29 May 2009

Saved vs. Christian – 5.29.09

Acts 11 gives an enjoyable account of the founding of the church at Antioch, a church that later went on to be the headquarters for the missionary movement of the early NT church. There are some things that are stated about this church from the very beginning that are instructive for us to notice.

In verse 26, we find them assembling together (Hebrews 10:25). In verse 26, we see that they are learning the scriptures (2 Timothy 2:15). In verse 23, they are exhorting one another (Hebrews 3:13). In verse 19, they are preaching the word (2 Timothy 4:2). In verse 20, they are preaching the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:5). And praise the Lord, many repent and believe!

Now there's an interesting and important phrase in verse 26. The Bible says, "And the disciples were called Christians fist in Antioch." The believers in the church at Antioch did not call themselves Christians. They were called Christians. The world noticed that they were followers of Jesus Christ.

They didn't just go out and preach Jesus. They didn't just get together and talk about Jesus. They lived Jesus! Each and every day they lived out their lives in a way that was consistent with the message they proclaimed. When they preached the life-changing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they could point to their lives as proof. Their "conversation" was such that it gave credence to their preaching.

With this example in mind, here's a question you and I ought to consider. If you were put on trial today and charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you as guilty?

Now we know that according to the Bible, we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and that we shall not come into condemnation but are passed from death unto life (John 5:24) and that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). That's not what's in question.

You see, there's a difference between just being saved and being a Christian. One who has had his sins washed in the precious blood of Christ (Colossians 1:14) is saved. One who lives like it is a Christian (Ephesians 2:10). One who has placed his faith and trust in Jesus Christ is saved (Romans 10:9-10). One who follows Jesus Christ is a Christian (Luke 9:23).

If you're saved, you'll go to heaven when you die. If you're a Christian, the world will take note, and you might just take a few more with you when you go.

Are you just saved? Or are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Do you just call yourself a Christian? Or does the evidence really line up with that statement?

19 May 2009

More Love to Thee II – 5.19.09

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

According to Webster's 1828, to be constrained is to be:

  • urged irresistibly or powerfully
  • compelled; forced
  • restrained; confined; bound; imprisoned
  • necessitated

Here's a question to think on for a minute. What is it that causes you do what's right? What keeps you living right? What's behind your commitment to the Savior?

  • Character – doing right because it's right
  • Good sense – understanding the principle of sowing and reaping
  • Process of elimination – nothing else you've tried seems to work
  • Love – He's worth everything I can possibly give
Obviously, there's some merit in each of these, but we'd have to agree that the best and most enduring motivation is that of love (Song of Solomon 8:7).

To me, the constraining love of the 2 Corinthians 5 passage is not my love for Christ but rather the love of Christ for me. Yes, a love for Christ is what is needed to overcome temptation (James 1:12). But any love I have for Him has to spring from the unfathomable love He continues to shed abroad in my heart (Romans 5:5).

1 John 4:19 We love him, because he first loved us.

So as we seek to increase our level of love for our wonderful Savior, let's remember to have the proper perspective of:

  • Our sin and its rightful penalty…we are forgiven much
  • The amazing love God showed in bringing us forgiveness and deliverance…the love of Christ constrains us

15 May 2009

More Love to Thee – 5.15.09

Luke 7:41-43 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

Here's the setting. Jesus is eating in the home of a Pharisee by the name of Simon when a woman of the city who was known as a sinner comes in, anoints Jesus' feet with precious ointment, and washes His feet with her tears.

This parable of the two debtors was given by Jesus in answer to Simon's THOUGHT (not question) that Jesus wouldn't let this woman touch Him if He knew how great a sinner she was.

The point of the parable is clearly stated by the Lord in verse 47, But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

Now, praise God, I was brought up in a good, Bible-believing church and saved as a young man at the age of 6 or 7. I had never (and by the grace of God, I have never) smoked, drank, used drugs, been involved in immorality, robbed a bank, killed anybody, etc.

Until a brother in our church taught a Sunday school lesson from this passage this past week, I had always approached this part of Luke 7 as a kind of excuse for the fact that I don't love God as much as some other Christians I know who were "really bad sinners" before they got saved.

But you know what, I want to love God more, and I don't want any excuses – even if they're from the Bible! So by the grace of God, I have learned a new approach to this passage.

If those who are forgiven little love little, and those who are forgiven much love much, one thing I can do to increase my love for the Lord is to consider myself forgiven of much. And aren't we all!

No matter what sins you and I have or haven't committed the end result (without Jesus) would have been the same – ETERNAL HELL! But God has forgiven me for ALL my crimes against Him and has delivered me from the awful fate that I deserve just as much as anybody else. Praise His name!

May we take a fresh look into the law of God; may our sin become exceeding sinful (Romans 7:13); may we have a renewed perspective of the severity of the penalty we had coming; and may we rejoice in His goodness that made possible a way of escape (Romans 9:22).

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee! Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee. This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee; More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest; Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best. This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee; More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, come grief or pain; Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain, When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee; More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise; This be the parting cry my heart shall raise; This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ to Thee; More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

12 May 2009

Lovest Thou Me III – 5.12.09

John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

What exactly did Jesus mean by MORE THAN THESE? Well, I'm really not sure, but I believe it's interesting and beneficial to consider the possibilities.

Perhaps Jesus was referring to the other disciples present (with the lesson being humility), and we talked about that last time. But then maybe Jesus was referring to the 153 fish, the fishing, the lake, the boat, the dinner, etc. (with the lesson being devotion). Let's take that one up for a minute.

What a question! "Peter, do you love me SUPREMELY – MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE? Is that not the first and great commandment?

Matthew 22:36-38 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.

Exodus 20:1-3 And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Ask yourself this question. Do you love God more than anything else? Remember that a genuine love is easily evidenced (1 John 3:18), and the ultimate evidence of love is giving of oneself for the good and benefit of another (John 3:16).


  • Do you give more of your time, money, affection to GOD or to your boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • Do you give more of your attention, effort, energy to GOD or to school, sports, hobbies, etc.?
  • Where are you when God's people are gathered together?
  • Do you think and meditate more about all that GOD has done for you or how your favorite athlete or celebrity is making news?

Lovest thou me MORE THAN THESE?

I understand that most people reading this have some measure of love for God. And that's great, and I'm thankful for it. But what God wants to know is if we love Him more than anything else. Certainly we can recognize that we should. And we can probably also see that there are many times when we don't.

So let's just continue in our less than supreme love for God, right? No, let's purpose in our hearts to love Him more, and let's fervently pray for God to fill us with such love. But more than that, let's commit to give God first place perhaps in some small decisions from day to day – decisions about how we use our time, our energy, our resources. May God's people get their priorities straight and be able to honestly answer with Peter, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.

08 May 2009

Lovest Thou Me II – 5.8.09

John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

Jesus asked this question to Simon Peter 3 times, but there was something different about the first time that he asked (here in verse 15). Did you see it? Lovest thou me MORE THAN THESE?

As I read that passage, I wondered what exactly Jesus meant by MORE THAN THESE. These what? I can come up with only 2 possibilities (though there may be more)

1. The other disciples present

2. The 153 fish, the lake, the boat, the dinner, etc. – the material blessings and comforts he was currently enjoying

Let's consider that first possibility for a moment. Remember the probable reason that Jesus repeated the question 3 times, and that's because Peter had denied the Lord 3 times just a couple weeks prior. With that in mind, let's read one of the passages where Jesus told Peter this would happen.

Matthew 26:31-34 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

In his pride, Peter was offended that Jesus suggested he would be offended and confidently asserted, Though all men…yet will I… And we all know how it turned out.

The following scriptures come to mind:

1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Luke 14:11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

So on the shore of Galilee that night, in Jesus' efforts to restore Peter, it seems that He not only reminds Peter of how he denied Him but of how he talked it up before hand. "You were talking big that night a couple weeks back, Peter, now what about it? Do you love me more than these guys do?"

In humility and understanding, Peter responds, "Yea, Lord; THOU KNOWEST that I love thee." He seems to answer the question the right way, regardless of what exactly Jesus was asking. "Lord, I do love you, and I realize now that only you know how much I do." Unlike a couple weeks back, Peter, now broken by his own failure and sin, was unwilling to make the unwise comparison (2 Corinthians 10:12).

He later recorded some words it would do us all well to remember and take to heart:

1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

06 May 2009

Lovest Thou Me – 5.6.09

It's an intriguing and instructive scene on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in John 21.

  • The unsuccessful, all-night fishing venture of Peter and his buddies represent a return to the old life, and points us to the power of leadership.
  • The disciples' hauling 153 fish to shore when they see and listen to Jesus represent what should be the full-time "occupation" of every Christian (Matthew 4:19; Luke 19:13).
  • The fish and bread on the fire and the invitation to come and dine represent what awaits us on the heavenly shore (see John 11:43-44 w/ John 12:1-2; Revelation 3:20; Luke 22:16, 18, 30; Revelation 19:9).

After the meal, Jesus starts a conversation with Simon Peter. Three times Jesus asks Simon the same question (vv. 15-17), Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Verse 17 notes that Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time…

Why do you think Jesus asked the question 3 times? Didn't Peter answer the same way each time? Why do you think it grieved Peter the third time Jesus asked? Was he just annoyed at having to answer the same question 3 times over?

Perhaps this all has something to do with something else that happened 3 times in Peter's life. Mark 14:30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.

Aren't you glad that God is loving and forgiving? For every time that Peter denied knowing or having anything to do with the Lord, Jesus here gives Peter an opportunity to declare his love for Him! Praise the Lord.

Have you ever denied your Savior? Have you kept your mouth shut when an opportunity arose to speak on God's behalf (Job 36:2)? Have you prayed for open doors to preach the gospel (Colossians 4:3) then stood there and stared at the doors God opened without bothering to walk inside? I know I have.

And I'm sure glad that God doesn't just cast me aside – like He could. I'm thankful that God doesn't just get me out of the way and kill me and take me to heaven – like He could. I'm glad He's merciful and longsuffering enough to give me another chance to PROVE that I love Him by speaking up and telling others about the Savior.

Notice that Jesus expected Peter's love to be evidenced in certain ways. Namely, Feed my sheep and Follow me. I'm certain that almost all of us, if asked, would claim to love the one who suffered and bled and died to take away our sins and give us the free gift of everlasting life. But one more time, let's stop and ask ourselves if the lives we live demonstrate the love we would claim to have for Jesus Christ.

John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Do we witness (Mark 16:15)? Are we separated from the world unto God (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)? Do we love your brothers and sisters in Christ (John 15:12, 17)? We can sit in church and sing songs like "O, How I Love Jesus" or "My Jesus I Love Thee" all we want, but Peter got it right in John 21. Lord; thou knowest...

What evidence does God see when he looks at your life? Evidence that you love Him, or evidence that you deny Him?

01 May 2009

Leadership 2 – 5.1.09

John 21:3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

There's another application we can take from this passage that would be worth considering.

What was Peter's occupation, prior to becoming one of Jesus' 12 apostles? He was a fisherman. But one day Jesus Christ showed up and said to Peter, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Luke 5:10). On that day, Peter forsook all and followed the Lord (Matthew 19:27).

The 3½ years he spent with Jesus Christ totally changed his life, and Peter was completely committed to His Savior. Listen to what he testified…

Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

John 6:68-69 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Matthew 26:33-35 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended…Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

But things didn't turn out like Peter thought they would. Jesus had made it clear ahead of time that He would go to Jerusalem, be delivered into the hands of the chief priests and elders, and be crucified, but Peter (and the rest of the 12) just didn't get it…or refused to accept it…or both.

In any event, Peter denied the Lord 3 times, but when he heard the third crow of that rooster, he went out and wept bitterly, finding a place of repentance. The Lord had now risen and twice showed Himself to the apostles, leaving them with instructions to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit (Luke 24:49).

Now, I'm not saying that Peter turned his back on God when he decided to go fishing that night, but it's easy to see that for the purpose of this application that decision REPRESENTS a return to Peter's former life.

How sad it is that so often there are people who experience the life-changing and soul-saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ and dedicate their lives to following Him, but for whatever reason decide one night to go back to "fishing" – the old life, the old friends, the old places, the old habits, the whole dog returning to his vomit bit.

And what makes it even worse is the inevitable after effect…They say unto him, We also go with thee. Christian, if you get tired and quit on God, chances are very, very good that someone you care about is going to follow you out that door and onto whatever ship you board for a vain and empty fishing venture – that night they caught nothing.

1 Timothy 6:11-12 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.