Sunday, November 28, 2021

Would #Jesus Have Something To Say About Social Media? #JesusFollowers

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 many useful lessons for our lives today 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 become 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: "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 facade to others while on social media.

And what of the content we consume on social? 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. 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 Direct 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 others - 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 pass on this earth through our acts in his name!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

We Must Make The Life Of Jesus Our Example In ALL Things #JesusFollowers

The love and obedience of Christ Jesus is a very just foundation of God’s divine grace, and the most proper way to communicate it, and our redemption by Christ Jesus will stand in a just, clear, and beautiful light, if we consider that truth, virtue, righteousness, being useful, and doing good, (of which is the same thing as obedience to God) is the chief perfection of our intellectual nature. 

Intelligent beings are above all others the most excellent; and the right use of the power of our intelligence is the highest glory and excellence of intelligent beings. 

So, righteousness, goodness, and obedience, must be of the highest esteem and value with the Father of the universe; the only acceptable price for purchasing His favors or blessings. 

And it must be the most sublime and perfect display of His wisdom and goodness to devise methods, and erect plans for promoting righteousness, virtue, goodness, and obedience, because this is the most effective way of promoting the truest excellency, honor, and happiness among His rational creatures. For which reason, He cannot in any other way exercise his perfections among the works of his hands more nobly and worthily."

We ought to imitate even those Acts whereby Christ Jesus has redeemed us.

Righteousness, Goodness and Obedience are the Price of Happiness, and procuring Blessings to ourselves and others, and is a very just and noble Plan. This may not only be seen in the Examples I have just now mentioned; but also takes place throughout the whole rational Universe. 

Christ Jesus, indeed, is a Person of the highest Eminence; and the Effects of his Righteousness are proportionate to his personal worth and Excellence; and these effects are amazingly extensive. 

It is consistent with Reason that a diligent, humble, and kind Subservience to the well-being of others should be honored with Favors from the Fountain of all Good. 

It is perfectly fitting, that illustrious Virtue and Righteousness should be crowned with an extensive Influence; and that the good Effects of it should reach to many, and be the occasion and means of their Happiness. And in our World here we find that it is by Virtue, Self-denial, Integrity, Love and Kindness, studying and laboring to do Good, that any of us are useful, and are a Blessing to ourselves and others. 

We bless the Good and Benevolent; and by so doing, judge that it is fitting and right that God should bless them, and make them Blessings to others. (Gen.12:2).

Nor is this Comparison lessening of the Dignity of our Lord, or any Disparagement of his glorious Work. For it is no Disparagement to the High priest of our Profession, that we also are a royal Priesthood; that we are Priests to God. 

It is no ways derogatory even to the most perfect Excellence of the Divine Nature, that Wisdom, Goodness, Justice and Holiness are in Men the same in Kind, though not in Degree, as they are in God. 

It is no Disparagement to the Dignity of our blessed Master, or to the glorious Work of Redemption, that among Men are found Actions similar to his, both in Nature and Effect.

But that which puts the matter out of Dispute, is our being required, not only to imitate our Master in other Instances of his Love and Obedience, but in those very Acts whereby he has ransomed, or redeemed us. 

"Whomever will be great among you, my Disciples, let him be your servant” (Matt 20:26-28) Let him deserve His Honor by Usefulness, by assisting and doing Good to all.

"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his Life a Ransom for many." 

Our Master came to serve and assist, to be useful, and do Good to all, with all Humility, Meekness and Gentleness; and even humbled himself, and condescended so far, for promoting the Happiness of Mankind, as to lay down his Life to redeem them from Sin and Misery. 

And a person is most honorable and eminent in Christ's Kingdom, who comes nearest to his Example.

“Love one, another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his Friends.“ (John 15:12-13)

It is, therefore, so far from diminishing the Dignity of our Master, or the glory of his work, to produce similar Instances among us; that it is made our Duty to copy after his example, even in his Dying for us. 

There is no comparison between the value and importance of Christ Jesus’ work, and any we can perform, yet ours, while of a much lower Degree, may produce similar Effects; and will not fail to be attended with a proportionate measure of the Divine Blessing.

But God alone can set the Value of any Virtue or Righteousness; and He alone must appoint and bestow the Benefits proper to honor it with.

Nor has he given any Man either Capacity or Authority to rate, or estimate the Goodness of other Beings, whether Men or Angels, and then to assign the Benefits proper to be bestowed on others on Account of it.

For thus we are taught the absolute Necessity and infinite Importance of Obedience, and engaged to it, in the most effectual Manner; being redeemed by Goodness and Love, we have the most perfect Example of Goodness and Love, and the most powerful Inducenent to exercise them towards others. And by Obedience, Goodness, and Judge of Love, we are most properly prepared for the Usefulness, Honors, and Happiness of the heavenly State. 

Adapted from the works of Rev. John Taylor, 1769

Sunday, November 14, 2021

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 Jesus 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 humanity. 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.

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. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

We Have A Duty To Improve #JesusFollowers

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 like actors, going from stage to stage, leaving on the road one scene of business and pleasure after another, and arriving at the 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 and evolution.

Improvement, then, is a law of the universe. All things alike, great and small, are made to be in progress. Individual human beings are not an exception. We must not allow everything else to move on, and we, ourselves remain stationary. 

When the insensible earth and the irrational animals obey the commandment, let not us, who alone are capable of voluntary obedience, 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 think 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 except humanity.

From that mandate our spirit is exempted. The tree has its growth, and the bird its instinct, and they can add to themselves nothing beyond it. Humans - Reasoning, immortal, immaterial humanity - 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 eighty 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 our life's duration were a thousand years, or a hundred thousand centuries, then we might anticipate the day when its growth would be complete. 

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 come to an end. But not humanity, for we are 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 - our spirit is 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.)