A new church building was completed and everyone was invited to come and see it. All admired its beauty. Up on the roof, a small nail heard the people praising the building. It seemed to him that they praised everything but him. No one even acted as if they knew he was there, and he became angry and jealous. “If I’m so insignificant, then no one will miss me if I quit”, he said to himself. So he released his hold, slid off the roof and fell into the mud.
That night it rained. Soon, the shingle that had no nail blew away, and the roof began to leak. The water streaked the walls of the beautiful building. The plaster began to fall, the carpet was stained, and the Bibles were ruined by the water. All of this because a little nail decided to quit. While holding the shingle, the nail was obscure, but it was very necessary. Buried in the mud, it was also obscure, but now it was useless and would soon be eaten up by rust. You may feel obscure at times. But like the nail, your absence is felt. When you are not present for worship or Bible class, the Body of Christ is hurt. We are ALL part of the church and we each have an important role to play in the work.
Matt 5:27-30 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery’. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for the whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for the whole body to go into hell.”
Jesus sets a new standard for His followers. The other rabbis urged their disciples not to participate in sinful acts, but Jesus tells His not to even think about them. Jesus is teaching that a defiled heart is one that looks at ordinary things and uses them as an occasion to stimulate sinful desires. What ‘cure’ does He suggest?
Spiritual surgery – anything that is a cause of, or a seduction to sin, must be cut out of life. The type of thing Jesus is speaking of is described by the Greek word “skandalizo” and refers to a baited trap or snare. Anything that is a temptation to us, or incites us to sin is to be ruthlessly rooted out of our lives. Any habit, association, or pleasure that leads us astray must be removed. But how can a person shut those things out of their mind? It cannot be done by simply saying ‘I won’t think about such and such.’ The more we try to not think about them, the more we do. How can we defeat the forbidden thought?
1) Fill you mind and heart with good thoughts – be so busy with the good that there is no time for evil thoughts. (Phil 4:8, 2Cor 10:4-5)
2) Fill your life with activities that glorify God and promote Him. Much of Jesus’ life was spent simply going around doing good. (Acts 10:38) Just thinking about God’s word is not enough – we must put it into constant practice. (James 1:22, 1Cor 15:58) Keeping busy leaves no time for these problems. (2Thess 3:10-13) it comes down to a decision for spiritual surgery. Will you work to remove those things from your life that tempt you and draw you away from God? Those are the things that make you a slave to Satan. Rom 6:16 “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey- whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Do you need the spiritual surgery of a “heart transplant” or a renewed mind ? Jesus can give you the power to live as he commands when you are willing to yield your will to His. He is the great physician and has the cure for all our problems if we simply follow His instructions and stay under His care.
One Sunday a minister was giving a sermon on baptism and in the course of the sermon tried to show that baptism should take place by sprinkling and not by immersion. He tried to justify it this way:
He said that when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan, it didn’t really mean “in” the river – it meant close to, or nearby. And that when Philip baptized the eunuch in the river, it didn’t mean “in” – it meant close to, or nearby.
After the service, a man came up to the minister and told him that it was a great sermon, and that it had cleared up a lot of mysteries he had encountered in the Bible. “For instance,” he said “the story about Jonah getting swallowed by the fish has always bothered me. But now I know that Jonah wasn’t really “in” the fish – just close to it, or nearby, swimming in the water.
And that story about the three Hebrew boys who were thrown into the fiery furnace and not being burned up. Now I see that they weren’t really “in” the furnace, just close to or nearby, just keeping warm. And especially the story of Daniel getting thrown into the lion’s den has bothered me.
Now I see that he wasn’t really “in” the lion’s den, just close to or nearby, like being at the zoo. This has been a real comfort to me because I am a wicked, sinful man, but now I see that I won’t really be “in” hell – just close to or nearby . So thanks for the sermon, and next Sunday I won’t be in church – just close to or nearby – because you have put my mind at ease.
Most people just assume that it comes naturally, but Jesus had to teach His disciples how to pray. He said in Matt 7:7-11 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” In these verses, Jesus gives three “steps” to prayer. It should be noted that the words Jesus used are ‘continuing action’ words so when He says:
Ask – He means keep on asking. Take everything to the Lord; nothing is too small to pray about. Seek – He means keep on looking for answers in His word and in the happenings around you. Knock – He means keep on knocking. Be persistent. Don’t give up if the answer seems slow.
Many people think of prayer only in terms of asking for something. They lay out their desires and then sit back and wait for something to happen. But prayer is not just asking and receiving, but includes the giving of thanks and praise to God. We should take every concern to the Lord in prayer, but we must do so remembering that He knows what is best and will answer according to His will. Our part is to keep on asking until we receive an answer, one way or the other. Remember the parable of the widow and the unjust judge in Luke 8:1-8. The Lord will sometimes delay an answer until we are ready to receive it spiritually. If we are unstable in our attitudes, if we harbor resentment and bitterness, or if we refuse to forgive others – our prayers will be hindered. (James 4:1-3) A delay in answering may also be a test of our faith – will we keep on asking, seeking, knocking? Will we continue to trust even if the answer seems to be delayed?
The Bible never says that prayer will be easy. Satan works to spread doubts, fears, and distractions of all kinds. And remember that God did not promise to give us everything we ask for, instead He promised to give us “good gifts’ and the things that we ‘need’. God loves you too much to give you something that would ultimately harm you, or pull you away from Him. If we are His children, if we have obeyed His commands and had our sins washed away in baptism (Acts 22:16), then when we go to the Father, we will receive an answer if we continue to ask, seek, and knock! Eph 4:12 “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
Someone asked the question: Why does God allow Satan to still attack us, while 2Pet 2:4 tells us that angels that sinned were put into dungeons to be held until judgment? Why doesn’t God lock Satan away too?
The bible scriptures tell us in 1Pet 5:8 “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Satan is still roaming the earth, unlike the sinning angels. Peter warns us to be on guard against him. But just because he is roaming around doesn’t mean that God has no control over him. Remember what God told Satan in the book of Job – twice, God allowed Satan to do certain things to Job as tests, but God always set limits on Satan. Job 1:12 “The Lord said to Satan,’Very well then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’” And again in Job 2:6 “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’” While Satan was given leeway to do certain things, he did not have the power to go beyond the limits set by God.
Even now, God has put limits on the temptations that Satan can afflict us with. 1Cor 10:13 tells us that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. Satan is allowed to tempt us, and some of the temptations may be very hard to overcome, but God has put His limits in place so that we will be able to resist the temptation if we look for the way out that God provides. James 4:7 “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” So Satan too is limited, although currently not in the same way those sinning angels are.
So why is Satan still allowed to tempt us at all? For the same reason that he was allowed to tempt Eve in the garden – God always allows us to choose our course of action. We were created with free will, the ability to choose what we will do. If we choose to follow God, then He is honored and receives glory. If we choose to disobey and sin, then God is offended and separated from us by our sin. Isa 59:1-2 We are part of a great battle between the forces of God and those who have rejected God’s authority and chosen to follow Satan. Those on each side are watching the conflict and observing how we respond to the challenges laid before us.
In Luke 8:26-37, we read of the healing of the man possessed by demons who is healed by Jesus. The demons are allowed to enter pigs which rush off a cliff and are drowned in the lake. When the people of the region see this, they ask Jesus to “leave their region”. There have been many who have given reasons for this request from the people of the region. We know that the people were from the area of the Decapolis and so were not Jews. We are told that they were afraid and asked Jesus to leave – but what were they afraid of?
We can assume that they were afraid of the economic impact that Jesus may have if all the pigs in the area were to end up in the lake. They were afraid of the power demonstrated by Jesus when they saw the once violent, demon-possessed man now sitting calmly in his right mind. They recognized that Jesus represented the God of the Jews and they weren’t sure what or how to respond to His power. And perhaps they were afraid of the changes that a man like Jesus would make to their lifestyle.
Years ago in northern India, a missionary was preaching to group of local people all seated on the ground. He told of the Christ who loved the whole world and came to serve others. He told about the abuse that he suffered, how he was mocked and spat upon, and how he was condemned to die on Calvary. He described the sufferings of Jesus on the way to the cross, and how his friends deserted him. And finally he told of Jesus, on the cross in terrible suffering, crying out “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing!”
When the missionary reached this point, an old Hindu priest could stand it no longer. He rushed over, threw himself at the missionary’s feet and said over and over again – “We want you to leave India, we want you to leave India.” When asked, “Why do you want me to leave?”, the old priest replied “Because we have no story like this. We have no Savior who lived a sinless life, died for His enemies, and prayed for the forgiveness of those who took His life. If you keep telling this story, our people will forsake the temples and follow your savior.”
Those who would accept Jesus must change their lives. Many are not willing to do so and so will not respond to the Savior. Their response is to ask Jesus to “leave our country”. Perhaps that is some of what is behind the move in our nation today to remove Jesus from the public square. If His message is taught, people will understand that He requires a change in lifestyle and will forsake the ‘temples of the culture’. Jesus had predicted that “when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.” (John 12: 32) The idea of the Son of God shedding His blood for all mankind is unique in all the religions of the world. It is such an absurd notion to the world’s standards that those who accept it cannot continue in the same path they had been following. Let us keep the cross of Jesus firmly in the forefront of our hearts, minds, and teaching – and may we show it our words and lives. Let us invite Jesus to stay, not leave our nation, our communities, and our own lives.
Matthew 26:7 A woman came unto him having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at the table.
People always said that “actions speak louder than words”. How very true.
Nothing speaks louder about our commitment to Christ than how we prioritize spending our time and money. The one commodity every person alive today has in common is time.
We make conscious decisions how we will spend that time, such as going to school, work, the time we watch television, read, hopefully have our quiet time with the Lord, go shopping, etc.
We consciously decide how we will spend our day. For most of us, our time is very valuable. We guard it. We carefully schedule it. We recognize that it is a precious resource. It is critical to make the most of each day since when it is over it is never coming back.
And think about this: Time, like everything else belongs to God. It is no different from anything else we have in this life. It belongs to Him!
Only by His grace we have this commodity we call time to use each day.
He gives it to us to achieve our purpose in this life, to serve and glorify Him.
Recognize each day as the gift from God that it is. Recognize that it has been given to you for the purpose of serving Him.
That service comes in many forms. Most are called to serve Him in the day to day places life takes us, such as: the classroom, our place of work, the playground, the shopping mall. Most of us serve Him throughout our normal day to day routine. The danger is that we forget how precious time really is, and that like everything else. it belongs to Him.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon gives two main points from all that he had tried, learned, and seen. The first is :
-If a person does not live to honor God, life will be in vain. If there were no God to judge, then there would be no accountability, and life as we know it would pointless and meaningless. If there were no God, then nothing matters – when you die, that is all there is so why live with any moral constraint or concern for others at all.
The second is:
-Because there is a God who is the creator and sustainer of all things, then everything does matter. Eccl 12:13-14 “ Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
It will matter how we used our time, talents, and resources. It will matter whether we wasted them or used them to honor God. It matters what we did, saw, said, thought, and touched. And we will have to answer to God for what we did with the things that he had given us.
Right now is a great time to think about your soul. Just a little while ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving, thanking the Lord for his blessings and care. And now Christmas has just passed, when people think on the birth of Jesus even if the Bible doesn’t say what day he was born or give us any instructions to celebrate that day, whenever it was. In just a few more days, we will celebrate New Year’s Day, and think about a time of new beginnings. All of these could lead us to God and His Son , if we would only think about them in a spiritual way.
If any of this encourages people to think about their souls, then the chances to reach them with the gospel increases. When a person is thinking about God, spiritual things, and their souls, then they are much more likely to apply what they hear or read to their lives. And when we obey Jesus and find forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the promise of heaven, then their life can literally change.
Now is a great time to think about your soul – right now! Paul wrote in 2 Cor 6:2 ….. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. Right now, is the time to think about your soul. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, what day or month it is, or what time of the day – Right now is the time to think about the salvation of your soul!
You see, right now is the only time that we have for sure. Yesterday, or even a minute ago is already gone and cannot be retrieved. Tomorrow, or even an hour from now is not guaranteed – and is uncertain. It may come and it may not, but Now is here and available. You can do something now, but before you know it the opportunity will be gone. Some live their lives expecting to have another chance, and then another one in an endless string. But it is a fact that somewhere along the way your string of ‘now’ moments will come to an end. Then there will be no more opportunities to change things and save your eternal soul. We do not know when that last chance may be – perhaps even today, maybe even as you finish reading this. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by – think about your soul, and obey the Lord. Right now is the time to make things right with God.
We know the parable of the lost sheep that Jesus told in :
Luke 15:3-7. Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Did you realize that it was a sheep, not a lamb that had gone astray? It was a full grown sheep that had left the company of the ninety-nine and was lost. It was a sheep that the good shepherd sought and brought back to the safety of the fold. Why did Jesus choose to have a full grown sheep instead of a lamb to be the one who was lost?
Why was he so concerned about that sheep? The danger is that if the sheep go astray, they will lead the lambs astray too. The lambs will follow the sheep wherever they go. If the sheep goes wrong, it won’t be long before the lambs are as wrong as the sheep. The lesson of the parable is not just that God is concerned with the individual, but also the power of influence of the individual. There are many full grown sheep who have strayed away from the leading of the Shepherd and His word. Their lambs are following them into the same error and eventual destruction. We need to pray for and try to restore the sheep not only for their sake, but also for the sake of their lambs. If the lambs are last, some sheep will have to pay a terrible price at judgment.