Sunday, December 27, 2020
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 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, 2020
This isn't a baby we must perpetually welcome into our homes. We are confronted instead with the adult Jesus.
Meeting the adult Jesus is difficult for many, and even frightens them to meet him as an adult and not a helpless, unassuming child. The adult Jesus scared the religious elites of his day because of what he asked, just as he scares the religious elites of today.
Jesus is an adult whom we must each decide whether to ignore, or to serve, as God intended us to do.
If we claim his name, and wish to be identified with it, we must not assume that admiring a baby in a manger is what God wishes. We must not delude ourselves that admiration - or even worship - is alone sufficient. We cannot ignore the adult Jesus, or prefer the baby instead of the adult.
The adult Jesus is hidden away by the religious elites. He scares them.
So this adult Jesus isn't celebrated at Christmas. At all. And he rarely, if ever, makes an appearance the rest of the year, either.
So, just who is this Jesus?
Jesus, the adult, was of course born a baby, but he was born fully a man, of human parents, just as we were born. (He was recognized as such in the Gospels by his neighbors, by the Disciples, and by his parents.)
He grew in the knowledge of God and gained wisdom; he pleased God in all he did. When he became an adult, he was chosen and anointed by God to be our Master, our Teacher, our Template and the Example of how a human being should live for the glory of God and most beneficially for our fellow human beings.
This Jesus is not the one created for us by Priests whom we must simply admire and worship from afar; unable to obey, unable to follow because he is so different, so distant, so alien.
We may instead celebrate the Jesus - a man called and chosen by God - whom we can fully love as our elder brother, and the one whom we can actively follow as our example in all things. We may become more like God because one of us has done it already, setting the example towards which we may strive.
Let us remember the birth, but also the adult life, of THIS Jesus, a Jesus worth celebrating on Christmas Day, and every day.
Sunday, December 13, 2020
It focuses on “getting” far more than giving, on money and acquiring expensive things rather than on God and accruing spiritual riches, and it can often put the focus on pride, and ourselves, rather than on giving to others.
In all these things, the Christmas that we keep today is indeed far from Jesus, and from the God Who chose him to be our example and guide in all things.
Then again, our Modern Church often also reflects these failings, being too inwardly focused, centered on obtaining money and materialism, and obsessed with “rock star” preachers with huge egos.
But do those who get so upset this time of year about how “secular” Christmas has become in our lives have a point? Or are they missing some of the wonderful redeeming values of the Season, even as most non-Christians celebrate it? Let’s take a look.
1. Modern Christmas has become a time for giving, with an emphasis on those in need.
Jesus in fact said we are to give to those in need.
Jesus does not say IF we give to the needy, he gives us instructions on how to act WHEN we give to the needy (Matt. 6:2-3.) While we are not to “trumpet” our good deeds JUST to be seen by others in a prideful way, we are clearly and specifically told to give to the poor (Matt. 10:21) and “give to the one who begs from you” (Matt. 5:42.)
2. Modern Christmas features people coming around the table for big meals – including friends, co-worker, long-lost relatives and even the “black sheep” of the family.
Jesus invited people to dinner; some who weren't on the guest list of the wealthy and powerful.
“When you give a feast,” he says, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” (Luke 14:13.) He ate with outcasts, including hated tax-collectors and with sinners (Matt. 9:10-13.) He expanded his definition of “family” to all who did the will of God (Matt 12:50.) All of this outraged the religious elites of the day.
3. Modern Christmas has become a particular time for expressing love to people, and for reconciliation, even among enemies.
Jesus called people to love one another. Even our enemies. At all times.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44.) We are called by Jesus to love our God with all our hearts, mind, strength and soul, and to extend this same love to our neighbors (Luke 10:27.) Before gift-giving, Jesus said we must reconcile with our siblings (Matt 5:23-24.)
4. Modern Christmas has become a time when people are focused on doing good to others.
Jesus calls us to do Good Works and serve others righteously and in humility.
Jesus says, “Do unto others that which you would have done unto you” (Matt 7:12.) Jesus wishes us to, "observe all that I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:20) and says we will do even greater works than he did (John 14:12) Jesus clearly says we must “Do Good” (Luke 6:35) and serve others.
“I was hungry and you gave me food,” says Jesus. “I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” (Matt 25:35.) In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we are called to, “Go, and do the same.” (Luke 10:37)
5. Modern Christmas has become a time when we celebrate light in winter.
Jesus calls us to always let our Good Works be a beacon of light, representing God’s Kingdom made “real” in the world.
We are to let our “Light shine, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” But we cannot keep our goodness hidden, but like a lamp on a table or a city on a hill, we must show God’s love to the world through our actions. (Matt. 5:14-16.)
Jesus tells us how to show this service to God – so that God’s Kingdom would come (Matt. 6:10) – and also how to serve others: to clothe the naked, care for the sick, house the homeless, feed the hungry (Matt. 25:35-41.)
Of course, the clear difference between the “secular” Christmas and the Message Jesus proclaims to us is that Jesus’ message is what we who follow him are called to follow year-round, not just during one season.
None other than that secular Christmas celebrant, Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, said the same. “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
That, too, is what Jesus asks of us. And as Tiny Tim might say, “May God bless us, everyone,” at this precious time of the year, and always.
Sunday, December 6, 2020
We are living in the midst of things;
not at rest, but passing onward;
not at home, but travelers;
not stationary inhabitants, but pilgrims and strangers.
We are going on from stage to stage, leaving on the road one scene of business and pleasure after another, and arriving at new. What was ours is ours no longer. What is ours will be soon gone from us.
Behind us are our childhood, our youth, and our early homes, our first warm loves, our first bright hopes, our early innocence and our early sins; before us are the cares and trials of an unknown destiny, and the duties of an uncertain probation - bereavement, toil, sickness, age, death, judgment.
Behind us is ignorance, weakness, imperfection; before us, knowledge, virtue, perfection, or, it may be, worse ignorance, baser sin, and the loss of glory - behind us, a few brief years; before us, eternity.
Improvement is the universal law of God; to which everything in nature, are all conformed. Look where we will, we find nothing made perfect at once; scarcely any thing is stationary; all things are in a state of progress. This may be in a thousand ways illustrated, and in every illustration, we may read a lesson of instruction for ourselves.
The herb, the tree, the animal, spring from an insignificant beginning, and reach their perfect stature by a gradual progress. The day does not open on the eye in meridian splendor. The year does not burst into ripe maturity at once. The nation does not arrive at power and fame in a day. — To look more widely for instances. The earth on which we tread, with its tribes of plants and animals of every order, ascending in a beautiful scale to perfect man, has come to its present condition by a process of improvement.
Our researches into its structure appear to prove, that, before it was brought out of the chaos mentioned by Moses, it had been already more than once inhabited and destroyed.
The remains of its former tenants are found embedded in the ancient rocks. But amongst them are no remains of men. The world, at its several antecedent periods, seems to have been peopled successively by creatures more and more perfect, and then humanity, the most perfect has existed upon it only since its last formation. And we cannot tell that the series of changes is yet completed. It may be, that after the destruction of the earth by fire, it shall be remodeled for the abode of a yet higher order of beings.
Improvement, then, is a law of the universe. All things alike, great and small, are made to be in progress. Individual human beings must not be an exception. We must not allow everything else to move on, and we, ourselves be stationary.
When the insensible earth and the irrational animals obey the commandment, let not us, who alone are capable of voluntary obedience, let not us alone be unfaithful. When even the all-wise Creator, in unfolding his ways and purposes to his children, observes this rule of constant progression, let not us, with wisdom only of yesterday, children in understanding, let not us fancy that we may rest where we are, and refuse to move forward.
Our very capacity of progress is itself a further reason for striving after perpetual improvement. The plants and animals around us have limits set to their advancement which they can never pass. They go forward by a prescribed course to their maturity, and there they necessarily stop.
The voice which spoke to the sea, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,” has spoken to all things terrestrial excepting man. From that mandate his spirit is exempted. The tree has its growth, and the bird its instinct, and they can add to themselves nothing beyond it. Man, reasoning, immortal, immaterial man, to whom the inspiration of the Almighty has given understanding, has received the power of expansion. His soul may grow - not like his body, which is to perish in seventy years, and therefore becomes perfect in twenty; but, as it is never to perish, it never reaches a perfection beyond which it may not pass. If its duration were bounded by a thousand years, or a hundred thousand centuries, then we might anticipate the day when its growth should be completed. But since it shall exist through eternity, since it can never approach the termination of its being, neither can it approach the termination of its progress. It must enlarge, extend itself, and advance.
Other things may stop, and become stationary; for they are to come to an end. But not man, for he is to know no end.
Others may be satisfied with a perfection which earth can understand and contain; for they are of the earth, and they shall return to its bosom. But human beings - the children of the Most High - his spirit a ray from the fountain of unquenchable light, made capable of attainments which the gross delusions of earthly beings cannot imagine themselves, let us not dream that any present attainment is our perfection; let us press forward to that mark - that something immense and infinite - which Jesus has set before us as the prize of our high calling. For us to be stationary - it would be a rebellion against our nature, a willful forfeiting of our birth right, and should subject us to the harsh reproaches of our own minds, and to the deserved scorn of all higher and lower beings.
This great progress of the human soul is but begun upon earth. But it is begun. The desire of purity, the love of excellence, the habits of holiness, the relish for spiritual pleasures, are begun below; and he who has made the greatest advances in these during his mortal life, is doubtless best fitted for entering on a future state.
(Adapted from a sermon by Dr. Henry Ware, Jr.)
Sunday, November 29, 2020
Jesus lived long before the advent of social media, or even computers, but is there anything we can learn from him regarding how to deal with these wonders of our own era?
If Jesus is our teacher, guide, and Master, we can find useful guidance for all aspects of our lives in his teaching and example.
Social media can be, and is, a great benefit. We stay connected with family members, friends and co-workers, often years after they're no longer living near to us; we keep up with current events in our communities, our nation, and around the world, and we meet and interact with people from around the world whom we would never have met without social media.
But social media also has a well-known destructive side.
We can be addicted to staring at laptop and smartphone screens. We can become disconnected with the people who are ACTUALLY around us. And we can misuse this great gift in many new and harmful ways.
It's often easy to say hurtful things, safely hidden behind a screen, that we'd never say in person.
And perhaps one of the most damaging aspects of social media use is that it can portray others' lives as perfect, which leads us to feel bad about how our own lives measure up.
Jesus spoke of the hypocrites of his day among the Pharisees, saying that they were like whitewashed tombs - beautiful on the outside, yet
"You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean." (Matt. 23:27)
Jesus therefore calls us to not bear false witness, or put on a false façade to others.
And what of the content we consume on social media? It's been said of computer programming, "Garbage in, Garbage out." Many years before this saying, Jesus spoke of what we put into our hearts.
"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45)
We are called by our Master to absorb good treasures, treasure that lasts an eternity, and ones that bear good fruit in the here and now.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:19-21)
Our God-anointed Exemplar goes on to explain that what we SEE can put goodness or evil into our hearts:
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:22-23)
Jesus also calls us to serve and love our neighbors, just as we love ourselves. (Matt. 22:39) This requires that we remain connected to the living, breathing people around us - friends, co-workers, family, neighbors, and even strangers that we encounter.
We can remain connected and reach out to them through social media, surely, but we ought not substitute a Message or text for a comforting word and a helping hand. Jesus calls us to perform righteous acts, in humility (Matt 6:1) feeding, clothing, comforting, visiting and actively engaging them - in person. (Matt. 25:35-36)
Jesus assures us that his teachings will last forever, and said if we truly love him, we will follow him, and do what he commands us to do.
Let's take his eternal teachings 20 centuries ago to heart when we use the wonderful gifts of our 21st century lives for the creation of the Kingdom Jesus says lives within us, and must come to this earth through our acts in his name!
Sunday, November 22, 2020
We aren't born empty vessels, and God didn't create us just to manipulate human beings' every move. To read the Hebrew Bible or teachings of Jesus like this - as some do - is to grossly misread both.
While surely God does work IN us, and THROUGH us, when we come to a knowledge of God and His deeds, God even then does not make our decisions FOR us, nor are we incapable of acting until He does.
There are some people, born with severe birth defects or due to later injuries, who cannot move, speak or do anything without the assistance of others.
For most of us, however, that's not our reality. We are born fully able to do things, to think, to move, and to use our Reason. These are all gifts of God. We should praise Him for them.
Hopefully, when we do things, we act informed by the knowledge of our Creator and the example of Jesus foremost in our minds, but that's the point: We all have the moral ability to choose, and that's also the free gift of God.
When we get a gift, we must open it, and use it, in order for it to be fully useful. Otherwise, it's soon thrown away. The same is true of God's mental and physical gifts.
God created us to make choices, to put our physical and mental gifts to good use, and to live up to our full potential. We can't wait for God to "work in us" and "make us" do good, or use God's alleged failure to "give us the ability to do good" (as some have argued - using some rather twisted Theology) for us to fail to act as God wishes us to act.
How do we know this is the case? Because Jesus says none of this. Instead, he simply calls us to a life of joyful, active service, picking up our crosses daily, denying our Selves, and loving our neighbors by serving them.
The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God wants us to act, to do Justice, to seek Mercy, to love others, to be perfect (spiritually complete) and to live fully, and DO Righteousness, living Holy lives.
It is up to each of us to discover and build upon the gifts which God has given, using them to do Righteousness.
Some have said that we will become arrogant and self-righteous if we say we are "doing" righteousness. But the scriptures call us to do righteous deeds, and also makes it clear that God is pleased by them.
Further, we will be judged by those deeds to determine whether we spend eternity with God, our Heavenly Father and Creator.
But Jesus warns us not to do righteousness in front of others just to be seen by them and praised by them. Part of being "holy," then, is being humble.
The Bible and Jesus' teachings also say we will be judged by our deeds - but not by human standards, and not by other human beings, or even by ourselves - but by God alone. We are assured that God does not remember our sins when we confess them to him, and that He is an extremely merciful judge.
Man-made religion creates excuses for why we CANNOT do as God asks, and some even say we must not even try to do Good! But God and His chosen spokesman, Jesus, our example, tells us we CAN do all that God asks, and the life of Jesus shows us that we CAN become the human beings that God wishes us to be.
The Gospel is therefore an active challenge for us to DO righteousness, to ACT in holiness, to SERVE others fully and with joyfulness and humility, because that is our calling as human beings, and that is the challenge God has given us to accomplish! (It's also a Gospel this world needs desperately to hear!)
Sunday, November 15, 2020
We can be assured that in this world, we will face trials and troubles, conflict and chaos. But we know that God will always be with us as a source of comfort and strength.
And, further, he says, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Sunday, November 8, 2020
The Bible tells us that human beings were fearfully and wonderfully made, and created in the very image of God, the creator of all the universe. (Psalms 139:14, Genesis 1:27)
Sunday, November 1, 2020
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 of scripture, 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 actively 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) That's work we're called to do.
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) That's work, too.
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 easy, fast relief, to stop working. God becomes OUR servant, a “mother’s little helper” in whom we can rest. And finding spiritual 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, the One Whom has sent us a perfect human template, and it is through that template 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, God and His chosen son, Jesus, both 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. (James 1:5)
But taking a default “let go” attitude means that we’ve given up on the life God has gifted to us. It means that we believe God exists only to do all of our work for us, 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.
Let us put aside needless and pointless anxiety about what we cannot change. But let us have the courage to get up each day and simply do the Good Works we were called by God through His chosen one, Jesus, to do.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Jesus came into, and went out into, "the world," when, leaving the country around the Jordan River, he returned to Capernaum after the imprisonment of John, and began to teach in the synagogues and preach, saying, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."
In general it is to be observed, that "to come into the world," do not ordinarily, if ever, in the language of the New Testament, signify to be born, but publicly to assume the character of a divinely-appointed teacher: and "to be sent" signifies to be invested by God with this position, and to be begin an active mission to support it.
When this public mission came upon him, he says, "I came not of my own accord, but He [God] sent me." (John 8:42) And says, "The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve." (Matt. 20:28) These words cannot either with propriety or truth be referred to his entrance into life, for he did come at birth to serve others, and did not anoint himself to this mission, and certainly not as a baby.
Here he is proposing an example to his disciples, and appeals to the knowledge they had of his conduct among them, from his first entrance on his ministry at the age of 30.
He did not make disciples for his own sake, but for theirs; he came not out into towns of Judea to be served by them, but to serve them, and was hereafter to carry his services so far, as even to lay down his life in their behalf.
Jesus, speaking of himself, says, "him whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world." (John 10:36) He was first consecrated, when "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth," says Peter, "with the holy Spirit and with power," to go about doing good. (Acts 10:38)
At the baptism of Jesus, God was heard to say of Jesus, "you are my Beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22) And an old reading of this same verse reads, "You are my son, today I have begotten you [become your father]," echoing Psalm 2:7 (and Hebrews 1:5) Both versions testify to his anointing for his mission at his baptism.
Thus this man was set apart, consecrated to his office, and qualified to discharge it, and then was commissioned to go out into the world to execute this mission. According to our Master's own words, he "came into the world" only after his baptism, at which God's holy Spirit descended upon him, and not before.
Jesus, addressing himself to God, and speaking of his disciples, says, "As you have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." What is it that he here says of his disciples? How was it that he sent them into the world?
After they had been fully instructed in things about to the kingdom of God, he sent them out unto all nations to preach to others the doctrine he had delivered to them.
When he says of himself, therefore, that God "sent him into the world," since he was sent by the Father, as they were sent by him, he speaks of the authority with which he was invested, of the command that had been given him to publish to the world the doctrine which he had himself received from the Father.
The spirit was not poured out on Jesus, he was not in vested with divine authority and power, thus qualified to execute the will of God and sent out into the world, to take vengeance on them for their sins; but to impart to them, at the expense of all worldly comforts, and, in the end, of life itself, the most consolatory and the most salutary doctrine, the belief and the obedience of which will entitle them unto eternal life.
Is it an advantage that such a great example should was held up to our imitation? Definitely. Would not any person, who aspires to perfect virtue, wish that a perfect model of it should be placed before them, to illustrate and recommend its maxims and its precepts, to guide and to encourage, to animate desires, to invigorate endeavors, and to excite emulation?
This advantage is enjoyed by us far more perfectly than could have been if our Master had not gone out into the world; for by this means his virtues are rendered more conspicuous, they are seen by us in a greater variety of lights, proved by a greater variety of difficulties and temptations, and his example is made applicable to a greater variety of circumstances and conditions.
We see what, if he had continued in obscurity, we could not have seen in him that our duty is in every instance practicable; that virtue is in every condition possible, and abounds with such comforts as can make any circumstances tolerable.
By this means we have the instructions, and encouragements, and incitements, that are contained in his example, who was in all points tempted as we are, and yet was without sin. We may be pure in heart, we may be holy in all manner of conversation; we may have the same mind that was in Jesus; we may walk as he also walked; we may be like God, and acceptable to him; ever growing in his likeness and his friendship. To what dignity, to what comforts of the Gospel of Jesus may we achieve! How good is God! How great a gift is Jesus!
(Adapted from the works of Newcombe Cappe, 1733-1800)
Sunday, October 18, 2020
The Gospel of Jesus was certainly a plain doctrine at first, and in general readily and easily understood by those who heard it.
No one can doubt this who reads the accounts how and to whom it was preached by Jesus. Indeed, it is hard to believe that in a revelation of His will, intended for all humanity, the Almighty Being would fail to find a spokesman to speak clearly on his behalf, so that He would be understood by all.
Not that everything is so obvious and upon the surface, to offer itself to us without any thought or labor. It is not the way of the Almighty to easily bestow anything that is good or excellent upon his creatures.
Nor can we understand the Scriptures without taking the necessary pains, attending to the phrases and customs of the times in which our Master preached.
But by this exertion of ourselves, along with a sincere desire to become pious, wise, and good, we cannot fail to succeed. And we shall be let into all the Truth that is needful for our fulfilment.
It is a bad symptom in any person to see them indolently acquiesce in the principles of their faith without examining them, whether well or ill founded, and making their religion a series of thoughtless assents to forms and doctrines to which they have been accustomed, without any serious application to the practice of piety and virtue.
There is more hope for persons living in open vice coming to their right mind and being awakened to see their errors and be reformed, than those people.
There were men of this character from among the Jews and of the heathen world, who were satisfied with themselves that everything taught to them in their youth was right and true, and nothing further needed to be learned. They rejected without inquiry the teachings of Jesus, and to their utmost, they opposed his teachings.
And thus, all spiritual improvement for them was at an end.
Religion, divine truth, the way to please God, is not the objective of life to such persons. What was instilled into them when they were young was to ill-serve them throughout life.
They were always to remain children. But the Gospel exhorts us to a diligent and careful search after truth, and to grow in knowledge and all wisdom.
Not, indeed, to employ ourselves on barren useless speculations, merely to gratify our curiosity; but on such points that relate to a holy life and practice, and are of the utmost consequence to our true happiness.
We are to seek out: What directions God has given for our conduct, by whom it is that He has revealed himself to us, and what assistances He has taught us to look for in the way of our duty. Finally, we seek after what motives and promises God has laid before us to encourage us in it in all circumstances, to strengthen us against dangerous temptations, to calm and moderate our affections, to give comfort under the unavoidable ills and calamities of life, and carry us safely hereafter to some better state.
This is the knowledge to which Jesus invites us in his Gospel, in which we are to make advances, and surely, we would find much more knowledge to attain, if our lives were greatly extended.
A review of our own errors and recovery from them contributes a method to endear the truth to us, and to confirm us in it. In this way, our wise and good Creator give us a method to produce the greatest good out of the errors and mistakes into which we have fallen.
And although we may at times be involved in darkness and perplexity, and our progress will not always be as rapid and continual as we could wish; yet by an honest, persevering diligence we shall get further into the daylight, and see our way clearer before us. We shall discern greater tokens of divine wisdom in the words of Jesus.
And then we shall find fresh motives and encouragements to our duty, and be more and more animated in our task to overcome the world, and every obstacle that would divert us from the love of God and the obedience we owe to Him.
(Adapted from the sermons of Rev. Theophilus Lindsey, 1810)
Sunday, October 11, 2020
When the various appetites and passions that take place in man are constantly and uniformly directed to, and placed upon, their proper objects and when each and every one of these are kept in due bounds, one not indulged to the suppressing of another such a creature may be said to be perfect.
When the springs of action in us, namely selfishness and benevolence, hope and fear, and the like, are duly balanced, so as that one isn't greater than the others; and, when all these, together with the principle of activity or self-motion, are wholly subject to that principle of intelligence which is likewise a part of the human constitution, and which was intended to guide and direct the whole; then, according to his nature, this is called human perfection, not in distinction from, but considered to be the same as, Christian perfection.
The design of Christianity was to engage us to act the part, and to fill up the just and proper characters of human beings; and. not to enable us to resemble the characters of Angels. The design of Christianity was to make us good people; and not to make us more or better than human beings; and therefore, Christian perfection must be the same as human perfection.
Great riches are likely to engross the hearts and affections of those who possess them, and this shuts up their tenderness and compassion to the rest of their fellow-creatures. And although a person's benevolent actions ought to be proportioned to his wealth and riches, and to the needs and circumstances of his neighbors; Jesus knew, as we do, that great possessions and great benevolence seldom meet in the same person; and this justifies our Master's remark to the rich young man.
People like the young man he referred to are too ready to rest satisfied with not having done evil, whereas, our Master assures us, that as great a regard must be had for doing good, as for simply not doing evil, and that not actively doing good will render us just as blameworthy, and condemnable. "For I was hungry, and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you didn't take me in, naked and you didn't clothe me, in prison and you didn't visit me." (Matt. 25:41)
A benevolent disposition is the most noble and God-like part of our Nature, and, is therefore called the perfection of it. Jesus clearly states (Luke 6:36) "Be merciful (or kind, or benevolent) just as your Father is merciful." and as is recorded in Matthew, 5:48, is the same as to say, "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." When Jesus called us to be the kind of tree that bear good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18) he makes it clear that we have the ability to do good and become morally perfect: "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the Tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit." He notes that we must build treasure in Heaven and in our own hearts, so that "a good man brings good things out of the good stored within him." (Matt. 6:20; 12:35)
Jesus requires a conformity of mind and life to that rule of action that is founded in the reason of things; and makes or declares that compliance to be the sole ground of divine acceptance, and the only way to life eternal.
And, to prove this proposition, the young man's question, that he put to Jesus, namely, "Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" And likewise our Mater's plain and full answer to this important question was, "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matt. 19:16-17)
So that to be perfect, according to the plain sense and meaning of our Master, Jesus, is to put on such a benevolent disposition, as will dispose and engage us to pursue the good and happiness of our neighbors as well as our own, and so far as we have power and opportunity for doing it; and if the circumstances of things require it, to part with our all, in this world, for their sakes. "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions an give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Sunday, October 4, 2020
"Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." (Matt. 13:21-22)
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Our Master, Jesus, left us a legacy of hope with his words, his life, his teachings and his death. All remain an example to us of a life lived perfectly for God. In this, Jesus was clear that he was not hiding anything from his disciples. Nor is anything hidden from us, today.
Jesus said: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for EVERYTHING that I learned from my Father I have MADE KNOWN to you." (Matt. 15:15)
And Jesus said: "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU." (Matt. 13:11) "Because whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." (Mark 4:22)
This was not true for some religions of the ancient Roman world in which Jesus lived. For some, faith was built around a "mystery." Priests of these "mystery religions" were charged with revealing the secrets of the gods to those who had been initiated. Only then were these "mysteries" unfolded to the one who had committed to worship the deities that were the focus of those faiths.
But Jesus and HIS Gospel were different.
Jesus revealed ALL THINGS to the world during his lifetime, and did so openly, and to all.
There was nothing the remained hidden, nothing left out. There were no "mysteries" left to unfold or reveal after the ministry of Jesus ended.
Just as he spoke to his disciples, Jesus speaks to us today - through the simple, clear teachings in the Gospels. We follow Jesus and obey God with our eyes wide open, with our full understanding, as well as our hearts and minds.
Jesus calls us to repent of our sins, to seek to live righteously and in a Godly way, to forgive others, to love and pray for our enemies, to do Good Works (in humility) and to love God and serve others in God's name. He says we will be rewarded according to our deeds alone, judged by God alone: we are not to judge ourselves or each other. That, and nothing more, is the Gospel.
The Gospel Jesus gave us wasn't lacking in anything when his ministry finished with his death on the cross. We need no further explanations, no further revelations, and no interpretations, in order to determine what we must do to please God.
The clarity of Jesus' message is obvious to all who read it. The life, teachings and example of Jesus are a clear window onto the Will of God.
Jesus challenges us to do all that God asks of us, and has given us an example we can follow.
He points us to God, calling us to repent of our sinful acts, seek forgiveness, and live the way God wants us to live.
God continues to grant us all the strength, love and support we need to continue growing into Spiritual Completeness and maturity.
We are told by Jesus to "do as I have done" and to "follow my example." We are not to hide our good works under a bushel basket, but to Do Good, and do so in humility, not simply to be seen by others.
Accepting this knowledge of God's path which Jesus reveals to us, we are challenged to actively live out this Faith as friends and followers of Jesus.
Let us do so with faith, humility and joyful obedience to God, who sent us Jesus to reveal His will to us!
Sunday, September 20, 2020
What does Jesus mean when he says, "Counting the costs?"
Too many people are willing to believe in a God that requires nothing – no work, to time, no money, no effort, and no works of love; a religion that’s made easy, that requires less effort than is required to put a meal in a microwave.
They're more than ready to go to Heaven, as long as God carries them there without any requirement that they move their feet a single step.
But the inconvenient problem for those who believe this, and wish to continue to call themselves "Christian" or followers of Christ Jesus, is that this is not the religion Jesus preached. That’s not the path he calls us to walk. It's not the life he wishes us to lead in this life. And it doesn't even lead to eternal salvation with God, our Father.
If people really put a faith in our God at the center of their lives, and believed that Jesus himself lays out this religion in his words, then they would find no work for God too hard, no self-denial too severe, and no offering of service in the name of God’s chosen Son, Jesus to be enough.
Jesus spoke about costly, righteous obedience that would cause people to hate us, and a Godly kingdom here on earth that requires us to act righteously, loving even our enemies. God would then reward us with Heaven based only on our deeds.
That’s a salvation that is not easy, lazy or cheaply obtained with our vain words and lengthy prayers (Matt. 6:7; 7:21.)
That which we obtain cheaply, we esteem lightly. A gift freely given, a gift unwrapped and unused, is a worthless gift, regardless of the cost. Teachings unused, and unapplied, are exactly the same - useless.
Jesus never said that salvation would come without cost. He never said it would require no effort, or that it cannot or must not be earned. In fact, he said just the opposite.
His parables, including this one about the costs involved in building a tower, all point to a costly faith – a faith that requires us to give all we have to serving God by loving and serving both Him and our fellow human beings.
If faith costs nothing, and salvation can be achieved without effort, what "costs" must we count?
If effort and self-sacrifice is not required of us by God, then of what "costs" does Jesus speak regarding the tower in this parable?
If the wide and easy path is the path condemned by Jesus, why do so many seek it?
Those who don't plan, or don't count the costs, or don’t believe there ARE costs in achieving eternal salvation deserve to be mocked, just as those who would build a tower without considering the costs would deserve to be mocked, says Jesus.
And those who don’t consider ALL they have to be on the line when following Jesus should reconsider calling themselves by his name. We must be willing to share all, give all, and do all in order to follow the Paths of Righteousness and, ultimately, eternal Salvation Jesus calls us to follow.
"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48.) Does this sound like the words of someone advocating and approving an easy, lazy faith, to be rewarded by God with a cheaply obtained eternal life?
God said at Jesus' baptism, when He adopted Jesus as his anointed Son and appointed him as our Example and Savior, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." (Matt. 17:15.) We should, then, listen to and believe Jesus’s words, both here and elsewhere, when he says we must obey God's commands and follow his own example, doing all things he has done in obedience to our Creator.
God chose this perfectly obedient human being to be our example in all things. We therefore must make every effort to humbly and honorably seek to follow Jesus in obedience to his life's pattern, which pleased God so much.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
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 te 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 judge 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, September 6, 2020
Should we be actively building a better and a more Godly world, or should we simply do nothing and wait for God to make it better?
Should we seek our own advantage, or put other's needs ahead of our own?
Should we do Good things, or just call ourselves "good?"
If we read the words of Jesus, the answers to these and other questions are clear. But if we listen to today's church, their answers are unclear.
The teachings of Jesus are clear, consistent and powerful.
Jesus said his words would last forever - would not pass away. And his teachings about how we should act in this world were clear.
But modern Christianity is bogged down with man-made words and man-made doctrines that muddle Jesus' message.
They speak words Jesus never uttered: "Justification," "Sanctification," "Total Depravity," "works-salvation." But these words give birth to doctrines that make Jesus' religion a toxic one - one that is easy, lazy, and pointless.
Jesus never said that children are born "unable not to sin." Instead, Jesus tells the disciples to allow children to come to him, since they represent the purity of God's Kingdom.
Jesus never even hinted that human beings couldn't perform Good Works from birth. Instead, he says we MUST seek to do Good Works - deeds of the heart that help our neighbors and show them love.
Jesus said we are to begin acting NOW to build up God's Kingdom, "on earth as it is in Heaven." We aren't to wait for any special signs from God, or to wait at all.
We are justified, says Jesus, not by our vain words, or our intentions alone, or even by faith alone, but rather by our acts, which are judged only by God.
Jesus says we become holy by DOING what is holy, good and righteous. Holiness and Righteousness are ACTS we do, not a mere THING we can get by simply claiming Jesus' holiness as our own, as some teach.
Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek, to not seek our own advantage, to follow the narrow and difficult path of his religion, and that those who seek to be first will be last. Modern preachers, however, often say we must only seek to get our SELVES into Heaven, and that it can be done easily, without effort.
Our goal isn't even to simply to "save" ourselves, says Jesus. Those who seek to save themselves, in fact lose themselves. But if we deny ourselves, and lose ourselves in serving others, we gain victory, both eternally and in this life.
Far from condemning Good Works, Jesus calls us to do them, without pride, because Godliness is our natural state.
Jesus assures us that we will be judged by God according to our Works - the deeds of our hands - and even then, we'll be judged by a merciful and holy God. Our Works will light the world, and reflect our spiritual journey towards Righteousness as we repent for falling short of the Ideal Jesus sets for us with the example of his life.
That is a path Jesus calls us to seek and follow, in his footsteps. And it's a path that is easily understood even by a child.
By twisting and adding to Jesus' simple words and teachings, modern theologians and ministers make Jesus confusing and strange. He becomes someone who cannot be understood without the help of a Priestly class.
Jesus never meant to be seen, "through a glass, darkly." Jesus is a window we can look through to see how God wishes us to live.
Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him, to do JUST AS he did, and do even greater things than he did.
This isn't the call of someone who condemns Good Works, who says "wait for God to act, don't act yourselves," or someone who wishes us to simply admire his righteousness, but not emulate it.
When we begin to see Jesus as an example we can follow, he becomes a Master we can also love as a brother.
Let us go out and work Righteousness in this world, doing all we can to be an example of the light of God that was born within us, kindled by the example of Jesus, our teacher.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
The most casual reader must be struck with the uniqueness of the opinions held and expressed by Jesus. They run directly counter to the opinions held by men of all nations, and of all creeds.
Things which the world holds blessed, Jesus curses, and things which the world denounces, Jesus welcomes. Let the Sermon on the Mount furnish illustrations.
Jesus exalts poverty of spirit, puts a premium upon meekness, highly esteems reproach and persecution for righteousness' sake. We seem here to breathe another air, to live in another world from the ordinary life of both ancient and modern times.
Here are no prejudices of nation,
or of age, or of sect. Here is no trace of sentiments which seem innate in human nature.
And yet the disciples of Jesus will share His opinions. They will esteem lovely the graces which won His regard and admiration. They will esteem unworthy the qualities which He branded with disapproval, however men may honour them, or seek under fine names to hide their real nature.
Contemplating their Master with ever-increasing admiration, they will see all things with His eyes. His tastes, His sentiments will be theirs. They will know no law but His, and own no other authority as competent to guide their opinions or to fashion their lives. They will catch His spirit, they will be moulded by His influence, they will become conformed to His likeness. “Everyone that is perfect shall be as his Master."
Actions speak louder than words, and men always look to the lives of great teachers. Are they consistent with their discourses? Do they do the things which they teach others to do?
Often have men enunciated sublime thoughts and lofty precepts, but have miserably failed to put them into practice. It is comparatively easy to discern Heavenly goodness, especially since we have the perfect example in Jesus.
The world itself, unconsciously influenced by the very Jesus whom it rejects, has caught up the benedictions which He pronounced, and parrot-like, repeats them.
Blessed now even in the judgment of the world are humility, piety, liberality. But as for the practice of these, alas, what can be said?
Admiration, applause, patronage, the world can give, for these are cheap, and the very giving of them may gain a good name, but to bear Christ Jesus' yoke? Far from it! To take up his Cross as a personal burden, from that many shrink who are quite willing to lavish upon the Cross in the abstract all homage and praise.
For the Cross as a symbol worn upon the person, built into architecture, glorified by art is one thing. The Cross as a burden, an obligation of today, is quite another! The one is common to all Christendom, the other is confined to the few who are ready to follow the Master wherever he goes.
But Jesus lived as he taught. He was all that He said that we ought to be. These graces of which he spoke so sweetly found their completest expression in his own life.
His words were the utterances of a heart enriched with the indwelling of this blessedness. He spoke that which he knew, and he knew not afar off, but by his own experience.
And so it is in their measure with His disciples. For this they will strive with all the energy of the new life working in them, and they will be content with nothing short of this.
Admiring thoughts and wistful looks vill not satisfy them. True disciples will aim to translate opinion into practice, and though the translation may be often blurred and mistaken, it is yet surely, if slowly, becoming more and more accurate.
Day by day, some old habit is being overcome, some new grace is being acquired. Painfully, perhaps, but most thoroughly, the work is being done, and will continue to be done until Jesus shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied. "Everyone that is perfect shall be as his Master.”
(Adapted from a sermon, "The Disciple of Jesus," given by Rev. W.F. Clarkson on March 10, 1872 in Lincoln, England)
Sunday, August 23, 2020
There are a lot of clever excuses we can use to avoid doing what's right – or even actively do what is wrong. We can say others around us “forced” us to do these things – and peer pressure can indeed be a strong factor.
We can say we couldn't avoid doing them – and if we put ourselves in situations in which sin is happening a lot, that can certainly influence us to go along with others.
And we can also say that we were born so flawed that we CANNOT do anything BUT sin and rebel against God – that we are “only human.” This last excuse is perhaps the greatest lie to ever infect Christendom - and the vast majority of Christians today believe it totally.
If it’s true, just BEING among those pressuring us means that we will cave in to sin every time. And if we are around evil and sinful behavior, that would mean we'd do evil EVERY time.
But that’s not true. We CAN resist, and can work to keep ourselves away from temptation. We know this because Jesus and the Bible teaches us that we can, and must, do so, to please God.
It's important to know exactly what "sin" is in the Bible. John said he wrote a letter so that people "will not sin" (1 John 2:1.) That's not to say that we are going to immediately stop all sinning once we are exposed to the teachings of Jesus, but early Christians clearly expected new converts to make all effort to put behind them the sins they previously did routinely. This was true of stealing, lusting, cheating others, lying, and more.
But if what's being called "sin" is something inherited from our birth, we have a problem believing this, because in the Bible, sin is an act, not a thing.
If it is a compulsion from birth, that cannot be avoided, we have an excuse. We cannot be guilty for being compelled unavoidably in that way.
It's only if we proplrly view sin as a CHOICE which we can avoid, that we begin to view it as the Biblical writers, and Jesus, viewed it. And then, we can confront and defeat it.
We've been taught some theological falsehoods from the pulpit. The Biblical frist man's"original sin" doesn't attach to us.
Turns out, God told Adam's son that sin is a choice, which he can and must avoid (Gen. 4:7-8.) That he chose falsely means he earned punishment, just as God warned.
But only an individual’s ACTS of sin are punishable, and we are not liable for the sins of anyone else (Ezek. 18:19-24.) If we are sinful by nature, and yet we sin, we are NOT guilty, according to God. Only by our wrong choice are we liable.
We must trust God when He told Cain - and by extension, us - that we NEED NOT SIN, and instead, must work to not sin any longer, instead asking God's forgiveness, which is granted freely upon repenting of our past behavior.
We are assured that God has given all people the ability to stop sinning (Deut. 30:11-14; 19) and that we have Jesus as our example that a human being need not sin, and in fact CAN obey and please God.
Jesus’ example is a model upon which we can shape our actions. We must trust Jesus when he said we must seek Godliness and that we could become Godly and complete – not by ourselves, without God or without God’s chosen example guiding us, but with God's ongoing help and with the example of Jesus always before us, leading the way.
We are called to commit our lives to obedience to God's chosen Spokesman, Jesus, the Anointed Prophet of God, and submit to humbly walk with him, relying, as he taught, on God's forgiveness, and growing into the Righteous Perfection that God knows we are capable of achieving.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
"You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your
good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14, 16)
A light is always meant for the use of those who are in darkness, that by it they may see.
The sun lights up the darkness of this world. A lamp is hung in a room to give it light. The
Church of Jesus is the light of humanity. The disciples are to shine into the darkness and give them light.
As the rays of light stream forth from the sun and scatter that light all around, so the good works of believers are the light that streams out from them to conquer the surrounding darkness, with its ignorance of God and estrangement from Him.
What a high and holy place is thus given to our good works. What power is attributed to them! How much depends upon them!
They are not only the light and health and joy of our own life, but in every deed, the means of bringing lost souls out of darkness into God’s marvellous light. They are even more than that. They not only bless others, but they glorify God, in leading people to know Him as the Author of the grace seen in His children.
Let us listen to what the words of the Master have to teach us.
The aim of good works is that God may be glorified. You remember how our Master
said to the Father: "I have glorified You on the earth, I have finished the work which You
gave Me to do."
It is when our good works are something more than the ordinary virtues of refined people, and bear the imprint of God upon them, that people will glorify God.
They must be the good works of which the Sermon on the Mount is the embodiment - a life of God’s children, doing more than others, seeking to be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect.
The works are an evidence to the reality of the Divine truth that is taught, while without them the world is powerless.
The whole world was made for the glory of God. Jesus came to bring us back to serve and glorify Him. Believers are placed in the world with this one purpose, that they may let their light shine in good works, so as to win people to God.
As truly as the light of the sun is meant to lighten the world, the good works of God’s children are meant to be the light of those who know and love not God.
Good works bear the mark of something heavenly and divine, and have a power to compel the admission that God is in them.
Let us undertake the study of what working for God is, and know that good works are a part of this, with the desire to follow Jesus fully, so we will have the light of life shining into our hearts and lives, and from us, all around us.
"You ARE the light of the world!"
(Adapted from the works of Rev. Andrew Murray, 1828-1917)