Sunday, October 31, 2021

Jesus’ Love Of Humanity Vs. That Of The "Reformers" #JesusFollowers


Jesus uniformly expressed high views of human nature. It was over the perversion of its gifts, the abuse of its powers, that he mourned; but it seems never to have been his delight to magnify human guilt.

He found something in human nature, even in its humblest or its most distorted developments, worthy of love. 

You see him gathering around him little children, pressing them to his bosom, speaking kindly to them. He could not look upon the unwrinkled brow, the fair countenance of childhood, and contemplate the child as an object of God’s displeasure.

Look at his interactions with his immediate followers, how perseveringly stubborn was their hold on long cherished prejudices! How slow were they to enter into his spirit, and to yield themselves to the full power of his instructions! 

Yet how patiently did he work with them! How kindly did he apologize for their lack of zeal in his cause!  It's true that he fearlessly rebuked sin; but in what spirit did he rebuke it? With the utmost compassion.

We look to the Reformers, who have appeared in different periods of the Christian Church. We see in many of them high powers, determined hearts, and persevering efforts, qualities, which claim for them great respect. We see none, however, unbiased by local interests and prejudices.

Speaking of these so-called "Reformers" in the 16th century, one contemporary Dutchman noted, "Reformers were sadly wanted, but those who called themselves such were not the kind that the church required."

Jesus stands at an immeasurable distance from them all. We see none who are motivated by a generous, unmingled love, like that which Jesus demonstrated.

By the friends of this "Christianity," many doctrines have been invented and practiced to give power and interest to its instructions. The terrors of the Lord have been proclaimed, in the language of power acting for destruction. The passion of fear has been used without restraint, and all the other passions associated with it have been put to use.

The power of party has been tried, and so has that of pomp, of show and of boasting, of forms and ceremonies, of fasts and prayers. But has the power of love been uniformly, and extensively tried?

Has the true spirit of Jesus ever yet been fully exhibited, either by his ministers or his church? I fear that it has not; and that even some good men are most woefully deceived as to the tendency of their own influence.

Here I see, what the spirit of Christ Jesus is, what the fruits of his influence are; and I utter in sorrow the deep conviction of my soul that the spirit of pure love, as it appeared in the teachings of Jesus, is not found extensively abroad for the reformation of the world.

Without this spirit, zeal may work with all the power of passion, sect after sect may put forth its rival claims, and missionaries may travel the globe; but the world will continue to writhe under the tortures of sin, and souls will continue to perish.

(Adapted from a Christmas Sermon by Rev. Nathan Parker, 1831)

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Gaining and Using Gospel Knowledge #JesusFollowers

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 of how and to whom it was preached by Jesus. Indeed, it's 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 more clearly on His behalf, so that He would be understood by all.

Not that everything is 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 effort to understand 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 lazily believe in the principles of their faith without examining them, to see if they are well or ill founded, and instead make their religion a series of thoughtless assents to forms and doctrines to which they have been accustomed, without any serious application of the practices 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.

They did not spiritually improve. What was instilled into them when they were young was to ill-serve them throughout life.

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 during the unavoidable 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.

A review of our own errors and recovery from them contributes a way to endear the truth to us, and to confirm us in it. In this way, our wise and good Creator gives us a way to produce the greatest good out of our errors and mistakes.

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 wisdom in the words of Jesus.

And then we shall find fresh motives and encouragements to do 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 17, 2021

50 Things #Jesus Taught #JesusFollowers

If we believe Jesus’ words will live forever, what he said during his brief ministry should be the cornerstone of our religion and how we best relate to God. It is this God, our Father, who chose and sent Jesus out into the world to show by word and deed how we should live Godly lives.

Jesus' words and Teachings echo down through the centuries, calling out to us, urging us to follow him. And while similarities with others' words exist, none have challenged us to serve God with such love and devotion and Righteousness as Jesus has done.

There is simply nothing that compares with his Teachings, and they should never be demeaned, wished away or interpreted by others as being insignificant or not applicable for today.

This is meant to be a summary, not a complete listing. And yet, if this is all we knew of Jesus, it would guide us perfectly on the path of life that God wishes for us.

1. Repent – Matthew 4:17

2. Follow Me – Matthew 4:19

3. Rejoice – Matthew 5:12

4. Let Your Light Shine – Matthew 5:16

5. Honor God’s Law – Matthew 5:17–18

6. Let Your Righteousness Exceed Others’ – Matthew 5:20

7. Be Reconciled, Not Angry – Matthew 5:24–25

8. Do Not Commit Adultery – Matthew 5:29–30

9. Let Your “Yes” be “Yes” Without Oaths – Matthew 5:37

10. Go the Extra Mile – Matthew 5:38-42

11. Love And Pray For Your Enemies – Matthew 5:44

12. Seek to Be Perfect In Godliness – Matthew 5:48

13. Do Not Practice Righteousness Just To Be Seen – Matthew 6:1

14. Do Not Pray Like Pagans – Matthew 6:7-8

15. Forgive Those Who Sin Against You – Matthew 6:14

16. Seek Heavenly Treasures – Matthew 6:19–21

17. Seek God’s Kingdom—Matthew 6:33

18. Do Not Be Anxious – Matthew 6:34

19. Do Not Judge Hypocritically – Matthew 7:1

20. Beware of Covetousness – Luke 12:15

21. Ask, Seek, and Knock – Matthew 7:7–8

22. Do Unto Others – Matthew 7:12

23. Seek the Narrow Gate – Matthew 7:13-14

24. Deny Yourself—Luke 9:23

25. Pray For Laborers – Matthew 9:38

26. Be Wise as Serpents – Matthew 10:16

27. Fear Not – Matthew 10:26

28. Take My Yoke Upon You – Matthew 11:29

29. Honor Your Parents—Matthew 15:4

30. Beware of False Prophets—Matthew 7:15

31. Despise Not Little Ones – Matthew 18:10

32. Deal Justly With Offenders – Matthew 18:15

33. Practice Godly Forgiveness (70x7) – Matthew 18:22

34. Honor Marriage – Matthew 19:6

35. Keep God’s Commandments – Matt. 19:17

36. Be a Servant – Matthew 20:26-28

37. Be a House of Prayer – Matthew 21:13

38. Ask in Faith – Matthew 21:21–22

39. Seek Not to Be Honored and Exalted – Luke 14:7-11

40. Bring in the Poor – Luke 14:12–14

41. Render to Caesar—Matthew 22:19–21

42. Love God With All Your Being – Matthew 22:37-38

43. Love Your Neighbor As Yourself – Matthew 22:39

44. Be Born Again – John 3:7

45. Keep My Commandments—John 14:15

46. Feed My Sheep – John 21:15-16

47. Baptize My Disciples—Matthew 28:19

48. Make Disciples – Matthew 28:20

49. Do As I have Done – John 13:15

50. Do Greater Things Than I Have Done – Matthew 14:12

Sunday, October 10, 2021

What More Are We Doing Than Others? #JesusFollowers

"What more are you doing than others?" Matt. 5:47

The discourse of our Master of which these words are a part was addressed to his first followers, and especially those who were afterwards Apostles, and preachers of the gospel.

In it, he explains what was their proper character, their station, and their duty; setting them in as striking a light as possible. "You," he says, "are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city set upon a hill."

They were to be the public instructors of mankind, ambassadors, as it were, from God, sent by him for the great purpose of persuading a sinful world to abandon their vices, and sinful customs, and to devote themselves to a life of virtue, with a view towards a happy immortality.

It was expected that they should be examples to others, that their lives might illustrate their doctrine. As they were supposed to know more than others, so it would be reasonably expected that they should do more than others.

And in what ways our Master’s disciples should seek to outdo others, he tells them; and the instances he mentions are indeed most worthy of our ambition. Namely, to strive to carry the generous virtues of benevolence, forgiveness of injuries, and the desire to live useful lives, to the greatest height.

He says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And as an incentive to a virtue so seemingly above humanity, he annexes this noble motive, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Pursuing the same argument, he adds, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

To act in this manner with such true greatness of mind, and disinterested benevolence, is to act the part that the almighty and infinitely benevolent maker of all things continually acts, it is to be as the sons of God, doing the work of our heavenly father. 

Could a nobler principle or a nobler cause of action be proposed to mankind or could they be enforced by a more powerful and worthy motive.

To be governed by these principles, and to act in this manner is to approach as near to the sentiments and conduct of Divinity, as is permitted to mortals.

The religion of Christ lays us under obligation to live as he did, to resemble him in the temper our minds, and the course of our conduct, to obey his commands, and to copy his example, is to confess him before men, and such only as confess him in this manner, will he confess, and acknowledge to be his, before his heavenly Father.

Are we trained up in the sound belief that nothing but a good heart and an exemplary life are pleasing to Almighty God, and will recommend us to his favor and acceptance? Is this our faith? 

So pure and spiritual a profession lays us under obligations to live lives in the highest degree pure and spiritual, worthy of a pure and undefiled religion.

The end [goal] of all knowledge is practice, and it would ill become us to show the zeal that we do by forming ourselves into separate societies, and being at the expense of supporting them, by which we hold out to the world our idea of their importance, if we thought they were merely matters of speculation, and had no connection with moral duty.

Let our lives be as pure, as our sentiments, equally worthy of God and of Christ Jesus, and we shall be indeed the light. of the world, the salt of the earth, and a city that is set upon a hill.

Let us not be ashamed of our good confession. I trust we are bearing a public testimony in favor of the purity of. the worship of the one true God, amidst a corrupt and idolatrous generation.

Let all those persons who are possessed of whatever themselves and the world consider as advantages, ask themselves what they do more than others, who are lacking them.

Better for us to be poor, than to be rich and not generous; to be fools, than to be knaves; and to have been taught nothing at all, than to make a bad use of superior knowledge. It would have been better for us never to have heard of Christ than to be Christians in name only, and not in deed and in truth.

(Adapted from a sermon by Dr. Joseph Priestley, “On the Necessity of Self-Examination,” 1805)

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Called By #Jesus To Serve Others First! #JesusFollowers

More than anything else, following the path that Jesus sets out for us means serving others first.

Contrary to nearly Universal popular opinion, accepting the way of Jesus is not primarily a self-centered means by which we can personally, and effortlessly, get ourselves into heaven, or a way to simply enrich ourselves here on earth, at the expense of others.

In fact, the teachings of Jesus tell us explicitly that those who seek to be first, and that those who seek personal gain above others, will be last in God's Kingdom.

"Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:27-28)

"The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matt. 23:11-12)

"And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 8:39)

God, our Father and the Creator of all things, has chosen (John 1:34) and anointed (Luke 4:18) this man, Jesus, to be our perfect example in all things, showing us of what we are capable.

We are called through the example and words of Jesus to seek to do righteousness, to forgive others just as God forgives us, to be good examples to others, and to bring God's Heavenly Kingdom into the Earth through our daily actions.

This, and this alone, is the Kingdom that Jesus preached, and we should seek everyday to conform ourselves to it.

It's clear that Jesus calls us all to a life of action and Good Works on behalf of others. Every one of our actions in our daily lives should show to others how God wishes humanity to relate to one another and to our Creator.

We are called to act selflessly, in the service of others. And Jesus left us a template by which we can act as God wishes us to act here on this earth.

We are called, not to judge, or to only mouth praise to God or to Jesus, nor to hope someone else acts, but instead, we are ourselves called to act righteously and justly in our dealings with others.

The example of Jesus - a human being like ourselves - shows us that we are ABLE to act, and have from birth the moral ability to act, on behalf of others. And it is our duty to do so, without excuse.

Feed the hungry; clothe the naked; comfort the sick; welcome the stranger; visit those in prison. (Matt. 25:31-39) Jesus never shirked his duty to serve others, even washing the feet of the disciples as a sign of his humility and how he was living as a "ransom" to others. (John 13) 

When others teach, and preach, that we can serve OURSELVES first, or that we may enrich ourselves without caring for others, or that God can be used exclusively to grant our material, selfish desires, it becomes easy to forget who our Master is, and that because we have one Master and one Teacher (Matt. 23:8-10) Jesus' words alone are to be our pathway to the life God wishes us to live. 

Jesus calls us to follow his example in all things. Let us commit to doing this, collectively as followers of Jesus and on our own in our daily lives.