Archive for April, 2012

Not Recognizing Jesus

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these parables, he departed thence.  And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty words?  Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?

Matthew 13:53-55

Jesus here goes to “his own country” and teaches the people there in their own synagogue.  Can you imagine that?  Jesus Himself sitting there and teaching you.  They sat there and listened to Him.  They were even “astonished,” and asked “Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works.”  They were apparently listening to what He had to say.  But the sad part is that they still had no idea Who He was.

“Is this not the carpenter’s son?”  was their first question.  No.  This was not “the carpenter’s son.”  This was the Son of God.

They saw His great wisdom, but they missed His person.  They saw the power that He possessed, but they missed the source of His power.  They heard and were amazed at the words He spoke, but they missed the whole message of what he said.  There are many today who are the same way.  They have seen what Jesus has done.  They know of Him, and, in many cases, are impressed by Him.  But they don’t know Him.  To them, He is just “the carpenter’s son.”  He was a “good man.”  He had some “good teachings” and “good ideas.”  I read articles all the time in which the author writes about how Jesus was a “good example” or something like that.

It is true that He was a “good man.”  But He is also the “God-man.”  He did have “good teachings.”  But He is also “the way, the truth, and the life.”  He was a “good example” for us.  But He also died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day.  He is our Saviour: “the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

God On Our Side

I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.  The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

Psalm 118:5-6

It is interesting how much we fear man.  We fear “men in dark alleys.”  We fear terrorists and criminals.  We fear being mocked and made fun of.  We fear being ostracized and singled out.  We fear disappointing our friends and family.  There are so many people that we fear in one way or another.  But there is no need for all of that fear.

Why do we not need to fear man?  “The Lord is on my side.”  With the Lord on our side, we can say with David, “I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”

Think of these things and let them sink in.  “I called upon the Lord in distress.”  “…the Lord answered me.”  We can, in our time of distress, call upon the Lord.  And He will answer us.  That is an amazing promise.  God Himself not only hears us, but will answer us.

“The Lord is on my side.”  Think about the Lord actually being on our side.  When we face a problem, there are certain people that we like to have “on our side.”  A good lawyer, doctor, mechanic, etc. can be a tremendous help in the right situation.  In sports, there are certain people that we want on “our team.”  But think of having God on “our side.”  I can guarantee that that will be the winning team.  The side with God is always the superior side.  The side with God is where I want to be.

We can have our prayers answered and we can have “the Lord on my side.”  With those things going for us, how can we really be afraid of man?

Psalm 117

O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.  For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever.  Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 117:1-2

This is the entire Psalm – only two verses.  But what a powerful statement it makes.  It starts by telling us to “praise the Lord.”  It ends by telling us to “Praise ye the Lord.”  There is a good lesson for us already.  No matter what we are doing or what situation we find ourselves in, we would all do well to start by praising the Lord and end by praising the Lord.  And we are all included: “…all ye nations: praise him, all ye people.”

What reasons are we given for praising Him?  Two very good ones: “His merciful kindness is great toward us” and “the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.”

His merciful kindness is great toward us.  He is so merciful.  As the Bible says in Lamentations 3:22, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.”  Just the simple fact that I am still alive and still being blessed by the Lord is a testament to His mercy.  I don’t deserve anything that He has given me – it’s all because of His mercy and grace.

The truth of the Lord does endure for ever.  We can take comfort in that.  No matter what winds of change my blow around us, we can know that the Lord’s truth endures for ever.  We can read the Word of God and know that it is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”

We should be praising the Lord at all times.  If we can’t think of anything for which to praise Him, we can definitely praise Him for these things: mercy and truth.  What a great combination and what a great Lord that provides them for us.

What Kind of Ground Are We?

And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:  Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.  And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:  But other fell unto good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

Matthew 13:3-8

This is a famous parable that is usually (and probably rightly) applied to hearing the gospel and salvation.  But, I think that we can also apply it to our own everyday lives.  It does say that the seed is the “word.”  We receive the Word all the time.  We hear it in church, we read it in our Bibles, and we might even come across it at various times during our day to day lives.  We often receive the Word.  The question is this: how do we receive it?

I think that this parable gives us the ways in which we can receive the Word.

Sometimes we hear the Bible, but for whatever reason, we aren’t paying attention.  We might have other things on our minds and we might be ignoring it.  But, despite having the Word presented to us, we do not receive it.

Sometimes we hear the Bible and take it in.  We realize that we need to be doing whatever it tells us to be doing or not doing.  We take it in.  But then, when it actually comes time to do what we have received, we find that it is difficult.  That difficulty chokes out the Word that we had eagerly received.

Sometimes we hear the Bible and want to receive it.  But we quickly drift away from it as other “cares of this life” crowd it out.  We have to find time for all of our activities, and so we allow the Word that we receive to be crowded out.

And sometimes we hear the Bible and it changes our lives.  Sometimes the change is small and sometimes it is big.  But hearing and receiving the Word will always change us and it will always help us to be more fruitful in the Master’s service.  What kind of ground do we find in our hearts?

The Appeal of Jesus

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.  And he spake many things unto them…

Matthew 13:1-3a

I think that, too often, we, as Christians, get the mentality of a salesman.  We think that we have to “sell” Jesus to people.  We start to feel the need to “package” Christianity in a more “attractive” way.  We try to attract people to Jesus with the Devil’s methods.  Instead of just telling people what the Bible says, we turn into slick talking used car salesmen.

These verses show us just how powerful and appealing Jesus is.  “…went Jesus our of the house, and sat by the sea side.”  He went out of the house and sat down.  He didn’t rent giant billboards, promise a huge circus after He spoke, or invite the hottest band to open for Him.  He went outside and sat down.  “And great multitudes were gathered together unto him.”

Just the fact that Jesus was there drew the people to hear Him.  Just the chance to hear what He had to say was enough to bring them.  So many came that He had to go out in a boat while they listened from shore.  People will come to Jesus.  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”  (John 12:32)

There is nothing wrong with doing something to encourage someone to come to Jesus.  But when our “packaging” becomes more important than Jesus Himself, we have a problem.  We should concentrate on simply showing people Who Jesus is, what He has said and what He has d0ne.  He will draw them to Himself.  That is the power of His appeal.

Hold the Fort (Hymn)

Hold the Fort
P.P. Bliss (1870)

Ho, my comrades! see the signal waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.

Refrain
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!

Refrain

See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over ev’ry foe.

Refrain

Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!

Refrain

This hymns was inspired by events in the Civil War.  A detachment of Union troops were forced to take a position in an old fort and were coming under heavy fire.  But, in the distance, they could see a signal flag sending them a message: “Hold the fort.  I am coming.  W.T. Sherman.”  This heartened the soldiers, who held the fort and won the day.  Sometimes life’s battles get us down.  Sometimes it seems like we are going to be defeated.  But, at those times, our great Commander sends us that same simple message: “Hold the fort, for I am coming.”  We can also be heartened by these words!

Rest for the Weary VI

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 11:28-30

Throughout this week, we have looked at these verses from just about every possible angle.  But I still can’t help but want to write about them.  I think that this passage is becoming one of my favorites.

We know that we should “come to Jesus.”  We know that coming to Him is the answer to just about every problem that we will ever face.  In fact, you could say that coming to Him is the answer to every problem, in one way or another.  He has promised to help us.  He has told us that He will give us “rest.”  He has told us that His burden is light.  He has told us these things and we know them.  But how often do we try to complicate things?

How often do we try to struggle along under the weight of our own burden?  How often do we try to get rid of our own burden ourselves?  How often have we seen people want to come to Jesus, but feel “unworthy?”  That is the beauty of this passage: He wants us to bring our heavy burden to Him.  We don’t have to deal with it alone.  We aren’t in this alone.  He wants us to give Him our burden, and He wants to give us “rest unto our souls.”

I am reminded of Pilgrim’s Progress, in which Christian struggles under his burden.  He cannot get it off no matter how hard he tries – until he comes to the cross.  There, his burden falls away.  That is coming to Jesus.  He wants to take our burdens and give us rest.  What could be better?

Rest for the Weary, Part V

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 11:28-30

We looked the other day at the apparent contradiction of Jesus telling us “Take my yoke upon you…” and also telling us that, in doing so, “ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  Verse 20 explains this concept further: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Many people like to boast about how they “are their own man.”  Or how they “don’t listen to anybody.”  We have all heard someone say “nobody tells me what to do.”  Obviously, those statements are false.  Whether we like it or not and whether we even realize it or not, we are serving someone.  We are either listening to and following Satan or we are listening to and following the Lord.  One of the two.  It’s either the Lord Jesus Christ’s yoke that we bear or it is the world, the flesh and the Devil’s yoke that we bear.  We can not get out of it.  The only question left is this: who are we going to serve?  Which yoke are we going to put on?

Jesus says that His “yoke is easy” and that His “burden is light.”  We can contrast that with Proverbs 13:15, which tells us that “…the way of transgressors is hard.”  Which way would we rather follow?  Who would we rather serve?  We can serve Jesus, Who promises us life, forgiveness, mercy, comfort and rest unto our souls.  Or we follow the path of sin which leads to heartache, misery, and death.

The choice is ours.  Let us come to Jesus.

Rest for the Weary, Part IV

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 11:28-30

After telling us in verse 29 to “Take my yoke upon you..,” Jesus tells us to “learn of me.”  Indeed, that is one of our major purposes in going to church, reading our Bibles, praying, etc.  We are to always be “learning of Jesus.”  We could never learn everything about Him in a thousand lifetimes, so we should never stop trying to “learn of Him.”

But this passage gives us some specific things about which we should be learning.  “I am meek and lowly in heart.”  These are things we are supposed to be learning.  The context of the passage is coming to Jesus and finding rest unto our souls.  How do those things go together?  How do meekness and lowliness fit together with rest and peace?

Meekness and lowliness are both all about understanding who and what we are.  They are about understanding that our lives are not primarily about us.  They are putting both the Lord and other people ahead of our own desires.  Jesus is, of course, our perfect example of both of these virtues.  And, when you think about it, these virtues bring peace, rest and contentment.

The ages old sin of pride is the opposite of meekness and lowliness.  Pride does not bring peace, rest and contentment.  Pride bring conflict, anger and hatred.  Proverbs 13:10 tells us that “Only by pride cometh contention…”  Pride tries to elevate itself and ends up destroying itself, just as Satan himself found out.

As we come to Jesus and learn of Him, we can see that having His meekness and lowliness really will give us rest unto our souls.

Rest for the Weary, Part III

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 11:27-30

In this passage, Jesus beckons us to “come…”  He promises rest to the weary and heavy laden.  But verse 29 gives us a seeming conflict in this great message: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me…”  Someone might hear of the appeal of Jesus to “come” and might be interested in coming, but wait a minute: now He is saying to “Take my yoke upon you.”  That sounds like servitude!  That sounds like even more work!

To our human minds, that might not make a lot of sense.  We are already labouring and working, and taking a “yoke upon us” is going to burden us even more.  But, this makes perfect sense to a Christian.  As Christians, we have seen how submitting to Him and serving Him does give us rest.  And the rest we find is not simply physical rest.  As the verse says “ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  His rest is the peace of God “which passeth all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7)

When we come to Jesus, we trade the yoke of sin and death for the yoke of Jesus – one of peace and joy and comfort.  We trade our sin and guilt for the perfect righteousness of Jesus.  Instead of serving the world, the flesh and Devil, we can begin serving the Lord.

So many people resist and reject the Lord because they think that He will take away their “freedom.”  But the exact opposite is true.  He gives us freedom.  He gives us rest.  Before we come to Him and whether we know it or not, we are slaves to sin.  After coming to Him, we are free and we can find “rest unto our souls.”  What a wonderful Saviour!