salvation

The Price of Rejection

In Luke 10, Jesus told His disciples to tell the cities that rejected Him that “the Kingdom has come near” to them. Those cities had the opportunity to hear Jesus, see Jesus, be healed by Jesus, and most of all be redeemed by Jesus, yet they passed on that opportunity and rejected Him.

We live in an amazing time where we have an abundance of Bibles in multiple languages and translations, we have stores full of books about the Bible and the Christian faith, and you can go online and listen to almost any Bible teacher in the world. We live in a time when the Gospel and scripture, as well as solid Bible teaching is readily available. The Kingdom truly has come near to us.

The question is, what do we do with that? Join Pastor Leland Acker in Luke 10:10-24 by listening to the audio posted above.

Introducing the Christ

In Luke 4:16-30, Jesus returns home to Nazareth, where He visits the local synagogue and reads from Isaiah 61. His visit came after having spent time preaching and teaching along the shores of Galilee, near Capernaum. Those who had heard Him preach glorified Him, and He had apparently performed some miracles along the way.

The passage He read at the Nazareth synagogue was a Messianic prophecy concerning the healing and restoration that Messiah would bring, a reference to the power of the Gospel. The people, however, were unimpressed, wishing that He would rather perform some of the same miracles He did in Capernaum. When Jesus confronted their hardness of heart, they tried to kill Him, but He passed through them and escaped.

In reading the opening of Isaiah 61, we are reminded of the power of the Gospel. It is the Gospel that brings healing and eternal salvation. We are also reminded of Who Jesus really is, and why we should place our faith in Him. Ultimately, we are reminded of the hope that our faith brings.

What Child is This? (Luke 2:22-40)

Simeon was a man who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would live to see the day that Christ would arrive. Think about how amazing that must have been?

How would you feel if you knew that scripture would be fulfilled in your lifetime? How would you feel knowing that you would live to see the second coming of Christ, and the establishment of His Kingdom on Earth?

How would you be impacted if that which you believed in your entire life was suddenly real, tangible, and right in front of you?

All of these were realities to Simeon, who in Luke 2:22-40, was overcome with his excitement and lifted up his praises toward God. In his and Anna’s praise, three observations are made:

  1. Jesus is the Christ.
  2. Jesus is Salvation.
  3. Jesus is Redemption.

The Christ is the Anointed One, the Chosen One, the Messiah. In scripture, God made multiple promises to Israel, and He made many promises to us. Each and everyone of those promises would be fulfilled by the Christ. Simeon identifies the Christ as Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus is Salvation. It’s His very nature, and it’s even in His name. The name “Jesus” literally means “The Lord is Salvation.” Jesus gave His life on the cross to save us from our sins, from darkness, from hopelessness, and to bring in everlasting life, and eternal reward.

Jesus is redemption. Redemption means to be liberated from bondage by the payment of an outstanding debt. We were in bondage to sin and condemnation, but Jesus liberated us by paying our sin-debt, that we may go free.

Simeon’s words are deep and profound. Check out Life Point’s worship service, posted above, and learn more through Pastor Leland Acker’s message on “What Child is This?”

Did Dr. King Know What Was Coming?

More than 51 years later, it is still chilling to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., conclude his iconic “Mountaintop” speech with the following words:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

In concluding this speech, Dr. King asserted that he did not fear death, because he knew God would bring about the racial equality and justice for which he advocated. He compared his plight to that of Moses, who did not get to enter Canaan with the Israelites, but was allowed to go to the mountaintop, and look over into the promised land. Moses died on that mountain.

Did Dr. King know he was in his final hours? Less than 20 hours after giving that speech, his life would be claimed by the assassin’s bullet. Yet, Dr. King was not deterred by the threat of death. His commitment: “I just want to do God’s will.”

What makes the Mountaintop Speech so chilling is that you get the idea that Dr. King had been given a full view of God’s will, the future of humanity, and the glories of His kingdom. Having been to the “mountaintop,” Dr. King’s commitment to doing God’s will has elevated, and he no longer (if ever) feared what would happen in his life, or to his life.

A similar occurrence happened in the Bible. The Apostle Paul said in Acts 20:22-24:

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Notice the similarities.

Dr. King said, “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now,¬†because I’ve been to the mountaintop.”

The Apostle Paul said, “I go bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing what things shall befall me there.”

Dr. King said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will.”

Paul said, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

Both men were keenly aware of where they stood in life. Both men were committed to their causes to the point of death. Both men were driven to advance their message.

Both men were driven by their faith, which was so strong that it had become real to them. We don’t know if Dr. King literally had a mountaintop experience like Moses, but we know that his faith was so strong that it in itself became the mountaintop. Likewise, Paul was so driven by his faith that God’s Kingdom was tangible to him as well.

Such is the nature of faith. The stronger it gets, the more tangible the things of God become. Which is why Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith makes God tangible!

Maybe that’s why we don’t see God move this powerfully in our own lives. Maybe our faith is not strong enough. Maybe we don’t really believe in anything.

Seriously, what do we stand for? What drives us? What gets us out of bed in the morning? What motivates us to speak, or post on social media? What did your preacher preach about last Sunday? And what did yall study in Sunday School?

We, as Christians, need to figure out our “why.” Why go to church? Why give an offering? Why pray? Why read scripture? Why work? What is our motivation?

We cannot invent our “why.” Our “why” is inherent in who we are. So, to find our “why,” we have to find ourselves. While finding yourself sounds like a man buying a motorcycle for a cross-country road trip in the middle of a mid-life crisis, it’s not. It’s simply going back to your roots, and who you are.

And, if you are a Christian, here’s who you are. Here’s who we are.

We are sinners, who, like the rest of the world, were condemned by God for our sin. We’ve all broken God’s law. None of us are righteous. No, not one. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

But God loved us so much, that He sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, to Earth to live our experience, then give Himself on the cross for our sins. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8).

While on that cross, Jesus took the wrath of God for the sins of the world, more specifically, He suffered God’s wrath for every individual’s sin. Our sin was paid for on that cross (1 John 2:1-2).

Realizing our sin, and our sinful condition, we surrender to the Lord, and trust Him to save us by virtue of His payment on the cross. In doing so, we confess our sin, and confess our inability to save ourselves. (John 3:16, Romans 5:1, Romans 4).

We symbolize our faith and salvation through baptism (Romans 6:1-10).

With this renewed understanding of life, and with the Spirit dwelling within us, we become new people (Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

The question is, “Do you believe that?” and if so, do you believe it strongly enough for it to motivate you? Is God’s salvation in your life your “why?” And if not, why not?

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.

Liberated (Mark 5:1-20)

In Mark 5, Jesus travels to the land of the Gadarenes, where He meets a man that was possessed, not by one, not by two, but by a legion of demons.

This man was in as bad a shape as anyone can get. Scripture tells us that he cried out night and day, that he cut himself with the rocks, and he lived among the tombs. Safe to say, the man was in total agony.

We don’t know how the man came to be possessed with a legion of demons. Demonic possession is not something you catch like a virus. You can randomly catch a cold, or pink-eye. However, you don’t randomly catch a demon.

Demonic possession is something that happens when you give Satan space to work in your life, and we have at least one example in scripture where a man was specifically possessed by Satan. It was Judas Iscariot in John 13:27, who had Satan enter into him after he decided to betray Jesus for a payoff. Multiple demonic possession often comes by trying to battle demons without the Lord’s power.

The lesson we learn is the dangers of sin and rejecting Christ. Sin promises endless pleasure and freedom. What it actually delivers is agony and bondage.

So, here we are in Mark 5, and this man is completely degraded and destroyed by the demons in his life. Perhaps you understand what that’s like. Perhaps you don’t.

Either way, we know that this man was powerless to help himself, and he was powerless to deliver himself from the demons. In fact, when Christ showed up, all he could do was throw himself to the feet of Jesus in hopes of receiving the mercy of Christ.

Likewise, when we are beset by sin, all we can really do is throw ourselves at the feet of the Lord and trust His mercy and grace.

At that point, Christ commanded the demon to come out of him. This man could only trust in the grace and mercy of Christ, and Christ rewarded that by liberating him from the demons.

You see, when we come to Christ, He does not demand that we do certain things to obtain His grace. He simply rewards that faith by giving His grace.

Once this man was liberated from his demons, he wanted to go with Jesus wherever He went. He wished to follow Jesus, learn from Jesus and serve Jesus. This should be the response of every redeemed child of God.

Instead of welcoming him to the team, Jesus commanded the man to go and tell everyone back home what the Lord did for him. Likewise, Christ wants us to lead others to faith by sharing our testimony.

The message of liberation in Mark 5:1-20 is one of blessing and encouragement. Take a listen, and then share Christ with others.

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God Sustains (Psalm 3:5)

In today’s message, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how David depended on God’s deliverance through the worst times, and how we can draw strength, comfort and deliverance from God today. For more, listen to the message posted above, and check out “When Life’s Out to Crush You.”

The Death…

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“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23

The circle of life used to be a straight line, and the daily struggle didn’t exist. Such was life in the Garden of Eden, as God prepared a perfect place for man to dwell with a plentiful food supply, an automatic sprinkler system, no bad weather, and no problems. Adam and his wife, who would later be named Eve, were to enjoy the garden to its fullest, eat as much of the fruit as they wanted, and to do light gardening work as they desired. (Irrigation was covered, and there were no weeds, thorns or pests, so all work was recreational.)

In this perfect world, there was no death. Adam would not die. He would be allowed to live to see what his children, grandchildren, etc, would become. He would live to see what his work would produce. He would live to see the society he would build. It was perfect.

There was one stipulation. The tree in the midst of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was off limits. This was for two reasons. (1) God wanted man to obey, love and worship Him by choice, and (2) God did not want man to experience the evil he knew Satan already had planned for His creation.

Therefore, God warned Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

Adam likely did not have any concept of death. Prior to his sin in the garden, there was no death. Adam had never mourned for his dog who died, had never suffered that separation from a close loved one, and had never experienced lost fellowship with God. He had no concept of death. However, if God warned against it, it must be bad, and therefore the tree of knowledge of good and evil must be avoided.

The Biblical meaning of death is separation. Separation of soul from body. Separation of man from God. The day that Adam ate the fruit, his soul wasn’t separated from his body, but he was separated from God. Death happened. And death, both the separation of the soul from the body, and the separation of man from God, happened the day Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.

Since that time, man has sinned, and his sin has become progressively worse. Man has become ever estranged from God. Man rebels against God, His word, His law, His design. As man does this, things on earth get progressively worse. Adam didn’t live to see a great society built. He lived to see the world become so bad that God decided to destroy it with the flood. (Adam didn’t live to see the flood, but he did live to see the conditions that led to it.)

Sin separated man from God, therefore man died, and sin reigned. And so it was.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The death prescribed by God in Genesis 2 went beyond physical death. It also meant an eternal death, an eternal separation of man from God, where God was no longer man’s Father and Provider, but rather man’s judge, jury and executioner. Sin brings death. Death brings judgment.

Yet, God loves us too much to leave it at that. Romans 5:8 says “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The death Christ died was the death brought on by our sin. The death Christ died was the death we deserved. The death of Christ on the cross was not a mere physical death, from which the Lord could easily heal Himself. It was a separation… His Spirit from His body, but moreover, His separation from His beloved Father.

As Jesus hung on the cross, saying, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” He was not merely shouting out in agony. Neither was He sad that God “turned His back on Him.” Jesus cried, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” because the relationship had changed.

The perfect union between God the Father and God the Son had been converted to the relationship of judge and executioner. Instead of lovingly comforting His Son, God was now judging His Son, and pouring out His wrath on Christ for all the sin of the world. This was done to satisfy the requirement for death, so that man could be saved from God’s wrath, if man repents and believes.

Out of all the cruelties that Christ endured on the cross, the hardest part was enduring the wrath of God.

Pastor Bobby Sparks of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, Tex., who also heads up the Tabernacle ministries, says that on the day of the crucifixion of Christ, man was given one “hour” to do unto God has he pleased. Pastor Sparks then points out how man treated Christ with more cruelty and shame than has ever been dealt to any other human being in history.

The cruelty of the Romans, the scourgings and beatings, the mocking of the crowds, merely demonstrated the evil and sin within man’s heart. It was the wrath of God poured out onto Jesus that settled our sin-debt, cleared us from guilt, and makes reconciliation with God possible.

Jesus Christ died that death, so we don’t have to. Yes, we will one day close our eyes as our soul leaves our body. However, we do not have to suffer an eternity separated from God. Are you willing to trust what Jesus Christ did on the cross for your salvation? Do you trust the Lord? Then turn from your sin and follow Him.

May God bless you.

Gospel Week: Celebrating the Central Theme of Christianity

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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.