Evangelistic

Gospel Week: Celebrating the Central Theme of Christianity

cross-sunset-sunrise-hill-70847.jpeg

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Redemption.

This is the one thing that all people seek. Redemption.

It is romanticized in literature, sought through accomplishments, and desired for lifetimes. Redemption.

Redemption is often called by different names: liberation, validation, triumph. At the heart of these desires, however, is redemption.

Last weekend, millions across America celebrated Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters. Woods’ first Masters victory in 11 years, coupled with his recovery from injury, personal failures, and controversy, prompted many in the media to hail his “redemption.”

Redemption was a theme interwoven into the NFL careers of Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians, whose careers had been sidelined due to firings and trades, then re-ignited when they were signed by the Arizona Cardinals, before making it to the NFC Finals.

The word, “redemption,” may not be used, but it has captured the hearts of writers, poets and artists. Redemption is celebrated in songs, such as Aerosmith’s “Amazing,” fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” and countless movies and TV shows. Every story about the aging athlete seeking one last championship, every story about a child seeking a long-lost parent, every story about a businessman seeking one last deal, or the advocate seeking one more victory over Wall Street, is a story about a protagonist seeking redemption. Redemption is a theme of every rags-to-riches story, and every story about overcoming loss.

We frame it in so many ways, but at the end of the day, all we are really after is redemption. And true redemption cannot be found in one last championship, one last victory, or in a dream come true. No matter what victories we score in life, we will never receive the fulfillment we seek, unless our redemption is a Spiritual one.

And that’s what Christ purchased on the cross for us.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds the Corinthians in verse 1 that they have received the Gospel, and it is the reason they have standing in God’s Kingdom. He then reminds them that the Gospel is the basis for their salvation. Essentially for them, and for us, the Gospel is the source of our hope for the future, our hope for eternal prosperity in God’s Kingdom, and our hope that all that is wrong will be made right.

Then, in one of the most important things ever written, Paul defined the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul wrote:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

How did Christ purchase our redemption? He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day in fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures.

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the price for our sin. 1 John 2:2 says that He is the propitiation for our sins. A propitiation is a payment made to God to atone for sin. A propitiation cancels a debt owed as a result of sin. To make this payment on our behalf, Christ gave Himself, and was nailed to the cross, and gave up His life.

In doing this, Christ not only paid our debt, but He also removed the stain and guilt sin left on our lives (Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”) Essentially, the old has been washed away, and all things have been made new. New life, new Spirit, new us, new hope. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Revelation 21:5, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 4:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Historically, churches have commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross on “Good Friday.” (In all actuality, He was likely crucified on a Wednesday, but that’s a story for another day.) On Easter Sunday, we celebrate His resurrection.

In 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, Paul wrote that the Gospel is how Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. He then spends the rest of the chapter defending, and advocating, that Christ rose again from the dead. When you see how adamantly Paul argued that the resurrection happened, you will understand not only how important this doctrine is to Christianity, but also how much hope it gives us.

As Phil Robertson once said, “A dead savior can’t do much for you.” However, a living Savior advocates for you and opens the doors of Heaven for you.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us His victory over death, which will also be our victory if we know Him as Savior. And that’s true redemption. To be rescued from the pain of this life into an eternal life with no pain, to be transformed from the old you into a gloriously new version of you, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness is the ultimate redemption, and that is truly what we celebrate, not just every Easter, but every Sunday as well.

Come join us for Sunrise Service, 7 a.m. Sunday, April 21, 2019, at the Early Visitors and Events Center at 419 Garmon Dr. in Early, TX.

The Kingdom Parables (Sermon Audio)

For more background on this message, check out The Most Misinterpreted Parable Ever, The Counterfeiters, and Understanding Why Things Happen.

The Counterfeiters

pexels-photo-2068975.jpeg

Photo by Alexander Mils on Pexels.com

It’s Superbowl Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, and you’ve got tickets! How exciting!

You’ve spent the weekend in Miami, and now you are waiting in line, eager to enter Hard Rock Stadium for one of the biggest sporting events in the world. For once, you are going to be a part of sports history.

Then it happens. The gate attendant tells you that your tickets are counterfeit. You had bought them on a ticket exchange site, and you fell victim to a scam artist. There is no recourse. They will not let you into the stadium. You’ve lost your money, and you are dealing with massive disappointment.

Such is not only common with tickets to sporting goods, it also happens with currency. Working as a cashier at a local truck stop, I have on more than one occasion broken the news to a customer that the $20 bill they handed me was counterfeit. Their faces showed expressions of deep betrayal, as the bill had been given to them as a payment for a service rendered.

These situations are extremely disappointing and sometimes tragic. But nothing is as horrible as spending a life believing a counterfeit gospel. In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares goes as follows:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

Remembering the rules for interpreting the Kingdom Parables from our last post, which concurs with Jesus’ explanation of this parable in Matthew 13:37-40, we see the following symbols at work:

  • The man – the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
  • The good seed – the Word of God, the Gospel.
  • The field – the world.
  • The wheat – the children of the Kingdom.
  • The tares – The children of the wicked one.

While the primary message of this parable is that Satan will place false converts and false believers among the children of God to derail the Lord’s work, the implied warning of the spread of a counterfeit Gospel cannot be ignored.

The tares, the children of the wicked one, were sown into the field as seed. Bad seed. Counterfeit seed. If the good seed is the Gospel, then it follows that the bad seed is a counterfeit gospel.

Counterfeit gospels take on many forms. Some teach that you must perform certain works, are take part in certain rituals to be saved. Some teach that you can lose your salvation. Some teach that God loves all people and all will be welcomed into Heaven. Some teach that salvation is so simple, one does not even have to repent to obtain it.

The counterfeit gospels and false doctrines being taught are so rampant, we cannot possible address them all in one blog post, neither do we have to. To identify a counterfeit Gospel, one need only know the true Gospel.

Interestingly enough, this is also how the U.S. Secret Service learns to spot counterfeit currency. They don’t study counterfeit currency. They study the true currency to the point that if anything on that bill is out of place, they instantly identify the error, and thus conclude the currency is counterfeit.

So, with that in mind, let’s be reminded of the true Gospel, summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as how “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

Christ died for our sins. In dying for our sins, He took the punishment for our sins, thus shielding us from the wrath of God. This payment for our sins cost Him His life. Thus, He died for our sins, and was buried. However, on the third day, He took His life back, and rose from the grave.

So now, Christ has not only cleared our sin-debt by giving His life for our sins, but He rose again, and ever lives to intercede for us. In other words, Christ rose again to advocate for us and to open the gates of Heaven for us. This is salvation.

Scripture is clear on how to access that salvation, how to accept it. Romans 5:1 says “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Isaiah 45:22 says, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am the LORD, there is none else.”

And the verses that drive it all home, Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace that you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.”

Based on these verses, we see that the true Gospel:

  • Is how Christ paid for our sins by dying on the cross.
  • That Christ rose again to save us and give us eternal life.
  • That salvation is gained by repenting of sin and trusting (believing) in Jesus Christ.

Deviations, additions or subtractions from that Gospel are counterfeit. What a tragedy it would be to live a good, religious life, only to realize that you never believed the true Gospel. What a tragedy it would be to live life believing a lie. If you have never placed your faith in Christ for salvation, make that decision now.

The implied warning of a counterfeit gospel is only a small sideline to the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. The real point to this parable is that Satan uses false believers and counterfeit Christians to derail the cause of Christ.

Imagine the huge inconvenience for the farmer who had to go through the process of separating the wheat from the tares at harvest time.

Likewise, the cause of Christ can be frustrated by the antics of those who claim to be Christian, but are not. This is one reason bad things happen in good churches. Understanding this can help prevent discouragement and disillusionment when the unthinkable happens. Satan is working to derail, discourage and discredit the Lord’s churches.

Notice, however, what the parable says about the man’s reaction to finding tares in his wheat field. The man told his servants not to root out the tares, because the wheat would be uprooted and damaged in the process. Instead, the wheat and the tares would be allowed to come to full maturity before being separated at the harvest.

As the wheat and the tares mature, you can tell which is which by the fruit they bear. Likewise, Jesus said you could tell the true believers from the false believers by their fruit.

The application to this passage is that we, as Christians, need not be concerned with identifying and distinguishing the true believers from the false believers. Instead, we are to grow and bear fruit, and allow the Lord to judge in the end time.

At the core of this parable is the instruction to believe the true Gospel, and trust the Lord to judge righteously on the day of judgment. If we do this, we will not be discouraged by the antics of the tares, for we will have the understanding of why they do what they do.

The tares have been sowed to frustrate our purpose. The more they frustrate our purpose, the closer we grow to harvest day. At harvest time, we will be gathered in the Lord’s presence. Be encouraged. Satan’s attacks are evidence that you are being effective for the Lord.

May God bless you as you continue your walk with Him.

The Parable of the Sower (Audio included)

abundance agricultural agriculture arm

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus begins teaching in a series of parables. His first, “The Parable of the Sower,” tells of a man sowing seed throughout his field, with some seed landing by the wayside and being snatched up by the birds, some landing in thorny ground, and being choked out by the weeds, some landing on stony ground, and being scorched by the sun, and others landing on the good ground, and bearing fruit.

It’s one of the most basic parables that has spawned books, blogs, sermons and teachings. You may be very familiar with this parable, and much of what you know about this parable is probably true. However, we need to go back to study the Parable of the Sower because that parable is the key to understanding all of the Lord’s parables. Jesus said so in Mark 4:13.

Understanding this parable, and the symbolism thereof will shape the way you interpret the Kingdom Parables (the parable of the leaven, the mustard seed, the treasure in a field and the pearl of great price) in Matthew 13. To see how this parable sets the stage for the Kingdom Parables, join Pastor Leland Acker and Life Point Baptist Church on April 14. Hint: The current state of Christianity is no surprise to the Lord.

In Mark 4:1-20, we learn three things through this parable. We learn about the sower, we learn about the reactions of the world, and we have our hearts revealed.

In verse 14, Jesus said, “The sower soweth the word.”

Matthew 13 identifies the sower as Christ Himself. Verse 14 in our passage today identifies the seed as the word. So, we see that our Lord Jesus Christ sows the word throughout the world (the field, also a symbol in this parable).

The word is the Gospel, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures. The Gospel includes the proper application of repentance and faith in Christ to benefit from salvation.

The Bible says the sower sows the word. He spreads the Gospel. And with the sower being our Lord Jesus Christ, we see that the primary mission of Christ not only included fulfilling the Gospel, but also spreading the word of the Gospel. During His earthly ministry, our Lord spread the word of the Gospel, as Mark 1:14 tells us Jesus came forth preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

For 3 1/2 years, Christ preached the Gospel as He conducted His ministry on Earth. Ever since then, He has spread the Gospel through His churches, whether that be through churches sponsoring missionaries, or whether that be through church members evangelizing the lost themselves.

Furthermore, the Lord sowed the Gospel seed indiscriminately. Seed was sown on good ground, thorny ground, stony ground, and by the wayside. Everyone got a chance to hear the Gospel. Likewise, the Gospel is being spread to all parts of the world today.

Seeing Christ as our example, and following the commands of scripture, we too should sow the seed of the Gospel. As the sower sowed the seed throughout the entire field, good ground or not, we, too, are to spread the Gospel to all people. We are to preach the word to everyone, not just those we deem worthy. We are to preach the word to everyone, whether they are receptive, would make good church members, or whether they wouldn’t. This is what the Lord commanded in Mark 16:15, when He said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

And as we preach, we should remember that we are not responsible for their reaction. Throughout this parable, you see the varied reactions to the Gospel. Some discard the truth as soon as they hear it, some are too distracted by the things of this world, some really dig the religion for a while, but never allow the Gospel to take root in their heart, and others fully receive it. We should not be surprised or discouraged by the rejection, and we should celebrate those whose lives are changed by the Gospel. However, we should never limit our efforts because we don’t feel that the soil is primed for planting, so to speak.

In the Parable of the Sower, the Lord showed us the different reactions the world has toward the Gospel so that we would understand what to expect as we spread the word. However, the Lord also gave us the Parable of the Sower so that we could examine our own hearts, and see whether we are ones who discard the Gospel, who are too distracted by the things of this world to allow it to take root, or whether our faith is superficial. The way we make this determination is to examine the fruit in our lives. Has the Gospel changed you?

That is an extremely important question, “Has the Gospel changed you?” Keep pondering that question and look within yourself for the fruits of that change. Meanwhile, we will continue our study into the parables of Christ over the next few weeks.

If you have any questions about the parables, or about salvation, feel free to contact us below.

If You Could Do Anything…

boy child clouds kid

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

If you had the power to do anything you wanted, what would it be?

If time were not a factor, if money were no object, and if you weren’t limited by physical ability or the laws of physics, what would you do?

Would you go to that certain place you’ve always wanted to visit? Would you see the world? Would you go into space?

Would you seize control over the entire world and declare yourself the ruler of all?

Would you buy a big house, put a giant wall around it, and hide away from the world?

Would you solve all the world’s problems?

Or would you exact revenge on all those that hurt or betrayed you in the past?

The possibilities are endless.

The fascinating part about reading the Book of Mark is that you see Jesus, a man who was also God, and thus had all the power of God. Christ is literally God in flesh. His power and ability were never limited, except by choice.

Yet, when we see Jesus wielding that power, He is helping people. In Mark 3:7-10, Jesus withdraws Himself from the Pharisees, and the multitude of people follow Jesus. They brought people to Him who had diseases, disabilities and were possessed by evil spirits. Jesus turned none away, but spent time healing them.

It’s fascinating, really. The One Who created the universe took on the form of His creation, man, lived among man, and embarked upon a mission to redeem man from sin by dying on the cross for him. His primary mission of redemption shows His love and compassion for us. Yet, as important as His mission was, He took the time and used His power to meet the needs of the people. He healed those who needed healing.

Jesus used His infinite power to meet people’s needs.

backlit cemetery christianity clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As we read Mark 3, we see four great needs. There are the needs of people. There is the need for apostles. There is the need for commitment. And, there is the need for family. Today, Christ works through us to meet those needs.

As we read Mark 3:7-10, we see that the people had needs. They needed healing. They needed deliverance. Jesus met all those needs.

Today, people still need healing. They need physical healing, emotional healing, and Spiritual healing. Physical healing from the diseases, disabilities and ailments that plague us. Emotional healing from the pain of losing loved ones, being betrayed, or worse, abused. Spiritual healing from the lostness that comes natural with this human experience.

Just as Jesus healed the multitudes in Mark 3, He will heal you, too. On numerous occasions, we at Life Point Baptist Church have seen God provide physical healing. We have prayed for Him to deliver a friend from death, and He did. We prayed for another friend to be cured of cancer, and the cancer disappeared. We prayed for one of our members to recover from the effects of diabetes, and they did. In many cases, God provided physical healing. In others, He comforted those suffering by giving the same message He gave to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

Jesus provides emotional healing. This is a tough one, because emotional healing requires a deliberate decision, and a willingness to endure the transformation required for this healing. Emotional healing requires faith, and a willingness to forgive. Still, Christ provides this healing. If you have been hurt by betrayal, abuse, neglect, or you’ve had a loved one pass away, Christ can heal you of that emotional pain. You have to be willing to turn to Him, to lay that pain at His feet, and trust Him to heal you.

Most importantly, Christ provides Spiritual healing. This is the healing of redemption, of being rescued from the condemnation brought on by sin, and being brought into peace with God. This healing is salvation. It brings you into God’s family, and gives you the hope of eternity with Him in His Kingdom. This healing requires repentance from sin, and faith that Jesus Christ will save you. You are fully trusting Him for salvation. This kind of healing brings you peace within your heart.

These types of healing are freely available to any who will turn to the Lord. However, in order for people to know this, the church must actively tell people about Jesus. Which brings us to our next need.

We need apostles.

Now, before you think we’re getting weird, understand that the word “apostle” simply means “one who is sent with a message.” In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus called out His 12 apostles from his disciples, and sent them forth to preach, giving them power to heal and cast out devils.

The apostles were sent forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and to preach preparation for the kingdom through repentance and faith. Likewise, the church today is sent into the world to preach about the coming of the Lord, and to call people to repentance and faith. We are sent forth with the message of the Gospel, how Christ redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins, and resurrecting to give us eternal life. We are sent to preach that the Lord’s salvation, and that eternal life, are obtained by repenting (turning away from) our sin and trusting the Lord for salvation.

God works through His people to accomplish His will on earth. He always has. He worked through Adam to begin the human race. He worked through Abel to show Godliness and highlight sin. He worked through Seth to build a Godly lineage. He worked through Noah to warn the world of judgment, and to continue the human race after the flood. He worked through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to birth the nation of Israel. He worked through Joseph to save Israel from the famine. He worked through Moses to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt.

He worked through Joshua to conquer the promised land. He worked through Ruth to bring forth the Messianic lineage. He worked through David to call the Kingdom to the Lord. He worked through Hezekiah to bring Jerusalem to repentance, thus temporarily delivering them from captivity. He worked through Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn of the captivity.

He worked through Ezekiel to give hope during the captivity. He worked through Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem after the captivity. He worked through John the Baptist to prepare the people for the coming of Christ. And He worked through the apostles to spread the Gospel throughout the entire world in the 1st century.

Today, God works through the churches to spread the Gospel, and to lead people to salvation. Therefore, we need apostles, faithful church members who will go forth with God’s message.

We need commitment.

In Mark 3:25, Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus spoke those words after the Pharisees accused Him of using the power of satan to cast out devils. Jesus told the Pharisees that their accusation made no sense, because if satan operated that way, his kingdom would collapse.

The greater application is that you cannot be both Godly and ungodly. You cannot be both Spiritual and worldly. You must either commit yourself to Christ, or commit yourself to the things of the world. You cannot do both. If you are divided against yourself, you cannot stand.

Many Christians today are hurting themselves by pursuing the pleasures of the world and the desires of the flesh, while trying to enjoy the things of God at their convenience. Christians today need to make a choice, to serve the Lord, or to serve the world. You cannot do both.

Finally, we see the need for family. As Mark 3 closes out, Jesus proclaims that all who do the will of God are His family. As Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. We need to spend time with family. Scripture teaches us to gather, fellowship, worship together, and lift each other up.

Therefore, gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ is important. The best way to do this is through a local church.

We all have needs in this life. The best way to see those needs met is to turn to the Lord, and commit ourselves to Him.

Are you in need of healing? Contact us, and we will be glad to pray with you, and minister to you in any way we can.

 

The Power to Forgive (Mark 2:1-17)

In Mark 2, Jesus is in a house teaching the people about the coming Kingdom of God, their need to repent, and how salvation comes by faith. Many were bringing their sick and disabled loved ones to Jesus for healing, and a crowd had gathered to the point that no one could enter the house.

Then, four men show up carrying their friend who is “sick of the palsy.” Being unable to get him in the door, the men carry him up on the roof, break a hole in the roof, and lower him down in front of Jesus. It is at that moment that the Lord says something peculiar, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Seeing this man disabled and in pain, the first thing Jesus said was, “Your sins are forgiven.” Why?

silhouette image of person praying

Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

Because whether or not we realize it, forgiveness of sin is our greatest need. We need forgiveness more than we need anything else. In this life, we face problems, and there are times we are not sure whether we will make it. Sometimes, our finances are in the tank. Sometimes, our relationships struggle. Sometimes, we suffer health problems. However, no cure to these problems will bring us the peace that comes through the forgiveness of sin.

If we suddenly obtain wealth, we still face the problem of future expenses. If our relationships are healed, there are still the scars of former hurt. Our health will progressively get worse as we get older. Yet, forgiveness of sin is not only an eternal blessing, it removes the fear of the next life from us. Forgiveness of sin will give us an eternal blessing that no earthly blessing can give.

Has God forgiven your sin? Has He forgiven your neighbor?

Take a listen to the above-posted sermon, and give God the glory for forgiven sin.

When It Happens…

On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, there were very few empty seats in the churches across America. Over the prior week, Americans had seen the worst terrorist attack executed on the homeland in history. In the following days, we learned that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by a Middle-Eastern terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and that we were almost certain to go to war in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern wars and world wars have a way of shaking us from our slumber, because they have the potential to fulfill Bible prophecy, which means the end times could be near, and judgment is coming.

Believing the end may have been near, and that judgment was coming, Americans flocked to their local churches to learn whether the attacks of the prior week had prophetic significance, and to learn how close we were to the end.

Within two weeks, fears of the end had subsided, and church attendance slipped back to normal.

There is something about seeing prophecy fulfilled, or believing that the Lord’s return is imminent, that drives people to sudden repentance and religion.

Such was the case in Mark 1:1-15. Mark opens his account of the Gospel by quoting Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner to Christ. In verses 2-3, he writes:

As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

These verses, taken from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, promised that before Christ came, His messenger would arrive and call the nation to repentance. Mark then went on to discuss how John the Baptist fulfilled this scripture:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

-Mark 1:4-5

Seeing the messenger promised in the scriptures, the people flocked to John the Baptist to be baptized with the baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Not long after that, Jesus came, was baptized of John, went into the wilderness, and re-emerged preaching repentance and belief in the Gospel.

In recording these events, Mark makes two observations. (1) Those events indicated that the Kingdom of God was about to arrive, and (2) with those events having happened years prior to his writing, we are even closer to the day of judgment than we were before.

Thus, Mark writes his Gospel with urgency, quoting Jesus Christ as He called the nation to repentance.

Bloch-SermonOnTheMount

The words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 are not only the theme of the Gospel of Mark, but they are the sum of the Lord’s teaching. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

The Lord warns us that the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

What does it mean, “The time is fulfilled?”

If you have ever baked cookies, or even heated a frozen pizza in the oven, you have likely set a timer according to the instructions on the box. When that timer goes off, the time has been fulfilled, and your cookies or pizza is now ready.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled,” He essentially said, “Time’s up! Time to repent. The Kingdom is here.”

We tend to live life as if we have all the time in the world to straighten out our Spiritual matters. Within two weeks after 9/11, we collectively decided that Jesus was not coming back, yet, and thus we quit going to church. We tend to put off Spiritual decisions, commitments to Christ, and resolve to take on those decisions on a more convenient day, which somehow never seems to come.

However, the day will come when our time will be up. And that day is closer than you think.

Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow, or whether he comes back next century, you are still closer than you think to judgment day, for scripture tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” While I could tell you stories of people who passed away unexpectedly before their time, the truth is, even if you live to be 100, the end of your life will arrive faster than you think. Consider how fast your life has passed by up until now.

Therefore, we need to place urgency upon our Spiritual lives, and bring ourselves into alignment with the will of God sooner rather than later.

After pointing out the time-sensitive nature of our Spiritual lives, Jesus then called us to repent.

To repent means to change your mind regarding your sin, abhorring the sins of the past, and making the changes in your life so that you never go back into that life of sin. This goes beyond sorrow for sin. It includes a decision, and a change to never allow yourself to be owned by that sin again.

This practice is commonly seen by alcoholics and recovering drug addicts. Sorrowful for the way they’ve destroyed their lives with drug/alcohol abuse, they resolve to never allow that to happen again. Therefore, they avoid certain places, people and things that could trigger a relapse. The repentant sinner would do well to follow this pattern.

Jesus then called us to believe the Gospel.

The Gospel is defined as how Christ died for our sin, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Our hope, our confident expectation of salvation and heaven comes not from anything we’ve done, or overcome, but rather what Christ did on the cross. His death on the cross paid our sin debt and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Being willing to completely trust that, we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Christ called us to repent and believe, and so we should. Our salvation experience is not only a life-changing event, it is a total life change.

Seeing then that our time is short, and Christ called us to repent and believe, we should do a self-assessment. Have you repented and believed? Are you saved? Are you different now than you were before?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then it is time to get right with the Lord. Go to Him in prayer. Confess your sins to Him. Ask forgiveness. Trust Him to save you based on His work on the cross. Then, as you arise from that prayer, make the changes in your life to leave sin behind.

If you need encouragers to rally around you during this time, we’d love to help at Life Point Baptist Church. Contact us, or come visit our services. We’d love to be there for you during this important time.

The Greatest Love Story Never Told (Song of Solomon)

The Song of Solomon is often overlooked in Bible studies for a variety of reasons. First, it’s located in the middle of the Old Testament. Secondly, the imagery of passionate romance depicted in the book can seem awkward for groups with young children, or groups with both genders. Thirdly, and possibly the biggest reason, is that the book can be difficult to understand.

Even the great Bible expositor Charles Haddon Spurgeon expressed difficulty in interpreting the Song of Solomon when he said the book could only be understood by the “initiated,” and that the book stood in the middle of the Old Testament like the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden, whose fruit you cannot eat unless you are brought by Christ past the cherubim with the fiery sword. Apparently, Spurgeon was incapable of simply saying, “This book is hard.”

Spurgeon song of solomonSong of Solomon is often preached as a book about marriage. However, Spurgeon believed, as do many other Bible teachers, that Song of Solomon is an allegory for the love Christ has for His people.

It’s with that context that we examine the book, Song of Solomon. The Song of Solomon can be divided into three parts… the romance, the wedding, and the marriage. Each mirrors a stage in our walk with Christ. The romance, where Christ loves us regardless of our station in life, and draws us to Him. The wedding, where we repent and commit ourselves to Him, and the marriage, where He takes us to our eternal home. In each of these parts, we can see the passionate love that Christ has toward us.

In the beginning of Song of Solomon, we see the romance develop between the Shulamite woman and King Solomon. In Verses 1:5-6, the Shulamite woman notes that she is black, that she keeps vineyards for others, and her mother’s children were angry with her. The fact that she is black indicates that she has spent her life in hard field labor. She has not known luxury, nor has she been able to preen or care for herself. While she says that she is comely (she looks good,) her body shows the effects of her life of hard labor.

She also says that she has not kept her own vineyard, which means she has no vineyard. She has no wealth, she has no assets.

She is hardly a bride suited for a king. In Old Testament times (as well as medieval times, and even modern times), royalty married those who could bring peace or prosperity to their kingdoms. Alliances, trade agreements, and even mergers were orchestrated through royal weddings. The Shulamite woman can offer none of these.

Yet, despite her destitute situation, King Solomon loves her. In Verse 2:4, the Shulamite woman says, “He brought me to the banqueting house. His banner over me was love.”

This is a Cinderella-type story if there ever was one. King Solomon not only loves the Shulamite woman, and cares for her, but he brings her to the banquet. There’s a banquet, a ball. The creme de la creme are there. And King Solomon has this Shulamite woman on his arm, is introducing her to every one, and his proud to be in love with her.

It means a lot that King Solomon makes this romance public. He loves the Shulamite woman. She is the object of his love, and he is driven by his love to care for her. She is not a scandal to him, and he is not ashamed of her.

This is a mirror to how Christ loves us. He loves us in spite of the fact there is nothing we can do for Him. He loves us in spite of the rejection we suffer at the hands of others. He lifts us out of our hopelessness and takes us into His kingdom, where we can know love, care, and be provided for.

In Chapter 3, we see the wedding. In Verse 3:11, the Shulamite woman tells the daughters of Zion to “Behold King Solomon,” who has been crowned with the crown of his espousals. Also in chapter 3, we see that King Solomon takes the Shulamite woman to His bedchamber, which is surrounded by 60 of the best fighters in the king’s army.

The espousals, the wedding, is the union of King Solomon to the Shulamite woman. The marriage union is an eternal union never to be broken. This is why marriage is so sacred to God. It provides a picture of the love between the Lord and His people.

Being married to King Solomon, the Shulamite woman would never again know fear. She would sleep in the safest place in the kingdom, and the king would never put her out.

Likewise, when you are a child of God, when you know Christ as your Savior, you are in the safest place in the universe, because nothing can get to you without going through God first. And God will never turn you away.

Jesus said in John 5:24, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee. He that heareth My words, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”

Basically, if you know Jesus as your Savior, you will never need to fear God’s wrath, and you will never come into condemnation. You are safe, and the Lord will receive you into His kingdom.

Finally, in Song of Solomon, we see the marriage.

No marriage is perfect. All marriages endure hard times, conflict, and sometimes estrangement. Thus, in Song of Solomon 5:2-8, we see such an occasion arise between the Shulamite woman and King Solomon. The king has come to her door, but she has just gotten ready for bed, her coat is put off, and she has washed her feet, and she doesn’t want to get messy. So, he leaves.

How often does the Lord knock on our door, but we are too busy with the day to day things of life to answer His call? How often are we preoccupied with the things of this world to answer God’s call on our life? How often do we put off doing something for the Lord because today is not a convenient day?

We miss our Bible devotional time, and our prayer time because we are too busy. We refrain from giving to the church because we have a lot of financial plans and obligations. We do not surrender to the ministry God has called us too because it would disrupt our current lifestyles. Then one day, we find ourselves apart from God, wondering why He is silent, and distant.

He knocked. We couldn’t be disturbed. Therefore, the fellowship was broken.

The good news is that there is reconciliation. In Verses 6:1-3 we see the reconciliation between the Shulamite woman and King Solomon. When we repent and turn to the Lord, He forgives, and we are reconciled to Him.

Closing out the Song of Solomon, we see a beautiful sight. In verse 8:12, the Shulamite woman has her own vineyard. The woman who had no vineyard in chapter 1 now has a vineyard of her own. She lives happily ever after, with Solomon.

Likewise, those of us who wonder this earth without a home, those of us who know Christ as our Savior, will one day have an eternal home.

In John 14:2-4, Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

If you know Christ as your Savior, He has prepared an eternal home for you in Heaven. The day is coming when He will return and take you to that eternal home, and you will be with Him forever.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

As Solomon loved the Shulamite woman, so Christ loved us. Will we receive His love by turning from sin and trusting in Him? Or will we spurn His love in favor of the sins of this world. Each will choose for himself or herself. How will you choose?

The 7 Churches (Revelation 2)

The church is dead.

The church is judgmental.

The church is full of hypocrites.

Those common complaints against modern American churches are nothing new. For years, people have complained that the church experience can be cold, uncaring, and full of betrayal at the hands of those who pretend to be Christian, but are not.

Often, those complaints against the church are used as justification for rejecting church membership altogether, electing rather to worship God alone. After all, if Christ knew just how awful the church really is, wouldn’t He support a mass exodus from the church?

It might surprise you to know that the issues with the modern American church are nothing new. In fact, these issues permeated the first century churches. Thus, in Revelation 2, Christ begins the process of addressing each church individually, assessing the condition of each church and instructing them to repent of their sins and shortcomings.

Revelation was written to the seven churches of Asia (now known as Asia minor, or Turkey) to prepare them to meet the Lord. Speaking through the Apostle John, Jesus foretold the events that would precede His return, the events that would mark His judgment, and the promises to every believer.

The book of Revelation was written specifically to those seven churches to prepare them to meet the Lord, but the truth that is taught in this book will prepare us, also, to meet the Lord. Those churches of Asia met the Lord when they passed away. We will meet the Lord when we pass away, or when He returns, whichever comes first. Therefore, we should take the lessons of the book of Revelation and prepare for that day.

One of the most common errors in studying Revelation 2 is that many theologians believe that the letters to the seven churches are actually metaphors for seven different time periods during the church age. This approach to Revelation 2-3 is problematic for many reasons.

First, if Christ had dictated the letters to the seven churches as an allegory for the seven periods of the church age, then the message would have made absolutely no sense to those churches to whom the letters were written.

Secondly, as you read the letters to the seven churches, you will notice that Christ addresses specific issues, and specific individuals within the churches. While many try to parallel those specific individuals and issues with historic events during the church age, the fact of the matter is that there were specific issues and individuals addressed by Christ in those churches.

In other words, when these letters were read to the seven churches of Asia, no one had to ask, “I wonder what the Lord meant by that?” They knew exactly what Christ was talking about, whom He was talking about, and what He was commanding. There was no mystery to those first-century churches.

So, if these letters were addressed to the first century churches, and addressed specific issues within seven specific churches in Asia, then what’s the point of studying them today? Simple.

In the often forgotten Pauly Shore comedy, In The Army Now, Pauly Shore told the drill instructor that “welcomed” him to boot camp that she didn’t have to yell. The drill instructor replied, “IN THE U.S. ARMY, WE DO NOT YELL. WE MERELY SPEAK LOUDLY SO THAT ALL CAN LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES!”

While it may seem sacrilege to reference a Pauly Shore movie during a Bible study, the fact is that we can learn from the mistakes of the seven churches of Asia, and we can take the lessons the Lord teaches them and apply them to our own lives.

In the letters to the churches in Revelation 2, we learn that Christ sees everything. He sees our love and works, or the lack thereof. He sees the motivation for our works. He sees our struggles and problems. He sees our errors. Then, He calls us to repent.

The above posted episode of The Point expounds those truths. If you listen, I predict you will be blessed by it.

Passions

Have you ever lost your cool?

Or in a moment of weakness, have you ever made a decision you regretted?

If we’re to be honest, life is full of regrets. We regret the sins of our past, our bad decisions, the things that bring us shame and even the things no one knows about.

I think to a large degree this is one reason why many people skip church. Life can become one big guilt trip, and hearing a sermon about sin and impure motivations in the heart can compound that guilt.

Guilt is universal. The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee once said that he has never been the preacher, husband or father he thought he should be. A man who spent his life teaching millions of people through the Bible felt like he didn’t measure up.

And then there’s the Apostle Paul, who said in Acts 14:15, “ We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God.”

The like passions Paul experienced are the same ones Dr. McGee experienced, which are the same passions you and I experience. It’s the sin nature. It’s temptation. And all too often, we fall before it.

Yet Christianity goes beyond defining the problem of sin and temptation. Christianity teaches us about God’s grace, forgiveness and redemption from that sin and temptation.

Notice how Paul, in Acts 14:15 exhorted the people to turn from their sin to God. Obviously to please God, we must believe in Him and trust Jesus Christ as Savior. That involves the confession that sin is evil and the decision that we no longer want a part in it.

Yet, our passions pull us back in. At this point we truly see how awesome the grace of God is, because even though we continue to struggle and fall, God continually forgives us. He loves us in spite of our weaknesses and failures.

When I read Dr. McGee’s statement that he falls short, and when I read Paul’s statements about his shortcomings, and when James mentions Elijah’s passions in James 5, I am reminded that I am not alone. You are not alone. We all struggle with sin, and come short of the glory of God.

But God be praised, He loves us anyway.

Don’t let sin and shame keep you out of the Lord’s presence. He already knows all about it. Come on in, and let Him love you through it.