Sunday, May 3, 2020

Forgetting Christ?

It is our practice at Faith Baptist Church to worship the Lord on the first Sunday evening of every month through participating in the Lord's Table, or as some call the communion service. Tonight we will miss participating because of the Covid 19 stay at home orders. This grieves me because it is an important part of our corporate worship to our Lord! We participate, in part, to remember all that Christ has done for us.

This morning I came across a message by Charles Haddon Surgeon entitled "The Remembrance of Christ." He preached from 1Corinthians 11:24. The message was given on a Sunday evening in January of 1855. In this message Spurgeon remarked that the "text implies the possibility of forgetfulness." He went on to say that "Christians may forget Christ." He then again wrote, "Nor is this a bare supposition: it is, alas, too well confirmed in our experience, not as a possibility, but as a lamentable fact."

At first, these statements startled me. I thought to myself "how can a believer forget Christ?" But then it hit me, Spurgeon was right, it wasn't really that hard after all. We allow our minds to be so preoccupied by so many things, and we have an enemy in Satan who loves to distract us from proper meditation on the Lord and His Word!

Consider with me for a moment the phrase "this do in remembrance of me" found in 1Corinthians 11:24, 25. For context, observe the text below.
1Corinthians 11:23-26 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:  (24)  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.  (25)  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.  (26)  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.
The remembrance statement is a command, and the word for remembrance means to remind, to recall, a memorial so one does not forget. Alexander MacLaren comments, "The real meaning of the words is, ‘Do this in case you forget’; do this in order that you may recall to memory what the slippery memory is so apt to lose-the impression of even the sweetest sweetness, of the most loving love, and the most self-abnegating sacrifice, which He offered for us." 

There are ways in which mankind is very forgetful. The Israelites of the Old Testament struggled with forgetfulness. They quickly forgot the mighty acts that God performed on their behalf! Moses had to continually challenge the people to not forget. Notice in two texts from the Book of Deuteronomy:
Deuteronomy 4:7-9  For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?  (8)  And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?  (9)  Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;
Deuteronomy 6:12  Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Friends, we are not much different from the Israelites of old. And this is why Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit reminded the Corinthians of Jesus' words "do this in remembrance of me."  

How might we forget Christ? Well, every time we commit a sin- we forget about Christ! Every time we tell a lie, respond in anger, take out our frustrations on others, complain about things, act selfishly, etc. You get the point! There are other ways which are more subtle such as mindlessly worshipping on Sunday mornings. Singing great hymns about Christ while thinking about other things. Texting or serfing the web durring the worship service. Or maybe even serving the Lord at church in order to be seen or praised for what you are doing. Or what about Teaching a bible class, then later in the service be gossipping or complaining about someone. See, there is any number of ways in which we can fail to "remember" Chirst. 

Let us guard our hearts and purpose to keep Christ at the forefront of our minds and lives. Let us follow the mindset of Paul in Philipians 3:8 "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,"  Notice that Paul wanted "win Christ." What does Paul mean? I believe that he is saying that he wants to know Christ better by experience. To enjoy Christ in every aspect of life. It is Christ that fills his life, not the things he lost and gave up. The loss of other things were really no loss at all because Christ fully replaced any percieved or seeming loss. William Hendrickson, commenting on winning/gaining Christ, suggested that in meant "to make Christ more and more fully his own."  Christ was everything to Paul! So, he shared Jesus' words back in 1Corinthians 11:24 that believers are to continuously celebrate the Lord's Table in order to remember all that Christ did for mankind on the Cross. 

So, how forgetful are you? I hope not to forgetfull. Keep Christ as your supreme possession! Look to Him daily! Study His Word daily! Consistantly promote His glory! And we all look forward to when we can once again participate in the Lord's Table in our local congregations with our brothers and sisters in Christ! 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trusting in the Power of God

Are you struggling with any fears or worries today? If so, we have a Mighty God who is up to the task of strengthening us! Martin Luther wrote in his wonderful hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, "A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing." We have an all powerful God who deeply loves us and desires to strengthen us! I have been greatly challenged by Psalm 86 and find great comfort in David's reminders to us of the power of God to help in our time of need. Take not of verses 7-10:
Psalm 86:7-10 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.  (8)  Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.  (9)  All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.  (10)  For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
Notice David's determination to pray in v.7. When trouble came to David he knew enough to bow in prayer. Back in v.1 David asked God to hear (answer) him because he had a great need. David seems to be asking for God's presence to comfort him, but the implication seems to be that he does not "feel" God's presence. So again, here in v.7 David calls upon the Lord. Notice that David is determined to call upon his great God even when he does not "feel" God's presence because he knows the theological truth that God is there for Him. We cannot depend on feelings, but we must depend on God's truth! So David calls upon God through his troubles and trusts that God will answer (v.7).

Notice in v.8 that David understood that the false gods of the nations around him were impotent; no ability to act for they are the figment of man's imagination. What have the false god's ever created or destroyed? Elijah, on Mount Carmel, challenged the worshippers of Baal to call upon their gods to send down fire to burn up their sacrifice (1Kings 18:22ff.). So they cried and cried unto their gods, but nothing happened! Notice 1Ki 18:26-27-
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.  (27)  And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
But when Elijah called upon Yahweh, the fire came down and consumed his sacrifice (1Kings 18:31-40).  "Gods" of man's imagination can do nothing! So why do so many today, including Christians, look for help and comfort through idols? Yes, idols. When we look to anything other than our God, we are looking to idols. Idols of philosophy. Idols of psychology. Idols of friends thoughts. Idols of our own thinking. We may even turn to the idols of shopping, sports, eating, etc. We may be tempted to turn to anything to find relief from our problems and frustrations. But listen friend, only God can guide, comfort, and help us!

In v.9 David also found comfort that eventually all nations will be brought under the rule of God in the Millennial Kingdom! He had confidence in the Lord's universal sovereignty and saving plan for the Nations. David sees God's mercy extended beyond Israel. The Abrahamic Covenant promised salvation even unto the Gentiles (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 28:14). As a gentile, I am especially glad that God's care, mercy, and love extends beyond the Jews.

David then again focuses on God's power in v.10. As seen with many of David's Psalms, he drew hope and strength from rehearsing God's wonderful acts. David says that God does "wondrous things." The Hebrew word means to do something extraordinary, or difficult, especially His acts of deliverance and judgment. These are supernatural acts that defy our understanding, amaze us, and cause us to praise Him. Acts like the crossing of the Red Sea, providing manna/food from heaven, providing water from a rock, feeding Elijah by the ravens, and Joshua's crossing the Jordan River at flood stage. Friends, God is all powerful and can help you through any problem that you have today! Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Being good, God is ready to forgive; being great, He works wonders." 

Listen! Things in your life may be discouraging you and may even seem hopeless, but God can fix them or see you through them. Only God can truly help you! There is no where else to turn. Focus on God's mercy, love, and power! Don't turn to "idols." God is able and delights to help His children. There is nothing in your life to great for Him! Deal with your sins (1John 1:9), humble yourself, and turn to God in full trust and watch Him work on your behalf!

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Vital Importance of Prayer

For the Believer in Christ, prayer is of the upmost importance! Unfortunately, I fear that too many of us fail to grasp hold of just how important that it really is for our spiritual maturity. In Psalm 86 we find David in a time of distress. He seems to fail to feel the presence of the Lord in his time of need. But what I love about David is that even though that he does not "feel" the presence of the Lord, he knows that God is still with him as we often witness in his Psalms.  Take note of the first three verses of Psalm 86:

A Prayer of David. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.  (2)  Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.  (3)  Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

Notice how David pleads with the Lord to hear and answer him. But, even more importantly, notice how David comes to the Lord. He recognizes his spiritual neediness; "poor and needy." We must recognize this same thing. We NEED God daily because as mere humans, we are weak and constantly in need of the Lord for strength! Also recognize in v.3 above that David comes to God in prayer "daily."  David had many physical and spiritual needs that he could not solve himself, so he wisely turned to the Lord. We must follow his example and daily depend on the Lord by cultivating a stronger prayer life.

We find in the New Testament Scriptures a great illustration of the importance of prayer with our Lord's final hours with His disciples in Mark 14:26-51. Turn to and read the passage before you continue reading here.

Notice in verses 26 and following that they left the upper room and headed to the Mount of Olives where Jesus will spend some time with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. As they are walking, Jesus informs them that they will stumble and turn against Him- Mark 14:27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.  Peter quickly answers that he will never deny the Lord. The others answered likewise. Peter, along with the other disciples failed to recognize their spiritual weakness and constant need for spiritual strength. See, they failed to remember David's Psalms.

Jesus and the disciples finally make it to the garden (Mark 14:32ff.). Jesus instructs eight of the disciples to wait by the gate, possibly just inside of it, while He takes Peter, James, and John further into the Garden to pray. In vv.33-34 Jesus became very distressed and grieved under the pressure of the coming cross experience. I don't believe that we will ever understand what Jesus was going through, but He desired that these three disciples experience some of His grief with Him and to pray with Him. Notice Mark 14:34: "And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch." Jesus instructed them to "watch," to be vigilant and alert. Why? Because their was spiritual danger. Jesus prophesied in v.27 that they would stumble and scatter. Satan was waiting to "devour" them: 1Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: We must all be on alert because there is spiritual warfare around us. Satan wants to trip you up- devour you! Prayer is a vital ingredient to our maturing spiritually and being able to "resist the Devil" (James 4:7).

Jesus goes a little beyond them and drops to the ground to pray to His Father in Heaven. Remember, that Jesus came to His disciples twice and found them sleeping. He gently scolds them and reminds them of the great importance of "watching and praying lest they enter temptation" (v.38). Then Jesus makes this remark in the same verse: "The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." The spirit is eager- Peter truly believed what he said in verses 29 and 31 that he would not deny or leave the Lord. But what he failed to understand was that the "flesh is weak."

Jesus knew what He was talking about. He knew the weaknesses of mankind. He knew the power of Satan's temptations. Remember Satan tempting Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus experienced the full force of Satan's temptations and resisted every one of them. He knows Satan's tricks. You and I end up failing at some point. This is why Jesus challenged His disciples and the Holy Spirit challenges us to "watch and pray."

One last point I want you to meditate on! We have Jesus here praying to His Father. We have Jesus agonizing in the Garden. If Jesus needed to consult His Father, how much do you and I need to pray? We are not Jesus! We do not have His power and strength! We are always needy, even if in different degrees.

So let us learn from David the importance of Prayer. And let us also learn from Jesus' instruction and by His example the vital necessity of prayer. How often do you bring your problems, sins, and concerns to the Lord? How dependent are you upon the Lord! Let me challenge you today to Pray! Pray! Pray!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Walking By Faith

I was greatly challenged this morning as I read the account of Abraham's Faith being tested by God in Genesis 22. In many ways, our faith is being tested now by living during this Covid 19 Pandemic. Fear and anxiety fill the hearts of many, including some Christians. Fear is simply a tool of Satan to drive us away from truly trusting God. So, what does this have to do with Abraham? Well, Abraham's faith was tested through an unusual command of God. Genesis 22:2 "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." What would Abraham do? How would he handle a situation that was hard to understand? How could God form a nation and keep His promise if Isaac is dead? Isaac was the promised seed through which God would eventually form the Nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:15-19). Observe and learn from the great faith of Abraham in God's Promises.

We saw above that Abraham was commanded to sacrifice His son. How could God command this? Human sacrifice was forbidden and was a heathen practice performed by the wicked nations around him. How could one understand this request? But notice that Abraham never questioned God- He simply obeyed. Genesis 22:3 "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him." We find no questioning or arguing from Abraham. Even though he probably did not at all understand what God was doing, he followed God's order with unfailing trust in God's wisdom.

It took days to get to the mountain as we observe in Genesis 22:4 "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." With that amount of time there is a temptation to start to question what you are doing. The mind can start to imagine all kinds of things- twisted things if we don't guard it. But Abraham's obedience here to God's command and word never waivered. Contrasted to Abraham's trust, we find Gideon's hesitancy and little faith in Judges 6. When the Lord visited Gideon and declared to him that he would save Israel from the Midianites, Gideon questioned, gave excuses, and pleaded for signs. Notice these examples:

Judges 6:15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.  Judges 6:17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Judges 6:36-37  And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,  Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor...

Gideon failed to immediately trust in the Lord's plans and instructions, even though he would go on to do as the Lord asked of him. Abraham did not ask for signs, did not question God, or give excuses, he simply trusted and obeyed. In Genesis 22:9-10 Abraham reaches their destination, builds an altar, ties up Isaac, places him onto the altar, and is about to kill him until the Lord stops him. Notice what God says in Genesis 22:12 "And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."  Observe what God did for Abraham and Isaac: Genesis 22:13 "And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son."

There is one more thing that I want you to observe in Genesis 22. Isaac himself never argued with his father or with God. He too, willingly allowed his father to place him on the altar. Isaac was not a little boy here. Notice the v.5- "And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." The words for "young men" and "lad" are the same Hebrew word. Isaac could have stopped his aged father from tying him up, but he did not! Isaac too, was trusting God!  Abraham passed down his faith and trust to his son Isaac.

So, how should all of this challenge us today in our endurring the challenging time in which we live? We, like Abraham and Isaac must trust in God's Word and promises. None of us know exactly why all of this is happening to us today. It is hard to be confined to our houses and isolated from other people. It is hard to be away from others that we love. It is challenging to do our grocery shopping. It imay be hard to explain to our children. Some are going "stir crazy." As, Christians though, we know that God is still Sovereiegn over it all. God has a purpose for it all. God deeply cares for us as we observe in His Word. Let us walk like Abraham today!! Trust that God knows what He is doing and will see us through what we don't understand. Unwaveringly, follow His will! Completely trust in His care! Immediately obey His Word! and for the parents out there, teach your children to trust the Lord and to find comfort in Him! "Trust and Obey" as the hymn goes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Proper Response

Because of the Covi19 Pandemic many people are living in fear. This disease is serious, but many others have come before and mankind has survived. We must not panic and lose all sense of rationality. We must not allow fear to drive our lives. For those who are in Christ, our God is still sovereign and in full control over life's events. Nothing catches God off guard. The Psalmist proclaims in Psalm 121:2-4  "My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."  So, don't fear! What should we do then? What is an appropriate response? Let us observe James 4:1-10.

Here in James 4, James is dealing with selfish, worldly believers and the conflicts that naturally arise from such behavior. In verses 6-10 James provides us with the remedy for the problem in verses 1-4, which also provides a good response for us in the face of our present situation. 

1) Ask for Grace: James 4:6 states, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." God desires to dispense grace to us. God will give grace in our time of need if we humble ourselves, walk in step with the Holy Spirit (v.5), and ask the Lord for it. With our wonderful God, we have all that we need to walk in peace through any storm that comes our way. 

2) Submit to God: James 4:7a states, "Submit yourselves therefore to God."  We must bring our lives under the total control of the Lord by recognizing His absolute sovereignty over us! Stop trying to live life your way. You do not know what is best- He does! Even if that means that you must go through difficult circumstances. He cares for you- He will see you through. He has a reason for everything we go through.  Romans 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." The Lord molds and shapes us by every circumstance that He brings into our lives. He has your best interest in mind! 

3) Resist the DevilJames 4:7b commands us to "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Don't let the devil, the deciever fill your mind with fears and lies. Claim God's promises from His Word! Immerse yourself in God's Word. Know God's truth and ignore the Devil's deceptions. He would love for you to listen to everything you hear on the news and lose sight of God's love and care for you. He wants you to fear! He wants to fill you with anxiety and confusion. Resist Him and James says that "he will flee from you." 

4) Draw nigh to God: James 4:8a challenges us to "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." The beauty of Christianity is that we have a personal God who desires an intimate relationship and has provided a way to have it through the atoning work of His Son. Observe  Hebrews 4:14-16  "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  (15)  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  (16)  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." We can come boldly before God through the blood of Christ. God wants us to come! James says that "he will draw nigh to you." Take time to read His Word and to talk to Him. He is listening and ready to comfort you! 

5) Deal with your sins: One of my favorite professors was Dr. Robert Delnay who use to always tell us "to keep short accounts with God." What great advice. Listen to Jamess 4:8b "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." Sin, including a weak faith, will hinder our drawing nigh to God for strength and peace!  Cleansing your hands involves keeping your conduct pure, and purifying your hearts involves the purity of your thoughts and motives. Deal with sin quickly and keep your "pathway to God" clear in order to enjoy comfort. peace, and guidance.

6) Know when to be serious:  James 4:9 instructs us: "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness." To boil the verse down, James tells us to take sin seriously. Know what sin is and despise it! Have a true sorrow for sin in yourself and in others. In the context of James 4, James is challenging his readers to get serious about worldliness and the constant pursuit of personal, selfish desires that led to conflict with others and with God. Know what sin is and when you commit it- confess it and repent of it. 1John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When we truly repent of sin and learn to despise it, then we can enjoy the goodness of the Lord.  We have serious pursuits to follow. There is a time to laugh and be more light hearted, but we must also know how to be serious with God and with His Work. God has a job for us to do- Go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). 

7) Humble Yourselves: James 4:10 states, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."  We come full circle and return to humility- bowing down before God’s greatness and sovereignty. Putting God before ourselves! He must be our priority! Then, He will lift you up- exalt you now and in the future. This may come in different forms now. He can raise up your spirit, strengthen you, give you joy, peace, dignity and honor before others if these things fit His plan for you. The point is that humility before the Lord will be rewarded.  

By following James prescriptions (in reality the Holy Spirit's prescriptions) we can come rightly before God and enjoy His presence, direction, and peace in the midst of troubling times! God is with His children! Draw comfort and direction from Him!!