Yet another Soul-Winning principle that has great implications for our witness is the message that we are declaring. Why is the message so important? Because Paul tells us “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” If this message is the ‘power of God unto salvation’ we must know what the message is. In our day confusion seems to be the norm when it comes to the message of salvation. Popular thought concerning salvation today says there are many ways to Heaven. However, this leads to confusion in the heart of the individual and also in fact is contrary to the Word of God. Perhaps even worse is the inability of the child of God to communicate the Good News of salvation to someone who is lost. It is therefore critical that every child of God not only understand the Gospel Message, but be able to take a Bible and show someone else ‘the way’ (As it was called in the old days: John 14:6, Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23) of salvation.
We first must declare what this message is; the Bible tells us first of all that this message is Good News.
From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve good news following the terrible results sin. In Genesis 3:15 we find:
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Though on the surface this does not seem like good news, it in fact is. “Her seed,” spoken of here, is a reference to the enmity between man and the evil one. But certainly is a reference to the future when our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ would crush the head of the serpent, triumphing over our Adversary; that ‘old serpent’ (Revelation 12:9, 20:2) the Devil.
Moving forward in the Bible to Genesis 13 we find further these words spoken to Abraham:
“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
‘All families of the earth’ are certainly blessed in Abraham by the coming of Jesus Christ. Our Savior Jesus Christ was in fact of the lineage of Abraham (Matthew 1:1); Him being all God and yet all Man.
And finally, as we come to Luke 2:10,11 where the Bible declares this from a heavenly messenger:
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy [or we could say, Good News], which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”
The message we bring to this world is certainly good news. And this good news is Jesus Christ. To speak of any message that is devoid of Jesus Christ is no good message at all because the Bible shows that Jesus Christ is the good news. In fact, any so-called ‘gospel’ that does no center around the person and work of Jesus Christ deviates from what God’s Word teaches.
What about Jesus Christ makes this good news? We are told that our Savior came from Heaven to earth; was God in the flesh (incarnate); lived among us; died on a cross paying the sin debt for you and I; rose from the grave after three days and ascended back to Heaven victorious. Take note of the following verse:
“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:”
Paul declares that this good news message is wrapped up in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But why did He die, why was He buried and why did He rise from the grave?
This is where the good news is applicable to those who are lost. Isaiah 53:5 gives us a good indication of why He died. “But he (speaking of Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” All of these phrases vividly speak of the suffering atonement that Jesus Christ made for us. The why is explained in the fact that we have transgressed, we have committed iniquity. This good news at first starts out with bad news. The bad news is that we have a problem that could not be dealt with otherwise. Peter in his first epistle explains it this way, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (I Peter 2:24) This problem originates for man all the way back in the third chapter of Genesis where we saw the first indication of Good News! He died, was buried but then we understand he rose from the grave. Romans 4:25 tells us why His resurrection is significant to the message. It states that Jesus Christ, “…was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” By His resurrection we see His work completed and accepted of the Father. We also understand that we who by faith accept God’s gift of salvation are justified or declared righteous by His resurrection. And lastly by his resurrection we have a lively hope according to I Peter 1:3!
So, we understand the message is the Good News, secondly, we understand the Good News is Jesus Christ, but lastly what are we to communicate to others on how to respond to this message.
The Response to the Message
We can sum it up as it is put in Acts 20:21, “Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” This message of Good News should draw men to repentance and a decision of faith or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, this is the prime mover of the heart, that God loves us so much, He sent His Son to be the payment (propitiation) for our sin who accomplished just that by His death, burial and resurrection. How can one accept this gift of salvation? By calling upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). The heart expression of faith towards Jesus Christ. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Romans 10: 9-11)
Let us be good students of the Good News to communicate to others what we have already found!
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
.It is no secret that we have been called to witness to others. Further it is no secret that it is a command from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Many times, we focus on this fact in our efforts to rally more folks to come out to Soul-Winning and be a witness in their day to day lives. Obedience certainly is a key aspect in Soul-Winning, but oftentimes we do not stress enough the results of obedience.
In John 12:23-26 Jesus gives us a clear indication of this principle in light of his impending crucifixion.
John 12: 23-26
“And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”
Several items could be noted by this passage:
1. Abundance (fruit-bearing) comes from a sacrificed life.
Of course, we understand the immediate implication of this passage is our Savior’s death, burial, and resurrection. This is clear when He states in the first verse “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.” But the truth is enlarged by Jesus Himself as the passage continues. In verse 26 we should mark the phrase, “If any man serve me, let him follow me;” Just as Jesus gave his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45), we too, if we are to be fruitful, must live a life sacrificed unto God. Herein we are given the great picture of fruit bearing. A seed that is unplanted, not buried in the ground, will produce no fruit whatsoever. But rather a seed must be planted in the ground; it must die and become food for the fruit vine that comes up out of it. This is certainly what Paul portrays to us in Galatians 2:20 when he states, “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.”
a. The abundant Christian life is not a selfish life.
b. The abundant Christian life is a selfless life.
John Phillips in looking at this passage puts it this way, “It is possible to have a saved soul and a lost life.” (John Phillips) What a tremendous statement. Oliver B. Greene in looking at this passage states this as well, “He who loves his life, he who thinks more of life in this world than he thinks of the life to come, shall LOSE that which is the best part of his life-the inner man , the soul that will never die.” (Oliver B Greene)
So we can understand, fruit-bearing abundance comes from a sacrificed life, but secondly:
2. Loss according to the World is gain for the Christian.
Notice in verse 25 that the Lord gives us a paradox.
v25 “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”
Seemingly on the surface this statement makes absolutely no sense because Man reasons in the opposite direction. This is portrayed for us in the philosophy of the Epicureans in Acts chapter 17 (Acts 17:18) whose worldly mantra was simply materialism.
Epicurus, the founder of Epicureanism stated this:
“Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.”
“It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself.”
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the other hand teaches us something that is vastly different.
a. Man’s grasp on self ----will end up in loss.
This 'self' life is the life that is concerned for the things that this world has to offer. This 'self' life is grasping for that which is only temporal to obtain joy. This kind of life will end up in loss. But on the positive side:
b. Man’s grasp on obedience (to Jesus Christ) -----will end up in reward.
II Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
So far we understand that abundance comes from a sacrificed life, and loss according to this world is gain for the Christian, but lastly:
3. Obedience Results in Joy.
Consider the following verses:
I Chronicles 29:9 “Then the people rejoiced, for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the LORD: and David the king also rejoiced with great joy.”
A few verses later David states, “I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.” I Chronicles 29:17
The people had great joy because they obeyed in giving generously to the building of the temple which Solomon would accomplish.
In the days of Hezekiah, a move was made by that godly king to be in obedience to God by keeping the feast of Unleavened Bread (II Chronicles 30:21)
And in II Chronicles 30: 26,27 the Bible says, “So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem. Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.”
In Ezra 3:12 because of the rebuilding of the Temple God's Word states, “many shouted aloud for joy:”
God laid on the heart of Nehemiah to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. In Nehemiah chapter 12 we have this verse spoken of concerning the obedience of those that returned with him:
“Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off.” Nehemiah 12:43
The psalmist tells us, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Psalm 16:11
Psalm 126: 5,6 “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Proverbs 15:21 (Speaking of the shallowness of worldly joy)
“Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.”
Proverbs 21:15 “It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.”
The truth is we could continue our trek through God's Word and see example after example where obedience and joy in the life of a Christian are connected. Getting back to our passage in John the Lord continues and tells us first:
a. One who serves, must follow.
v26 “If any man serve me, let him follow me”
We cannot stress enough the connection between lip service and feet service. One who is a disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is following Jesus Christ not only in speech but in action as well.
So one who 'serves,' must follow but that simply means:
b. One who follows, obeys.
v26 “If any man serve me, let him follow me”
Following is obedience. So putting this all together up to this point shows us that one who 'serves" must follow and if they are following really that means they are obedient.
Well what is one of the results of obedience?
c. The servant of Christ is in the presence of Christ.
v26 “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be:”
One might say, am I not always in the presence of God whether being obedient or not? And physically speaking yes. God is omnipresent and therefore physically speaking we are never closer or farther away from God at any point. We also have the promise in God's Word which tells us He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). But in terms of fellowship we are hindered in our disobedience.
I John 1:6,7 “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”
Yes of course it is true that we will ultimately be in heaven with Jesus Christ one day for those who are saved, but why not enjoy His the presence of Christ right now?
That of course leads us to the last statement which is:
d. The servant of Christ will have Joy.
v26 “if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”
The most miserable Christian in the world is one who is disobedient to God. Dr. Clarence Sexton makes this cautioning statement concerning our service to the Lord, “Making service the goal leads to the belief that we can never do enough.”
But let me add to that with this statement: when we are obedient to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we have great joy!
Why is it that most Christians seem to look at the Christian life as an enormous burden?
Why is it that Soul-Winning is considered something we have to do rather than something we get to do? Perhaps it is because some have never experienced the joy of being obedient to the Lord.
Not one time have I come back from Soul-Winning and said, “Boy I wish I had never done that!”
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Throughout the course of this year, we will endeavor to look at some Soul-Winning principles. A principle can be defined as the “Ground; foundation; that which supports an assertion, an action, or a series of actions or of reasoning. On what principle can this be affirmed or denied? He justifies his proceedings on the principle of expedience or necessity. He reasons on sound principles.” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) As the last part of this definition states our goal will be to reason based on God’s Word. The application then would be that these principles ought to produce a change in our actions. Therefore, from God’s Word we can glean principles and from those principles we can apply actions which should affect our daily living.
With that introduction in mind, we will look at the first principle in this series of posts which is 'The Principle of Time'. Time of course is a commodity that God’s has given to man. No one has an indefinite amount of time living on this earth. The Bible is clear that our temporal bodies are destined for corruption because of sin.
In Genesis 3:19 God makes this declaration in judgement toward man because of sin:
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
We know from Psalm 90 that in general, our time is limited to threescore and ten years (70) or potentially fourscore years (80)(Psalm 90:10). Of course, there are folks that live well beyond eighty years old and there are folks that have much less than time than seventy years. But Psalm 90 emphatically tells us that our time is limited. Because of that fact, we are exhorted to redeem the time that God has given to us. That word redeem simply means “To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage…” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary) In that same passage in Ephesians (Ephesians 5:16), the Bible alludes to the passing of time telling us “the days are evil.” Meaning that, the natural course of this world around us will present “allurements and temptations that would lead you away from the proper improvement of time, and that would draw you into sin.” (Albert Barnes) So, what does this have to do with Soul-Winning?
1. Soul-Winning takes time.
Personal evangelism requires an effort from the individual. That effort requires time. In John 4, toward the middle of that chapter, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had just finished dealing with the Samaritan women and now was dealing with the crowds of people that were affected by the women’s testimony of Jesus.
Notice the words of our Savior concerning time:
"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."
The contrast that is made here is between the prevailing rationale of the day concerning the harvest. In the example given by the Savior, worldly wisdom would tell them that the harvest is down the road, so now is not the time to worry about reaping. In other words, we could put it this way, “Soul-Winning can wait for another day, maybe then the harvest will come.” “Soul-Winning can wait because I have more important things to do with my time.” But the Lord says, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” [Emphasis Mine] In other words, the time is now!
He goes on to state, “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.”
Notice the action verbs used:
Reapeth – to reap takes time.
Gathereth – to gather takes time.
Soweth – to sow takes time.
Laboured – Labor, signifies time spent.
Each one of these actions signifies time spent. Realize further Jesus tells us that the harvest requires labour, and labour my friend requires time. A good example would be this:
Suppose I am a farmer desiring to have a bumper crop of corn this year. And yet every day I look out the window imaging what that crop might look like. Now I never go outside into the field to prepare the soil. I never take time to sow any seed. I just know that if I prepare the soil and plant the seed it will at the minimum produce some. Suppose you come in and see me sitting down watching television and ask me, “Aren’t you going to go out and plant the field so you receive a harvest.” And I reply, “I do not have the time to go out today, perhaps we will have a harvest anyways.”
What a foolish use of time that would be. To know and understand and yet not apply the principle of time to our Soul-Winning efforts. You see Ephesians 5:17 tells us in lieu of redeeming the time, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” In other words, the command to spread the Gospel [God’s Will] should permeate the use of our time, otherwise we are being unwise with what God has given to us.
2. The more time we spend Soul-Winning, the more results.
Now we cannot state that we will always see the results of our time spent immediately Soul-Winning, but we can say dogmatically that the more time we spend casting seed and reaping the more of a harvest there will be. Galatians 6 tells us that we can expect to reap what we sow. Not only that, but how much we sow will determine what we reap as well. The good news/bad news is, depending on what you are sowing, that you will always reap more than you sow. (Hosea 8:7) Meaning for example: one tomato seed produces more than one tomato. But there is something else to note as well. It takes time to sow. Therefore, the more we sow the Word of God, the more we can expect to see a bigger harvest.
Galatians 6:7,8 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting."
In II Corinthians Paul speaks on this same law of sowing and reaping, though contextually he is talking about giving, he states, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” Even though the context of this chapter is giving the law of sowing and reaping has much broader application.
We can then expect if we spend little time telling people about Salvation through our wonderful Savior Jesus Christ, we can count on seeing few people get saved.
3. Our time is limited.
Having already established this point indirectly at the beginning, all of us have limited time to sow and reap. There are approximately 525,600 minutes in a 365 - day calendar year. Using myself as an example I have spent 21,020,000,000 (21 billion minutes of my life already; 40 years). That is a lot of time I cannot get back. And further, that is half of the allotted time I have generally speaking according to Psalm 90.
On average if I were to spend 1 hour of Soul-Winning a week, I would spend 3120 minutes this year Soul-Winning out of that 525,600 minutes. That is approximately less than 1% (.005936) of the time the Lord would allow me to have this year. What a shame it is to understand that knowing God’s Will, we would allot less than 1% of that time to share the Gospel with others. (By the way, it is difficult to even get folks to commit that 1/2%. Oh my, I pray the Lord will help us to understand this important truth this year!)
- Pastor James, Sharon Baptist Church, Community Outreach Pastor
Psalm 25 is an acrostic Psalm which contains the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Oftentimes an acrostic would be used as a memory device much the same way we alliterate sermons today. In this psalm David spends time pouring out his heart in prayer. His first prayer is a prayer of dependence in verses 1-7. His second prayer is a prayer of forgiveness which is found in verse 11 and his third pray is a prayer for deliverance in verses 15-20. In these wonderful verses we also find great instruction on guidance. David speaks about how guidance is sought, how it is taught and even how guidance Is brought. But there is something else striking in Psalm 25 and that is the lesson of transparent leadership.
Every one of us could benefit from this Psalm learning that we should be genuine, real, and open about who you are, what you are going through, and who you will trust. There is no doubt that when David penned this Psalm he was in great distress and that he was feeling vulnerable. Many believe that is was written during the time David fled from his own son Absalom when Absalom had revolted against David. Others have believed perhaps this was the time when David was fleeing from Saul. Whichever the case we receive a first-hand account into David’s heart that is very transparent.
David was a “a man after God’s own heart.” He was a shepherd tending after his father's flock in his young years. He was a soldier fighting for and defending his beloved nation. He was a sovereign reigning in pomp, might and glory over the nation of Israel. He was a statesman who unified the people. But in this Psalm, we see him as a transparent leader as he bares his soul.
It is no different for you and I today, we need transparent leadership. Leadership that is strong, but is also sincere; Leadership that is powerful, but is also pure; Leadership that is visionary, but is also viable; Leadership that has conviction, but is also consistent; Leadership that is hyper, but is not hypocritical; Leadership that is advancing, but not advantage taking; Leadership that is loyal, but not lip service; Leadership that has genius, but is also genuine.
What are some of those characteristics of transparent leadership that David displayed?
Transparent Leadership Is Honest In Its Admission.
Read this psalm, and nowhere do you see David being courageous. You have to ask yourself is this the same David that killed a bear and a lion as a teenager with his bare hands? Could this be the same David who soundly defeated the giant Goliath? Could this be the David of whom the women sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?” This psalm opens with David saying, “Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul." Here we find David is pouring his heart out! Yes, this is the same David. But this is a David who is honest in his admission!
He Is Honest In His Assessment Of His Self
David is in trouble. But, David is also concerned about his transgressions. Psalm 25:7; 11 “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness' sake, O LORD" "For thy name's sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.”
The first step in being transparent is being honest about our sins, about our transgressions.
“The sins of my youth”. David is openly stating that there are some serious sins in his life that needed to be dealt with. All of us have the problem of unconfessed sins and uncontrolled sins. Proverbs 28:13 strictly warns us concerning the covering of sin. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 and in Genesis 8:21 we find out just how serious of a problem it is for all of us. In central part of that verse God comments on the state of man “…the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth;” Some of us might be tempted to say, Not me! But what about the following short list of perhaps unconfessed or uncontrolled sin in our lives:
Immaturity – some adults never grow out of their immature, childish ways.
Incorrigible – unruly, not easily controllable.
Implacable – a person not easily pleased.
Impatience – not waiting for God to work in lived.
Irritable – angry, mean spirited, downright ugly in spirit.
Immoral –lacking in integrity and morals, allowing flesh to control their life.
Insecurity – always suspicious; thinks people are always trying to do them in, constantly craving for attention.
Insolent – rude, condescending, and disrespectful.
He Is Honest Concerning The Afflictions Of His Soul
In verses 15-19 David tells us he is distressed, desperate, and in way over his head. He knows that without God he will not make it. Transparent leadership is honest in its assessment, but it is also humble in its approach.
Transparent Leadership Is Humble In Its Approach.
David is brought to the end of himself in this Psalm. I reminded of what the Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 5:3) Someone who is poor in spirit is someone who is broken. It is an individual who is at the end of himself. Unfortunately, to many times we put ourselves in this place. When we are conceited, proud, and haughty, the Lord catches us off guard, and allows afflictions to come our way to teach us that we are nothing! “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5b) David teaches us:
We should learn to pray through humility (Vss. 1,2)
We should learn to be patient through humility (Vss. 3-5)
We should learn to be pliable through humility (Vss. 9,10)
We should look for pardon through humility (Vs. 11)
Lastly, we find that transparent leadership is heavenly in its ambition.
Transparent Leadership Is Heavenly In Its Ambition.
True transparent leadership is not humanistic, or dependent on self. True transparent leadership is heavenly in its ambition. To be heavenly is to get our attention, our focus, our ambition on the eternal and not the temporary.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and all his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
A Heavenly Ambition Is Concerned About The Safety Of His Soul (Vs. 1)
Worse than being in physical danger is to be in spiritual danger. David was in spiritual danger because of things that caught up with him. He is saying "don’t let me fall into the place where I am ashamed to come to you: to you alone I lift up my soul!"
A Heavenly Ambition Is Comforted About The Satisfying Of His Soul (Vss. 12-14)
A transparent leader is satisfied with where God leads him; how God leads him, and when God leads him.
A Heavenly Ambition Is Contented Concerning The Certainty Of His Soul (Vss. 20,21)
Real leadership is transparent. Transparency involves honesty, humility, and a heavenly mindedness. It's a leadership that is clearly motivated to glorify God, and that gives Him honor. May all the leadership team at this local New Testament church begin to lead with transparency.
- Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Daniel 2: 46-49, 3:1 "Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon."
Though Nebuchadnezzar on many occasions witnessed the hand of God in miraculous ways, he seemed to immediately reject the Light he had been given. In the opening text above, Daniel was used by God to tell and interpret the dream God had caused the king to see. Through this we can take note of three actions that Nebuchadnezzar took:
1. He was humbled.
The Bible declares that Nebuchadnezzar “fell upon his face…” as he had seen the work of God thru Daniel.
2. He testified of God.
“The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings”
3. He erected a golden image.
“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.”
The truth is many will see God’s hand but will not accept it or receive it (Romans 1:20), and because of that man is “without excuse.” Many will also testify of God but will not recognize Jesus Christ as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Matthew 7:21 tells us “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Notice the connection between what we say and what we do. Nebuchadnezzar may have declared the name of God with his lips, but sometime after Daniel’s interpreting of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar built himself a grotesque image in spite of the Word of God. What does that mean for us who are saved? Well James 1: 22-24 tells us, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” In other words, we could say that idleness should not be the motto of the Christian worker. The Devil oftentimes moves in subtilty when Christians become idle or complacent. This has become real to us particularly in the Bus Ministry. James admonishes us however to “…be doers of the word…” A moving target is always harder to hit. Having great knowledge is not doing; Solomon was a great example attesting to that fact. Neither is remembering doing either. We must act in order to be a doer of the Word. So, what is the big deal with a little bit of idleness, some folding of the hands?
Idleness breeds discontentment, separation and forgetfulness.
The Bible tells us when we are not a doer of the Word, though the Word of God truly shows us who we are, (“…he beholdeth himself…” our sinfulness, our areas of struggle, our great needs) we walk away unchanged and deceived. “For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”
King David in his idleness, though he was at the peak of success fell headlong into the snare of the Devil because he forgot what manner of man he was. Though we boast of the Bus Ministry and Outreach ministries here at Sharon Baptist Church, it is not enough. We must be diligently laboring together for Jesus Christ. This requires us to do more than just boast, we must act.
Positively James gives us the remedy to idleness. First, we are to:
Look into the perfect law of liberty. “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty…”
Yes, this requires you and I to be reminded often of who we are and what God has commissioned us to do. This is accomplished through prayer, fellowship, and the study of God’s Word. These three components are readily seen in the book of Acts among the early church.
Secondly, we are to
Continue therein. “…and continueth therein..”
That great connecting word ‘and’ reminds us of a continual exercising our gifts, talents and passion toward the work God has set before us. It is critical to our Christian health and particularly in the Bus Ministry for us to continue therein.
Well, what is the great result of all this? God tells us that “…this man shall be blessed in his deed.” What a wonderful truth for us to behold that the blessing of God’s favor can be upon our lives as we are doers of the Word. Of course, there are many unnamed blessings not mentioned in this phrase. We have divine protection by being a doer of the Word. We have access to unlimited resources by being a doer of the Word through our relationship and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And lastly, we no doubt will have great opportunity set before us! Remember doers of the Word (1) avoid deception, (2) are reminded of who they are and what they are laboring for and lastly (3) doers of the Word are blessed in their deeds. Praise the Lord for his great goodness to us!
- Spencer Close, Bus Director, Sharon Baptist Church
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
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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