Jesus' Footprints

Posts Tagged ‘preaching

1 Timothy 1:12-17

Thank-you-Jesus-for-saving-my-life-1I was reading this passage and thinking of how we are all indebted to Jesus.  We have done terrible things in our lives but He showed us such love and grace that we could only respond in humility and gratitude.  There are times when my past comes back to haunt me but then I remember Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

Paul writes to Timothy about his past.  He shares how he was once an enemy of the church.  He blasphemed the Lord and persecuted His people but it was done in ignorance.  How many of us have not done things that we later regret out of ignorance?

Paul spoke of how Jesus poured out His grace on him.  “He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.”  How many of us are called into ministry after the Lord has shown us mercy?  I have heard of men who once on the wrong side of the law become pastors.  At a Women’s Ministry program, a speaker shared her testimony of how life was for her before she found Jesus.  She used to be a drug addict.  

It doesn’t matter where or how we encounter Jesus.  What matters is that once we surrender to Him, He can do remarkable things in our lives.  When people see how the Lord has transformed a person you never would imagine would become a Christian, they can’t help but be amazed and curious.  When Paul began preaching after his conversion, many people were amazed.  They couldn’t believe that it was the same person who used to a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man.  In his eyes, he was a chief sinner among the sinners whom Jesus came to save.  I can almost hear the regret in his words but he sees something positive in this.  As the worst sinner of them all, he can be used to demonstrate how patient Jesus is towards the worst of sinners.  He, Paul will serve as an example to all who in the future should trust Jesus for eternal life.

We, like Paul, are indebted to Jesus for His love, kindness, mercy, grace and patience.  He loved us even when we were rejecting Him.  All that time when Paul was persecuting the church, Jesus loved him.  He knew Paul’s heart.  He knew that Paul was acting out of ignorance and He knew that He could redirect that zeal.  This explains why Paul was so passionate in his work as a minister.  He testified, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).  It is as if he were working hard to show Jesus that His mercy toward him had not be in vain.

Let us show the Lord how much we appreciate His grace toward us.  Let us do this by the way we live, how we treat others and in whatever work He has called us to do.

Thank You, Jesus for saving us and using us to bring other lost souls to You.

galatiansfreedomIt’s very interesting how Paul opens his letter to the Galatians. “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)” He identifies himself as an apostle of Christ and the Father. He is preaching the Gospel of Christ who died and was raised from the dead. This is the authentic Gospel–the one he was give to preach not by men but by the Lord Himself and to the Gentiles.

The Gospel Paul was preaching was one of grace.  And he was quick to point out that unlike the perverted gospel that had permeated the church, the one he was preaching, was “preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

There were people in the church who were teaching the congregation that grace was not enough.  It had to be accompanied by works.  It had to be Faith and works not faith alone.  They had the Gentile Christians believing that they were justified by the works of the law.  Paul elaborates more on this in the second chapter where he talks about Peter’s hypocrisy.  The Jewish Christians were trying to force the Gentile Christians to be circumcised.  We read about this earlier in the book of Acts.  Acts 15:1 states:  And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Even though Paul and Barnabas testified of how they had converted the Gentiles and how God had done through them, a sect of the Pharisees who believed insisted, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

This led to the Jerusalem Council discussing the matter and it was decided that that “we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,  but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood” (verses 19, 20).  And now here was Paul dealing with the same issue again.

He had to rebuke Peter, the same Peter who stood up and defended God’s grace when he declared, “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (verses 10, 11)  Paul rebuked Peter because he saw that before certain men came from James who was one of the pillars of the church, Peter had no problem eating with the Gentiles but the moment these men visited, he distanced himself from the Gentiles.  Paul had every right to be angry with Peter.  Peter should have known better.  He should have defended God’s grace this time just as he had those other times.

Paul referred to those who were perverting the Gospel of Christ as “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4).  These people were compelling Titus who was a Gentile to be circumcised and this is why Paul had to set this troubling matter straight.

He stated the following message twice so that they would get it loud and clear, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8, 9).  In other words, there is only one Gospel.  And that Gospel is the Gospel of Christ which teaches that we are saved by God’s grace not by works lest we should boast.  We cannot earn salvation.  It is God’s gift to us.  All we have to do is accept it in faith.  It costs us nothing but God His beloved Son.

It must have been very upsetting for Paul to see how these people were perverting the Gospel and making it seem that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough.  This is why he had to make it crystal clear that “a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

If anyone you know is teaching that salvation is by works and not by faith alone, use the Word of God to rebuke and correct them.  Encourage them not to set aside the grace of God and enslave themselves to the works of the law which cannot justify anyone–neither Jew nor Gentile.  If it did, then as Paul said, Christ died in vain.

There is only one Gospel.  And it’s the good news of a loving God who gave His only Son that we who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.  Only Jesus can save us.  The law points us to Him but it in of itself cannot save us.  Salvation comes by grace through faith not by the works of the law.  No matter of lawkeeping could save anyone.  In Christ we have freedom through the amazing grace of God.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace
receive?

214EmptyTombPaintLuke24_63Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.  Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.  For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished – 1 Corinthians 15:12-18

Paul is not saying that the dead are in Heaven with Jesus.  What he is saying is if there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead then we are doomed because it would also mean that Jesus Himself was not raised from the dead either.  This means that when we die, that ‘s it.  It’s all over.  We will remain in our graves and those who are alive have no hope because if Jesus was not raised from the dead that means that there will be no second coming.  It is at the second coming that those who fell asleep in Christ will rise and be gathered to Him and then those who are still alive will join them.  Our friends and loved ones who died in Christ will not be with Him before He comes again.  Like King David, they are asleep in their graves.

We can rest assured that Jesus was raised from the dead.  We have the empty tomb to prove this.  He is now in Heaven with the Father fulfilling His role as our High Priest until the day comes when He will descend with the angels to gather His elect.  Until then, let us watch and wait in faith.

And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming”- 1 John 2:28.

Our relationship with Jesus should take precedence over everything and everyone else.  Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew left their nets and followed Jesus after He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”   James and his brother, John left their father and followed Him.  He said to Matthew, the tax collector, “Follow Me.” And he got up and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18, 21-22, 9:8)  Paul immediately went out and preached the gospel, astounding all those who knew that he once persecuted Jesus’ followers. 

Abraham placed his relationship with God above all others.  He trusted God to meet his needs and he had great faith in Him.  Noah was a righteous man who walked with God.  Both he and Abraham were surrounded by corruption but they never allowed themselves to be corrupted.  Their fellowship with God took precedence over everything else.  They kept their eyes on Him and allowed the spirit not the flesh to lead them. 

Their righteousness may have seemed strange to those around them—the king of Sodom must have been baffled when Abraham refused the goods he offered him. And it must have seemed crazy and irresponsible of Abraham when he packed up his family and belongings and went off to a strange land. It must have seemed strange to people when Noah was building the ark.  The actions of these two men speak volumes of their incredible faith in God.  They did not allow what others might have thought or said to influence them.  They were only concerned with what God wanted and obeying Him.

Following God may not seem logical to others but our desire should always be to please God and not man.   Prayer and meditation should be daily pastimes.  Jesus prayed before He raised Lazarus from the dead; He prayed before He fed the five thousand; He prayed when the hour was near.  In fact, Jesus prayed daily.  He did not allow His preaching and healing to interfere with His relationship with His Father.  He died so that we could be saved and be able to have relationship with God. 

Throughout the Bible we are told that the Lord desires that we turn to Him and worship Him.  He promised, “Then you will call upon me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12-13)

Too often we allow work, household chores, daily routines, television, the media and other people to distract us.  We don’t allow ourselves the time to quietly meditate on God and His word.  We allow ourselves to become too busy and then in the evenings we are too tired or we sit down in front of the television and then, we go to bed and fall asleep.  In the morning we are in a rush to get to the office on time and don’t pause to spend time in prayer and meditation or even to pick up the Bible and write a Psalm or the Daily Word.  In other words, we put God on the back burner. 

As Christians we need to act as such.  We need to spend more time with our Lord who wants us to know Him better.  And as Christians we need to do what is pleasing to God and not worry about how strange it may seem to others.  Jesus did things that were not popular but they were what His Father desired Him to do.  He prevented the adulterous woman from being stoned to death; He healed on the Sabbath; He ate with tax collectors and other objectionable people.  Basically, He practiced what He preached.  We should do the same, regardless of how it may seem to others. 

We should glorify Jesus in our deeds and not just our words.  As John advises us, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)  It’s not enough to say that we believe in Jesus and that we love Him and are His followers, we have to do as we say.  We do this by putting Him first, fellowshipping with Him, seeking Him all the time, meditating on Him and His word and praising Him.  We cultivate our relationship with Him and then, we go out and sow His love.  We have to abide in Him and follow in His footsteps.  Our relationship with Jesus is the most vital one we have and we should cherish it and treat it as the gift it was meant to be.

Taking time away from a pressing matter or a hectic schedule and focusing on Him would do us a world of good and help us to get through whatever tasks or urgent matter we have to deal with.  Jesus should be the centre of our universe.  We should place our relationship with Him above the cares and distractions of the world.  Just as Peter started to sink when he removed his focus from Jesus, we sink into a myriad of emotions that distract us from Him.  We become stressed because we’re busy and fatigued and we worry about not being able to get things done.  We allow worldly concerns to interfere with our relationship with Jesus.

Instead of fretting and worrying and stressing ourselves and scrambling to get a hundred things done at once, we should take time out and ask Jesus to help us.  Jesus Himself promised, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the World you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  What more proof do we need than this?

Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage” – Joshua 10:25

Insecurity, doubt or fear prevents us from following God’s will.  We see throughout the Bible that God used people to fulfil His plans—His work when He could have easily done it on His own.  God likes to do great things through people.  He used Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egyptand through him He performed great wonders.  However, when God first approached Moses, Moses was insecure and doubted his ability to speak to Pharaoh and do God’s work.  “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)

God assured Moses that he would not be alone, that He would be with him.  Still, Moses protested.  He argued that he was slow of speech so God said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?  Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing or the blind?  Have not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 11-12)  After much protesting from Moses and persuading from God, Moses finally agreed to do as he was commanded.  And he delivered the Israelites and led them to the Promised Land.  He was known as the great deliverer and lawgiver ofIsrael.  There was never another prophet like Moses.

Jonah ran away instead of going to Nineveh as God commanded him because he was afraid.  As a result, a large fish swallowed him where he spent three days and three nights.  From the fish’s belly, Jonah prayed.  The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.  God spoke to Jonah again, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the preaching that I bid you.”  This time Jonah obeyed.  The message was, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”  The people of Nineveh repented and God in His mercy did not bring disaster on them.

Jonah was not happy about this.  It is as if he felt that he had wasted his time going toNineveh, telling them that they would be destroyed for their wickedness yet, because they had repented, they were saved.  He wondered why God had bothered to send him in the first place when He could have delivered His own message and shown mercy to the people when they turned from their evil ways.

To prove to Jonah how irrational his anger was, God prepared a plant and had it come up over Jonah to shade his head.  Then, He prepared a worm and it damaged the plant and it withered.  Then, He prepared a heavy east wind and the sun beat on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint.  Jonah wished for death.  Then, God asked him if it was right for him to be angry about the plant.  Jonah’s reply was that it right for him to be angry, even to death.  God’s response was, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not laboured, nor made it grow, which came up in the night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?” (Jonah 1:2-3, 17, 2:1-10, 3:1-11)

What we learn from these two examples is that when God wants you to do something don’t argue or run away, just do it.  God uses people to do His will when He could easily do it on His own.  Once people repent of their sins, God shows His mercy and saves them.  We should praise God and rejoice when He is gracious to those who sin against Him and repent instead of getting angry.  God’s love is not reserved for some people but for ALL people.  Jonah failed to recognise God’s love for all people—Jews and Gentiles alike because of the animosity between the two.  The story of Jonah teaches, much like Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, that we should put aside our differences and help those who are hurt spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a time when Jews did not associated with Samaritans.  He wanted her to know that there would come a time when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth instead of on the mountain where the Samaritans worshipped or in Jerusalemwhere the Jews worshipped.  We can worship Him anywhere and anytime.  God wants all people to know him.  As Paul points out, “Or is He the God of the Jews only?  Is He not also the god of the Gentiles also?  Yes, of The Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Romans 3:29-30)

Yesterday on our way to work, I read Matthew 8 and verse 20 caught my attention.  I wanted to reflect on it more.  It states:  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  This was Jesus’ response to a scribe who came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

Jesus didn’t say “Follow Me”.  He told him that unlike the foxes and birds who had homes, He didn’t.  Jesus traveled from place to place.  He slept out in the open for the most part and sometimes stayed with friends.  He had no place to call home which makes sense since His kingdom is not on this earth.  He didn’t come to put down roots or to set up a kingdom.  He came to teach, heal and sacrifice Himself.

At first I wasn’t sure what He meant when He answered the man’s request to follow Him so I read some Bible commentaries which helped me tremendously.  Jesus was letting the man know that following Him was not a walk in the park.  It was not a glamorous life.  Discipleship carried with it a cost than not many are willing to pay.  This scribe was making a rash decision.  Was he interested in joining Jesus because of His fame?  Jesus was popular among the crowds.  People flocked to see and listen to Him.  He performed miracles.  He taught with authority that made the people marvel.  Jesus was akin to a celebrity in His day and that may have been what attracted this scribe.

This reminded me of the wife of Zebeedee’s request about her sons sitting on either side of Jesus in His kingdom.  Jesus asked if they were willing to take up the cup.  Do we want the glory but not the price that comes with it?  Peter and the other disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus.  They were in it for the long haul.  When the other disciples deserted Jesus because they couldn’t handle His teachings (John 6:60-69), Peter and the others stayed.  They didn’t take off.  Had this scribe joined Jesus’ ministry, at the first sign of trouble he would have flown the coup.

Jesus wants us to know what we are getting ourselves into.  Remember He knows our hearts.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knew this scribe and that is why He made it clear to him what being one of His disciples entailed.  Jesus’ was all about spiritual things not material things.  He had no riches, no home.  His ministry was supported by the donations of women.  He got around on foot.  Christianity is not about being popular or wearing fancy clothes or driving expensive cars or mansions.  It is about reaching out to people and sharing the Gospel.  Christ is the One who should be in the spotlight not the preacher or the church.

We don’t follow Jesus because it’s the popular thing to do.  We follow Him because we believe in Him and what He did for us on the cross.  We want to spend eternity with Him.  Jesus doesn’t want us to be spontaneous when it comes to following Him like the scribe.  He wants us to think it through, know what discipleship entails and make our decisions based on that.  He wants us to come into this with our eyes wide open and not have preconceived notions of a glamorous life.  We must be serious, not rash when it comes to the decision to follow Jesus.

One Bible commentary referred to the scribe as the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

Few as there were of the scribes who attached themselves to Jesus, it would appear, from his calling Him Teacher, that this one was a “disciple” in that looser sense of the word in which it is applied to the crowds who flocked after Him, with more or less conviction that His claims were well founded. But from the answer which he received we are led to infer that there was more of transient emotion–of temporary impulse–than of intelligent principle in the speech. The preaching of Christ had riveted and charmed him; his heart had swelled; his enthusiasm had been kindled; and in this state of mind he will go anywhere with Him, and feels impelled to tell Him so.

“Wilt thou?” replies the Lord Jesus. “Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon He lays His head.”

How affecting is this reply! And yet He rejects not this man’s offer, nor refuses him the liberty to follow Him. Only He will have him know what he is doing, and “count the cost.” He will have him weigh well the real nature and the strength of his attachment, whether it be such as will abide in the day of trial. If so, he will be right welcome, for Christ puts none away. But it seems too plain that in this case that had not been done. And so we have called this the Rash or Precipitate Disciple.

It’s true.  Jesus did not reject this man.  He did not tell him that he couldn’t follow Him.  All He did was let him know what the real deal was.  It’s like the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus but when Jesus told Him what he would have to give up, the desire to become a disciple was gone.  He chose his riches over Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t reject us when we want to follow Him but He wants us to examine our motives.

When we look at the other disciples, we see people who were serious about following Jesus.  Peter, Andrew, John and James left their families to join the ministry.  Matthew left his job to follow Jesus and to top it off, he threw a banquet for Jesus and invited his friends so that they too could experience what it was life to meet Jesus.

Don’t be rash in your decision to follow Jesus.  Think about it.  Pray about it.  Ask yourself tough questions.

Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.  So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.  Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.  And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid (Mark 15:42-47).

Now Jesus is in resting in the tomb.  He lay there while others prepared for the Sabbath.  The temple was destroyed (He was crucified) but on the third day, He will be raised up.

This makes me think of all those who have died and will die in Christ.  Their temples will be destroyed (death and decay) but on that day they will be resurrected incorruptible.  Right now they are resting before their resurrection.  The next sound they will hear is the voice of the One who was pierced.

When Jesus was on the cross, He said, “It is finished.”  He had spent three and a half years doing the work His Father had sent Him to do.   He went about preaching and teaching, performing miracles, casting out demons, healing the sick.  He was alone in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was betrayed and deserted.  He was arrested like a common criminal and brought before the council at night.   He was mistreated by the Jewish leaders and the Gentiles.

The members of the Sanhedrin who liked to think they were better than the Gentiles behaved no differently from the soldiers who mocked Him.  The chief priests, elders and scribes condemned Him to be worthy of death; spat on Him, blindfolded Him; beat Him and said to Him, “Prophesy!”  The soldiers who were present joined in–they struck Him with the palms of their hands (Mark 14:63-65).  Isaiah 50:6 says:  I gave My back to those who struck Me, And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;  I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.  He was given thirty lashes (the same number of coins Judas was paid for his betrayal) and then handed over to be crucified.

As He hung on the cross, He was mocked,  “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself!  If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 26:40).

Jesus suffered for our sake as the prophet Isaiah prophesied.  “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken,Smitten by God, and afflicted.   But He was wounded for our transgressions,  He was bruised for our iniquities;  The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,  And by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth;  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter,
And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.  And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief (Isaiah 53:4-10).

Jesus went through a great deal for us and it must have pained Him to see the people pointing and laughing at Him and to hear their jeers yet, He asked His Father to forgive them.  It must have been horrible to feel the Father’s presence which He had known since the beginning of time leave Him.  You could almost hear the despair in His voice when He cried out,  “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Afterwards He cried out in a loud voice and then took His last breath.

Now He is resting in the tomb.  His disciples and those who love Him are mourning.  The bridegroom is no longer with them.  Now they are fasting.  But in a little while, their mourning will turn to laughter and their sorrow to joy.  Let us remember and take comfort in these words, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16:20).


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