These Are The Words I Would Say

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Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV 1978).

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  (Acts 1:8, NIV 1984).

My Musings – If you knew what you were saying to a loved one would be the last time you would say anything to them at all, what would you say?  You can bet they would not be idle words.  They would most likely be very important words.  To you, and to the person receiving them.  The sad thing is, we go through life not speaking to one another as often as we should.  Leaving unsaid the things that we should be saying, and saying things we later regret and cannot take back.  And when it comes to last words, they are usually not what we would have intended to say if we knew they were our last.

Jesus knew.  And while all of His words are important, the above words are the last ones He knew He would speak to the ones He chose to carry on His mission – it was His Great Commission.  His prime directive to His Disciples.  Words that were carefully chosen and of great importance.

A commission can include the following elements. A task or matter entrusted to one as an agent for another, including the authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another, and granting the power to perform various acts or duties.

A task or matter entrusted – “go and make disciples.”  This includes the following sequence: becoming a disciple, being a disciple, making disciples.  Disciples making disciples (a person who follows another in regard to his or her ideas or belief).  We do not make others our disciples.  We make them disciples of the one we follow – Jesus Christ.

As an agent for another – “you will be my witnesses.”   A commission is a co-mission.  Co, a prefix meaning jointly, common or together with another; and mission meaning an important assignment.   We are not alone in our mission.

Including the authority to act – “all authority in heaven and on earth.” The right to act in a specified way, delegated from one person to another.  Let’s not miss something very important here.  All authority (in heaven and on earth) has been granted to Christ, and he is conferring that on us to act on His behalf.  But authority is pointless if it is not exercised.

And granting the power to perform – “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”  One can be given an assignment, along with the authority to act, but without the power to perform, it is merely words.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit.

We have the assignment, we have the authority and we have the power.  What we don’t have is an excuse.

My Advise – What is the most important thing you could tell your friends or family. Don’t wait until the last.

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Today’s musing was inspired by Lead Teaching Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on January 12, 2020. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Erasing Adjectives

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Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  (John 20:24–28, NIV 1978).

My Musings – Imagine your worst failure or lapse of judgement.  Now imagine that is how you would always be remembered.  Thomas was hand-picked by Jesus to be one of the twelve.  When Jesus indicated His intent to go back to Judea (when Lazarus died), a place where the religious leaders tried to stone Him, Thomas said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”  (John 11:16, NIV 1984).   According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.  Yet, despite all this, down through the ages Thomas has been known by the adjective “doubting” (expressing or feeling uncertainty or lack of conviction).  Lack of conviction? “My Lord and my God!

My Advice – The beginning of a new year, is routinely thought of as a time of new beginnings.  A time to wipe the slate clean and start anew.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).  If you are not already “in Christ,” there is no better way to start anew.  If you are already “in Christ,” but feel that past failures are too terrible to be wiped clean, we are promised that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9).  Either way, make 2020 and time of new beginnings in Christ.  We need not be defined or remembered by our failures or lapses. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalms 103:11–12, NIV 1984). Happy New Year!

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Want to become a Christian (start anew)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ (wipe the slate clean)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

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Today’s musing was inspired by Elder Keith Miller’s sermon on December 29, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

Just A Closer Walk With Thee

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Enoch walked with God, then he was no more, because God took him away.  (Genesis 5:24, NIV 1978).

Musings of Others – “Walk” is the biblical expression for fellowship and obedience that results in divine favor.  (Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 36). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books).

My Musings – There were no written scriptures to indicate what this “walk” should be.  What we do know, is that after the fall, Adam and Eve “heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord.” (Genesis 3:8, NIV 1978).  They hid because they heard Him, not because they saw Him.  There were many creatures in the garden that the sound could have been attributable to, but they distinctly recognized that it was God making the sound.  This implies familiarity, indicating that it was likely a frequent occurrence.

We are not explicitly told of what the fellowship between God and man was like before the fall, but somehow Enoch (the seventh from Adam) knew enough about it to learn how to walk with God all those generations later.  I am reminded of a TV mini-series from the ’70’s called “Roots,” from the book of the same name, that recounted the experiences of a family of African-American slaves that were carefully handed down and faithfully remembered over multiple generations. This is likely how Adam and Eve’s walks with God in the Garden were passed down.  And, of course, God “rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6, NIV 1978).  At any rate, “Enoch walked with God.

My Advice – “Then he was no more, because God took him away.”  We learn (also in Hebrews chapter 11), that this means that Enoch “did not experience death.”  God took him home with Him, “for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”  God enjoyed his walk with Enoch so much he did not want to part with him.

A former pastor from my youth, as best as I can remember it, liked to tell it this way.  One day God and Enoch were on one of their walks together.  They were enjoying the walk so much that time got away from them.  As the sun sunk lower in the sky, and the shadows lengthened, God said to Enoch, “we’re closer to my house than we are to yours, why don’t you just come on home with me?”

Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a close walk with God?

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Be and Go

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My Musings – “The ends of the earth” may be out of the question for most of us, but each of us has their own “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria” in our spheres of influence.  Notice that we are not called to make converts, that is the job of the Holy Spirit.  We are called to be witnesses, by our words and by our deeds, working together.

We are, on the other hand, called to make disciples, not just be disciples.  Being mentors to others in the faith that may not be as far along in becoming like Christ as we are.  The command is to go, or as some commentators state, as you go.  In other words, as we go about the life that God has given us, we are to give back by teaching others what we have already learned.

My Advice – We need not go out of our way to be witnesses or to make disciples.  If all went to the ends of the earth, what would become of our Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria if all of us did.  But as we go, wherever we go, let us be witnesses and make disciples.

 

Surviving The Flames

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My Musings – There is no condemnation for those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior (Romans 8:1), only commendation.   The only question is, what kind of commendation, what kind of reward? “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12–13, NIV 1984).  What we have done will be brought to light and tested by fire.  Will the quality (not necessarily quantity) of our service to Him be consumed, or will it survive into eternity?

My Advice – Work diligently for His Kingdom, so you will be able to hear these words from Him, “well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1978).  Put your whole heart into it, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV 1978).  But the time is short and storm clouds gathering.  “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” (John 9:3–4, NIV 1984).

 

 

 

Increasing Measure

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My Musings – As we wrap up my musings on discipleship and “Got Spiritual Milk” we might be asking ourselves – what now? Have we arrived at the place where God wants us to be? The answer to these questions is simply in remembering what was learned at the outset: Growth and maturity, are a process that takes place over time. We looked at twelve key “steps” that are essential to following Jesus and realizing our full potential as His disciples.  It is not a magic formula that in twelve “easy” steps will make us a model disciple. For each individual step is a process of its own leading us into a spiritual transformation that is continually evolving.

Justification – Like Paul, we must realize that we have not yet been made perfect. We have been saved. This was a past event, never to be repeated, where once and forever God made it “just as if I’d never sinned.” Justification is a legal term signifying that the all claims of God’s moral laws have been satisfied by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and that those accepting the terms of that sacrifice (believe and receive) are acquitted.

Glorification – Because we have been justified we have a future destination. Someday we will enter God’s presence and we will be made perfect. Glorification, as the term is used in the Bible, refers to the ultimate perfection of the believer.

Sanctification – In the meantime, we need to keep pressing on toward growth and development, adding to our faith in increasing measure. Sanctification is a fancy theological term that means being purified and made holy. It is a continuing process happening now that connects our past justification with our future glorification. It is not a perfect process, because “we have not yet been made perfect.” There will be up and downs. We will encounter speed bumps along our path as Satan tries to sidetrack us along the way. He cannot change the fact that we have been justified. He cannot change our final destination. But he can influence our journey between the two points hoping to make it less victorious that it might otherwise be.

So by now, we should know and understand that discipleship does not refer to a past event or our future destination. It is the journey that we are on here and now. It is not twelve steps and done. It is twelve steps in increasing measure until the journey is done. We do not know when our journey will be over. So we continue in our efforts to add to our original step of faith. We add goodness (role of a servant), knowledge (illuminated by the Word, engaged with the Church), self-control (hold out against sin, Spirit-led lifestyle), perseverance (suffer with Christ, pray on all occasions), Godliness (desire what God desires, learn spiritual wisdom), kindness (is Christ-like in attitude, involved in evangelism) and love (proven by love).

None of these are things that we will achieve perfectly in our lifetimes. But we can possess them in increasing measure.

Increasing means to become progressively greater. The increase can be a gentle slope or a steep grade. It can also be exponential. What it will be, to a large degree, will depend on our efforts. Paul instructed his readers to “make every effort.” Half-hearted efforts will only give us half-hearted results. We do not want half-hearted results. What we want is to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

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My Advice – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We took that step when we accepted Christ. That decision has already been made. The question before us now is: are we satisfied with remaining an infant or do we want to grow? If we want to grow, the question then becomes: how much effort do we want to put into it? De we want to make every effort? Do we want to grow in increasing measure? Do we want to keep pressing on? So how are you answering these questions?

This Thing Called Love

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My Musings – Love. Little else is as captivating or inspiring as love. It is, perhaps, one of the most sought after and motivating experiences that anyone can have. As a subject matter it permeates movies, songs, books, television and advertising. Yet it is often misinterpreted, misunderstood, mislabeled and misused. We say that we love this and that we love that. In the process we devalue something that is of such worth that it prompted God to send His Son to die for us.

The depth of that love seems far beyond our ability to fully grasp or adequately comprehend. But Jesus calls us to know it and be filled with it in our love of God (“with all our heart, soul and mind“) and for each other (“as ourselves“). All that is written in the Law and Prophets (the Old Testament) as well as the Gospels and Epistles (the New Testament) “hang on” these two commandments. If that were not sufficient enough to underscore how vitality important love is in the born-again experience, Jesus said that it was the primary and most distinctive characteristic by which all men will know that we are His disciples. It is the litmus test of how well the previous eleven steps of discipleship that we have examined are doing in making changes in our lives and character. For example, what causes us to desire what God desires? How do we know we are becoming more like Christ? What compels us to serve others? Why are we motivated to resist temptation? When we witness to others, what prompts us to do so? What causes us to unite with other believers in a local church? The common denominator, or at least it should be if we are growing as disciples, is love – love for God and for one another.

God calls us to the highest degree (agape) of love. Agape refers to a selfless and unconditional type love. It is the highest of the four types (Eros – sensual; Philia – brotherly; Storge – family; and Agape) of love in the Bible. That is not to say that the other three types do not have their proper place. But unlike these other three types of love, agape has less to do about involuntary desires of love and more about voluntarily desiring to love.

It is a motivation for action that we are free to choose or reject. It is a sacrificial love that willingly suffers inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return. How do we know it is the highest degree? Jesus said “as the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you,” and for us to “love each other as I have loved you.” It cannot get any higher than that. Jesus told us how to identify this type of love when He said “greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends.” Then He provided the ultimate proof that He was more than an itinerant preacher of the warm and fuzzy when He laid down His own life on the cross and died for our sins.

This is unmerited love – we do not deserve it. It is love that bore a very high cost – the sacrifice of the Son of God. It is love that is often rejected – not everyone accepts the free gift of salvation. It is love that not always returned – many do not serve Him the way that they should. Of course, relatively few believers will be called upon to literally lay down their lives for Him or for a fellow believer. But there are many ways that we can figuratively lay down our lives (serving Him, obeying Him, caring for those that He cares for, to name just a few). Paul refers to this kind of love as “the most excellent way.

Excellent means something that is of the highest or finest quality.

One might think this is definition enough for the kind of love God calls us to. But Paul affixes a superlative (most) in front of something that is already defined as highest and finest (excellent). Most means greatest in degree. So the love we are called to as Christ’s disciples is one in the greatest degree and of the highest and finest quality. As we look to some of the more challenging people in our lives we can begin to appreciate how great a challenge this might be.

Because the love Jesus refers to is of the highest degree, it is difficult for sinful man to understand it, much less to attain it. But perhaps we can gain a clearer understanding by knowing a few things about it. In what has become known as the love chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), Paul describes this type of love in terms of the positive characteristics it has (what it is) and the negative characteristics it does not have (what it is not). The positive characteristics it has are: patience, kindness, truthfulness, protectiveness, trust, hope, perseverance and trustworthiness. The negative characteristics it does not have are: envy, boastfulness, pride, rudeness, selfishness, anger, bearing grudges and a delighting in evil.

Interestingly, Paul’s discussion about love comes immediately after his discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. In conclusion Paul instructs his readers to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” He then goes on to show us “the most excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13.

In doing so he tells us that even extreme giftedness is of little value
if it is not accompanied or motivated by love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love. I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV 1978)). At some point the gifts may fade or disappear, leaving us with only faith, hope and love, of which love is the greatest.

LOVES ME CHARACTERISTICS

Love is patient, love is kind. Love rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8. NIV 1978).

Is Patient –  Endure evil, injury & provocation without thoughts of resentment, indignation or revenge.

Is Kind  – Not only takes advantage of opportunities to be kind, but looks for such opportunities.

Rejoices In Truth – In the truth of God and the Gospel. Rejoices to see loved-one molded by these truths.

Always Protects – Unwilling to expose loved-one’s faults to others. Also translated bears all things, i.e., will put up with much injustice without harboring anger or seeking revenge.

Always Trusts – Believeth all things. Always sees the best in loved-one. Allows for circumstances. Keeps the faith when it is easy to believe the worst.

Always Hopes – Refuse to take failure as final. When trust or belief begins to give way, hope takes over.

Always Perseveres – Not resigned acquiescence, but rather an active positive fortitude. Willing to endure persecution for sake of, or even from loved-one.

Never fails Gifts will cease to exist or be needed. Love will never cease to exist or be needed.

LOVES ME NOT CHARACTERISTICS

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV 1978)

Does Not Envy – Not grieved at good or prosperity of loved-one, but rather rejoices in it.

Does Not Boast – Windbag. Fair words without regard to the truth, or any intention for good.

Is Not Proud  – Puffed-up, proud of oneself at the expense of another (i.e., pride in yourself obscures feelings for loved-one).

Is Not Rude – Base, vile, disgraceful, dishonorable, indecent.

Is Not Self-Seeking Not seeking own interests to the neglect of loved-one. On the contrary, often neglects own welfare for the sake of loved-one.

Is Not Easily Angered  – Not touchy or eager to take offense. Not angry without just cause. Hard to be angry, eager to be reconciled.

Keeps No Record Of Wrongs – Does not take into account wrongs done. More likely to disbelieve accusations of wrongs about the loved-one. Does not give way to suspicion based upon appearances.

Does Not Delight In Evil – Resist human nature of delighting in the misfortunes of others. Sins of loved-one rather bring grief.

My Advice – We live in a fallen world. Because it is fallen, it is imperfect. Because it is imperfect, our love is also imperfect. There is still a tendency towards harshness, quarreling and jealousy. All of which are signs of an immature love. But we need not lose heart. As we continue to grow as disciples, our love will continue to grow as well – our love of God and of each other. As Christ is reflected in us more and more we will find ourselves giving way to gentleness, peace and kindness. Where we once loved to fight, we will fight to love. Love is the litmus test of how we are growing as disciples. So how are you doing with this thing called love?