I AM THE DOOR

Jn.10:9 – I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Recently the Lord spoke to our church about an open door He had set before us. To be even more clear, in today’s verse Jesus tells us that He Himself is that door. He is the open door for everything that pertains to life for us. This verse speaks to us about the open door to salvation, entering into life itself. It tells us of the open door into His pasture of nourishment. This door leads us to a place of spiritual nourishment feasting on God through His written word. It also tells us about a place of protection, we are kept safe from the spiritual thieves and robbers that try to bring us back into some version of slavery. This is also the door into the community, the local church, where we experience the life among all of His sheep. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verse.

“Christ is the door of the sheep, if any man enter into the sheepfold, as one of the flock, he shall be saved; shall not only by safe from thieves and robbers, but he shall be happy, he shall go in and out. First, Plain directions how to come into the fold: we must come in by Jesus Christ as the door. By faith in him, as the great Mediator between God and man, we come into covenant and communion with God. There is no entering into God’s church but by coming into Christ’s church; nor are any looked upon as members of the kingdom of God among men but those that are willing to submit to the grace and government of the Redeemer. We must now enter by the door of faith… Secondly, Precious promises to those who observe this direction. They shall be saved hereafter; this is the privilege of their home. These sheep shall be saved from being distrained and impounded by divine justice for trespass done, satisfaction being made for the damage by their great Shepherd, saved from being a prey to the roaring lion; they shall be for ever happy.”

I spent years try to find my way into life some other way. Let me say this emphatically, there is no other way. Jesus is the only door that leads to life. You won’t find it in new age meditation, secular education, or experimentation with the pleasures of this world. Christ alone is the Door who leads us into life.

SOULS

tim-marshall-114623.jpg

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:18

Has God’s love taken over your life? The first indication is your new found love for the Lord. As the Apostle John said, “We love Him because He first loved us”. The fire of God’s love is unmistakeable, true conversion results in a passion for the Lord. The second indication may be a little harder to fake; it is a love for the lost, even the unlovely; or as Jesus said “the least of these”. That’s how you really know you are converted, you begin to have a love for the lost and desire to see their lives changed. This love first shows itself as we have a strange pull to share Christ to the hurting people in our lives. This love doesn’t stop there, it continues beyond conversion until the day we see Christ formed in our lost friends and loved ones. Here is how Watchman Nee describes this love in us.

“We long to see men saved from perishing and won for God’s glory. But do we stop there? When we see three or four thousand converts—or even three or four!—all saved and all going on fairly well with the Lord, do we feel a task has been accomplished? Should we not regard it rather as a task just begun? Ought we not to ask ourselves how many of them have yet caught a glimpse of the one heavenly Man into which God has brought them? Are they still just units, fishes in the net, figures in a list of “campaign results,” or does that supreme vision possess them? It will certainly not do so unless it first possesses us. So I ask again, are we burdened, as were the apostles, to see them grow up in all things into the Head, even Christ?”
When Jesus gave His great commission to His disciples He emphasized evangelism and discipleship. In Mark’s version, He emphasized winning souls, in Matthew’s account He says to go into all the world and make disciples. Last Sunday we saw many people make a decision for Christ in our first service of Summer Saturation. The love of God compels us to finish the job, to reach out to each new visitor until Christ is formed in them.

How can we each do our part? Ask the Lord to sensitize you to the needs of people around you. As the Lord puts His love for individuals in your heart, follow His lead. Invite them to your small group, sit with them in church. Discipleship is actually the outflow of the love of God.

REALLY SAVED

dev-benjamin-222588

Acts 2:21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Are you really saved? Do you even know what that means? It is not about being saved from eternal destruction (even though that is one of the benefits), it is about finding your true purpose in life. It is a total shift of our perspective, salvation is about a different kind of life. It is the life that God Himself enjoys, the one we were made to enjoy. It seems like most people view salvation in one of two ways. One is to give us things in this life, the other is to keep us in paradise after we die. The problem with both of those views, they leave God out. Salvation is about bringing us into an encounter with Him, He becomes the reward and the passion of our life. Here is how John Piper describes salvation.

“Saving faith believes in God as an all satisfying rewarder: “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Faith does not come to God out of some disinterested benevolence, thinking to do God a favor with our presence. Faith comes to God full of hunger for God and finds him to be faith’s great reward. Therefore, I conclude that saving faith, by its nature and necessity, teaches us to pursue our satisfaction in God. Saving faith is necessary for eternal life (John 3:15), and the nature of saving faith includes resting in Jesus as the soul’s final and supreme satisfaction. Therefore, saving faith summons everyone to pursue joy in God.”

You see the Lord does give us good things in this life and He does give us eternity in heaven, but neither of those things are what salvation is primarily about. It is about restoration with Him. He is what we lost at the fall and He is what is restored in salvation. So being saved is way better than most people realize; to know God is better than meeting a celebrity, a president, or a famous person from the past; to know the Lord is to meet the Creator and Fountain of all life. Today’s scripture verse gives us an incredible promise, “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved”.

DIVINE LIGHT

23456265_10215213873924822_7009229957484588958_o.jpg

Matt. 16:15-17 ¶ He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”.

I was desperately searching for God in 1973. I had pretty much run the gamut of spiritual options; I had gone to Bahai faith meetings, checked out the Divine Light Mission, and gone to the feasts at the Krishna Temple. All of these attempts came up empty, each one had another version of religious practices and good deeds that didn’t do it for me. I think the one that finished me off was reading the Nectar of Devotion that forbade passing gas in the Krishna Temple. The strange thing is that I never checked out Christianity, that was nowhere on my radar. That’s when God took things into His own hands, He chased me down and literally flooded me with gospel light on a hot August night in New Orleans in the summer of 1973. In a moment of time I could see; I saw the love of God offered to me by the death of His Son. The gospel made sense, it not only made sense to me it became strangely irresistible. I was changed that night by the light of the glory of God. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes this Divine and Supernatural light.
“This is the most excellent and divine wisdom, that any creature is capable of. ’Tis more excellent than any human learning; ’tis far more excellent, than all the knowledge of the greatest philosophers, or statesmen. Yea, the least glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Christ doth more exalt and ennoble the soul, than all the knowledge of those that have the greatest speculative understanding in divinity, without grace. This knowledge has the most noble object that is, or can be, viz. the divine glory, and excellency of God, and Christ. The knowledge of these objects is that wherein consists the most excellent knowledge of the angels, yea, of God himself.”
So its not trying real hard or turning over a new leaf, it is God Himself moving upon our lives. Maybe your life is about to change. Maybe you are not reading this by accident, maybe the Lord is reeling you in by His irresistible love.

I REALLY NEED HIM

helena-hertz-256399.jpg

Eph. 2:8, “For by grace ye are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

I don’t know about you but I really need God in my life. Let’s face it, without Christ we are all screw ups. We have a tendency to mess up our own lives as well as just about everyone else’s lives around us; that is without Christ. The good news is that there is hope for all of us, that hope is found in Christ. How does He do it? First He works on us to communicate our incredible need for Him. Then He begins to reveal His greatness and goodness to us. As we embrace Him we discover a whole new world. It starts with forgiveness from all the mess we have made; next He begins to drag us out of our misery. Most of the misery is internal, He works on our hearts and replaces our misery with contentment and joy. He also begins to work on the horrible messes we have made. He not only forgives but He also restores. Here are some thoughts about our need of God from Jonathan Edwards.
“Tis of God that Christ becomes ours, that we are brought to him, and are united to him: ’tis of God that we receive faith to close with him, that we may have an interest in him. Tis of God that we actually do receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased. ’Tis God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell, and ’tis his favor that the redeemed are received into, and are made the objects of, when they are justified. So it is God that delivers from the dominion of sin, and cleanses us from our filthiness, and changes us from our deformity.”
So how is it with you? Have you figured it out yet that without him you are pretty much hopeless? Or are you still in the “I got his mode” thinking you can sort out your life on your own? The funny thing is sometimes our worst messes turn out to be hidden blessings. They bring us to our senses so that we realize we really do need Him. They also provide a great opportunity for God to be glorified as He sorts everything out. Just face it, we all really need Him.

FOOLISH RELIGIOUS FANATIC

hugues-de-buyer-mimeure-321544.jpg

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,

Deep inside of every man he knows that God exists. Of course the fall of man has effected us deeply, our perception of the Lord is twisted and clouded by sin. The natural tendency of man is to try to do something, or embrace a system of somethings, to try to make ourselves righteous in God’s eyes. It is the grace of God that opens our eyes to the vanity of those pursuits, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone and that faith is a gift from God. The problem is that there is, as Martin Luther said, a religious fanatic or evil monk living inside all of us. This monk thinks he is good enough to please good with his own efforts. Here are some thoughts from Luther himself on this dilemma.

“Something inside of us strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God’s approval. We look for good works, in which we can place our trust and which will bring us praise. We want to show God what we have done and say, “See, I have done this or that. Therefore, you must pronounce me righteous.” None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith.”
To know Christ has justified us totally by His sacrificial death on the cross changes everything. We step into this benefit by faith in His blood. The beauty about all of this is a life characterized by good works, we just live that way now for a different reason.

DEPRAVITY OF MAN

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Paul included everyone in one huge sweep; all of us have sinned. The reason he could be so sure is that he understood the clear condition of man’s heart. All men are sinners. The scene before Pilate easily confirms this. You see the raucous crowd spurred on by the priests to demand the death of Christ. They chose Barrabas to go free rather than Christ. Barrabas obviously deserved death and Christ deserved freedom. Why did they choose Barrabas? It was obviously because of the condition of their hearts. They were wicked and their wickedness despised the righteousness of God seen in Christ. Their evil nature wanted to kill Jesus. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this dilemma.
“This wickedness that wrought these sufferings of Christ, was but a sample of that corruption and depravity that is naturally in all mankind. The corruption that was in the heart of Judas that betrayed Christ; and the Jews that apprehended him and cried, “Crucify him, crucify [him],” and preferred Barabbas before him; and of Pilate that condemned him; and the soldiers that mocked, and buffeted, and spit upon him; and in all that had a hand in crucifying of him, is the very same corruption that is naturally in the hearts of all mankind. ‘Tis the same wickedness. It all has just the same tendency, and under like circumstances, and without restraint, would act just so: “As in water face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.” So that Christ therein had a view of the sin of his elect that he then died for. Such corruption, such sin and wickedness as this, that put Christ to such ignominy and torment, was that which suffered this ignominy and torment to make atonements for.”
If the truth were known, it was our own wickedness that demanded Christ’s death. So actually it was all of mankind crying out for the Lord’s death that day. We can’t blame the priests, the soldiers, the people, or even Pilate; it was our own guilt that cried for His death. It’s coming to that conclusion, our sinfulness killed Jesus, that is the beginning of our freedom.

In our seeker sensitive, I’m okay and you’re okay world, no one sees themselves as a sinner in need of a Savior. Actually that is the work of the Holy Spirit, He convicts us of our sins and brings us to the place of our cleansing, He brings us to cleansing found only in the blood of Jesus.

FOOLISHNESS OF MAN

1 Cor. 2:14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated.

The natural, or unsaved man, has no clue when it comes to spiritual things. He has no way to understand because he is blinded to the things of God. Until you have an encounter with God you try to understand Him and His ways with your own human limitations. That never seems to work out very well. The Holy Spirit changes all this. The new birth awakens us to the spiritual world and provides the tools necessary to operate in that world. Lost people have many pre-conceived, often rigid, ideas about spiritual things. The new birth is as if someone has suddenly turned the lights on; actually, that is exactly what happened. The spiritual ‘lights’ are turned on and we can finally see. We see God’s goodness, His purity, His love for us, and we become aware of His incredible power that has become available to us. Her is how A. B. Simpson describes it.

“This is the stupendous truth which revelation holds out, that we may have a divine capacity in order to understand a divine revelation. The Holy Ghost does not annihilate our intellect, but He so quickens it and infuses into it the mind of Christ, that it is practically true “that old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. He can give us the power to cease from our own thoughts, and He can put into us His divine thoughts. He can make the truth real and living, so that it glows and shines with the vividness of intense realization. He can enable us to grasp it, to feel it, to remember it, and to understand it. He can light up the page until it glows as the firmament of stars at night or as the sunshine of the day that makes all objects plain.”
So the gifts, teachings, and revelations of the Spirit are real and are available to all of us. We become aware of this world by the new birth. We begin to step into this world by receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

NO OTHER WAY

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

This verse has been part of my life for a very long time. Actually, this scripture was crucial in my conversion experience. Just before I came to Christ, I was wandering around in the French Quarter; okay, I was on Bourbon Street and I was approached by different cults trying to raise funds or gain converts. I remember speaking to a member of a group called ‘the Foundation’ and also speaking to one of the ever present Krishna’s that night. As they were going through their routine, I kept remembering this scripture verse I had learned in Sunday School as a child. Actually it was in 8th grade and I was attending Memorial Baptist Church Sunday School when I had learned that verse. What was the scripture? You guessed it,  “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 Those words were screaming in my ears. It was the power and reality of those words that kept me from the cults and ultimately brought me to Christ. Martin Luther shares some interesting thoughts on this verse.

“What does it mean to come to the Father? It means nothing else but to come from death to life, from sin and condemnation to innocence and godliness, from distress and sorrow to eternal joy and blessedness. Christ is saying, ‘No one should try to come to the Father through a different way than me. I alone am the way and the truth and the life.’ Christ clearly rules out and powerfully disproves all teaching that salvation can be obtained by works. He completely denies that we can get to heaven by any other way. For Jesus says, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me.’ There is no other way.”

If you think about, every other religion is some sort of deflection designed to keep us from coming to Christ on the basis of grace. When the truth of salvation by grace through faith hit me I was caught totally by surprise. It was so simple yet so profound. I didn’t have to do anything to be saved; actually, I couldn’t do anything. He had done everything. All that was left for me was to surrender and to receive. Jesus is the way to the Father. He is the way to life. Receiving His love is where life truly begins.

FOR THE GLORY OF HIS NAME

Psalm 25:11: “For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.”

Psalm 79:9: “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; and deliver us, and purge away our sins, for thy name’s sake.”

Jeremiah 14:7: “O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name’s sake .”

Salvation is an amazing thing. Christ Jesus died to save sinners. Christ died for the ungodly. His work on the cross actually justifies sinners. The natural man would never devise or even understand a plan like this. It seems logical that the more “quality people” would be God’s people but that is not always the case. Paul said that Christ chose the foolish and weak people of the world to be saved. What is the point? At the end of the day God’s plan of salvation is about His glory. He chose the most messed up people to reveal His grace because this would bring a greater glory to God.

Just think about His choices. His apostles were uneducated fishermen from Galilee, they were even called ignoramuses by the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem. You might say, “What about Paul, he was highly educated?” That is true but Paul had other issues; issues such as extreme hatred toward Christianity. Paul was responsible for the death of Steven as well as the death of  many other martyrs in the early church. Paul’s conversion was designed by the Lord to bring extreme glory to the Lord. Paul called himself the “chief of sinners” and viewed his own conversion as a prototype of salvation by grace through faith. Jonathan Edwards pointed out that salvation was closely connected to the glory of the Lord.

“These things seem to show that the salvation of Christ is for God’s name’s sake. Leading and guiding in the way of safety and happiness, restoring the soul, the forgiveness of sin; and that help, deliverance, and salvation, that is consequent therein, is for God’s name. And here it is observable that those two great temporal salvations of God’s people, the redemption from Egypt and that from Babylon, often represented as figures and similitudes of the redemption of Christ, are frequently spoken of as being wrought for God’s name’s sake .”

So there is hope for all of us. Christ not only forgives our sins but also shows His strength in the area of our greatest weakness. Open your heart to God’s love. The things you may be ashamed of in your life can actually become the vehicle for God to be glorified in your life.