Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To Be Like Jesus is to Be a Servant!

John 13:4-5, 14 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. (5) After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.

(14) If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

The word ‘servant’ has a very negative connotation in our society. It brings to mind people being subjected to practically inhumane treatment, of which no one would ever CHOOSE. However, the definition of the word is much more benign. A servant, by definition, is simply one who serves.

Jesus, not only commands us to serve, he sets the ultimate example for us. Not only in dying on the cross for our sins, but in the act found in our text today. To best understand this passage, we must better understand the context.

Walking was the primary mode of transportation for the common man during that day. Shoes were more like our sandals today, so feet got extremely dirty and sweaty while walking. Furthermore, many believe that dining was done in more of a lounging position so the feet of others could be very close to your face and plate. For that reason, washing feet prior to eating was customary.

If you could afford a servant, the servant would do the foot washing of guests. If no servant, then the low man on the totem pole was the one stuck with this awful job. In the case of Jesus coming together with his apostles to eat Jesus’ last passover meal, there would not have been a natural hierarchy.... with one obvious exception: Jesus was the king of Kings, Lord of Lords and the son of God, so he clearly was on top of the heap.

Instead of Jesus asking the others who was going to do the nasty job and having a dispute ensue to prove between all of the apostles that “I am too good to do that”, Jesus quietly put on an apron and quietly began the task.

After finishing the chore, he simply and succinctly states, “I have washed your feet, now you ought to wash one another’s feet” By saying this, Jesus is not stating a policy or mission of sanitary conditions for feet, but rather we should never let our pride get in the way of serving others.

Remember that Jesus said that we should love one other. But love in the Bible was never isolated to being a warm and fuzzy feeling, but rather activity. We are told that “God SO LOVED the world that he..... GAVE! Action!

If we are going to be like our savior, we must look out to help others in every way possible.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

We are seen for who we are and to whom we represent not by what we say necessarily but by our GOOD WORKS!

Look out today and try to help someone out. Pay for the groceries of the elderly lady behind you in line. Carry the heavy packages for the young mom with a couple of kids in tow. Opportunities exist everywhere .... we just have to open our eyes to them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

There is a Standard!

John 12:47-49 And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (48) He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. (49) For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

What does the Bible say?

Imagine that one day you are pulled over by the police while driving your car. The police officer walks up to your window and inquires, “Why were you driving on the wrong side of the road?” Your response? “Well”, you said, “I was watching a movie set in England and they all drove on that side of the road, and it just SEEMED better?’

What are your chances of the police officer, shrugging his shoulders and saying “ well you are right, that is the law in England...have a nice day”?

IMPOSSIBLE! Never would that happen! There is a better chance that he would have a psych evaluation done on you before he would just let you go. So why would that excuse not work? Because we are judged in this country, state, or municipality by their appropriate laws. Trying to say that a law somewhere else permits a particular action has NO value here.

In our text today, we have Jesus telling us about the Standard for the Judgment. Jesus specifically and unambiguously says that HIS WORDS will judge us in the last days. HIS WORDS. God’s Will. The Bible will be the Standard and basis for what is right, what is wrong, what is sin and what is righteous.

My illustration this morning was borderline ridiculous. Nobody in their right mind would EVER do such a thing. However, it is not ridiculous because I assure you, countless people will try to defend themselves on that Day of Judgment based upon some other standard. I can hear it now...”But my preacher said”.....”But the church that I went to said it was OK”.....”But the religious council approved that”...and on and on and on.

It will not matter one wit what ANYBODY thinks, feels or says. We will be judged by the Word of God!

Here is the Crux of the problem. The world’s religious...yes even the world’s “christian” religious groups are removing themselves from what the Bible says at an all time pace. Almost every year I will hear on the news that some religious group will say that this or that sin is no longer condemned by that particular religious group, therefore making it acceptable for their followers to participate in. The one primary sin that keeps coming up is fornication. I cannot remember how many organizations have declared that fornication is no longer a sin. The problem is that Bible does!

1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

It does not matter how many religious groups say it is OK, fornication is still a sin. And all those that go to the day of Judgment without having this or any other sin forgiven, will be lost.

But you cannot be forgiven if there is no repentance.

Luke 13:3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Matthew 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

And there will be no repentance of any sin that you are convinced is okay. Therefore we must be VERY careful not to listen to what you want to hear religiously, but hear the Bible for what it says and to make the proper adjustments in your life to repent and to be forgiven.

You simply cannot stand before God and say...”My church said it was OK”! It is simply the wrong Standard!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Oh to Be Like Jesus!

John 12:24-25 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. (25) He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Several years ago, there was a clever fad that spread across this country. Young and old people everywhere were wearing bracelets with the inscription: WWJD. These simple letters stood for “What Would Jesus Do”. While that is a very useful memory devise for thinking about temptation prior to the act, I think there is a slightly better question: What Did Jesus Do?

1 Peter 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

While speculating what Jesus MIGHT do can be useful, following what he DID DO is essential! In our text today, Jesus eludes to his death on the cross to teach us how that we might follow in his steps. Jesus, of course, is best known for his death on the cross. He literally died in an agonizing an painful fashion so that we might have the hope of eternal life.

That is what he did. We MUST follow in his steps!

Jesus teaches us that in order for a seed to become more than an individual, self contained unit, it must first die. Once it does, it can produce much fruit. If you read that passage alone, you might conclude that he is speaking of himself here. But the verse following clearly indicates that the death that he is speaking of is OURS!

In verse 25 he teaches us that we must be willing to lose or die to this life. In all honesty, we really do not HAVE to. However, losing this life or dying to our old self is the ONLY way that we gain the spiritual, eternal life to come. So what if we choose not to die and forfeit this life? We will lose our life to come!

Jesus is telling us that we cannot have our cake and eat it too. We will either have to make sacrifices in this life to gain the next, or sacrifice our eternal life to keep doing what we are currently doing.

Is this life so great, so incredible that you are willing to sacrifice eternity with our Savior and with our Creator? No matter how much we might like this life, it is full of heartache and disappointments. One of the most awesome promises of the life to come is that there will be no pain, no suffering and no tears.

That is worth dying for!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The SECRET to Non-Belief!

John 11:47-48 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. (48) If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

There are going to be two categories of people that will be lost and ultimately sent to eternal punishment on that fateful day.

2 Thessalonians 1:8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

The first category are those that do not know God. The second are those that may have a knowledge, they may even believe in the existence of God, but have simply chosen to not be his followers in the manner that he requires...thus refusing to obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So why is it that so many are unwilling to be followers of Jesus? Let’s answer that in a moment.

In our text today, we have a host of Jewish Leaders that are looking to put Jesus to death. The latest surge of hatred is due because of miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. They know that with Jesus doing this kind of miracle, his fame and reputation will spread like a wildfire. In verse 47 they ask of themselves “ What do we do? Then in verse 48 they give us the secret for why so many fail to follow Jesus.

John 11:47-48 ....and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

They wanted to stop Jesus for the same reason they refused to become followers and the reason why so many people refuse to follow Jesus...Because they will have to give up the life that they love. As Jewish Leaders, they were comfortable with their station in life. They had power, influence and even financial advantages and they were not willing to give it all up. For them to be followers, they would have to be willing to deny themselves (Matt. 16:24). To allow Jesus to continue teaching, their lifestyles would be taken away, so they felt their only choice was to kill him.

Their motives are exactly the same for folks not being believers or followers of Jesus today. They simply are not willing to give up the lives to which they have grown accustomed. What about you? To be a TRUE follower of Jesus, it is not good enough to make the claim. You must actually live the life and follow the commandments of Jesus.

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

The MAN Named Jesus!

John 11:30-36 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. (31) The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. (32) Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. (33) When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, (34) And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. (35) Jesus wept. (36) Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

There is much talk about Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus as God and Jesus as our Savior, but there is not nearly as much discussion of Jesus as a mere man. In our text today, we see one of the most powerful evidences that Jesus truly was a human with all of our emotions and feelings.

In verse 5 we find that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. Even though Jesus was dedicated to saving the lost and teaching the masses about repentance and turning towards God, we find that he had time to develop close friends that he truly loved. This kind of friendship was not just a casual acquaintance, but rather a deep mutual relationship. So much so that when Lazarus got sick they called for Jesus to come and be with them.

But the most powerful evidence of his humanity is found in verse 35, the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. This verse is quite intriguing, largely because of why that he wept. I do not think that he wept as a result of the death of Lazarus because he came to the funeral in order to raise him from the dead.

So if Jesus didn’t weep because of the death of Lazarus, why did he weep?

John 11:33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled

I believe Jesus wept because he had sympathy and compassion for Mary and Martha. They were clearly distraught because of the loss of their brother and Jesus was moved by their pain. Jesus was not so much God that he could not feel the suffering of others. That is what makes our savior so special, he truly knows what it is like to be us.

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus could have come to this earth and lived as the greatest king in the history of the world, but instead he was a common man that experienced life just as we do. He had sadness and heartaches and disappointments and frustrations the same as us. And when we approach him on Judgment day, our judge will have this same kind of compassion and understanding for us.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do You REALLY Want to Know?

John 10:24-31 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. (25) Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. (26) But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. (27) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: (28) And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (29) My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. (30) I and my Father are one. (31) Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.

Knowledge is a curious thing. I would say, that if you asked 100 people if they wanted to gain additional knowledge, 100 people would say... ”Absolutely”. Come on...who would not want to be better educated, smarter or wiser? Honestly, many people of those 100.

Everybody has the opportunity to gain additional knowledge everyday. Whether it is reading a book, taking a class or simply gaining knowledge from a mentor, additional knowledge is at our finger tips. So again, how many people truly take advantage of that knowledge? I would say VERY few.

So if all of us, at least on the surface, want additional knowledge, why do so few act upon it? That is a discussion much to large for this venue. However, we can speculate about a few. Some may not have time (ie. do not CHOOSE to make time for it). Some may conclude that what they are doing or have scheduled in a day is more important than gaining additional knowledge.

Furthermore, some may fear additional knowledge. If one has a particular way of thinking established, additional knowledge may upset that apple cart and cause great stress.

That is what is happening in our text today. Some Jews approach Jesus and say...and I paraphrasing of course... “Quit beating around the bush and tell us PLAINLY if you are the Messiah.” They are wanting to gain additional knowledge and quite frankly about the most important subject known to man...right?.

Are they REALLY? These Jews are like the 100 that say they want additional knowledge but don’t in fact.

Jesus response to them is very telling. He says that you have the information. I have told you many times before. I have lots of followers or sheep that are currently following me because they had enough information to know.

These people have seen Jesus’ miracles and have heard him speak countless times because they were trying to catch him in a mistake. They probably had more information than the average follower. But all of the information in the world would not change their mind from what they WANTED TO BELIEVE!

How many of us fall into this trap? How many of us ACT like we want to learn all we can about Jesus, what he teaches, and what he wants from us, but in the long run, we dismiss it just like they did. Too often, people that profess they follow Jesus have this sam mind set. They hear what he teaches in the Bible, then dismiss it because it does not fit with what they want to believe.

To truly follow Jesus, we Must Deny ourselves of what we want and submit to the will of God. Jesus did not say it would be easy, but he did inform us it would be worth it.

Do You REALLY Want to Know what Jesus says?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Beware of Imitators!

John 10:1-14 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. (2) But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. (4) And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. (5) And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. (6) This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. (7) Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (10) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (12) But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (13) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. (14) I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

One of the disappointments of being a consumer is getting tricked by an imitation. Of course some imitations are quite acceptable. For instance, the average person will not be able to tell the difference between name brand green beans verses a generic green beans. However, there are some things for which there is no substitutes. An example of this is counterfeit movies. Although I have never seen one, I understand that someone will go into a movie theater on the evening that a movie debuts and records the new movie with a typical ammeter recording devise. The next day they will begin selling that movie on the street as if it was released by the studio. Certainly that imitation is unacceptable as a substitute and if you fall for it, you will be hugely disappointed.

In our text today, Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd”. He is a GOOD shepherd, instead of just another ordinary shepherd, because his sheep knows his voice and he knows them.

However, Jesus warns us to beware of imitators. He says there will be others that will pretend to be shepherds, but they are nothing more than thieves and robbers. How is it that they can be thieves? Because if we fall for the imitators instead of following Jesus, we will have the opportunity of REAL salvation stolen from us.

I know the average person is thinking...”what’s the big deal?...Aren’t all religions that profess Christ the same anyway?” The answer is a resounding NO! Notice a few verses that warn of the eternal danger of false teaching.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

2 Peter 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

Don’t be deceived by an imitation! Follow after the Good Shepherd!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Do You Really Hear?

John 9:24-28 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. (25) He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. (26) Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? (27) He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples? (28) Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.

In the opening verses of John chapter 9, we find Jesus healing a man that was blind from birth. Unfortunately for Jesus, he committed this act on the Sabbath. Immediately after the healing took place, the religious leaders began to interrogate both the young man and his parents about Jesus. They were so appalled that Jesus would perform this miraculous work on the Sabbath that they were searching for some means to convict him.

In verse 24 they begin questioning the young, healed man once again. In fact, they ask him the same questions as they did before. Notice the young man’s response to the second round of questioning in verse 27.

John 9:27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?

Clearly the young man is getting annoyed at the narrowly focused mission of these Pharisees. He has clearly told them what happened, but they are not listening because it is not what they want to hear! In fact, he asks, are you going to listen this time? If I tell you this time, will you also become his disciple?

This young man points out a characteristic about us that we all need to examine. We often search, research or inquire into a subject with the ONLY motive of validating our current position! The pharisees did not want to inquire about Jesus to learn about him. They want to hear what they wanted to hear.

How many of us examine the word of God with the same motive? How often do we look to the Bible to validate a particular viewpoint rather than to truly glean the truths contained therein. Let us all strip away all of our preconceived ideas and filters that prevent us from seeing the truth that God has revealed.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sin NO More!

John 8:3-11 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, (4) They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. (5) Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? (6) This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. (7) So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. (8) And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. (9) And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. (10) When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? (11) She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

The passage that we will examine today is one of the most abused passages in all the Bible. Like other passages that are misrepresented, this one too is often distorted so that one can draw a conclusion to fit their preconceived ideology.

What many WANT this passage to mean is that Jesus doesn’t care about sin. They focus all of their attention upon the FIRST part of verse 11 where Jesus tells her “Neither do I condemn you”. They concluded that, if Jesus refuses to condemn this adulterous woman, then he will also be obligated to overlook and maybe even allow sin in our lives; ultimately giving us the green light to live our lives ANY way we choose.

There are three substantive problems with this conclusion. First it ignores the context of the passage. Second, it purposely ignores the other statement that Jesus makes to her, and third it ignores the rest of the Bible’s teaching about repentance from sin.

So, what is this passage all about then?

Jesus once again is dealing with the hypocrisy of the Jewish leadership. They bring this woman, caught in sin, to Jesus for the purpose of trapping him. The text says that they caught this woman in the very act of adultery and so they conclude that she should be stoned according to the Law of Moses. So what’s the problem?

Leviticus 20:10 And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

It is not that Jesus is against following the law, but rather he believes in TRUE justice. So where was the man? Why wasn’t the man caught with the woman being accused and threatened with stoning too? The law clearly states that both that are guilty must be stoned. Instead the Jews chose to break the law and only stone the woman. For that reason, Jesus was not willing to be party with such an injustice.

So is Jesus really turning a blind eye to this woman’s sin? Absolutely not. Immediately after telling her that he is not willing to put her to death, he tells her to “SIN NO MORE!” He is not condoning her sin. He is encouraging her to reform her life as he will do with all mankind by dying on the cross for our sins.

Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (2) God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Are You Looking for More?

John 7:31 And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

Most of us know, that during the time Jesus ministered and preached on this earth, that he raised the ire of his contemporary religious leaders. So much so that the next verse tells us that the Jews sought to take him.

During the feast of tabernacles, Jesus went into the temple to teach and many marveled because he did not have any formal education. He then gets into a discussion with those in the temple. For some, he made more angry and others believed him to be who he claimed to be.

But our discussion is on the last part of the verse. For those that believed on Jesus in the temple, they asked this rhetorical question:

....When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?

Basically they were asking, if Jesus is not the Christ, and you expect “another Christ” to come from God, what more...What better could possibly be done by the “real Christ” that Jesus isn’t doing? In other words, Jesus IS the Christ because, you can’t get better than him!

I think they are right! So why do more people not become followers of Jesus? What do you think is going to be better? The world? Sin? Do you think that there is anything in this world that is going to surpass forgiveness of sins? A relationship with the Creator? The hope of eternal life?

A better question yet? For those that have become christians in the past, and are not living up to the commitment that you previously made...Are you looking for something better? Really? You know that Jesus is the Son of God. You know the power that comes with God on your side! You know the power of prayer! You know the benefits of being a child of God! And you are risking that for what?

Nothing that the world has to offer can possibly be better than the blessings of God. In short...if Jesus cannot satisfy your needs in this life...You will NEVER find satisfaction or happiness!