Month: June 2019

Where’s the Love? (Mark 6:1-13)

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In Mark 5, multitudes of people are following Jesus. They come to Him for healing and deliverance. A crowd had met Jesus in Capernaum when Jairus came to beg Him to heal His daughter. A woman with an issue of blood came to Him to be healed. Crowds listened to Jesus teach and preach as the One who authored the scriptures they had spent their lives learning.

Yet, in His hometown of Nazareth, the people were unimpressed. In Mark 6:1-13, Jesus returned to His hometown synagogue, and began to teach. His ministry and teaching had stirred up controversy, and the people began to question His authority.

They said things like, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Aren’t all His brothers and sisters here? Where did He get this wisdom, and how is He doing these great works?”

Basically, their reaction was, “Who does Jesus think He is? He ain’t no better than the rest of us!”

The people of Nazareth had a front row seat to the arrival of Christ. They watched Him grow. They were told of His virgin birth. They were among the first to hear Him preach, and to see Him work miracles.

Yet, their advantage in seeing Jesus grow up was also their stumbling block. Having seen Him grow up among them, and being home to His carpentry shop, Jesus had become too familiar to them. As a result, they took Him for granted and overlooked His divinity. So, they reacted to His ministry with incredulity.

Jesus was familiar to them. Familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt breeds rejection.

This is a real danger to us today. It is possible for us to become too caught up in the day to day activities of life, and the weekly activities of church, that we forget Who our Lord is.

We can fall into a routine of religious habits, begin living by our works rather than the grace of God, and start thinking that we have somehow elevated ourselves to a place where we have earned God’s favor.

We can get caught up in trying to build a church, expand a ministry, and improve our lot in life that we forget about our Lord, who should be the center of it all.

We can continue this trend until our Lord finds Himself on the outside of the church, and on the outside of our lives, knocking on the door in hopes that we’ll open up, and let Him in. We can forget our first love. (Incidentally, this was the same sin committed by the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, and the Lord threatened to take their candlestick.)

When we do that, we commit the same sin as the synagogue in Nazareth.

We must never forget God’s love, and we must never discount the effect His love has had upon us. We most never forget how His love redeemed us and transformed us, and we must never forget that His love is our primary motivation in life.

In Mark 6, Jesus goes on to send the apostles out two-by-two. They went through the villages, preaching the Gospel, calling the people to repentance, and ministering to their needs by healing them and casting out devils. Likewise, we understand that the Lord has sent us into this world to spread the Gospel of His death, burial and resurrection for our redemption from sin.

It’s a mighty calling, and one God has blessed us with. Our primary purpose as Christians, and as a church, is to publish and preach that Gospel wherever we have opportunity, as the Lord commanded us to “preach the Gospel to every creature.”

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we are not motivated by God’s love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others, our preaching will be in vain. Furthermore, if love is not our motivation, then our message will stray.

All too often, church social media pages, Web sites and blogs will contain more information about why the church is different, or better, than other churches. Many churches have replaced the message of the Gospel with the message of themselves. In this regard, many church Web pages, social media accounts and blogs don’t differ that much from the local car dealership, furniture store and insurance office. It becomes about branding, and not carrying forth God’s message.

The same holds true for Christian Web sites which debate issues within Christianity (pews vs. chairs, powerpoint vs. hymnals, to politic or not, etc). We spend so much time talking among ourselves and promoting ourselves that we fail to do what God told us to do… to preach the Gospel to every creature. This happens when we forget our first love, Christ becomes a mere theological concept, and we become like the synagogue in Nazareth.

As we wrap up our exploration through Mark 6:1-13, we see the apostles anoint the sick with oil. This is how they applied medicine. The olive oil they used had medicinal qualities, and proper medicine was all but non-existent. The people who came to the apostles were in agony, and the apostles did what they could to alleviate that pain as they preached the Gospel.

These actions reflected the love of Christ. You see, Christ is not only concerned with our Spiritual well-being, He is interested in our physical well-being also. Christ does not merely sympathize with our pain, He empathizes with us.

You see, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are. This means that as He lived the human experience on earth, He experienced all the same problems we do. Financial problems. Family problems (His brothers initially rejected the idea that He was Messiah). Social problems (many rejected Him). Rejection. Betrayal. Persecution. Hunger. You name it.

He knows what you’re going through, and He knows by experience.

After experiencing the worst that society had to offer, He gave Himself over to the Pharisees, who gave Him to the Romans, who crucified Him. As He hung on that cross, He endured the wrath of God for the sins of the world so that we can all be spared, if you repent and believe.

The Lord loves you immensely. Not only that, but He is concerned for your well-being also. When the apostles ministered to the physical needs of the people as they preached their Spiritual needs, they reflected the love of Christ.

Jesus loves us. He told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He also told us to love each other as He loved us. May we never lose sight of His love.

Ashamed

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In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.” That statement not only framed the rest of the book of Romans, but also much of the New Testament.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is how Jesus died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the scriptures. Romans 5:8 tells us that the Gospel was the ultimate demonstration of God’s love toward us, because God loved us enough to send Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners. John 3:16 openly declares that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love for us is both unmerited and inexplicable. There was nothing we did, no inherent value within us that would warrant God giving His only begotten Son for us. Disagree? Romans 5:6-7 points out that none of us would die for a righteous man, or even a good ole boy. We don’t even see each other as worthy to die for. Why would an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present God see that value in us? It’s inexplicable!

That’s what the Bible calls, “grace.” God loves us. God loves you. That love is so strong and so deep that He gave everything He had to redeem you from sin, condemnation, death and degradation.

Once you understand the love that God has for you, that He openly demonstrated in the Gospel, you will never be ashamed of that Gospel.

That word, “ashamed” is an interesting word. In modern times, we understand “ashamed” to mean “embarrassed” or “humiliated.” However, the scriptural use of the word “ashamed” really means “disappointed.” In other words, you put your faith into something that didn’t pan out. You were left with the short end of the stick. You were left holding the bag.

Think of the man who has worked 10 years for one company, loyally paying his dues in hopes of being promoted to partner, only to be passed over for the promotion in favor of the boss’s friend. That man feels that the past 10 years of his life has been wasted. He has to go home and tell his family he didn’t get the promotion. His friends will all know he came up short. He is “ashamed.”

However, the Apostle Paul says that he “is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” He is not left disappointed in the Gospel. He has not come up with the short end of the stick. He has not been left holding the bag, and he hasn’t been passed over or forgotten. He is not ashamed.

Paul said “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” because he understood the love God had toward him. The Apostle Paul understood that no matter what happened to him in this life, God loved him, and God’s hand was upon His life.

Therefore, Paul understood how to “abound and be abased,” how to be full and hungry (Philippians 4:12). When times were good, Paul celebrated and praised God for His abundance. When times were bad, Paul praised God for leading him through the challenges. Even in the worst of times, Paul knew God was with him, so he was at peace. He understood God’s love for Him. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Therefore, Paul was able to write in Romans 8:35-37:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Regardless of how bad things got, Paul knew that He could not be separated from God’s love. Therefore, he felt peace, and he felt victorious, no matter the circumstance. Because after all, the Christian life has less to do with our current circumstances, and more to do with our eternal destination. Paul also understood that, and he knew that eternity in God’s kingdom would more than outweigh any suffering he endured in this life.

Hence, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18.

Therefore, no matter what happened, Paul was not left high and dry, he was not left destitute or hopeless, because he knew God’s love, and trusted the promises God had made.

Paul was not ashamed.

If you know Jesus Christ as your savior, remember that God is with you through the good times and bad. Remember that He will care for you and meet your needs. Most of all, remember that your eternal destination in His Kingdom will be far greater than anything you can imagine here.

If you are not a Christian, know that God loves you, and gave His only begotten Son to redeem you. Rejecting Christ will bring God’s wrath and judgment. However, turning from sin and trusting the Lord to save you will bring you the same blessing and peace Paul had. You will not be left high and dry. You will not be ashamed of the Gospel. Will you consider repenting and trusting the Lord for salvation?

To share your story of salvation, or to ask for more information, contact us below. Pastor Leland Acker will follow up with a response.

What About The 99?

In Luke 15:1-7, Jesus addresses the Pharisees’ criticism that He receives and eats with sinners by telling the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus said:

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, will not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that one that is lost, until he find it?

And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulder, rejoicing, and when he cometh home, he gathers together his friends and neighbors, saying into them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

This parable beautifully demonstrates the difference between our Lord and the Pharisees He reprimanded. The Pharisees believed anyone was expendable for the sake of their cause.

In John 11:50, Caiaphas, the high priest, said that it is expedient that one man should die for the people, so that the whole nation perish not. Basically, to maintain their position and the good favor of the Romans, it was best for them to arrest Jesus and turn Him over to the Romans for crucifixion. In doing so, they could show allegiance to the Roman government and keep their jobs.

To the Pharisees, one man is expendable. However, to our Lord Jesus Christ, every single individual is precious, and none are expendable. Hence, our Good Shepherd’s search for the lost sheep.

However, over the years, some Bible teachers have begun to misapply this passage. Some of the worst offenders of this belong to the church growth movement.

They teach that we must find that lost sheep at all cost, even if it means losing the 99. They say things like, “I’d rather offend 99 church members than one seeker.” It sounds righteously passionate, unless you are one of the 99.

This viewpoint wildly misunderstands who we are in the story. If our understanding of this story is that we must leave the 99 to find the one, then we’ve missed the point.

The point Jesus made in the parable of the lost sheep is that we are all the lost sheep. He seeks us, His lost sheep. And when He finds us, He rejoices, and carries us on His shoulder the way an ancient shepherd would rejoice over and carry his found sheep.

You see, the shepherd didn’t merely love his flock, He loved every individual sheep. It wasn’t the flock that was important to the shepherd, every individual sheep was important to the shepherd.

Likewise, Jesus didn’t merely die for the sins of the world, He died for YOUR sins personally. He loves you personally. He regards you, the individual, the way that shepherd regards that individual lost sheep.

As for the 99, they were safe and secure the whole time. The idea of leaving the 99 sheep in a safe place while searching for one lost was so common, Jesus introduced the story by saying “What man of you wouldn’t do this?”

None of those Pharisees would risk 99 sheep to save one, but they would secure 99 to find one. And that’s what the Lord was pointing out. God loves all His sheep, even those who don’t wander off.

This same principle is upheld in the parable of the lost coin in Luke 15:8-10. Every individual coin is precious to the woman, so when one is lost, she searches diligently for it. She doesn’t discard the other 9. She secures them and finds the lost coin.

This same principle carries over into the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. The father loves both sons individually, and when one rebels and leaves, the father eagerly awaits his return. When he returns, the father celebrates.

Each and every one of us is the prodigal son. As for the other brother, a reminder. The father does not disown the other brother for being upset. Instead, he reminds the other brother that he was always with the father, and was always loved and blessed by the father. Those of us who know the Lord as our Savior would do well to remember that we are in the Lord’s presence, are blessed by Him, and that we should rejoice with Him when sinners repent… Even if those sinners are repenting from the sins of pride, legalism, and being judgmental.

The Lord rejoices at the repentance of Pharisees too.

So no matter where you are, whether you are laying in the gutter of skid row, or whether you are sneeringly looking down on others from your ivory tower, Jesus loves you, is seeking you, and is calling you to repent and be reconciled to Him. The day you do that is the day He rejoices.

God Is Good To You, And That’s All That Matters

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God loves you.

It may  not seem like it, but He does.

Christian singer/songwriter Rich Mullins once discussed how he once discounted God’s love because God loves everyone. If God loves everyone, what’s so special about me?

The flaw in this way of thinking is that it takes the focus away from how good God is to you, and it compares God’s goodness to you to how good He is to everyone else. When we think this way, there is nothing God can do to please us.

If God loves us and blesses us the same as everyone else, then we are unhappy because we are not special to God. If God blesses others more than us, God is not being fair to us. If God loves and blesses us more than everyone else, then we wonder why? We either accuse God of being partial and unfair, or we believe we deserved the blessing and harbor resentment for others who didn’t earn God’s blessing.

Lost in all this is how good God is to us. We forget how much He loves us. We forget how He blessed us. As Mullins mentioned in the above-linked video, the issue is not how our blessings stack up to others’. The issue is what God has actually done in our lives.

God loves us, even though we’re unlovable. God gave His only begotten Son for us, sent Jesus to die to pay our debt, so that we could be redeemed and live eternally in His presence. God took the refuse and brokenness of our lives, transformed us, and has healed us. He did all of this, knowing that we can never repay Him.

The issue is not what God has done for others. The issue is what God has done for me. And as long as I continue to compare myself to others, and as long as I continue to compare God’s goodness to me to His goodness to others, I will never fully realize the blessings He has poured out on me.

In Genesis 29:31-35, we see the story of Leah, Jacob’s first wife. Leah’s story is a sad story. She wasn’t considered attractive in her day, no one wanted to marry her, and the only way she was married to Jacob was because her father tricked Jacob into marrying her.

Soon after her marriage to Jacob, he married her sister, and favored her sister. Her sister, Rachel, was considered very beautiful and desirable. All of her life, Leah lived in Rachel’s shadow, despite the fact that Rachel was the younger sister. Now, her sister had stolen her husband.

Jacob disregarded Leah. He favored Rachel. There was no worse form of betrayal than what Leah felt. Yet, Jacob still had relations with Leah, because in Genesis 29, Leah began having children.

Her first son was named Reuben, meaning “See, a son!” Her reasoning was that God had seen her affliction, and now that she had given Jacob a son, he would love her. He didn’t.

She named her second son Simeon, meaning “heard.” Her reasoning was that God had heard she was hated, and gave her another son.

Her third son was named Levi, meaning “joined,” because after three sons, surely her husband would be joined to her now. Wrong.

Her fourth son was named Judah (celebrated), because now she will praise the Lord.

Notice the progression. She transitions from being preoccupied with how Jacob feels about her, and ultimately comes to a place where she can just praise God for how good He is being to her. She stays in that place of blessing and praise until she notices that Jacob is having children with Rachel’s handmaid. So, Leah provides her handmaid, and you can tell by the naming that her praise to the Lord has waned.

The point is, the more Leah was focused on what God was doing for her, the happier she was, regardless of how Jacob treated her. The more she focused on what Jacob was doing, the less happy she was.

So, the lesson we learn from this is this: Yes, life is unfair. Yes, things happen that shouldn’t. Yes, your pain is legit and real. Nonetheless, God still loves us and blesses us in our despair. Don’t discard that love, and don’t miss those blessings because you are focused on what God is doing elsewhere. Don’t miss God’s grace because you are focused on what is wrong. Look to the Lord, trust Him, recognize those blessings, enjoy them, and praise Him for it.

Yes, God loves you. Yes, God loves everyone else, too. That’s not the point. God loves you, and that’s all that matters.

When All Your Problems Hit At Once

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Sometimes it seems that every problem hits you at once. The car breaks down, the washing machine breaks, your hours get cut at work, and the mortgage is due. That’s hard enough, but sometimes the problems hit you in your very soul. You lose a loved one to death, a close friend turns against you, or there is conflict in your marriage. Sometimes, all of those problems hit at once. 1 Peter 1:6 calls these “manifold temptations.”

The Apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter to Christians who were scattered by persecution. These people had been driven from their homes, families, jobs and hometowns by a government that was openly hostile toward them for their faith. Peter’s goal in this epistle is to comfort those Christians by showing them how their suffering mirrors the suffering Christ endured for us, how suffering refines us, and by reminding them of the blessings of salvation in Christ.

He begins this endeavor in 1 Peter 1 by reminding us of who we are in Christ, by referencing our suffering in relation to our transformation, and by encouraging us to move forward in faith.

1 Peter is for any Christian who feels as if the world is collapsing upon them. It offers hope to those who face a multitude of problems, who see no way out. This book helps us put everything into perspective.

Peter starts out by reminding us of who we are in Christ.

In verse 2, he says we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

The word “elect” simply means chosen. We are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge.

Scripture is clear. God chose to save us. Salvation and redemption were His ideas, His values, and His work. It was He that had the idea to redeem man from sin and give us hope of eternal salvation. It was not our idea. Mankind did not have a global summit and elect to request salvation from God. Instead, God authored salvation without even consulting us.

That’s why Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still lost in sin, rebelling against God, and doing our own thing, God conceived the plan of redemption and sent Christ to the cross to purchase our salvation.

Hebrews 12:2 puts it this way:

Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the author of our faith. Our salvation was His idea, and salvation began with Christ. He is the finisher of our faith, the finisher of our salvation. He completed our salvation. He did the work. There is nothing that we can do to complete, or enhance our salvation. Jesus Christ did it all.

The only thing we can do is to accept that free salvation by trusting Him to save us by the work He did on the cross.

God saw us. He loved us. He redeemed us. It was His choice. Whenever you feel discouraged, hurt, or anxious, remember that the God who created the universe loved you, and chose to redeem you.

God loves you.

It’s a simple phrase my Christian classmates from high school would write on the blackboard during down time. “God loves you.”

When I was a lost teen in the 1990s, “God loves you” was a pithy saying Christians would say in an effort to influence you to be like them. At least, that’s how I interpreted their words. It wasn’t until I turned 24 in the early 2000s that I came to understand God’s grace as I turned from sin and trusted Jesus Christ for salvation. At the age of 41, I am still learning about God’s inexplicable love toward me, and toward all people.

It was the love of God that prompted His choice to redeem us. Thus, in 1 Peter 1:2, Peter writes that we are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”

That word foreknowledge has a two-fold meaning. It means (1) God knew us before we were ever created, and (2) He loved us. This concept is perfectly illustrated in God’s words to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5, where God says, “Before I formed the in the belly, I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”

God loves us, and chose to redeem us. In times of trouble, remember that the God Who loves and redeemed you will not leave you to be crushed by life. Remember who you are in Christ.

1 Peter 1 goes on to say that we are begotten again to a lively hope, thus telling us that we are new creations once we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. Peter continues by explaining that the sufferings of life refine our faith and transform us into people who glorify God. We are then encouraged to move forward in faith.

For further encouragement from God’s word, listen to the audio posted above, or click here. Both links will play audio from this Sunday’s sermon from 1 Peter 1 at Life Point Baptist Church.