Sunday, December 27, 2015

#Jesus Is Our Perfect Example #JesusFollowers

The life, teachings and death of Jesus inspire us to follow Jesus' example.

Jesus had the fullness of his Father’s spirit; and we have also a portion of the same. This puts all the children of men on equal ground, and makes Jesus our Pattern.

His example becomes the point after which we are to aspire; for his righteousness must be the criterion of judgment; because arrived at perfect obedience, doing in all things that for which he was sent by his Father, Jesus has shown by his example that all are able to obey God.

Jesus was made a perfect example to us, to show to us that for the testimony of God our creator, we must be willing, as Jesus was, to surrender up everything unto God; and to do his will in everything, even if it cost us our natural lives. For if we are brought into the situation that he was in, that we cannot save our natural lives without giving up the testimony that God has called us to bear, we have his example not to do it, though we may feel as he did, that it is a great trial.

We have it now on record. We need only take up the precepts of Jesus, only look at his example, and his direction to his disciples, and see if we can find anything, any testimony worthy to be compared with it.

What is true religion? It consists entirely in righteousness, that righteousness which is acceptable in the sight of God. It unites us with God, as it did his blessed Son, and brings us to partake of his holy nature, and we become one with him – as the disciples formerly were declared to be partakers of the divine nature.

Until we do everything in our power, by every means put in our hands, we shall not find support from God! There are no sins so great, in this probationary, earthly state, our Father would not stand ready to forgive, if we turn to Him with full purpose of heart and acknowledge our transgressions.

He gives us the grace of repentance, and enables us so to walk as to be reconciled to Him, and gain a greater establishment in Himself, and in the truth, than when we first came out of His creating hands.

(Adapted from an 1826 sermon by Elias Hicks)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Don't Celebrate #Jesus' Birth - Unless You Celebrate His Teachings! #JesusFollowers

We have grown up to love this time of year. The carols, the presents, and the pageantry of the arrival of the "Christ child," the one who will one day die, allowing us an easy path into heaven.

We check in for his miraculous birth: his mother impregnated by God, the story of wise men following wandering stars, an evil king who kills an entire town's children in order to destroy him. And then we ignore him until we are ready for him in the spring - when he is slaughtered on the cross so that we can be saved eternally merely believing in these stories about him.

In fact, many Christians believe his death is the only act for which he was born.

But lost in all the anticipation of this "easy" salvation is the fact that this man was not only a baby, and not only one who was killed, but in between, he taught. He was a teacher, and the chosen prophet of God, who actually said things, and told us that those things, those words, will never pass away.

And yet, his teachings are often ignored or even openly disparaged by modern Christians and Christian Pastors, as if they were irrelevant and meant for another time.

Christians love the baby Jesus, love the dying Jesus, but ignore the teacher and Prophet Jesus. Why?

The teachings are difficult, and we seek the easy way - the WIDE GATE, as Jesus called it.

Jesus calls us to take the Narrow Gate, and says few will choose it. He was right.

Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, and defeat them with kindness. Today, we're told to hate our enemies and make cultural or literal war on them.

Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek if we're struck on the cheek. We are told today to be "prayer warriors" and fight back.

Jesus tells us to go into a closet and pray in secret, and not be ostentatious when we pray amongst others. But we like those long prayers that are performed in pulpits and stages for show before 10,000-member congregations.

Jesus says riches on this earth are meaningless, and we should instead act righteously to store up treasures in Heaven. Christians today pray to God to make them rich, and deny that we must act righteously at all.

Jesus tells us we will be persecuted and cursed for performing righteousness, for believing in the Gospel, and for serving God Christians today expect to receive "favor" from God - including riches and perfect health - simply because they utter Jesus' name when they pray to God.

And Jesus tells us we must perform Good Works in order to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, and that mere words will not gain us Heavenly rewards. Christians today blatantly deny this, and ministers teach the opposite - that a "Sinner's Prayer" magically forces God to give us eternal life because we've said it.

Yet, When the teachings of Jesus are the center of our faith, we begin to live the life that God knows we can achieve. His words and commands are challenges - challenges for us to live up to our God-given potential.

Through the life and teachings and death of Jesus, we see through a glass CLEARLY towards what God intends for our lives.

We ought not celebrate this teacher's day of birth if we aren't willing to celebrate and follow his teachings throughout the year.

This Jesus, God's Anointed Prophet, challenges us to rise up higher and higher in our Righteousness, performing Good Works and acts that please God, all the while relying on God for forgiveness when we fail to live up to God's high standards, and relying on God's Grace to strengthen us and help us become spiritually complete.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Nature of Gospel Salvation. #JesusFollowers

The Gospel presents us with clear and comprehensive views of the Nature and character of the Deity. 

It teaches that there is but one God: by this simple principle, expressed in every way which is necessary to make it fully understood and cordially received, putting an end to heathen idolatry.

It teaches us that this great Being is a Spirit; possessed of every natural and moral excellence in an infinite degree; almighty, all-wise, all-just, all-holy, and all-gracious; exercising a righteous moral administration over His creatures; rewarding the righteous, and punishing the wicked.

In short, He is perfect goodness, pure and unlimited Love, our Friend and our Father; yet at the same time a Being of perfect Righteousness, our Sovereign, and our Judge.

The Gospel teaches us what the requirements of this great and gracious Being are. It instructs, by precept and by example, that we should love Him with supreme affection; that we should exercise a steady faith and a devout and holy communion with Him; and that we should make it our first and highest concern to do His will.

It requires that we should exercise a careful government over our own hearts; that we should suppress all inordinate affections and all high thoughts of ourselves; that we should be sober, temperate, and chaste in all things; that we should be humble and watchful, earnestly desirous to be, as well as to do, what God commands. In short, the religion that is pure and undefiled before God is to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

Jesus is never represented as the cause, but as the effect of the Father's love: and to imagine that God was not disposed to be merciful to mankind till Jesus wrested pardon from him (as it has sometimes been expressed), is to contradict the simple but all-important assertion of the Gospel, that "God so loved the world…" (John 3:16)

It is nowhere stated in the Scriptures that God could not forgive sins without the death of Jesus, or without some other full satisfaction: but many passages prove that though perfectly just, God is also essentially merciful; and which supply us with Divine declarations of pardon to the repentant sinner, and examples of the extension of it, without any reference to the death of Jesus.

The justice of God, as far as we have the means of knowing, consists in the due distribution of rewards and punishments according to the moral condition and character of the objects of His justice.

Jesus suffered for the completion of his spiritual excellence, and it was for the welfare of his followers that he should set them an example that they should follow in his steps – an example of meekness, of fortitude, of patience, of gentleness and mercy, of firm endurance and self-denial, of boundless love to man, and of obedience unto death.

When considering the effects and purposes of the death of Jesus, it should never be forgotten that they were all in view in the apostles’ minds, as a whole, as they should be in ours; and then we cannot fail to perceive that the effects on the spiritual excellence of our Master’s character, and the perfecting of his example, and all their blessed influences in the hearts of his disciples, are among the purposes of his death.

The death of Jesus is of service to only those who through the work of Jesus are redeemed from all iniquity; and its efficacy in effecting our salvation depends on its producing, through the influence of his sufferings, his precepts, doctrines, spirit and example, that spiritual sanctification, and eternal purification, which will make us dead to sin, and alive to God.

If neither our Master himself, during his ministry on earth, nor his apostles whose preaching is recorded in the book of Acts teach the doctrine that the death of Jesus was a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of men, is it reasonable to conclude that it cannot be essential to salvation?

There is no passage in support of the doctrine that the death of Jesus had some mysterious, unknown, immediate efficacy in obtaining from God the pardon of sin.

Persons who entertain this doctrine of atonement, should shrink from the notion that Jesus was in any strict sense punished for the sins of men, or that he was substituted for them to bear the Father's displeasure, or that he thus made satisfaction for their sins: still less should they allow that the death of Jesus appeased the wrath of God, and made him merciful.

Of such a doctrine, often taught by theologians, I do not hesitate to declare that it is not Christianity, that it is not Judaism, that it is heathenism.

(Adapted from an 1843 sermon by Rev. Lant Carpenter)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Value of Repentance #JesusFollowers

It has been obvious to every serious mind, in all ages, that the will of the gracious Power that gave us our being, must be the rule and guide of the actions of His creatures, so far as they can discover it.

This is a natural obligation and deference which we owe to, and cannot but think it a duty and our happiness to pay to, that wisdom and goodness of our Maker to which we are so much and so continually indebted, and by whose power we are every moment, sustained.

We cannot conceive that He Who is the most perfect goodness could have any other aim in creating reasonable beings, than to make them happy suitable to their Natures. And we gather from this that it must be our duty to follow this great direction and example, and to contribute to the happiness of each other to the utmost extent.

And in attending further to what we can know of the perfections of our Maker, of His will concerning us, and especially in our obeying His primary design of creation and rule of duty to us, we are unavoidably led to see the fitness and the necessity of restraining our passions and appetites, of giving up our own ease and taking pains for the good of others, and of learning what is right, and fair, and just, and pure, and kind, and holy, and virtuous.

And, by doing this, we frame our conduct so that we may approve ourselves to Him Who placed us here for a short time, but Who has further views for us, which extend to endless time, if we seek not to defeat His designs.

But we are too often drawn to do wrong, to forget our duty to God and man, and to disturb the government and violate the laws of He Who made us, and by doing this, we lay a foundation of lasting misery to ourselves; because there can be no real happiness in opposition to His will; and we have reason to dread the consequences of His displeasure, while we violate His laws.

For He has made us capable of governing ourselves by that rule of life and knowledge of His will, of what is good, and just, and pure, with which He has made us acquainted.

And we find that, by attending to or resisting those motives to our duty which He lays before us, we have it in our power to choose and pursue that virtue and holiness which he has prescribed, or the contrary; our conscience tells us, that while we act upon evil principles, and cherish unholy and unrighteous dispositions, we must be odious to Him, the object of His dislike; and what He dislikes must be miserable.

It is therefore matter of unspeakable comfort and joy to be made acquainted with the Gospel call of Repentance, the glad tidings from Heaven, made known indeed to mankind from the first, but in a special manner delivered by Jesus and his apostles, declaring the forgiveness of all past offenses, and a restoration to the divine favor, to all who turn to God in true repentance, and bring forth works worthy of this repentance.

But we must be careful not to make things worse by abusing God’s mercy, and turn the remedy for sin into an excuse for continued sinning. For many sin and repent, and repent and sin again; their attitude and conduct remaining the same and unchanged.

This has arisen from a perversion of the Gospel, and inattention to the doctrine of repentance delivered within it.

For Repentance signifies a change of mind, together with a secret condemnation of ourselves for past misconduct, which points out its durable nature.

We are to be followers of Jesus; to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, renouncing all ungodliness and worldly lusts, all the hidden ways of dishonesty; to be holy in all our conversation, fruitful in every good work, perfecting holiness in the name of God.

May you take comfort that you have truly repented, that you are the disciples of Jesus. For what is Heaven itself, but it an enlightened mind, a purified conscience, a sanctified benevolent heart, full of God and good works, desiring earnestly nothing but to please Him and promote the common happiness. And whoever possesses these attitudes already has a foretaste of Heaven's bliss.

All may know their inner attitudes; how far they love and prefer what is pious, honest, sober, just, charitable; whether their chief delight is in the thought of God and his goodness to them, and their most prevailing desire to know him more, that they may still love and serve him better, and live before him forever.

And happy are all those who have attained these pious, holy, and virtuous attitudes, or who are in earnest seeking to attain them! Their lives will be pleasant, and their end peace.

(Adapted from a 1778 sermon by Rev. Theophilus Lindsey)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What Can We Change? #JesusFollowers

Nearly everyone has heard the “Serenity Prayer” which says: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The Stoics of ancient Greece also had a similar belief. Epictetus wrote, in his book the Enchiridion, "Of things, some are in our power, and others are not."

Jesus also addressed change. Some things, he says, cannot be changed, and some things aren’t worth worrying about.

"Do not be anxious about your life," he says, "what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matt. 6:25)

And in another place, he says, “Which of you, by being anxious, can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27)

While we can temporarily change the color of our hair, in fact, it cannot be changed but remains the same color in the long run. (Matt. 5:36)

In the Book of Proverbs, we learn that having anxiety can weigh us down (Prob. 12:25) and then there’s the oft-quoted Psalm 55, urging us to “Cast your burdens [cares] on Yahweh, and He will sustain you. (Psalm 55:22)

Jesus’ meaning, and the meaning of these other sayings, is that those things that we cannot change, we shouldn’t waste time worrying about.

And that’s very wise advice.

But while the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus are filled with admonitions to not waste time on things that aren’t changeable – nor worth changing – Jesus clearly calls us to change ourselves, to be “born again,” to repent of our previous bad actions, and also calls on us to ACTIVELY do Good Works that will build God’s Kingdom here on this earth. (Matt. 5:16, 6:10, 7:24; Luke 6:33-35)

He says we must “turn” (change) and become like little children, otherwise we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 18:3)

He calls on us to feed others, and clothe and house them. He calls for active service in the name of God and the name of God’s Kingdom. (Matt. 25:35)

Today, his message is often missed, or entirely overlooked, because it’s hard. And we like things that are easy.

God is seen by many as a pill we can take to get fast relief, to stop working. God becomes OUR servant, a “mother’s little helper” in whom we can rest. And finding rest in God is certainly part of what God is, and what God offers us, in our always-busy, hectic lives.

But God should never be seen as our servant, but as our Creator, and Master, One Whom has sent us a perfect template, and it is through him that God calls us to a life of service and self-sacrifice.

Change can often be misunderstood. There’s certainly a time to “let go and let God” but neither God nor the one whom he chose, Jesus, calls on us to abdicate all our responsibilities to God or to others – to become lazy, complacent Christians. Instead, He and His chosen son, Jesus, call on us to be active participants in the creation of a new world.

There’s definitely a time for letting go, and giving things a chance to work themselves out. There’s also a time to jump in and do all that we can to make good things happen. Knowing when to do either is the result of wisdom, and if we lack wisdom to know the difference, we should pray that God will grant us more wisdom so we can discern it.

But taking a default “let go” attitude means that we’ve given up. It means that we believe God exists to do all of our work, and all of the Good Works that He expects US to do, as we bring in God’s Kingdom on this earth.

We are to be Jesus’ active hands and feet, serving others as Jesus perfectly modeled for us to do. Jesus called us to ACT, and he constantly moved from place to place urging people to do all that he did, and to feed, clothe, house and comfort one another.

Giving up and hoping that God will do all this FOR us is not what we are called to do as Jesus Followers. While some things are clearly out of our control, much of what occurs in our lives can be changed by our actions, and must be.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

#Jesus Sets the Pattern of the Church. #JesusFollowers

Jesus laid a foundation for friendly organizations and families of love, who, being united in the possession, and living under the power and influence of, his Gospel, might be acted by a friendly and brotherly affection, and from thence be led to be helpers to, and watch over each other for their good.

They are to bear one another's burdens, sympathize with and comfort one another under the various afflictions and persecutions they might meet with in, and from the world; and by a good example provoke one another to love and good works.

Christian societies are intended to be a specimen of the blessed effects of the Gospel of Jesus, when it is received as it ought to be ; that is, when it becomes a principle of action in men, which rightly directs and governs their minds and lives.

Christianity is not a name, but a thing; and therefore it is not the professing, but living, according to the Gospel which truly represents it to the world. Christians are known to be such, not by their name, or by their profession, but by their lives. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35.)

The banner of a Christian is not the picture of a cross hung upon a pole, or made upon a man's forehead; but it is a virtuous and blameless conversation, or a mind and life conformed to the Gospel of Jesus. These are the purposes which Christian associations are intended to serve, and thus Jesus intended that such associations should be subservient to the furtherance of the Gospel, and should recommend it to a general acceptance.

Jesus did not lay the foundation of friendly organizations to answer the purposes of pomp, or wealth, or power.

He never intended that among his disciples and followers, some should be singled out from their brethren to be possessed of great revenues, live in stately palaces, wallow in luxury and ease, or sordidly heap up riches to raise a family; nor that they should lord it over those by whose labors they are maintained, clothed in pompous and elaborate dresses, placed on thrones or garnished stalls and feats of honor, assuming and exercising dominion over their brethren; and that others should labor to maintain them, be subject to them, bow down before them, and call them Rabbi, Rabbi.

Jesus was so far from giving any approval to anything of this kind, that on the contrary he has strictly forbade it. 

"But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve," (Matt: 20:25-28)

And also, “But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' because you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers. And don't call anyone on earth 'Father,' because you have only one Father, the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'Teachers,' because you have only one teacher, the Anointed One! The person who is greatest among you must be your servant.” (Matt. 23:9-11.)

Here we see Jesus has taken all possible care that no authority or dominion, superiority or pre-eminence, dignifying or distinguishing should take place among his disciples and followers considered as such. He has not only forbidden it, but repeated that prohibition over, and over, and over.

This is the charge which Jesus has given; and therefore Reverend, Right Reverend, and Most Reverend Fathers in God, and all other badges of distinction, and marks of honor pre-eminence, superiority, or dominion, which take place in Christian organizations considered as such, and which serve to introduce a groundless respect and veneration for the persons of men, and a groundless submission to their pretended authority, are not only not Christian, but the most gross Anti-Christianism. They are set up in opposition to, and in defiance of Jesus’ authority, and his special charge and command to the contrary. 

This is not to say that Christians are not to render to their fellow Christians honor to whom it is due, (that is, to such of their fellow Christians who, by their virtue and good works, have rendered themselves worthy of it), and by showing decent marks of respect to them.

But if, in a Christian organization, a person seeks to be greater than others, it must be, not by his having greater possessions, or greater marks of honor conferred upon him, or by exercising dominion over his brethren (these being Anti-Christian) but it must be in his greater services and in his being more useful than others, in imitation of his Master, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.

(Adapted from sermons by Rev. Thomas Chubb)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

#Jesus Lived Out A Gospel We Can Follow. #JesusFollowers

So that the Gospel might be better recommended to the world, Jesus was in his own person an example of strict conformity to it, by conforming his affections and actions to that unalterable rule of action which is founded in the reason of things. 

Jesus preached his own life, and lived his own doctrine, and thereby he was at once a standing monument of the practicableness of virtue, and of the present peace and happiness that flows from it.

In him, we may see what it is to live a godly, righteous, sober, and benevolent life; and that what he requires from us as the ground of God's favor is neither unreasonable, nor impracticable. In him, we have an example of a quiet and peaceable spirit, of a becoming modesty and sobriety, just and honest, upright and sincere, and above all of a most gracious and benevolent attitude and behavior.

His life was a beautiful picture of human nature, when in its native purity and simplicity, and showed at once what excellent creatures men would be, when under the influence and power of that Gospel which he preached unto them.

And as his holy life and doctrine drew on him the unreasonable resentment of the Clergy among the Jews, who stirred up the rest of the people against him: so this gave an occasion for his sealing his testimony with his blood, and of giving an instance of the greatest Benevolence towards mankind.

And just as his life was an excellent pattern and example of every good word and work, and therefore very fit and proper for his disciples and followers to copy after, so his death was no less exemplary. 

For he not only laid down his life to promote the greatest and the most general good to mankind, but he did it in such a manner (by exercising such patience and resignation under the severest trials and most painful afflictions and persecutions) as to render him highly worthy of our imitation.

(Adapted from Sermons by Rev. Thomas Chubb)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

#Jesus: A Clear Example We Are Able To Follow! #JesusFollowers

If a baby never saw an adult walking, how would that baby learn to walk? If a student never had a teacher to convey knowledge, how would that student ever learn? And if God expected us to be more holy, how would we ever learn without an example?

The good news is that God did not leave us alone – he chose from among humanity an example, adopting as His Son a man named Jesus to be our example in all things, so that we might become as God wishes us to be.

This example Jesus left us was a complete one. There are no other examples more perfect, none to which we must aspire, than this one example.

Jesus was chosen by God to be His prophetic spokesman; a perfect example for us in life and death of what God wishes us to be. He has called on us to follow him in all things.

If God had not chosen this example for us, and had Jesus not clearly and explicitly told us to follow this example in our efforts to be more like God in righteousness, we might be able to complain to God that we had no hope of following God’s moral laws.

Some might actually concoct false beliefs, saying, perhaps, that Jesus' example was just a 'conviction,' a show, to demonstrate our sins to us, and that his example wasn’t REALLY meant to be followed. Some might say that we were born corrupted and, even as babies, are utterly unable to do all that Jesus calls us to do.

But of course no one could say this who had even read one line of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, or any of his parables, where he had been clear in saying that we are called to do ALL things he did, and that we are fully capable of repenting and following Jesus' example.

Jesus tells us that the Being Who gave us our sense of moral obligations has designed us so that we are to conform to them, and expects us to do so. Because if we are unable to obey, if we are morally UNABLE to turn to God and work Righteousness, then we cannot at all be held accountable for our actions by this Creator of ours.

But Jesus and the entire Hebrew Scriptures clearly and plainly proclaim that we will be held accountable in the next life for what we do in this life.

What, then, is this example Jesus left us to follow?

- Jesus said that serving God isn't about doing so in order to "get stuff," to be financially rewarded, to advance your career, to get ahead of others, to feel self-satisfied and smug about your station in life. It's about serving others, and as our example, Jesus called us to act selflessly, and lovingly. (Mark 4:19; 10:23; Luke 16:13; Luke 16:24)

- It’s about seeking heavenly treasure, rather than earthly treasure; that gold and wealth are not to be our objects of affection, and that our souls are not measured by them. (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:33)

- That we will be judged by our works, not by our vain words, not by our excited utterances, not by our weak professions or creeds, not by our mere good intentions, and certainly not by judging ourselves ‘holy’ or ‘righteous’ because we have faith alone, without works. (Ezekiel 3:21; 18:5-9; 18:30; Matt. 5:16; 6:7; 15:3; 7:21; John 3:21)

- Jesus taught that we must repent of our sins, and turn back to God. By doing this, and by committing to live for God and serve Him and our fellow human being in His name, we reside in the heart of God, our Father, and in Him alone is our eternal salvation. (Matt. 4:17; Mark 9:35; John 15:10; John 17:3)

- It is in serving God and our fellow beings alone are we ‘saved,’ not by any man-made idea of salvation or man-made plan to force God to grant it without works or obedience; and God alone judges whether we are worthy and are ‘saved’ eternally. We cannot judge ourselves, others cannot judge us, and we cannot judge others worthy or ‘saved.’ (Isaiah 33:22; Luke 6:37; John 8:15-16; John 8:50)

Let us humbly and with reverence serve God according to the example He has chosen for us – the life, teachings and death of Jesus. Let him alone be our example and guide in all things.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

#Jesus Calls Us to a Life of Works, Action, Love and Service! #JesusFollowers

God equips us, from birth, with gifts that are meant to be used for Good. Jesus - the one God has chosen and sent out as our perfect example - calls on us to do all that is within our power to perform Good Works, relying on these Original, Natural gifts, and seeking greater strength and wisdom from God, Who gives to us abundantly when we need spiritual renewal.

Jesus, God's spokesman and our example, did not chart out for us any new way to earn God's favor and eternal life. In truth, he taught the same path that always was, and always will be, the true path to eternal life; namely, keeping the commandments, or loving God and our neighbor, which is the same thing, and is the sum and substance of the God’s Moral Law.

Jesus' call, "whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matt. 7:12) summaries his entire ministry and the Hebrew Bible's moral teaching.

By following after the path God wishes us to lead – the path of Righteousness – we will live fuller, more complete and more joyful lives. Jesus lays out for us this path clearly, plainly, and in a way that needs no further revelations or elaboration from men.

Jesus has clearly called us to a life of works and action, of radical love and service, calling on us to love our neighbors just as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:33; Matt. 22:35-40)

Jesus teaches us that we should humbly perform Good Works and Holy Service. As Jesus' brother James puts it, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:26.)

Jesus calls us to seek to become more holy people, to seek to act in righteousness.

Jesus calls on us to deny ourselves, and to serve others first. We should live our lives in the joyful service of others.

Jesus calls us to achieve, to do, to act, to work, to seek out the truth, to be humble, to worship and praise our God, and to love others.

‎Jesus‬ calls us to put his teachings into practice in our lives, lest we build our houses of faith on the shifting sands of mere words and empty praise, rather than the solid rock of obedience. (Matt. 7:24-26)

Jesus calls on us to not be hypocrites. He pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees – the religious leaders of his day – for being obsessed with man-made doctrines and rituals, but neglecting, "the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness." (Matt. 23:23)

And how do we know that we can do this, that we can do all that Jesus asks of us? Because Jesus lived in perfect obedience, doing in all things that pleased God (his and our Father) and showed by this example that ALL OF US are able to do as he did.

We are left without excuse, therefore, and are called to humbly seek the spiritual completeness Jesus achieved, asking God's forgiveness when we fall short, repenting of these sins, and seeking strength to continue in obedience.

Let us humbly and with reverence serve God according to the example He has chosen for us – through the life and the teachings of Jesus. Let him alone be our example and guide in all things.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

#God's Justice Is Not Transferable. #JesusFollowers

It has long been a prevalent belief that it was the purpose of God, through the sufferings of his Son, to make a striking show of His just displeasure against sin and His inflexible desire that sin shall not pass unpunished by inflicting on His Son the punishments due to the sins of humanity.

But vicarious punishment is incompatible with a show of justice, because punishment is an act which no one but the guilty can deserve.

To perceive justice in the infliction of a capital punishment, we must perceive the sufferer deserves the punishment. When no such deserving of punishment is perceived, how is it possible to perceive a display of justice in penal sufferings?

In considering the equity of God, Elihu said to Job, "Surely God will not do wickedly; neither will the Almighty pervert judgment." (Job 34:12) In what way can a king or a judge more flagrantly "pervert judgment," than by intentionally punishing the innocent that the guilty may escape, or be acquitted?

Yet it is to human beings that it has been supposed God made a show of His justice in the sufferings of His Son, Jesus. But this is not possible, when the very faculties with which our Maker has given us lead us to regard such conduct as a perversion of justice, if done by a human judge.

How can punishing the innocent express hatred of sin; or even suggest the idea that God hates it? We might more naturally infer from this punishment that God hates innocence or righteousness.

It is like a parent proving to the guilty members of his family, that wicked children deserve to be punished by inflicting what they deserve on one who is known to them all as the unoffending child.

Any earthly parent, or ruler, adopting such a method to display such a “moral truth" would be suspected of insanity, or accused of abominable injustice. Yet this method is ascribed to God!

When we examine the words in scripture, they are found to be a declaration that one shall not die for the sin of another, but everyone for their own sin, unless they repent.

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.” Ezekiel 18:20-21

What can be more obvious than that this one passage clearly contradicts the doctrine of vicarious punishment, or that of one's dying as a substitute for another! It is not possible for words to more clearly express the doctrine of pardon on condition of repentance alone.

The Gospel does not portray God as such an austere Sovereign that He cannot forgive a penitent person without inflicting the deserved evils on an innocent victim; but, as a being who has a Father's heart, and is disposed, by tender compassion for His guilty offspring, to do all that wisdom and love shall dictate to reconcile and save them.

Perhaps there is no portion of the Gospels which has had a more extensive, or a more favorable influence on the minds of men, than the parable of the Prodigal Son. Our Master describes the feelings of a true penitent, and the forgiving love of God – and the readiness with which He pardons and restores us when, with contrite hearts, we turn from the ways of sin.

It is remarkable how perfectly this parable precludes every idea of the necessity of vicarious suffering in order for God to the pardon of the penitent sinner. 

Had it been the special purpose of our Master to provide an antidote for such a doctrine, it is difficult to conceive what could have been devised better adapted to it.

Have we not in this parable a striking miniature painting of the great truths of the Gospel of reconciliation?

These views of the subject excludes the awful, the painful, and unnatural idea of God's displaying avenging justice on an innocent and holy victim, as necessary to the exercise of forgiving love toward his penitent children.

It is presumed that this supposed example of the mode of Divine forgiveness, has never been, and never can be, imitated by any enlightened and benevolent being in the universe. Yet every Christian is required to forgive, as God forgives!

The idea of substituted suffering is essential to the prevalent theory respecting the atonement; and also essential to the hypothesis that the anger or avenging justice of God was displayed in the sufferings of Jesus. But there is not one Biblical instance in which can be discovered the least appearance of substituted suffering; and this is strong proof that the nature of Jesus’ sufferings has been greatly misunderstood; and that the prevalent hypothesis respecting them is incorrect and unwarranted by the Bible.

(Adapted from “The Atoning Sacrifice – a Display of Love, Not Wrath,” by Noah Worcester (1829)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Vain Words Cannot Save Our Souls #JesusFollowers

Uttering a few words expecting those words alone to actually accomplish something is the very definition of "vain words."

Just saying, "I'm more financially stable," or "I'm thinner," won't do anything without effort to make those goals happen, any more than saying "I'm college educated" can be true without actually attending college!

To "name and claim" something, is therefore a pointless exercise, especially when it's eternal life with God that's the object being sought.

Jesus repeatedly made it clear that we cannot take a short cut to either righteousness or eternal life. Nor should we seek gain from God for ourselves. This means material gain, of course, but it even goes deeper - deeper than modern Christians frequently dare to venture, because so many casually disregard Jesus' own teachings.

Jesus specifically said that those who seek to save their lives would lose their lives (Luke 17:33.) And that when we are standing before God, vain professions will have nothing to do with how we are judged worthy (Matt. 7:22) but our works alone will be how we are judged (Matt. 10:41; Matt. 16:27; Jer. 32:19.)

Why, then, is self-salvation by profession of our faith alone the entire focus of the modern Christian message?

Nearly the entire message of Jesus was focused on living righteously here on earth and serving others (Mark 10:43; Matt. 20:26.) But Christians focus entirely on individuals selfishly escaping from this world, which they degrade as TOTALLY fallen and corrupt - something Jesus never did.

Jesus calls us to a life of self-sacrifice, a life of Good Works, joyfully serving each other in the name of God's Kingdom, bringing it to fruition right here, and right now.

Jesus calls us to this kind of life not because he wants us to brag about being "children of the king" or claiming righteousness by proxy. Nor by tallying up our goodness and translating it into "points" that we can use to achieve Heaven.

Scoring and judging is up to Almighty God. We are simply called to play by His rules and let Him alone determine our worthiness.

We should also remember that Jesus' warning for us not to judge applies to our own eternal salvation, which is God's alone to give, not for us to demand, especially not with works-free faith, which amounts to spiritual shoplifting.

When we demand eternity from God - either by our vain words and vain, arrogant professions or by implying that we've "done enough" on this earth to earn it - we are failing to let God be our God, and are instead making God our servant.

In truth, Jesus calls on us to deny ourselves (Luke 9:23) and those who seek to be first should be the servant of all others (Mark 9:35.)

And if even Jesus didn't save himself from death on a cross by cleverly defending himself or by running away, why do some expect to save themselves with a few vain words, and running away from Good Works because they see them as "hard" or difficult?

Let us learn to therefore humble ourselves and deny ourselves before God, obeying Him and Jesus, the one He chose and adopted as His son, and sent out to be our example in all things.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Happiness and Security of Virtue #JesusFollowers

That our happiness hereafter depends on our conduct here is certain, because we find, in our present state, that the happiness of every successive period of human life is made to depend, in a great measure, on our conduct in the preceding periods.

The happiness of mature life depends on the habits acquired and the pains taken in early life; and mature life spent in folly and vice generally makes a miserable old age.

All we observe of the Government of the Deity, and all that we can learn with respect to His character, leads us to believe that He must approve righteousness and hate wickedness: and in the same proportion that He does this, He must favor the one and disapprove of the other.

To act righteously is to act like God. It is to promote the order of His creation. It is to go into His constitution of nature. It is to follow that conscience which he has given us to be the guide of our conduct. It must, therefore, be the likeliest way to arrive at happiness, and to guard against misery under His government. The accountability of our natures, and our necessary perceptions of excellence and good desert in virtue, demonstrate this.

The practice of virtue is, in this case, our security. It is the image of the Deity in our souls; and what we ought to depend upon is, that nothing wrong will ever happen to it. Let us then adhere to it in all events.

Walking uprightly will add to our present comfort, at the same time that it will preserve us from future danger. What is required of us, in this instance, is only to part with our follies and diseases; and to make ourselves happy now, in order to be safe forever.

That Being Who gave us our sense of moral obligations, must have designed us so that we would conform to them; and he could not design this, and at the same time design us so that we would find it most to our advantage not to conform to them.

This would have been to establish an inconsistency in the frame of nature; and acting in a manner which cannot be supposed of that supreme power, which, in every other part of nature, has discovered higher wisdom than we are able to comprehend.

By practicing virtue we gratify the highest powers in our natures. Reason is the nature of a reasonable being; and to assert that our chief happiness consists in deviating from reason, would be the same as to say that our chief happiness consists in violating our nature and contradicting ourselves.

Our highest powers are, undoubtedly, our sense of moral excellence, the principle of reason and reflection, benevolence to our fellow-creatures, and the love of the Deity. To practice virtue is to act in conformity to these powers.

(Adapted from a message by Rev. Richard Price)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Repentance And Reformation #JesusFollowers

Jesus did not propose or point out to us any new way to God's favor and eternal life, but on the contrary, he recommended that good old way which always was, and always will be the true way to life eternal; namely, keeping the commandments, or the loving God and our neighbor which is the same thing, and is the sum and substance of the moral law. (Matt. 19:17; 22:37-40)

This plain path-way to heaven lay neglected, and for the most part unfrequented; men both Jews and Gentiles having forsaken the fountain of living water, that is, the true way to life eternal; and shown to themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water; that is, they had found out new and false ways of recommending themselves to God.

And this rendered our Savior's undertaking and ministry so much the more needful. And therefore it was truly said of him that he was to be not the maker, but the restorer, of right paths to dwell and walk in.

Jesus requires and recommends a conformity of mind and life to that unalterable rule of action which is founded in the reason of things as the only ground of divine acceptance, and as the only way to life eternal; so if men have lived in a violation of this righteous law by which they have rendered themselves displeasing to God, and worthy of His just resentment.

Secondly, Jesus requires and recommends repentance and reformation of their evil ways as the only ground of the divine mercy and forgiveness. The doctrine of repentance and remission of sin were what Jesus was chiefly concerned to announce to the world.

 "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3)

As to the doctrine that Jesus has, by his sufferings and death, made satisfaction to God for the sins of the world, and thereby merited the sinners discharge from condemnation, this doctrine Jesus did not preach, and therefore it cannot be any part of his Gospel, but it is directly opposite to it, and tends to subvert it.

The true doctrines of the Gospel of our Master and Savior Jesus Christ concerning this matter are the doctrines of repentance and remission of sins; that is, repentance and reformation is the only way to the divine mercy.

"For if you forgive others their trespasses," says Jesus, "your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matt. 6:14-15)

Let not therefore the sinner trust nor rely upon the vain words of men, but let them trust and rely upon the words of our Master, Jesus, who was sent by God to be their guide and instructor in this particular, and who, they may be assured upon good grounds, will not deceive them.

(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Thomas Chubb)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Undelivered? A #JesusFollowers Message

Our lives are given importance and meaning when we accept what God has given us, and act upon it.

One day, a young woman received a notice from her local post office that she had received a special letter, and was asked to go pick it up. But she never went, and the letter remained undelivered, never knowing that the letter contained a full scholarship to college – something she had actively been seeking.

So, she embarked on a long, painful journey to make it there herself. And while many honorable people have done this successfully, she seemed to fail repeatedly and become angrier and angrier in the process. She took courses from less-than-reputable sources, teaching things that were either false or not useful to her field. She took shortcuts, only to find that she had learned the wrong things. Eventually, she dropped out of school and gave up, frustrated by the process and hating education.

Another young woman actually went to the post office and received her special letter. She opened it to learn that her college education was also paid for. Instead of being happy, though, she was intimidated by all the work that lay before her: the classes, studying and tests that are part of a college education. “Why don’t they just give me a diploma so I can start working and earning money?” she said, unreasonably.

Discouraged, she decided to forgo an education, and began working in a low-paying job, where she wasn’t challenged and could do little work.

Our first example had received the free gift of a college education, but never accepted it, so she failed.

Our second example received the gift, but did not understand that work was required to achieve her goals, so she failed.

As many correctly say, God offers us a ‘free gift’ of salvation. This is certainly true, as far as it goes. But even a free gift must be first accepted. And even if accepted, we cannot hope to achieve salvation instantly, without effort.

Without faith in God, we don’t ever learn about the wonderful gifts He has given us, and continues to give us.

We don’t ever know, without faith, about the man, Jesus, he chose from among us, sending him out to preach Good News about God’s Kingdom – a radical way to live among each other in peace, serving one another and living as neighbors even among former enemies.

Without effort, we throw away God’s love. Without performing the Good Works God and his chosen one calls us to perform, we throw away the chance to be part of God’s spiritual Kingdom here on earth, and to be with God in after this life has ended.

We should not get a free gift and then show disrespect to the one who gave it to us.

By assuming we can achieve salvation without obedience and Good Works, we show disrespect to God.

By throwing away God’s free gift in the first place, our path becomes difficult and even dangerous, because we’re throwing away the knowledge that helps us walk safely and according to God’s Will.

The path that Jesus calls us to follow is a path of Good Works done in the name of God. This path delivers us from evil, from confusion, from frustration and from a life wasted by either making things up as we go, or by dreaming of instant success that never comes.

Embracing God and the one God sent, Jesus, our paths are established on a righteous and safe road, so that we may walk with peace among all of God’s creations here on earth, and have hope that we might live with God eternally.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

#Jesus Proves Godliness Is Possible #JesusFollowers

The life of Jesus shows us that we can do all things that God asks us to do, because God's chosen one has done them as an example we can follow.

God, our eternal Creator, knows us better than we know ourselves. He creates our souls and wishes us to enjoy Him and love Him.

Our lives have meaning when we are following a pattern God sets for us. But He has not given us this pattern to mock us, nor has God given us impossible tasks so that every person would fail.

God gives us, from birth, gifts that are meant to be used for Good. Therefore, we must do all that is in our power to perform Good Works, relying on these natural gifts.

We also have the perfect moral example of Jesus whom God chose and out to us, to show by his teachings, life and death how we should live our lives.

God also grants us ongoing gifts of wisdom and strength - to supplement all we have been already given - so that we might better accomplish what His chosen one, Jesus, calls us to do.

When we fail to live up to the standards Jesus sets for us, we repent and seek God's inexhaustible mercy and forgiveness. But we must not make excuses for not seeking what Jesus commands, nor hold God responsible for HIS promises if we refuse to strive to fulfill our own.

But how do we KNOW that we can do what God has required of us?

Because Jesus, God's spokesman and our example, lived in perfect obedience, doing in all things that pleased God, his and our Father, and showed by this example that ALL are able to do as he did, and to obey God.

Jesus, therefore, has made God's Kingdom possible, through his life, teachings and even through the example of his death.

It's possible for us to understand and actively pursue Godly concepts like virtue, righteousness, honesty, self-sacrifice, and service.
It's possible to treat others with dignity, serving them and loving them as Jesus did.

It's possible for us to actively pursue Godliness, and seek the Righteousness that Jesus calls us to pursue.

It's possible for us to avoid sinful behaviors that separate us from God, our Creator.

And it's possible for us to gain eternal life and reunite with God, not through vain words or demanding it, but by trusting God to be the Judge, and letting us be His children.

In truth, Jesus assures us by his life and teachings that we can achieve all that God asks of us.

We thank God that we have the ability to understand, learn and follow His Will, thanks to the teachings of His chosen Son, Jesus!

Let us go forth and do Good Works in humility and for the glory of God's Kingdom!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let Us Do Our Father’s Business #JesusFollowers

Jesus went out into the world to do something, not for himself, but for his Father, and he devoted himself to it entirely. 

He was continually engaged in it himself, while he remained here, going from place to place, encountering hardship and danger and suffering, and all without any reference to his own selfish interests, but regarding solely the work he had to do for the salvation of men.

And at last, when he left the world, his final charge to his disciples was, that they should be faithful and persevering in carrying forward this work.

It is surprising how much the example of Christ loses its power over us, simply on account of the absolute perfection of it. If he had been partly a lover of pleasure, if he had, for instance, built himself a splendid mansion, and ornamented his grounds, and devoted some portion of his time to selfish enjoyment there.

Or if he had entered into political life, and devoted a share of his attention to promoting his own honor, and yet if he had torn himself away from these temptations, so as finally to have devoted his chief time and attention to the glory of God and the good of men, than perhaps then we would view his example as within our reach.

But as it is, since he gave himself up wholly to his duty, since he relinquished the world altogether, Christians seem to think, that his bright example is only, to a very limited extent, an example for them. 

Jesus was a man. His powers were human powers. His feelings were human feelings, and his example is strictly and exactly an example for all the world. Still few consider him a fair example. Most Christians think that the general principles which regulated his conduct, ought to regulate theirs, and the most they think of doing is to follow in his steps slowly and hesitatingly, and at a great distance behind.

How perfectly clear it is, that a very large proportion of professing Christians are doing their own business in this world, and not their Father's. There are a great number of nominal Christians who have no idea of the position Christianity takes in regard to our duty.

Our business here is to comfort everyone, and to relieve everyone's suffering. We cannot persuade great multitudes of men to love and obey God, as Jesus endeavored to, but we may lead our brothers and sisters to do it, by our silent influence and happy example. We can bear sufferings patiently, and take injuries meekly, and thus exhibit the character which God wishes to have prevail here.

The light we let shine may be a feeble light, and it may illuminate only a narrow circle around you; but if it is the light of genuine piety, it will be in fact, the glory of God.

The example of Jesus is an example for all mankind. It is intended for universal imitation, and they who pass through life without imitating it, must find themselves condemned when they come to their account.

And how strange it is, that God should find so very few willing to do His business in this world. Even of those few, most, instead of entering into it, heart and soul, do some good accidentally, and call themselves Christians, but they seem to have no idea that God has any work for them to do.

But let us return to the example of our Savior.

Jesus was in some respects the most bold, energetic, decided and courageous man that ever lived; but in others he was the most flexible, submissive and yielding.

There is something very bold and energetic in the measures he adopted in accomplishing his work. The great business which it was necessary for him to effect before his crucifixion, was, to spread it effectually throughout Judea, his coming, and the principles of his gospel.

The delivery of the Sermon on the Mount is, probably, the most striking example of moral courage, which the world has ever seen. Every sentence was loaded with meaning, and so concisely and energetically expressed, that the sentiment could neither be misunderstood nor forgotten.

By this discourse, containing, as it does, so plain and specific an exposition of the false notions of religion then prevailing, the Savior must have known, that he was laying the foundation of that enmity, which was to result in his destruction.

Yet, he brought out all the distinctive features of prevailing error, and contrasted them with the pure principles of his spiritual religion, with a plainness and a point, which was exactly calculated to fix them in memory, and to circulate them most widely throughout the land.

It was always so. The plainness, the point, the undaunted boldness, with which he exposed hypocrisy and sin, and the clear simplicity with which he held up to view the principles of real piety, have no parallel. And yet he knew perfectly well, that in direct consequence of these things, a dark storm was gathering, which must burst in all its fury upon his unsheltered head.

But the enterprising and determined spirit, with which Jesus entered into his work, was not satisfied with his own personal exertions. He formed the extraordinary plan of sending out simultaneously, a number of his most cordial friends and followers, to assist in making the most extensive and powerful impression possible, upon the community. At first he sent twelve, then seventy, who went everywhere, presenting to men the simple duties of repentance for the past, and of pure and holy lives for the future.

Does God have work for us to do? Yes! There is a world to be restored to holiness and happiness, and He asks our help in doing it. 

(Adapted from “The Man Christ Jesus” by Jacob Abbott In “The Corner-Stone,” 1834)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Faith Is Reasonable #JesusFollowers

Faith is a reasonable principle. There is nothing dark, mysterious, or unintelligible in it; nothing for which he who values himself most upon the character of his reason has any cause to be ashamed.
It is not an enthusiastic principle that first gives cause to dreams and visions, and then supports itself upon imaginations of its own creating.

It is not a supernatural impression proceeding from the immediate agency of God, capriciously bestowed where He pleases to bestow it, and denied where He wills it to be denied. 

It is not an inexplicable feeling of we know not what, conceived we know not how, and cherished we know not why; it is not the persuasion of anything, whether good or evil, concerning either ourselves or any other being, taken up without reason, and maintained upon principle, that may not be duly specified and explained.

It is not a sudden irradiation of the mind, proceeding from whatever cause; it is the natural and necessary result of the principles that compose the human frame.

To a duly formed eye, show any object of the knowable world, and it is seen: to an attentive mind, propose the evidence concerning any truth that respect the invisible world, and in proportion to the strength of that evidence, it is believed. Whatever persuasion is taken up against evidence or without it, is blind presumption, or romantic imagination, and not Faith.

Faith is as much the effect of evidence, as sight is the effect of sensible impression; nor is the one more absolutely dependent on its cause, or more closely connected with it, than the other. It is a law of our nature.

What sight is in the natural world, with respect to things visible and present, Faith is in the spiritual world, with respect to things absent and invisible: to believe, on sufficient evidence, is as natural as to perceive: and in thus believing, there is nothing more unreasonable, inexplicable, or indefensible, than in seeing with our open eyes the prospect that presents itself before us.

Faith then is a principle no more peculiar to religion in general, than it is peculiar to the Christian religion in particular. Even those who are most likely to treat it with ridicule and contempt in the disciples of Christ, are themselves obliged to act upon it every day and every hour of their lives: it is the very principle which, in the ordinary affairs of life, regulates and governs by far the greater part of their thoughts, their affections, and their conduct.

Faith is the principle upon which men resolve and act; there is no other principle that has so constant and extensive an influence upon them. You cannot even go to a place where you have never been, but it is by Faith you go thither. You cannot seek a person you have never seen, but it is by Faith you seek him: the most trivial and most important actions of our lives are almost all equally dependent on it.

Even our moral conduct, in the most serious and most momentous instances, rests on Faith as its foundation. 

The objects to which our knowledge can extend are very few; when the sphere of our affection and activity go beyond these, it is Faith, not knowledge that carries out our views, our passions, and pursuits; it is Faith that directs, supports, and animates them.

Since Faith is a reasonable principle, we have no cause to be ashamed of it.

It may not be improper to observe, that however natural and just the distinction is between faith and reason, it ought not to be made without some caution and restriction.

A great part of what we ordinarily call reason, is indeed faith; and faith is itself an act of reason. To believe upon sufficient testimony, is one among many other characteristics of reason and intelligence.

If Faith is a reasonable principle, we need not be afraid of pursuing it through its consequences. 

Nothing but what is right can come of what is reasonable; it must diverted from its natural course, or corrupted by some foreign intermixture, before it can dictate or induce to what is wrong. If our Faith is the pure result of evidence, it will give us comfort, and do us honor, to show it in our works.

(Adapted from a Sermon by Rev. Newcome Cappe, 1733-1800)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

In Praise of Reason #JesusFollowers

Some view Reason as opposed to God, and its use as somehow usurping, insulting or opposing Him, as if Reason was by its nature opposed to God.

But Human Reason must be seen as a gift of God, which He implanted within us for us to discover, using the other gifts which He entrusted to us.

We should never base our opinion of a thing based on a false judgement of it, or by the worst belief someone holds of it.

Human Reason can, if not truly reasonable, lead us astray. It can lead us to believe we are greater than the creator, that Reason is itself greater than that which created us, and it.

Once it’s considered to be such a thing, it is condemned, but falsely, since that’s not human Reason IS.

Reason and Faith are not opposed to one another, but are instead both necessary for us to understand God and God's will for us.

Rationality walks hand-in-hand with Spirituality. When irrational elements of religion are stripped away, we may focus clearly on the mission God's Anointed One, Jesus sends us to do.

God gave us Reason and the ability to obey Him, and Reason is a God-given gift we must use to discern His Will.

Just as we ought to not condemn someone based on others’ opinions of them – or mere rumors ABOUT them, which often are not true or are based on false assumptions, biases or slanders – we ought to assess Reason in its truest and purest form, rather than the worst assumptions about it.

Many do the same for the Religion Jesus left us. They consider all the horrific things done it its name, the abuses done to people, the wars, the complicated and contradictory doctrines – and assume them to be the highest version of that religion. Then they say, “See, these examples ARE the religion of Jesus, therefore, we must reject it.”

Such things SHOULD be rejected, but to assume that this is the True Religion of Jesus is to start with a false assumption.

It would be as if we judged a tree in autumn, with its leaves fallen out or yellow with age to be “dead,” not knowing about, or deliberately not remembering, the vibrant greens of spring.

Those who have rejected God, also often base that rejection on only the worst aspects of the Christian religion: the toxic additions of men, not the purity of its founder, Jesus.

So too, rejecting the Godly faculty of Reason, it’s been said, prepares one for worse and worse delusions. [Channing, Discourse, 1826]

The teachings of Jesus are reasonable. Jesus calls us to love God with all understanding (Matt. 15:10.) Jesus reminds us that God wishes us to “love the Lord your God with ALL YOUR MIND” (Mark 12:30.) We cannot fully love God, therefore, unless we use ALL of the understanding and knowledge God Himself gave us, and continues to give us.

Reason in fact plays a huge and important role in God’s religion, as expressed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. And just as Reason finds a place, so also is Wisdom, knowledge and understanding greatly praised by scripture, though often, as in Jesus’ time, they are degraded by men who are assumed to be “wise” in religious knowledge.

We must fully embrace the Reasonableness of the Gospel that Jesus has taught, just as the former Prophets of God testified to God’s wisdom and knowledge, which He shares with all of us when we seek it.

When Yahweh says, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) He expresses his desire to engage and converse with us, His creation, and make reasonable terms by which we may be His children.

In the Proverbs, we read, "By wisdom Yahweh founded the earth. By understanding, he established the heavens. By his knowledge, the depths were broken up, and the skies drop down the dew. My son, let them not depart from your eyes. Keep sound wisdom and discretion: so they will be life to your soul, and grace for your neck. Then you shall walk in your way securely. Your foot won't stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid. Yes, you will lie down, and your sleep will be sweet." (Proverbs 3:19-24)

We are to use our gift of Reason, just as our gifts of wisdom and knowledge, to walk in the way of Jesus, who walked perfectly in the way of God. Our feet stumble less when we adhere to the correct path, guided by these gifts.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hearing, And Doing, IS Our Salvation #JesusFollowers

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock." (Matt. 7:24-25)

Here in Jesus’ words we see what that rock really is which is a Christian’s security in the day of his trial; namely, the attending to and following the advice and counsel that Jesus had given in the Sermon on the Mount, and doing what he had been recommending us to practice.

Jesus had been recommending to his audience the practice of moral virtue, or the conforming men’s attitudes and actions to that law or rule of action which is founded in the reason of things.

It is both hearing these sayings of Jesus AND doing them, which is (in Jesus' words) building upon a rock, and which is a Christian's ONLY security in the day of his judgement. 

It is not professing Jesus, nor calling him Lord, nor giving him the highest praises, nor is it an “orthodox faith” or its creeds, nor is it assenting to mysteries and unintelligible propositions, that are the rock a Christian may safely and securely build upon.

It is to have our minds possessed with those virtuous qualities, and our lives adorned with those worthy and virtuous actions that Jesus in the preceding Sermon [on the Mount] had been recommending, which alone can afford a just ground of hope and comfort.

Our Master goes on in verse 26: “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

Here we see what folly and madness it is for a person to make anything besides hearing these sayings of Jesus and doing them (or the practice of moral virtue) the ground of his confidence; because anything, and everything short of this would be like building a house upon the sand, which when the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon it, it would fall, and great would be the fall of it.

Whoever believes in Jesus is called upon to become a virtuous and good person; such a person will be saved, or have everlasting life. And whosoever in this sense does not believe, that is, does not become virtuous and good, but goes on in a vicious and wicked course of life, such a person will die in his sins.

It is the doing or not doing what Jesus requires, which is the ground of our safety or danger; and this is the test by which we shall be judged, according to Christ's own words.

The Gospel are to become a principle of action in the believer, and rightly direct their mind and life.

But our Master makes the case still plainer, if such a thing is necessary, in his answer to the man's question, Matthew 19:16. “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” This was a plain and a fair question. And the answer which Jesus returned to this important question was, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

This answer was as plain and full as the case required. The only ground of divine acceptance, that which renders us pleasing and acceptable to God, and which secures to them the happiness of another world, is keeping the commandments. 

From all which it is most evident that by the Commandments Jesus means the moral law, or that rule of action which is founded in the reason of things; and which therefore every rational being ought to direct his behavior by, and whoever makes this law the measure of his actions shall have everlasting life.

Here again we see Jesus declare that the way to eternal life, or the true grounds of divine acceptance is to keep the Commandments, by loving God and our neighbor, which is nothing else but conforming our minds and lives to that rule of action which is founded in the reason of things. 

The questions which were put to him were of the highest importance to us all, namely, what we should do that we might obtain eternal life; and he was sent out into the world that he might be a safe guide to us in this very issue, and has given us a full and true answer to those questions, plainly declaring all that was necessary for us to know and do in order to obtain eternal life. 

We may depend upon it that the keeping the Commandments, or the governing our minds and lives by that rule of action which is founded in the reason of things will most certainly render us pleasing and acceptable to God, and secure to us the happiness of another world.

(Adapted from "The Gospel of Christ Asserted," by Thomas Chubb, 1738)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Simplicity Of #Jesus' True Religion #JesusFollowers

The Sermon on the Mount is practical and simple, uninvolved in any abstruse, remote, or novel conceptions. It expresses no ideas that amaze and stupefy, or call for careful consideration on account of their novelty. 

It is a solemn, searching declaration of the universal religion of humanity: God is holy, wise, good; blessed are you if you are pure, meek, hungering for righteousness, and living from the heart pure, useful, holy lives. This is all the doctrine there is in it; not a word about the nature of the Godhead, the fall of man, the need of the atonement, the deity of Christ, the necessity of baptism and the saving sacrament of the communion.

And, indeed, the four Gospels are all simplicity itself, so far as they give us Christ's own words. Jesus spoke the language and the truth and the religion of a simple, artless, deep-centered representative of universal humanity — true always, everywhere, and for all. There is nothing to add, nothing to abate, nothing to excuse or to explain away in his teachings.

Because they give voice to what humanity knows to be deep and holy, they hold the allegiance of those in the twenty-first, as they will those of the thirty-first century. We cannot conceive of anything about our faith that is not already in the teachings, spirit, and example of Jesus.

Jesus has taught and illustrated our faith in ways a child can understand. But it is so plain that it looks severe; so simple that it looks cold and hard, like a marble statue. Its simplicity leaves us no loopholes of escape from its commandments. It cannot be, says the weaver of subtleties, that Jesus really expected us to be what he was and make his character our example. It cannot be that he really expected us to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves!

This is very simple, but it is so exacting and so hard! It is easier to believe a much more complex and inexplicable creed than to practice this very simple one. And so, not because it was unintelligible, but because it was too intelligible — not because it was uncertain, but because it was too plain — the subtlety of the Church and of the Christian world has upholstered and stuffed and cushioned and draped the simplicity of religion, until it has been made as great a mystery as an Egyptian mummy in its endless wrappings.

How much easier it is for the soul, reluctant for duty and self-sacrifice, to spend its time in high speculation about the nature of the Godhead than in plain obedience to an imperative voice of God enjoining us to shun evil and do right!

How much lighter work it is to bow when Christ’s name occurs in the creed, and to give him all the honors and worship of a God, than to keep his moral teachings and put on his meek and loving attitude! 

The simplicity of Jesus as it reveals itself in the Sermon on the Mount is often compared disparagingly with the voluminous faith of the Nicene Creed. Call that simplicity the Christian religion, which really adds nothing to the old Jewish and the older natural religion of love to God and love to man, except the example and spirit of Jesus! 

What, then, becomes of the Fall, and the Curse, and the Atonement, and the Sacraments, and the Trinity, and the Deity of Christ, and all the rest of the dogmatic paraphernalia of religion? They become invisible, like candles in the presence of the sun; they fall, like tents rich with hangings when the sky clears and spreads its own tabernacle around us.

It is the keeping of these great commandments that discloses their richness and fullness. They are simple and few. 

But live by them, and you will find that all the bodies of divinity in the world could not contain their lessons, or describe the glorious richness of their contents. If we are to have substitutes for holy living, nothing can be more effectual than hard metaphysical dogmas, or disputes about modes of worship.

To promote and exact real morality and true piety we can conceive nothing so well fitted as the simplicity of Jesus – the plain, unequivocal, uninvolved requirement of love to God, tested by love to men and active usefulness in life.

Do not allow yourselves to fall under the dominion of these sounding subtleties, these dark dogmas, these involved metaphysical puzzles that pass for religion and Christianity. They will unsettle your common sense, and befog your conscience.

It is not the unknown we can profit by, but the known. It is not the obscure, but the plain, that should have our attention.

It takes no learning, no scholarship, no formal logic, no fine-spun reasoning, to know God so far as we need to know him, as a moral governor and father of spirits; to know Jesus as a holy, gentle, and wise master and guide of character; to know our duty well enough to live chastely, truthfully, honestly, with mercy and sympathy.

And this is all we need to know to fulfil all the obligations and to reach all the blessings of religion.

The common sense view of religion, as of life, is the true view. Eccentric or exceptional views are usually erroneous. Trust your capacity to know God and to understand Jesus by directing a plain common-sense intelligence towards them.

You have no more faith than you practice, no more religion than you live out, and no Savior unless he is found in you. This is simple, plain truth. Allow no spirit of subtlety to hide or deform it.

(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Henry W. Bellows, 1886)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Clear Gospel of Jesus. #JesusFollowers

The clarity of Jesus' Gospel is obvious to all who read his words. The life, teachings & example of Jesus are a clear window onto the Will of God. We do not need to complicate it or make it mysterious in any way.

Jesus lived, taught and died as an example, so that we would follow it and achieve spiritual completion, just as he has done. That is the core of his Gospel - his Good and Beneficial Message to all the world, for which he was chosen, anointed by God and sent into the world to preach.

Jesus is the moral example by which we are able to follow in order to reach spiritual completeness. He perfectly models for us how to serve and to love others the way God wants us to love and serve others.

There is nothing greater than the teachings of Jesus. His words and teachings were not his, but they came from God (John 14:10) who Adopted him as his son at his baptism, anointing him with His Spirit, choosing him among all other sons of men to not only teach, but to BE his teachings – our exemplar in all things.

Jesus said his actions always pleased God (John 8:29) making him our perfect example in all things.

The wonderful message of the Gospel is this: That WE can do all that God asks of us, because another of our kind, Jesus, was able to fully follow God’s commandments and Will for our lives.

But to do as he has done, we must believe that Jesus left us an example that we can really follow.
Jesus teaches: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And assures us, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 14:15; 13:15.)

Jesus is for us our Model, our Template, our Guide, our Teacher and our Master.

We are first saved from sin by knowledge of his teachings – that we must repent of our sins, turn our faces to God, and walk in righteousness. When we repent of our sins and pledge to walk in God’s righteous paths, we are forgiven by God, who is, “merciful and gracious, long-suffering – forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin." (Exodus 34:6-7)

The Hebrew Scriptures and Jesus tell us that God forgives our sins simply upon sincere repentance.

Jesus tells us God wishes us to repent of our sins – to be sorry that we committed them, and to cease committing the act of sinning. But without a change in our behavior following this, there is no repentance. Without repentance, we are not following Jesus or serving God.

The words, life, teachings and death of our Master, Jesus, challenge us to do, to act, to follow, to serve, to be better, to do more, to try harder, to be humble, yet Righteousness, to serve God not money, to lose ourselves and gain eternity.

Jesus clearly calls us to a life of Good Works, done in humility and compassion. Service to others leads us to Spiritual Completeness.

"By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk the same way in which he walked." (1 John 2:5-6.) 

Jesus challenges us to become Spiritually Complete by actively seeking and DOING Righteousness, relying on God’s holy Spirit to strengthen us and give us courage to do what is right, and true, and just.

Each of us can grow within us a Spiritual Abundance that gives light and hope to the world, and advances God’s Kingdom here and now, in this place.

Let us take up the challenge Jesus makes clear for us in his Gospel’s words and teachings!