Tag Archives: Jesus

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – Perfect Harmony

 

“Most of all, let love guide your life, for then the whole church will stay together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).

Martha had a very poor self-image. The distress she felt because of her physical appearance was compounded by the guilt of being grossly overweight. She hated herself and was despondent to the point of seriously considering suicide.

I counsel many students and older adults who are not able to accept themselves. Some are weighted down with guilt because of unconfessed sins. Others are not reconciled to their physical handicaps or deformities. Still others feel inferior mentally or socially.

My counsel to such people is this: God loves you and accepts you as you are. The love of God which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit enables us to love ourselves as God made us. We can be thankful for ourselves, loving ourselves unconditionally as God does, and we can love others unconditionally, too.

It is Satan who is the great accuser, causing us to hate ourselves and others. God, having commanded us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, and our enemies, will enable us to do what He commands us to do as we claim His promise.

The great tragedy of many families is that resentment, bitterness and hate overtake their members like an all-consuming cancer, ultimately destroying the unity among husband, wife and children. Love of the husband and wife for each other, and of parents and children for one another, is so basic that it should not need to be mentioned. Yet, sadly and alarmingly, children are alienated from their parents, and even many Christian marriages are ending in divorce – in fact, in greater numbers today than at any other time in history.

God’s kind of love is a unifying force. Paul admonishes us to “put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:18-25

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: Since God commands us to love Him, our neighbors, our enemies and ourselves, today I will claim that supernatural love by faith on the basis of God’s command to love and the promise that if I ask anything according to His will, He will hear and answer me.

Presidential Prayer Team; J.R. – Grace for Everyone

 

Winning a war is call for celebration and, usually, humiliation of the vanquished. But that’s not what Ulysses S. Grant had in mind when he accepted the surrender of Robert E. Lee at the close of the Civil War. As Union artillery began to pound the air in jubilation, Grant sent word to have it stopped. “The war is over,” he told his staff. “The rebels are our countrymen again.”

A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for your glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:32

Many of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day firmly believed there was no place for Gentiles in God’s kingdom. Yet when Jesus was presented at the Temple, a righteous man named Simeon proclaimed that He would be the Savior not just of Israel…but of the Gentiles and all the world. It was a shocking, heretical and distasteful proclamation for some back then to be sure. There remains a natural inclination in people today to think that some are less worthy than others, forgetting that Christ is “not wishing that any should perish.” (II Peter 3:9)

As you pray for your leaders in America today, resist the urge to intercede only for those you like. Lift up all of your countrymen, remembering that no one is beyond God’s grace.

Recommended Reading: Romans 1:5-16

Greg Laurie – The Bible’s Most Popular Verse

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” —Matthew 7:1–2

There was a time when probably the best-known Bible verse would have been John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It seemed as though everyone either knew this verse or knew a little bit about it.

But that is no longer the favorite verse of most people, especially nonbelievers. In fact, I believe the nonbeliever’s favorite verse is Matthew 7:1. I don’t think they know the actual reference, but they love to quote it: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

That is usually what they say to a Christian who has the audacity to hold a biblical worldview. If we dare say that something is right or wrong, or if we make an evaluation about something, they will shoot back, “How can you say that? That is so judgmental! That is so narrow-minded! That is so bigoted! Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘Judge not, lest you be judged’?”

Don’t be put off by that. A better translation of this verse would be, “Condemn not, that you be not condemned.” I am not in the position to say who will get into heaven or who will end up in hell. Ultimately that is up to God.

But I am to make judgments in life. Every day, I make judgments. If I am stepping into the street, I look both ways to make sure it is safe. That is a judgment. If I see a dog and decide to pet it, only to change my mind when he suddenly bares his teeth and growls, then that is a judgment.

So I am to make judgments and evaluations as a follower of Jesus Christ. We must make judgments. But we must not condemn.

Max Lucado – Tell the Truth

 

Some of us could state our credo as, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you squirm.”

Our dislike for the truth began at age three when mom walked in our rooms and asked, “Did you hit your little brother?” We knew then and there that honesty had its consequences.  “Did I hit baby brother?  Well, that all depends on how you interpret the word hit.”

We want our bosses to like us, so we flatter. God calls it a lie. We want people to admire us, so we exaggerate.  God calls it a lie.  We want people to respect us, so we live in houses we can’t afford and charge bills we can’t pay.  God calls it living a lie.

The cure for deceit is simply this: face the music. The ripple of today’s lie is tomorrow’s wave and next year’s flood.

Be just like Jesus.  Tell the truth!

Charles Stanley – Discovering God’s Will

 

Colossians 1:9-12

Would you say that discovering God’s will is like trying to catch a butterfly that’s always just out of reach? Or is it more like fishing, where you cast your lure and hope for the best? In either case, you lack the assurance that you can know what His will is. Jesus, on the other hand, was absolutely certain that He knew what His Father had planned (John 6:38-39). In fact, the heavenly Father gives believers His Holy Spirit to reveal His purposes for each one.

Scripture is the Lord’s primary means of communication. It is both complete and comprehensive in content. Containing principles that address all areas of life, the Bible is the Father’s instruction book for godly living. You cannot maintain the Christian life apart from a steady diet of His Word.

The Bible’s purpose is to give us guidelines for living, and—through the influence of the Holy Spirit—the wisdom to apply them to our daily decisions. The more familiar we are with Scripture, the easier it will be to see the relevance of biblical precepts to our lives. Not adhering to the Lord’s plan will result in missing out on the abundant spiritual life that Christ has promised. Even more importantly, veering from God’s way will mean failure to bring Him the glory He deserves—glory that would result from following His plan.

Unless the Word of God has a central place in our lives, we’ll find it almost impossible to be certain we are in His will. Today is the day to change all that. God is waiting to meet with you in His Word. Won’t you join Him—nothing on your schedule could possibly be more valuable than time spent with your Father.

Our Daily Bread — All That Is Precious

 

1 Peter 2:1-10

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. —1 Peter 2:4

Throughout my life, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. I have boxes of things that at one time were important but over time have lost their intrigue. And, as an unrepentant collector, I’ve realized that the thrill is in searching for and acquiring a new piece to add to the collection. Then my attention turns toward the hunt for the next item.

While we pile up many things that are important to us, very little of it is really precious. In fact, over time I have learned that the most precious things in life are not material items at all. Rather, it’s the people who have loved me and built into my life who are precious. When I find my heart saying, “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” I know that they are indeed precious to me.

So when Peter refers to Jesus as “a chief cornerstone, elect, precious” (1 Peter 2:6), it should resonate in our hearts that He is truly precious—our prized possession above everything and everyone else. Where would we be today without the constant unfailing companionship of His faithful presence, wise and perfect guidance, merciful patience, comfort, and transforming reproof? What would we do without Him? I can’t even imagine! —Joe Stowell

Lord, help us not to focus on fleeting treasures but on

You, our most precious treasure. Teach us the joy

of reveling in You and Your loving presence

and provision in our lives.

Of all that is precious, Jesus tops the list.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – To Seek the Light

 

In the book Megatrends 2000, authors Naisbitt and Aburdene outlined trends they anticipated would be transformational as we moved into the new millennium. Among their calculations was the New Age movement, which in 1990 was quickly gaining momentum. They wrote: “In turbulent times, in times of great change, people head for the two extremes: fundamentalism and personal, spiritual experience… With no membership lists or even a coherent philosophy or dogma, it is difficult to define or measure the unorganized New Age movement. But in every major U.S. and European city, thousands who seek insight and personal growth cluster around a metaphysical bookstore, a spiritual teacher, or an education center.”(1) This is all the more an accurate picture for today.

New Age seekers, who today are unlikely to call themselves by this name, may not share a cohesive focus or an organizational center, but there are certainly consistent and underlying tenets of thought among them. The movement is syncretistic, in that it incorporates any number of spiritual and religious ideologies at one time, but it is consistently monistic and pantheistic. New Age seekers are informed by the belief that all of reality is essentially one. Thus, everything is divine, often including themselves; for if all is one, and there are no distinctions, then all is God. Or, in the words of Shirley Maclaine in Dancing in the Light, “I am God, because all energy is plugged in to the same source….  We are individualized reflections of the God source. God is us and we are God.”(2)

Seven hundred years earlier, medieval Christian mystic Julian of Norwich spoke in what some may consider a similar tone: “[O]ur substance is our Father, God almighty… [O]ur substance is whole in each person of the Trinity, who is one God.”(3) Early Christian mystics are known for their fervent seeking and spiritual awareness of the oneness of life. Thus, there are certainly similar melodies to be found within the songs of Christian mysticism and the growing chorus of New Age spirituality. But so there are marked differences among them.

Within its historical context, mysticism, like many other Christian movements, was an expression of faith in response to faithless times. In this regard, New Age seekers are not entirely different. Some New Age seeking is, I think, a legitimate reaction to the comfortable and shallow religious life we find within our society. But as New Age seekers long for the depth and freedom to believe in everything, the result is often contrary to what they seek. Their theology and spirituality are entirely segregated. The quest for illumination is a quest that can begin and end anywhere; thus, they find neither depth nor freedom. On the contrary, Julian of Norwich and other early Christian mystics sought an authentic experience of faith as a result of an already dynamic understanding of that faith. Their theology in and of itself is what led them to spirituality.

For the Christian today, illumination still begins with Light itself, God unobscured, though incomprehensible, revealed through the glory of the Son. Starting with light and standing beside Christ, the Christian begins his or her journey as a seeker knowing there is one unique being who hears our prayers and cries and longings. There is a source for all illumination, and that God is light of the world.

Those for whom New Age thought seems attractive would perhaps be helped to know there is a great tradition of seeking within Christianity, a tradition that began with the recognition that we could not fix what is wrong, and a tradition that continues because there is one who can, one who also longs to find and to be found. The human heart is ever-seeking, showing the longing of a soul to be known. In the words of Julian of Norwich, “We shall never cease wanting and longing until we possess [Christ] in fullness and joy… The more clearly the soul sees the Blessed Face by grace and love, the more it longs to see it in its fullness.”(4) For the Christian seeker, communion with God is far more than self-discovery or personal freedom; it is theology that has become doxology, which in turn becomes life.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) J. Naisbitt and P. Aburdene, Megatrends 2000: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1990), 11.

(2) Shirley Maclaine, Dancing in the Light (New York: Bantam Doubleday, 1991), 339.

(3) Julian of Norwich, Showings, ed. and trans. by James Walsh in “The Classics of Western Spirituality” (New York: Paulish Press, 1978), 129.

(4) Ibid.

Alistair Begg It’s Spring!

 

His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. Song of Songs 5:13

Here we are in the month when flowers come! March winds and April showers have done their work, and the earth is all dressed with beauty. Come, my soul, put on your springtime clothes and gather garlands of heavenly thoughts. You know where to go, for the “beds of spices” are well known, and you have so often smelled the perfume of “sweet-smelling herbs” that you will go at once to Him who is altogether lovely and find all loveliness and all joy in Him.

His cheek, which once was so rudely smitten with a rod, often covered with tears of sympathy and defiled by man–that cheek smiles with mercy and is a fragrant aroma to my heart. You did not hide Your face from shame and spitting, O Lord Jesus, and therefore I will find my dearest delight in praising You. Your face was furrowed by the plow of grief, and blood flowed freely from Your thorn-crowned brow; such marks of unbounded love fill my soul far more than words can tell. If I may not see the whole of His face, I would behold His cheeks, for the least glimpse of Him is exceedingly refreshing to my spiritual sense and yields a variety of delights.

In Jesus I find not only fragrance but a bed of spices; not one herb, but all kinds of sweet herbs. He is to me parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. When He is with me, it is May all year round, and my soul goes forth to wash its happy face in the morning-dew of His grace and to solace herself with the singing of the birds of His promises. Precious Lord Jesus, let me in very deed know the blessedness that dwells in abiding, unbroken fellowship with You. I am a poor, worthless one whose cheek You have deigned to kiss! O let me kiss You in return with the kisses of my lips.

Charles Spurgeon War! War! War!

 

“Fight the Lord’s battles.” 1 Samuel 18:17

Suggested Further Reading: James 3:13-18

It is the Christian’s duty always to have war with war. To have bitterness in our hearts against any man that lives is to serve Satan. We must speak very strongly and sternly against error, and against sin; but against men we have not a word to say, though it were the Pope himself. I have no enmity in my heart against him as a man, but as anti-Christ. With men the Christian is one. Are we not every man’s brother? “God hath made of one flesh all people that dwell upon the face of the earth.” The cause of Christ is the cause of humanity. We are friends to all, and are enemies to none. We do not speak evil, even of the false prophet himself, as a man; but, as a false prophet, we are his sworn opponents. Now, Christians, you have a difficult battle to fight, because you fight with all evil and hostility between man and man: you are to be peacemakers. Go wherever you may, if you see a quarrel you are to abate it. You are to pluck firebrands out of the fire, and strive to quench them in the waters of lovingkindness. It is your mission to bring the nations together, and weld them into one. It is yours to make man love man, to make him no more the devourer of his kind. This you can only do by being the friends of purity. Smite error, smite sin, and you have done your best to promote happiness and union among mankind. Oh, go, Christian, in the Spirit’s strength, and smite your own anger—put that to the death; smite your own pride—level that; and then smite every other man’s anger. Make peace wherever you can, scatter peace with both your hands.

For meditation: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9) Men need to hear of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who alone can give them peace with God and, as a result, peace with man (Ephesians 2:14-17).

Sermon no. 250

1 May (1859)

John MacArthur – The Master’s Men

 

“The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him” (Matt. 10:2- 4).

We live in a qualification-conscious society. Almost everything you do requires you to meet someone else’s standards. You must qualify to purchase a home, buy a car, get a credit card, or attend college. In the job market, the most difficult jobs require people with the highest possible qualifications.

Ironically, God uses unqualified people to accomplish the world’s most important task: advancing the kingdom of God. It has always been that way: Adam and Eve plunged the human race into sin. Lot got drunk and committed incest with his own daughters. Abraham doubted God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father. Moses was a murderer. David was too, as well as an adulterer. Jonah got upset when God showed mercy to Nineveh. Elijah withstood 850 false priests and prophets, yet fled in terror from one woman–Jezebel. Paul murdered Christians. And the list goes on and on.

The fact is, no one is fully qualified to do God’s work. That’s why He uses unqualified people. Perhaps that truth is most clearly illustrated in the twelve disciples, who had numerous human frailties, different temperaments, different skills, and diverse backgrounds, yet Christ used them to change the world.

This month you will meet the disciples one by one. As you do, I want you to see that they were common men with a very uncommon calling. I also want you to observe the training process Jesus put them through, because it serves as a pattern for our discipleship as well.

I pray you will be challenged by their strengths and encouraged by the way God used them despite their weaknesses and failures. He will use you too as you continue yielding your life to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Memorize Luke 6:40. Ask God to make you more like Christ.

For Further Study:

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5, noting the weaknesses Timothy may have struggled with, and how Paul encouraged him. How might Paul’s words apply to you?

Joyce Meyer – Use the Keys

 

They who seek (inquire of and require) the Lord [by right of their need and on the authority of His Word], none of them shall lack any beneficial thing. –Psalm 34:10

Jesus said, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind (declare to be improper and unlawful) on earth must be what is already bound in heaven; and whatever you loose (declare lawful) on earth must be what is already loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).

As a believer, you have authority to live a life of victory and to forbid the devil to torment you. It is not lawful for him to destroy you in heaven, so it is not lawful for him to destroy you during your days on earth. Use the keys of the kingdom of heaven that Jesus has passed to you. Loose God’s blessings upon your efforts and bind the evil works that come against the fruit of your labors today.

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – The Lord Forgave You

 

“Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of His deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don’t worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (Colossians 3:12,13).

J. C. Penney, a devout Christian whom I knew personally, built one of America’s leading businesses on the principle of the Golden Rule, taught by our Lord:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

He and other gentle men have developed tenderness and sensitivity to others through their years of maturing, often through many difficult and trying experiences. So should we as Christians seek to develop gentle spirits through the trials and tribulations that God permits us to go through.

Do you lack gentleness in your life?

Do you have a tendency to be arrogant, proud, boastful?

Are you overbearing or even coarse and rude with others?

By faith you can become a gentle person. By faith you can confess your sins and know that they have been forgiven. By faith you can appropriate the filling of the Spirit of Christ. By faith you can practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others.

The Lord has commanded us to be gentle people, so by faith we can ask for that portion of the fruit of the Spirit, gentleness and love, and know that He is changing us for the better.

As I have cautioned with regard to other Christlike traits, this is one which usually develops over an extended period of time, usually through the maturing process that comes only with time and trials and sometimes tribulation. Pray that God will give you patience with yourself as you mature into the gentle and humble person He wants you to be.

Bible Reading: Colossians 3:14-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT:  God’s promise to me is that He forgives; with His help I will forgive and practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others, with the prayer that I may be more and more conformed to the image of my Lord.

Presidential Prayer Team; P.G. – Glad to be a Whoever

 

Researcher George Barna reports 51 percent of people in America believe if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven. But the infallible Word of God says that just isn’t so! People who put their faith in their own earned way are mistaken.

Whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

In the apostle Paul’s day, many Jews believed their only entrance into Heaven was obeying the Ten Commandments (and another 600+ as well). But zeal for the law was misdirected then, and living by the Commandments or the Golden Rule is not salvation’s means today.

Jesus, who is God, said the only way to God was through Him. Some quarrel with “easy believism.” They say there has to be something more. But Jesus is enough. He is all in all. He is the door, and there is no other way. And the way is open to whoever – no one is excluded.

Share your gladness at being a “whoever” with one of the 51 percent who need to find the Truth. Pray for them to hear, have faith, and believe in God’s provision through Jesus Christ…while there still is time.

Recommended Reading: Romans 10:11-20

Greg Laurie – If Only . . .

 

“Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” —Matthew 12:39

Have you ever thought, If someone were raised from the dead, I know people would believe? Or, If I could do a miracle for my friends, I know they would believe?

Remember the story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus? They both died and went into eternity. The rich man had no place for God, but Lazarus was a believer. At that time before the death and resurrection of Jesus, Hades was divided into a place of comfort and a place of torment. Lazarus went to the place of comfort on the heart and bosom of Abraham. The nonbelieving rich man went to the place of torment.

The rich man called out to Abraham, wanting to go back and warn his family about the horrible place he was in. But Abraham told him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29 NKJV).

But the rich man persisted. He thought if someone were to rise from the dead, they surely would believe.

Here is what Abraham told him: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (verse 31).

Maybe, like the rich man, you think that if only your friends and family could witness a miracle, they would believe.

Jesus said, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39). Jesus was saying, “You want a sign for a nonbelieving world? Here it is: My death and resurrection from the dead.”

Here is our message to lost humanity: Christ died. He rose. He can forgive you of your sin. That is the message we have to share.

Max Lucado – Nothing But the Truth

 

A woman stands before judge and jury, places one hand on the Bible and the other in the air, and makes a pledge.

For the next few minutes, with God as her helper, she will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  She is a witness.  Her job is to tell the truth. Leave it to legal counsel to interpret. Leave it to the jury to resolve. Leave it to the judge to apply.  But the witness? The witness speaks the truth.

The Christian, too, is a witness.  We are called to tell the truth. The Bible is present, the watching world is the jury, and we are the primary witnesses. We are called to testify; to tell what we have seen and heard. Our task is not to whitewash or bloat the truth. Our task is to tell the truth.  Period.

Charles Stanley – Telling It like It Is

 

John 9:13-25

The blind man was willing to answer questions about his healing, regardless of who was asking. Responses to his testimony varied. The neighbors argued over the genuineness of his story and demanded to know how he came to see. The man explained what had happened, with no embellishments: he’d met a man named Jesus, who gave him some instructions. When he obeyed, he was healed. Though the neighbors couldn’t deny what had happened, they had trouble accepting the account, because they could not understand it. The world still does the same thing—what they can’t explain, they try to deny.

The Pharisees also questioned how he had received his sight. Again the man reported, “He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see” (John 9:15). These leaders refused to believe him because they didn’t want to accept the One responsible for the healing. When they questioned the man a second time, he simply repeated his testimony: “I was blind, now I see” (v. 25). Again they rejected his words, because they refused to change their beliefs. Many people reject God’s truth and instead cling to their own interpretation of the facts.

A third response is seen in the man’s parents, whom the Pharisees asked to verify his testimony. They refused because they were afraid of the authorities. Fear of someone’s reaction can keep us from speaking about our transformed life.

Next time you have an opportunity to talk about the Lord, share something that has changed since you met Him. Say, “I was ___ , and now I am ___ because of Jesus.”

Our Daily Bread — Fantastic Offers

 

1 Peter 1:3-9

[God’s] abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus. —1 Peter 1:3

I am amazed at the unbelievable offers that flood my e-mail box every day. Recently, I added up the offers of free money that came to me in a week, and my “take” totaled $26 million. But each of those offers was a fraud. Every one—from a $1 million prize to a $7 million offer—was nothing but a lie sent by unscrupulous people to squeeze money from me.

We’re all vulnerable to fantastic offers—to scams that in reality pay off with nothing but trouble. We are offered false hope that ends in dashed dreams.

There is one offer, however, that is genuine, though fantastic beyond belief. It’s the offer God makes to us—salvation through faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). It is an offer that cost Him greatly—and we get the benefits. The book of Romans tells us, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (4:25 NIV).

By saying yes to salvation, we can have hope (Titus 1:2), peace (Rom. 5:1), forgiveness (Eph. 1:7), incomparable riches (2:7), and redemption (4:30). This is the real deal. Jesus’ death and resurrection guarantees it. —Dave Branon

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

—John Wesley. © 1951 Singspiration

Our salvation was infinitely costly to God, but it is absolutely free to us.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – What Is Fair?

 

“Instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest forever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic” rails Ivan Karamazov against God in Dostoyevsky’s classic work The Brothers Karamazov.(1) Those who encounter—or are encountered by—the parables and stories of Jesus often feel a similar sentiment. For the parables of Jesus are often exceptional in upsetting religious sensibilities, are sometimes vague, and are many times enigmatic in their detail and content.

The parable of the laborers, as told in Matthew’s gospel, serves as a case in point. A landowner hires laborers to work in his vineyard. They are hired throughout the work day and all the workers agree to the wage of a denarius for a day’s work. The enigmatic and exceptional punch line to this story occurs when those who are hired at the very end of the day—in the last hour—are paid the same wage as those who worked all day long. The long-suffering laborers cry out, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.” Those workers that were hired first are not paid any additional wage. The first are not first, in this story. Instead, the landowner replies with a radical reversal: The last shall be first, and the first last.

Not only is the conclusion to this story exceptional and enigmatic, it also seems wholly unfair. For how could those who worked so little be paid the full day’s wage? Yet, this upending of any sense of fairness is a recurring theme in other parables of Jesus as well. Indeed, the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, while a familiar story for many, functions in a similar manner and upsets all expectations of what is fair and right, just as in the parable of the laborers. A careful reading presents an extravagant display of grace towards all wayward sons and daughters, even as it illuminates a human frugality with grace.

Jesus presented this story as a crowd of tax-collectors, sinners, and religious leaders gathered around him. All who listened had a vested interest in what Jesus might say. Some hoped for grace, while others clamored for judgment. “A certain man had two sons,” Jesus begins. The younger of the man’s two sons insists on having his share of the inheritance, which the father grants though the request violated the Jewish custom that allotted a third of the inheritance to the youngest son upon the death of the father.(1) With wasteful extravagance, the son squanders this inheritance and finds himself desperately poor, living among pigs, ravenous for the pods on which they feed. “But when he came to his senses” the text tells us, he reasons that even his father’s hired men have plenty to eat. Hoping to be accepted as a mere slave, he makes his way home. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him.

The Pharisees in the crowd might have gasped at this statement. How could the father extend such grace towards a son so wasteful and wanton? Yet, this father is the true prodigal, extending grace in an extravagant way. His prodigal heart compels him to keep looking for his son—he saw him while he was still a long way off. And despite being disowned by his son, the father feels compassion for him. With wasteful abandon, he runs to his son to embrace him and welcome him home. The father orders a grand party for this son who has been found, “who was dead and has begun to live.”

The older brother in Jesus’s story provocatively gives voice to a deep sense of outrage.(2) In many ways, his complaint intones the same complaint of the laborers in the vineyard. “For so many years, I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours… But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with harlots; you killed the fattened calf for him.”  We can hear the implicit cry, “It’s not fair!” The text then tells us that the older son was not willing to join the celebration. He will not hear the entreaty of his gracious father both to come into the celebration and to recognize that “all that is mine is yours.” Thus again, the last shall be first, and the first last.

While not vague in their detail or content, these two parables of Jesus are both exceptional and enigmatic. If we are honest, they disrupt our sense of righteousness and our sense of fairness. Both portraits of the prodigal father and of the landowner present the radical fairness of God. God lavishes grace freely on those we often deem the least deserving. But perhaps we feel the exceptional and enigmatic aspects of these parables most keenly when it is we who are seeing ourselves beyond the need of grace.

Margaret Manning is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Cited in Mary Gordon, Reading Jesus: A Writer’s Encounter with the Gospels (New York: Pantheon, 2009), x.

(2) Fred Craddock, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 187.

Alistair Begg – Are You a Grumbler?

 

And all the people of Israel grumbled. Numbers 14:2

There are grumblers among Christians now, just as there were in the camp of Israel of old. There are those who, when punished, cry out against the affliction. They ask, “Why am I afflicted? What have I done to be chastened in this manner?”

A word with you, grumbler! Why should you grumble against the dealings of your heavenly Father? Can He treat you more severely than you deserve? Consider what a rebel you once were, but He has pardoned you! Surely, if He in His wisdom considers it necessary to chasten you, you should not complain. After all, are you punished as severely as your sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in your heart, and then will you wonder that so much of the rod is necessary to root it out? Weigh yourself, and discern how much dross is mingled with your gold; and do you think the fire is too hot to purge away the amount of dross you have? Doesn’t your proud rebellious spirit prove that your heart is not thoroughly sanctified? Aren’t those grumbling words contrary to the holy, submissive nature of God’s children? Isn’t the correction necessary?

But if you will grumble against the chastening, pay attention, for it will go hard with grumblers. God always chastises His children twice if they do not respond properly the first time. But know this–“He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” All His corrections are sent in love, to purify you and to draw you nearer to Himself. Surely it must help you to bear the chastening with submission if you are able to recognize your Father’s hand. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” “. . . nor grumble the way some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”

Charles Spurgeon – The beginning, increase, and end of the divine life

 

“Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” Job 8:7

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Corinthians 13:5-9

If thou art saved—though the date be erased—yet do thou rejoice and triumph evermore in the Lord thy God. True, there are some of us who can remember the precise spot where we first found the Saviour. The day will never be forgotten when these eyes looked to the cross of Christ and found their tears all wiped away. But thousands in the fold of Jesus know not when they were brought in; be it enough for them to know they are there. Let them feed upon the pasture, let them lie down beside the still waters, for whether they came by night or by day they did not come at a forbidden hour. Whether they came in youth or in old age, it matters not; all times are acceptable with God, “and whosoever cometh,” come he when he may, “he will in no wise cast out.” Does it not strike you as being very foolish reasoning if you should say in your heart, “I am not converted because I do not know when?” Nay, with such reasoning as that, I could prove that old Rome was never built, because the precise date of her building is unknown; nay, we might declare that the world was never made, for its exact age even the geologist cannot tell us. We might prove that Jesus Christ himself never died, for the precise date on which he expired on the tree is lost beyond recovery; nor doth it signify much to us. We know the world was made, we know that Christ did die, and so you—if you are now reconciled to God, if now your trembling arms are cast around that cross, you too are saved—though the beginning was so small that you cannot tell when it was. Indeed, in living things, it is hard to put the finger upon the beginning.

For meditation: An ongoing Christ-experience in the present without a crisis experience in the past is far more valid than an isolated crisis experience in the past without the evidence of an ongoing Christ-experience in the present.

Sermon no. 311

30 April (Preached 29 April 1860)