BEING DRAWN TO CHRIST BY PLEASURE

Jn.6:43,44 – Jesus responded, “Stop your grumbling! The only way people come to me is by the Father who sent me—he pulls on their hearts to embrace me. And those who are drawn to me, I will certainly raise them up in the last day.”

This could be considered one of those hard sayings of Jesus. It doesn’t even seem to sync with everything modern man esteems so highly. We want credit for everything and this shoots that right in the head. If this is true, salvation is totally dependent on the Lord. This concept of being chosen by God is where Augustine camped out. He had come to the conclusion that man was a prisoner to his pursuit of carnal pleasure. What was the solution? According to Augustine it was a higher pleasure. It is the Lord Himself that awakens us and draws us to the sweetest of all pleasures, the pleasure that is found in Christ alone. Here is Augustine describing this holy pursuit.

“There is a pleasure of the heart to which that bread of heaven is sweet. Moreover, if it was right in the poet to say, “Every man is drawn by his own pleasure,” — not necessity, but pleasure; not obligation, but delight, — how much more boldly ought we to say that a man is drawn to Christ when he delights in the truth, when he delights in blessedness, delights in righteousness, delights in everlasting life, all which Christ is? Or is it the case that, while the senses of the body have their pleasures, the mind is left without pleasures of its own? If the mind has no pleasures of its own, how is it said, “The sons of men shall trust under the cover of Thy wings: they shall be well satisfied with the fullness of Thy house; and Thou shalt give them drink from the river of Thy pleasure. For with Thee is the fountain of life; and in Thy light shall we see light?”

Augustine was preaching from his own experience. He too had known the prison of sinful pleasures. It was the sweetness of sovereign grace that won his affections. So if Jesus is right, no one can come to the Father until this heavenly attraction settles in. Have you tasted the sweetness of amazing grace for yourself or are you still trapped in the the swamp of sinful pleasures? There is only one way out, we are saved by grace alone as we too taste the power of His Sovereign grace.

WHEN SIMEON SAW HIS FACE

(Luke 2:28–31 THE MESSAGE) – Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God: God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:

And who could forget old Simeon who had been waiting for this day for years. How did he know who this little baby was? Was it something in his face that grabbed his attention? This was Simeon’s defining moment. This was the messiah, a supernatural birth, a sign to be spoken against. Now he could go home in peace.

When you see Him for yourself it changes the way you see everything else. Like David said, “in Your light we see light”. Simeon’s world was literally flooded with light the day he saw Jesus in the temple. He had been waiting for a long time, probably for years, to see that wonderful face. It is believed that Simeon had been a powerful leader in Israel and lost his position because of what he believed about the coming Messiah. All of that waiting and ridicule was done, He had now seen the One he had been waiting for. This was the sign spoken against that would flood the whole world with light. This light was shining on Simeon as he prophesied of things to come. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this a passage.

“Lord, now let thou thy servant depart, for mine eyes have seen the salvation I was promised a sight of before I died.”… He blessed God that he saw that salvation in his arms which many prophets and kings desired to see, and might not…..And, while it has been thus long in the coming, it hath still been in the preparing. It is a farewell to this world: “Now let thy servant depart; now mine eyes have been blessed with this sight, let them be closed, and see no more in this world.” The eye is not satisfied with seeing, till it hath seen Christ, and then it is. What a poor thing doth this world look to one that hath Christ in his arms and salvation in his eye! Now adieu to all my friends and relations, all my enjoyments and employments here, even the temple itself.”

I love what Henry said, “the eye is not satisfied with seeing until it sees Christ, and then it is”. Have you seen Him for yourself? How will you know ? When you can say goodbye to everything else like Simeon because you have seen the treasure Who is Christ for yourself. Simeon was willing to walk away from friends, relations, and the temple itself. What was his reward? He saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

KANYE – SIGN OF THINGS TO COME

Matt:21:31,32 – Jesus said, “You’re right. For many sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes are going into God’s kingdom realm ahead of you! John came to show you the path of goodness and righteousness, yet the despised and outcasts believed in him, but you did not. When you saw them turn, you neither repented of your ways nor believed his words.”

Kanye West has got church people talking, everyone has their opinion. I guess everyone is shocked to see Kanye accept the message of Christ and repentance. Who would have thought? It’s quite shocking to see who accepts the gospel and those who don’t. That was one of the shocking things about the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus. The folks who were practicing religion, the Pharisees and Sadducees, were unimpressed with the ministry of Jesus and had no intention of following the Lord. Actually His ministry was quite inconvenient. On the other hand the prostitutes, the publicans, tax collectors, and all sorts of common sinners were passionately following the Lord. The church folks were disgusted with the likes of Mary Magdalene, Simon the Zealot, and Matthew the tax collector but these were part of His inner circle who followed Him with their lives and ultimately changed the world. Like Jesus said, “people’s hearts burn with extreme passion to press in and receive it (the kingdom of God)”.

Today, not much has changed. Church people like the status quo. Of course they want more folks but don’t rock the boat with riffraff, just give them the “quality people”. The problem is Jesus has always liked to rock the boat. Uneducated fishermen, prostitutes, tax gatherers, and a cursing Pharisee were His primary vessels. He sits in the heavens and laughs as He orchestrates His plans to change the world.

What made me start thinking about all this was Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, not exactly the pair you would have picked to represent your church last year. Kanye claims to be born again and has renounced his old lifestyle. What if his salvation is legit? This reminds me of the summer of 1973 and the movie JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. The church world was irate and even picketed some theaters, I was getting saved and beginning my gospel journey. Maybe the Lord is calling in His tax collectors, publicans, and sinners once again. Maybe Kanye is just another sign of how Jesus loves to rock the boat.

ARE YOU REALLY SAVED?

Matt.11:12 – From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.

Are you saved? How do you know? Often times today salvation is portrayed as easy. There is not anything easy about it! How often have you heard these words “Repeat after me” ? Evangelical formulas can’t and don’t save anyone. There is nothing you can do to deserve or earn salvation but there is a requirement. You want to know what that is? You have to want it badly. Casual prayers are really meaningless. In today’s verse Jesus described people pressing into the kingdom of God violently. We only get violent about things that matter. When you see for yourself the value of eternal life and the risk of eternal damnation violence suddenly becomes part of your world. Here is how Adam Clarke describes this statement that the Lord made.

“The tax-gatherers and heathens, whom the scribes and Pharisees think have no right to the kingdom of the Messiah, filled with holy zeal and earnestness, seize at once on the proffered mercy of the Gospel, and so take the kingdom as by force from those learned doctors who claimed for themselves the chiefest places in that kingdom. Christ himself said, The tax-gatherers and harlots go before you into the kingdom of God. He that will take, get possession of the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and spiritual joy, must be in earnest: all hell will oppose him in every step he takes; and if a man be not absolutely determined to give up his sins and evil companions, and have his soul saved at all hazards, and at every expense, he will surely perish everlastingly. This requires a violent earnestness.”

This reminds me of the Jesus movement back in the 1970’s. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1973. No one told me to stop smoking marijuana, or drinking alcohol, or smoking cigarettes, or living an immoral life. When I was converted, repentance was part of the package. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Repentance is the violence with which we press into the kingdom. So that brings us back to the original question; are you really saved or did you just repeat some prayer? Repentance is real and the sure sign that Christ is at work in your life.

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

Rom. 10:10 – for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

How do you know if someone you know or maybe a new friend that you meet is actually saved? Or even more disturbing, how do you know if you are saved? Many will go back to the answering of the altar call or “praying the prayer” but do those things really tell us of a person’s conversion? Another thing that some may look at as a good indicator of conversion is their behavior. Are they walking in moral purity? Do they dress modestly and behave appropriately around members of the opposite sex? Or do they drink alcohol or use recreational drugs? Do these things really tell us about the true condition of a person’s soul? Maybe, but some people live a pretty clean and moral life without a true born again experience. Maybe their is another indicator we can look at. Maybe it has to do with our affections, the things that we love. Here is how John Piper describes conversion.

“There is a connection between the feelings of the soul and the sensations of the body. This is owing, Jonathan Edwards says, to “the laws of union which the Creator has fixed between the soul and the body.” In other words, heartfelt gratitude can make you cry. Fear of God can make you tremble. The crying and the trembling are in themselves spiritually insignificant. The train can run without them…… Minimizing the importance of transformed feelings makes Christian conversion less supernatural and less radical. It is humanly manageable to make decisions of the will for Christ. No supernatural power is required to pray prayers, sign cards, walk aisles, or even stop sleeping around. Those are good. They just don’t prove that anything spiritual has happened. Christian conversion, on the other hand, is a supernatural, radical thing. The heart is changed. And the evidence of it is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings.”

That is it, Christianity is radical and conversion is supernatural. Salvation gets to the very core of our human experience. The new birth changes our heart, the very essence of what makes us tick. When we are truly born of the Spirit we begin to love different things than before. Rather than our lives being dominated by our sensual pleasures of choice we begin to have a passion for spiritual things. A new love for the Bible, gathering together with other Christians for worship and Bible teaching, and spending time in personal worship becomes the passion of our soul. So that’s how you know, have a look at the things you love and you will get a clear indication of the condition of your soul.

MIGHTY TO SAVE

Isa.63:1 – Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

I have an unusual memory that I recall from time to time of a street preacher in Seoul, Korea. Parris and I were there attending a church growth conference with Dr, Yonggi Cho and were taking a break at an outdoor sidewalk cafe. A Korean street preacher approached us and began to preach to us in his best English sermon. He said Jesus is mighty to save. He is able to save, heal, and provide for us. I clearly remember him repeating, “He is able; able to save, able to heal, and able to supply all of my need”. He had that sermon down, he seemed excited to find an American to preach it to. Jesus is mighty to save. His salvation is complete; able to save us to the uttermost. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes today’s verse.

“By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification….. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of His name to bend the knee before Him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.” The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep His people holy after He has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven.”

Salvation is the work of God. Think about it for a moment; the work of God begins with a holy attraction. The Bible often calls this spiritual hunger. Unexplainably we find ourselves attracted to the Lord. Once that happens you are done, He will not stop until you are finally consumed by His love and transformed by His power. He is mighty to save.

SCHOOLED BY THE LAW

Rom.7:7 – What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.”

You ever wonder about the law ? You know, the Ten Commandments. What was the point anyway. The Mosaic Law was quite complicated, actually impossible to keep it perfectly (except for that one man, Jesus Christ). That was exactly the point. It revealed the holiness of God and exposed the sinfulness of man. In today’s verse, Paul the Apostle, that old Pharisee of Pharisees himself, said that he never really knew he was a sinner until the Holy Spirit quickened those four words to his heart. “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” That did it for him, his heart was eaten with covetousness. Saul of Tarsus was a sinner in need of a Savior. Here is how the Believer’s Bible Commentary describes this verse.

“In 7:7-13 he goes on to describe the important role which the law played in his own life before he was saved. He emphasizes that the law itself is not sinful, but that it reveals sin in man. It was the law that convicted him of the terrible depravity of his heart. As long as he compared himself with other people, he felt fairly respectable. But as soon as the demands of God’s law came home to him in convicting power, he stood speechless and condemned.

The one particular commandment that revealed sin to him was the tenth: You shall not covet. Coveting takes place in the mind. Although Paul may not have committed any of the grosser, more revolting sins, he now realized that his thought life was corrupt. He understood that evil thoughts are sinful as well as evil deeds. He had a polluted thought life. His outward life may have been relatively blameless, but his inward life was a chamber of horrors.”

So have you looked into the mirror of the law? Have you come face to face with your own shortcomings? I hope so because that is the place where recovery begins. You have to admit you are sick or you will never go to the doctor. You have to come to some hard conclusions to come to the Savior. What is that conclusion? That we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

SAVED – SAVED – SAVED

Rom.5:10 – For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Are you saved? That question may be hard to answer because we may not be sure what the person asking the question really means. In one sense I got saved in 1973 when Christ arrested me on the lakefront in New Orleans and I opened my heart to His love. You could also say I am being saved. The work of salvation, making us completely whole and holy, began when we first called upon the Lord. That work is truly a work in progress. His life in us is continually saving us. Another thought is that we will be saved on that great day when Christ returns. Then, and only then, will our salvation be complete. We will be like Him the moment we see Him. Here is how this phenomenon is described in the Wuest wordbook.

“The word “life” here is zōē, “the life principle.” The comparison is with death. Our Lord said to His disciples, “Yet a little while, and the world sees Me no more,” referring to His death; “but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also,” referring to His life in resurrection power. That is, in virtue of the fact that our Lord lives after death, He is able to save us completely and to the end. Salvation is in three parts, justification, the removal of the guilt and penalty of sin and the bestowal of a righteous standing in Christ before God’s law, which is given to us at the moment of believing; sanctification, the progressive work of the Holy Spirit during the Christian life; and glorification, the glorifying of our bodies at the Rapture. It is of the latter two Paul is speaking, since he is writing in a context of justification.”

So what is Paul getting at in this passage? I think the critical word is saved, sozo, which is a beautiful New Testament word. Sozo is describing salvation for the whole man. When we were “saved”, we got way more than just a ticket to heaven when we die. The Lord began to do a work in us by His indwelling Spirit. We are being daily changed, or saved, as we yield to the Lord. How are we being changed? We are being conformed into the image of Jesus.

THE UNPOPULAR WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

John 16:8-11 – And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

Look at what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He comes. These verses are some of the most important in the Bible. The Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

First we will look at this unpopular word called sin. The Holy Spirit is the One who comes to us and reveals to us our own sinfulness. Only He can reveal to us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. For me it was as if someone had removed the covers off of my life, suddenly I realized how messed up I was. I was a sinner and I needed to change.

Next, let’s think about what Jesus meant by saying the Holy Spirit would convict us of righteousness. First of all, the Holy Spirit presents Jesus to us as the only righteous man that has ever lived. His life was perfect and seeing our sinfulness in light of His holiness can be quite devastating.The Holy Spirit brings us to the end of ourselves preparing to change our lives.

Finally He shows us about judgement. As Paul said, the wages of sin is death. All of us deserve judgement, all of us have violated the justice of God. We see our lives deserving God’s righteous judgement against sin. Now here comes the best part, Christ bore the wrath of God for us on the cross. He took all of our judgement on Himself at Calvary. God’s justice was satisfied, man’s sin was judged in Christ.

The Holy Spirit helps us to sort all of this out; first, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Secondly, Christ was and is completely holy and righteous. Third, all sin requires judgement by a holy and just God. Finally, we begin to see the light breaking in on us, the righteous One took my sin, He actually became sin on my behalf at the cross. All of those who see this and believe it become justified, declared righteous by faith. We actually take on the very righteousness of Christ as a gift received by grace through faith. Until the Spirit opens our eyes the gospel seems like foolishness for weak minds. Once the Holy Spirit opens our eyes we truly see, the gospel is the wisdom of God and the power of God.

SUPERSTAR

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

It’s funny the things the Lord uses to reach the people He is after. My story has been intertwined with Jesus Christ Superstar even before my conversion. Actually, I was mesmerized by the sound track from the Broadway Rock Opera even before I was converted. I knew every song and listened to that album endlessly. When the movie was released, Parris and I had to go. It was a hot summer’s night in August of 1973, we had no idea the drama that would unfold in our lives as a result of that movie. Even though the movie wandered away from the Biblical account, I was somehow entranced by the crucifixion scene. In the movie there was a fast moving collage of famous artwork of the cross. Somehow, I connected the dots. I got it, it was my sin that was somehow responsible for the death of the Lord. I left the theatre that night a blubbering mess looking for someone just to point the way.

That’s when the real drama began. Parris and I ended up at the Mardi Gras Fountain on the lakefront of Lake Ponchartrain. The Lord was waiting for us there. Actually it was a small group of Jesus freaks but the Lord was unmistakably in their midst. Before the night was over I had experienced the new birth.

What a strange season the seventies were. In a moment of time I experienced a life change. It didn’t happen in church, there were no televangelists involved. Just some hippies, a folk guitar, and a testimony. You see, at the end of the day I was looking for something real. I had tried the whole sex, drugs, and rock and roll thing and it left me empty. Finally I was tasting something with some substance. Is it possible that is what this generation is looking for? Rather than a watered down relevant message that seems to be borrowed from a multi-level marketing scheme maybe its the reality of God found in the same old gospel message that this generation longs for. We will never know until we try it. Maybe its time to get out those old gospel tracts, dust off your guitar and launch out into the deep. Maybe there are some other lonesome souls crying out for something real.