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)