus Christ. As Matthew Henry states, “We must come to Jesus Christ as our Teacher, and set ourselves to learn of him, Mat 11:29. Christ has erected a great school, and has invited us to be his scholars. We must enter ourselves, associate with his scholars, and daily attend the instructions he gives by his word and Spirit. We must converse much with what he said, and have it ready to use upon all occasions; we must conform to what he did, and follow his steps, 1Pe 2:21.” The place for perfecting will result in the Christian finding rest for his Soul. I often say that a Christian will experience the most satisfaction and joy from exercising their talents and spiritual gifts in service to the Lord giving glory and honor to Him. I wonder have we submitted to the labor Jesus has called us to? Have we submitted to learn of Him? He assures us His “yoke is easy, and [His] my burden in light.”
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Matthew 28: 18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 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."
- The Components of the Mission
Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." - The Command of the Mission
Luke 24: 48-49 "And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." – The Capability to complete the Mission
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." – The Commission of the Mission
Acts 1:8 "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 Carrying out of the Mission
In each of the above verses God’s Word outlines for us what has been labeled by some as the Great Commission. In each of the Gospel accounts given to us, including the book of Acts, the mission is laid out. Each of these verses present the mission but vary in the details given. The first verse listed is Matthew 28:18-20 and speaks to the components of the mission.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 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.”
The components spoken of here suggest a multifaceted mission. Jesus speaking to the Apostles first presents His authority in giving the mission. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Because of the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ he states that we are to “Go.” This dictates to you and I an action on our behalf. What are we to go and do? First, we are to “teach all nations.” The message we are to teach is none other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The context for this Gospel message is the individual and their need for salvation that can only be found through Jesus Christ. Next the Bible declares those who accept this Gospel message and our saved by God’s grace are to be baptized. As this verse declares, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost:” The proper order according to this verse is salvation followed by believer’s baptism. The semi-colon here suggests a connection to the third part of this continuing mission which is “Teaching them to observe whatsoever things I commanded you:” This third part of the commission includes discipleship and church membership. Teaching is done through the local New Testament church. The equipping work is accomplished for this continuing mission in part by those who are spiritually gifted to teach and preach God’s Word according to Ephesians chapter 4. These are the components of the mission. Secondly, we have Mark chapter 16, the command of the mission.
Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
This command is universal in audience as indicated by the personal pronoun “ye” which is plural. Not only is this command universal for every Christian but it is also universal in scope. The Gospel message is to be proclaimed by all Christians to all of the world. Thus, the Lord includes “preach the gospel to every creature.” There are no exclusive rights to the Gospel message. It is a message that applies to all men, regardless of nationality or ethnic background. It applies to all geography, wherever man lives the message is to be brought to him. We are to bring this message by going and delivering the message. Thus, it is said in Romans chapter 10 and verse 14 “…how shall they hear without a preacher?” As we move on down the list of verses we come to Luke chapter 24 were the Lord gives us the capability to complete the mission.
Luke 24: 48-49 “And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
In Matthew 19: 16-29 the Lord encounters a rich young ruler who exclaims, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Sadly, this young man in mistaken that heaven can be obtained through works. At the end of this narrative Jesus gives the assessment, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” This statement shocks the disciples as they perhaps reexamine this young man’s status in life in their minds. Here was a man that was successful in the world. Here was a man that was successful in religious matters, but yet the Lord had uttered these words, “how hardly…” Jesus’ disciples exclaim the impossibility of salvation: “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” To which Jesus replies,“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” What a wonderful truth; the possible impossibility! Left to our own devices salvation is impossible, but through faith in Jesus Christ by God’s grace man can be saved. The same statement could be made for you and I concerning the monumental task of world evangelism, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” The possibility of completing this task does not lie in what man can do, but rather what God can do. And so, in Luke 24, our Lord and Savior gives us the indication that power to complete the mission will be sent from the Father, which is the Holy Ghost. As we continue examining these verses in the book of John we are given the commission of the mission.
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Our mission of world evangelism is not a mission to be completed alone, but rather is a co- mission. As the Father has sent the Son so the Son sends us. This mission is not ours but rather we become co-laborers with God. We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ and as stated in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” Our mission is not our mission at all but rather His mission that we by His grace get to take part in. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) Lastly, in the book of Acts we are shown the pattern for the carrying out the mission. As it was demonstrated from the very beginning:
Acts 1:8 "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."
According to Acts 2 the power of the Holy Spirit was given. Moving forward from Acts 2, the carrying out of the mission has been underway. It started in Jerusalem and moved into Judaea. From there the Gospel was carried to Samaria and through Paul’s labor went to the uttermost. But in every generation, there is a Jerusalem to be reached, a Judaea to reached, a Samaria that needs the Gospel. The Gospel is to continue on to the edge of the map, the uttermost. This is the carrying out of the mission. It starts from the local New Testament church and moves out to all nations; step by step and piece by piece. In totality the: who, what, when, where, why, and how is answered by these verses concerning the Great Commission.
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
Showing People the Way to God
- Personal Evangelism
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