Sunday, February 25, 2024

#Jesus Calls Us To Active Service! #JesusFollowers


From the first day of Jesus’ ministry to his last, he preached that we must make serving others the core of our religion.

Jesus constantly preached that we should help the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and the hurting.

Jesus calls those who follow him to a life of struggle and service, not a life of easy words and empty phrases. He challenges us to be better than we are now, not remain as we were before we met him.

A faith that fails to challenge us to bold, radical service isn't worth having. Inherent in Jesus' parables is the duty - not just casual, optional advice, but the duty - to go above and beyond in our service of others.

"If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles." (Matt. 5:41)

We must, if we love Jesus, serve others first, and do so with a perfect self-sacrifice, as modeled by Jesus himself. (Matt. 20:28; John 13:15)

Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve.” His ministry “ransomed” us from ignorance of our sinful actions. (Mark 10:45) Jesus gives us the example of complete sacrifice and service that leads to our salvation.

And Jesus calls us to do just as he has done, because it pleases God, our Father and Creator.

“For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you. ... If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:15, 17)

Knowing, but not doing, the Will of God is not enough. (Luke 6:46-47)

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21) It is not enough to have his commands, but ignore them. The teachings of Jesus are active, and are meant to be acted upon.

By Jesus' example, we learn to be humble servants of God, and by his example, we are saved from our previous ignorance of our sins. When we are “saved” from this ignorance, we can go to God in prayer and be forgiven for our past ignorance and sins.

Once saved from our ignorance of sin, Jesus calls us to both love to please God, and to put others first in God's name. Jesus teaches us that we should humbly perform Good Works and holy service. Our Good Works and acts of service enlighten the world, and show God’s love to others.

It is only our righteous acts that make us righteous before God. And it is God alone Who determines whether we are truly worthy of eternal life by the performance of our acts.

Jesus calls us to serve and lose ourselves in the service of others. The early disciples of Jesus left ALL - friends, family, material goods, homes, jobs - to follow Jesus (Luke 18:28.)

Jesus calls us to a life of Good Works in humility and compassion. (Matt. 5:16; 6:5) Service to others leads to spiritual completeness. (Matt. 5:48)

“I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me" (Matt. 25:36.)

The world must not be viewed as a dreary waiting room for death. It's our first home, a place for joyful service, spiritual growth and a celebration of God's gifts.

If we do not follow his words, we are not following Jesus. If we do not obey his calling, we are not worthy of his name. Jesus is meant to be followed, not just admired.

“If you love me, keep my commands,” he says (John 14:15) But If we claim to know and love him, but reject his teachings, we are liars, unfit for his name. (1 John 2:4)

Let us show our love to Jesus by obedience to his teachings, and let us by this, show that we are worthy of bearing his name.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Fighting a "wide gate" religion in churches


Jesus, the man chosen by God, is our example that we are challenged to actively follow with our deeds to become like, not a risen, distant and mystical "Christ figure."

One is human like us,  the other is a Magically born, inhuman DemiGod created by men, who isn't at all someone we can become like.

Jesus says we can become morally perfect like God. The Hebrew Bible said we can be Holy like God is. So who's right, man's theologians, or God's chosen Prophets?

All of us initially fail once we start, that's a truism that is often thrown up as a huge failure of our Natures, but it's not.

The temptation to choose a "wide gate" and easy religion is difficult for many to resist, but not for those who followv the words of Jesus as a guide to both life and eternity.

If we simply decide we can "claim" his righteousness as our own (denying his requirement of us to do Good Works) and "claim" to be instantly "saved" by our mere words of adoration of this Christ - a belief "on him" without following him daily as our God-annointed Master - we deceive ourselves and demean God and Jesus, His chosen one.

But millions do this. Why? Because Jesus isn't their only Master - he's not their final arbiter of Truth, including what Salvation is, and how it is obtained. In truth, Jesus himself says God our Father is our final judge. And our eternal destination is determined by our deeds, tempered by God's vast mercy. 

If we doubt it, we doubt Jesus, and it's him we are second guessing. They are changing it into "Another Gospel."

The Prodigal Son and God's Merciful Justice #JesusFollowers #parables

 

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus teaches us that we are to rejoice and be accepting of those among us who return after wronging us. The parable also teaches us that God is ready and waiting for those who return to the path of righteousness. 

In the parable, a son asks for his inheritance early and goes away, only to squander it on lustful living. He exhausts his money and returns to his father's house, seeking a job as a servant. But the father, even before he reaches his gate, runs out to greet him, and immediately forgiving him, prepares a feast for him.

In this way, Jesus teaches us to endlessly and without hesitation forgive others, in the same way God forgives those who return to him in repentance. When asked how many times we must forgive others, Jesus said "70 times 7 times."

Our repentance for our sins - just as the boy who return to his father - satisfies any Justice God requires for transgressing his moral Law, because God is not a monster, but a loving Parent who wants us to live in peace with Him and with our fellow human beings.

Mercy is given by God to those who ask for forgiveness and accept it. That's the contract; that's the "price" to be paid, just as the price the Prodigal Son paid was returning to his father in humility.

The first and most solemn declaration of God to Moses (Exodus 34:6-7) is that of "God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering - forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin." David constantly prays for the pardon of sin, for God's "mercy's sake," (Psalms 44:26) and finds forgiveness for his sins upon repentance, living thereafter with "clean hands" before God (2 Samuel 22:21.) In the story of Jonah, that God is shown to be merciful to Nineveh if only they repented from their sins (Jonah 4:1.)

But the way that Forgiveness, Justice and Mercy are understood by many Christians would force us to radically re-tell the parable, because, like Jonah, some Christians are very angry that God so easily forgives.

Seeking inspiration not from Jesus' teachings, but from angry medieval lawyers and kings, they have created, and spread, a doctrine of God's Justice that is the enemy of God's Mercy. It is a doctrine in which God CANNOT simply forgive without a blood sacrifice - someone MUST pay the "price" for a sin.

But God's mercy is NOT the enemy of God's forgiveness. Both exist in equal measure in the heart of our loving God, Who is eager to forgive us upon our repentance alone.

In their telling of the story, it must be re-written, so that the Prodigal Son's vengeful father would stop the boy at his gates and then demand that his eldest son be slaughtered in order to satisfy the sins of the youngest who sinned against his father. Only then, when the elder son's blood was spilled, would the payment be accepted.

This may have been a perfectly reasonable way to achieve justice in the ancient world, but if we put our belief solely in Jesus' teachings, and not in other mens', we know that this is not how God shows Mercy OR Justice.  While we may decide that some people do not deserve God's mercy, and must first "pay a price" for falling short of His high standards, God does not condemn based on our whims or theories about who is "in" and who is "out" of his loving embrace, either now or eternally.⁰

"I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," God tells Moses. "And I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Exodus 33:19)

In the parable, even when the son "was yet a great way off," the father ran to meet him, and "fell upon his neck and kissed him" (Luke 15:20.) When Jesus calls us to forgive others as God has forgiven us, does that mean we have a duty to exact a blood payment from those whom WE wish to forgive? The opposite is true. We must forgive 70x7 times, joyfully and without hesitation.

God cannot be held to our human standards of how Justice and Mercy should work. And we should be extremely grateful for that.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

What Is Love? #JesusFollowers

"Love" is one of those words in the English language that can leave us easily confused.

As we prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day Tuesday, let's examine the various ways in which this word is being used in contemporary society, and how Jesus used the word.

Love can mean a strong attachment to pancakes or pickles, a deep emotional attachment to another person like a spouse, parent or neighbor, it can express a deep “fan” relationship with a movie franchise like Star Wars, or it can mean lust for a drug, a person, an object, or a stranger.

This imprecise definition didn’t exist in the oldest manuscripts of the words of our Master, Jesus, which were preserved in Greek. 

Love most often was conveyed in the Gospel books with a word, agape [agapaō] which means a pure, all-consuming love. 

It’s this word that is used when Jesus calls us to, "Love Yahweh, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." And, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

It was not limited to our friends, or to those who love us, because it’s agape that is used when Jesus says “Love your enemies.” (Matt. 5:43)

The Fourth Gospel records, “For God so loved the world,” using that same word, agape, showing that God has deep, abiding and unlimited love for us. God chose and sent out Jesus as our special example to us, so that we might not live in darkness, but in light

But it’s not just God than can show this love, however. We are called by Jesus to “Love one another; JUST as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

The fact that we are to love “JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU” is a powerful calling to us. We are told by Jesus that we may indeed love just as he loved; act just as he acted; serve just as he served. Our love is to have no bounds, just as Jesus’ love had no bounds.

This is all important to understand, given the many misconceptions about “love” – even among those who attend the churches of Christendom today – and even among those who do not.

"Love" having so many meanings, many today believe the love we are called to show is the shallow love we have for food, movies and other things with which we have a strong emotional attachment.

It would be a serious mistake, however, to assume that ALL we must do is express a light, shallow Love towards God and towards others. "Love is All You Need" is the name of an awesome Beatles song about emotional attachment between two lovers, not the imperative that Jesus calls us to embrace.

The Power of Love, the kind of Love that God shows us through His son, Jesus, is the kind of Love that is deep, unattached to emotions. It’s not an erotic love, or a shallow love, or a "love" that has no meaning or caring behind it, but it is instead the deepest and most pure Love there is. 

This kind of Love must be the cornerstone of our faith. Love of God and love of our neighbors is what Jesus calls us to actively show in our daily lives.

The faith that Jesus teaches challenges us to love God so much that we love others just as God does, and show it by doing Good Works in the service of others.

And we are called to love and obey God and serve others, using Jesus' perfect example as our guide, and then we are to accept that GOD ALONE is our judge, and our God is a God of mercy, if we ask for it.

"Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me." (John 14:21)

"If you keep my commandments," says Jesus, "you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." (John 15:10)

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Be Blameless, Upright Says The Psalms [JesusFollowers]

Be Blameless, Upright Says The Psalms [JesusFollowers Weekly Message]:

PSALM 37:37 "Mark the perfectly blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for those who seek peace."

In this psalm, as indeed in many passages of scripture, we find a variety of contrasted characters, interspersed with much serious observation on the different circumstances that await them in the future world. As we generally form the best judgment from comparison , this is a method frequently adopted in the sacred text.

The good and the bad are exemplified and described . To each is the mirror held up in turn, that every man may discover his own form and features, and learn to distinguish what manner of person they are. By such means we see more distinctly what is good and what is evil; which actions to studiously pursue, and which to strongly avoid. 

We perceive more clearly that sin is odious and disgraceful, as goodness is amiable and engaging; engaging, that impiety is full of misery and danger, that to walk in the way of sinners is to expose ourselves to the displeasure of omnipotence, to an infinity of anguish and remorse. 

On the other hand, if we choose the better, God, Himself will be our portion, and the lot of our inheritance. The tranquillity of an unruffled spirit will support us in all the trials and troubles of life; and when called to leave the world , we shall sink into eternal rest " Mark the perfect human being, and behold the upright , for the end of that one is peace. "

The word Perfect may at first sight appear strange when applied to a human character ; but it is certainly not improper if rightly understood. To be perfect absolutely and without exception or limitation, is indeed no attribute of humanity, nor can belong to any but those who dwell in light, to which no mortal can approach. But to every creature belongs a perfection proper to itself.

There is a perfection in excellence , in capacity , and in usefulness, according to itsrespective  rank in the scale of being, which may be applied to every race of creatures upon earth. 

There is therefore, of course, a moral , or to speak more properly, a Christian perfection, which everyone who wishes it may attain, and to which it is his duty to aspire . And this consists in the cultivation of the Christian attitude in the imitation of Jesus; in such a way that is acceptable to God, and will have a constant tendency to prepare us for the happiness of the life to come, as well as good and useful citizens of the Kingdom here and now. 

The  first thing  I shall notice in this character of a perfect human is the principle of integrity, that upright conscientious Spirit  which is essential to the Christian a ttitude, and without which there can be no religion. 

I must here remind you how often this is mentioned in scripture with marks of particular approbation . In describing  one of the first and most exemplary characters of ancient times, it is said that he was " perfect and upright ," the very description in the text ; a man who “ feared God and eschewed evil. " 

Then we may observe, that according to this representation  of things, it is impossible for a human to fear God and to depart from evil, except he be at the same time a sincere and upright character. These must go together.

The tree must be good if we look for excellence in the fruit. practice must partake the quality of the principle.

Adapted from a sermon PREACHED IN THE PARISH CHURCH OF SUNDERLAND,  Sunday, November the 9th, 1800. BY JOHN HAMPSON , M. A.