It is time for an update on my blog. Of over 700 personal entries that are accessible on my blog, I wanted to narrow down the top five entries that have received the most readership.
As for blog statistics, to date I’ve had 144,985 reads with total visitors of 116,675. While this isn’t a great number, I remain thankful that the Lord has given me another outlet for sharing the gospel story.
Here is a map that shows where my blog has been or is being read -
Entries that Have Received the Most Readers
Here is a list of the top five entries. This simply show where the greatest interest has been. I’ll begin with the most read and work it from there.
1. “My Story” continues at the top of the list – For some reason this entry has far exceeded anything that I have written. It includes some of my personal background and my own life-journey of faith. It is not intended to be offensive against my church background, but rather to explains some issues that are hard to understand.
2. “Passing Through the Valley of Baca” has high readership. This study reaches back to 2010, and continues to be one of the most read. It deals with the struggles we have in life and how that the Lord can always be found in the background of our situations, in helping us process through our tears and our victories. It begins with Betty and I, at the grave of our child.
3. “500+” is next. This includes both the archives and a great many other studies. There are well over 700 studies that can be found at this site. Look at the titles. They pretty much tell you what the study is about.
4. “Mercy Triumphs Over Judgement.” This study reaches back to 2009. This entry takes its lead from the two hurricanes that hit Louisiana, and how the Lord brought to my attention the difference between the sinner-sinner, and the religious sinner. There is a saying that will appear quite strange to many. It goes like this – “The sinner knows the Lord. The priest is trying to find Him.”
5. “Jesus, the Wonder and Mystery of the Bible.” This study reaches back to 2009, and takes in the Old Testament, Hebrew background that shows who Jesus really is. It remains one of the most popular and helps to explain what the prophet meant when he wrote, “His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”
“Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; They have seen the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.
“For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery.
“They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their wits’ end.
“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses.
“He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.
“Then they were glad because they were quiet, so He guided them to their desired haven.” (Psa 107:23-30)
Over my desk is a picture that my oldest son gave me as a gift. It is a picture of the disciples on the stormy sea of Galilee.
After Jesus calms the sea, the disciples asked a question among themselves,
“What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Mat 8:27)
Good question. More people need to ask that same question, today.
The question has been settled for me long years ago. I have met Jesus personally. I know what kind of Man He is. Over my many years, Jesus has been ever-present to guide me through the stormy seas of life. There have been quite a few.
But I can certainly understand why the disciples became alarmed on the stormy sea of Galilee.
I met her in dry dock in Seattle, Washington
The USS Calvert, was the oldest troop transport in the Pacific fleet and one of the most decorated. She was undergoing some needed repairs. This was in 1962. I had spent a year and a half in the Philippines, and now I was to serve as one of Calvert’s radiomen.
What an initiation! On our voyage down the coast to San Diego we met a fierce gale off of Oregon. I watched her bow disappeared beneath the waves and then rise up again. The old ship would shudder. It was electrifying.
But for the USS. Calvert it was business as usual. The old ship had seen greater storms than this one. She just kept right on course.
I will never forget my year and a half as a radioman on board the USS Calvert. We carried troops throughout the far east, always ready to make assault landings.
Anyway, many years later, the Lord gave me a dream about a ship. In the dream the Lord directed me to take the ship out from the coastal area and launch into the deep waters.
When I awoke, I understood my instructions. We were to move Christian Challenge away from the shallow emotional driven teachings that were making rounds in certain movements at that time, and launch out into the deep of God’s faithfulness.
It had been troubling me for some time how so many of the modern-day, teachings appealed strongly to man’s natural inclinations, yet seemed to have little regard for a true Christ-honoring walk with the Lord. It was rare to hear any teachings on repentance or on the second coming of Jesus Christ.
I will never forgot how a minister visiting our services, felt a need to caution me about preaching on the second coming of Jesus, that I was really out-of-step with today’s message. It didn’t take long to make clear my position on what he had to say.
My point – Where are the teachings on godly living, on having a sanctified heart, on having a heavenward focus and not an earthly focus?
No indeed, I am not against prosperity, but Biblical prosperity does not have its emphasis on dollars. It has to do with having a proper heart-relationship with the kingdom of God.
Jesus said it this way -
“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
“Butseek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mat 6:30-34)
Some people don’t catch the essence of what Jesus is saying. To seek ‘His kingdom’, means to seek God’s direct rule over your life, and not to seek to rule your own life. To seek ‘His righteousness’ means to seek His way of living.
David said it well enough – ‘He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.’
Over time I began to really appreciate what the apostle Paul meant, when he said,
” … we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Eph 4:14-15)
Oh yes, we had to deal with some ridicule in the background, but it was my responsibility to live in obedience to the Lord.
Making Course Adjustments isn’t easy
Would you believe that making a change in course is a major part of every believer’s walk with the Lord. Even the apostles had to learn to separate misguided teachings from the truth of the new covenant. And believe me, it is very easy to get caught in unhealthy, misguided teachings.
Being under bad teachings does not mean a person isn’t saved. But when the light comes it is time for a course adjustment.
Is it easy to make a course adjustment? Not really. Sometimes these course adjustments will cause a separation from those that we hold dear.
It is interesting how so many years earlier, the Lord gave me the very same instructions that He gave to Jeremiah.
” … Before Me you will stand; and if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.
“They for their part may turn to you, but as for you, you must not turn to them. Then I will make you to this people a fortified wall of bronze; and though they fight against you, they will not prevail over you; for I am with you to save you and deliver you,’ declares the LORD. ‘So I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grasp of the violent.’” (Jer 15:19-21 NASB)
Are the Winds Blowing for You
Yes, the winds are still blowing strong. This is why I caution believers not to be taken in by movements that declare, ‘Come be with us. Lo Christ is here.‘
Don’t think it strange. The winds of false teachings and false movements have blown across the church from its infancy. They seem to be growing stronger all the while. Do you feel like you are being battered about by strange winds?
Perhaps your ship needs to make a course adjustment. Maybe its your turn and your time to find the calm peaceful waters that belong to the covenant of God’s dear Son. The Lord wants to bring you into the safe harbor of His love.
Guess I need to find a stopping place. I would dearly love to hear from any of my readers who feel the Lord has spoken to them through this journal entry.
“I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven.
“And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.”(2Co 12:2-4)
The Corinthian Church was struggling over the effect of false apostles who were making inroads into their group. These false apostles were arrogant and boastful in their claims of being apostles, while at the same time attempting to convince the Corinthians that Paul of not a true apostle.
It was in the face of these accusations that Paul felt it necessary to remind the Corinthians of his having laid the foundation for the Corinthian Church, of his apostolic journeys and trials and sufferings, and how these false apostles were perverting the gospel message.
Jude, the brother of Jesus, gives an ample description of the false apostles and false teachers:
“These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jud 1:12-13)
In dealing with these destroyers of the faith, it is also here that the apostle Paul is very careful not to overemphasize the fact of his having been caught up to the third heaven.
However, what makes this so fascinating is that the apostle is sharing some things that we know so little about. Paul had been ‘caught up’ into Paradise, that is, the third heaven, and heard things that he was not even permitted to speak. Yet in this short narrative we can learn a bit more about our heavenly home.
Let me begin with the terms that Paul uses. The first one is a term that applies to the future of all believers.
Paul was Caught Up
Paul is actually using a term that belongs to the doctrine of, ‘the rapture of the church.’ The Greek word for ‘caught up’, is the word, ‘harpazo’. This word is always used but one way in the Scriptures. It is a translocation word. It speaks of a sudden seizing, a catching up, a snatching away, a carrying off, a removing, or to take something by force of power.
Harpazo is used fourteen times in the New Testament and in each case it always speaks of translocation, or movement from one place to another.
Here is how it is used for the church:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.
“Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up [harpazo] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1Th 4:16-18)
The apostle Paul uses the same term ‘harpazo’, to describe his having been caught up into the third heaven, and for what will happen to all believers in their time. We are going to where Paul went.
Where did Paul go. He calls attention to…
The Third Heaven, Paradise
The apostle equates the third heaven with the term Paradise.
To you recall what Jesus said to the thief on the cross? Listen:
“And he [the thief] was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’
“And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luk 23:42-43)
Did you take note that Jesus said the thief would be with him in Paradise.
Do you know that there are those who wish this story wasn’t in the Bible? Why? The reason is it blows apart most of their religious-minded thinking.
Take note – What credentials did the thief have that would qualify him to be with Jesus in paradise? He was at the least a common thief, and who knows what else.
The thief wasn’t baptized. The thief could not make any restitution. The thief did not go through a list of his sins by way of confession. (Certainly some of this is to be done, but they in themselves do not qualify us for heaven.)
Listen again, very carefully. When the other thief hurled abuses at the Lord Jesus, listen to this thief that spoke to Jesus -
“… [He rebuked the thief who hurled abuses] ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
“‘And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’
“And he was saying, ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’” (Luk 23:40-42)
Know what else this story does? It destroys the argument, ‘I don’t believe in death-bed repentance.’
If we would take more time to study the Scriptures themselves, and less time majoring on our religions, who knows what kind of person we would become. For one thing, we would likely become much more compassionate, more caring, and more loving of those around us.
If the truth be known…
The Only Way to Get to Heaven is the Way of the Thief
I know this sounds strange. But I’m begging you listen carefully to what thief had to say. It will help you understand why his way is the only way.
There are three components involved to make our passage into heaven. The thief had them all. Here is a brief summary:
We must recognize that there is no personal goodness in us that would qualify us for heaven. ‘We are justly under condemnation and are suffering justly. We are receiving what we deserve.’
We must realize fully that Jesus alone can save us, atone for our sins, and no other. Jesus was the perfect, without sin, sacrifice. ‘This man has done nothing wrong.’
We must believe in the Lordship of Jesus, and appeal to Him personally. ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.’
It Helps to Remember Where We Came From
I realize that when we become born again, we are no long considered to be sinners. The Bible actually sets forth that we are now saints. The word ‘saint’ means a holy one, that is, a person that belongs to God. This simply means that we are no longer judged as sinners.
But to think back on where we came from is good. The apostle Paul did this.
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1Ti 1:12-15)
Why not take time for this song. It pretty much agrees with that the apostle had to say.
“‘It is written, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.”‘” (Mat 4:3-4)
While I’ve enjoyed a range of ministry callings in my 45+ years as a minister of the gospel, including that of evangelist and pastor, my primary ministry gift remains in the arena of expounding the sacred Scriptures.
I do thank the Lord for giving me a place for sharing His gospel to the nations. I’ve had over 50,000 visitors on this blog alone.
Of course nothing will ever take the place of studying the Scriptures personally, yet much help can be gained by reading good Bible teachings that are offered by God’s servants.
The apostle Paul even drew attention to this in writing Timothy:
“When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments.” (2Ti 4:13)
As for my studies, in addition to various courses that I’ve designed for the CCI School for Christian Workers, I have well over 500 Bible studies that can be accessed on the web, including over 200 articles that I’ve provided in this blog alone. (Pastor Buddy’s Journal.)
For those who have an interest in which studies have drawn the most readers on my blog, here is a list of the top ten most read articles for the past two months: (Beginning with the most read and down the list.)
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.” (Act 3:19-21)
When is the last time you’ve been to an old-time revival meeting?
Or to word it better, ‘How would you like to hear an old-time preacher try to preach an old-time revival meeting?’
Well now is your chance. Better mark your calendar. Here’s the information
Martin’s in Revival
Mora House of Prayer - Mora, Louisiana
Friday and Saturday 6:30 p.m. – June 29th and 30th
Sunday Home Coming, 10:30 a.m. – July 1st
Martins: Nathan on the guitar, Shana on the piano, Faith on the base guitar, Buddy on the banjo, and Rich Waring on the harmonicas.
Just For Old Time’s Sake
Think back 42 years, and you’ll have the Martins in revivals.
It is such an honor to be invited by Sister Sandra Hillman Wallace to serve as the evangelist for the revival at Mora House of Prayer. How long has it been?
Wow, such memories – Forty-two years ago we held our first revival in this very church. I was 30 years old and now I’m pressing 72.
Come to think of it, many of my readers weren’t even born then. In fact our daughter wasn’t yet part of the picture.
And many of the old timers from those long gone years, have already made their journey home. I have such wonderful memories of God’s people who are no longer with us on this side of heaven.
Well, for the Martins, our evangelism circuit was largely in Louisiana but with some revivals in Texas, and a short stint of ministry work in New Mexico.
However, Central Louisiana was always our favorite preaching grounds. We held meetings or otherwise preached in churches in Mora, Flatwoods, Pinecoupee, Sharp, Lena, and other outlying areas. (We sort of lost count of the baptisms. They were so many.)
But the Mora church will always have a very special place in our hearts. The Hillmans had just taken pastorate of the church and the Martins were their first evangelists. Some years later that we were blessed to pastor that very church before establishing Christian Challenge.
But the circle has been made. Sister Hillman is now the pastor. (Brother Hillman went to be with the Lord in 1999. It was my honor to preach his funeral. How I have always loved that family.)
Yup, it’s time to dust off the guitar, shake out the cobwebs, stir up the bones and set about to preach the old, old, story of how a Savior came from glory.
Yup, you know the story of how He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.
It’s going to be old-timey. The Martins will be sharing gospel music from yesteryear.
I want to extend a special invite to all our friends who have had a share in the Martin revivals in years gone by. It would be wonderful to see many of those that were baptized during the revivals.
And now for a bit of humor. Yup….
A Little Humor Goes a Long Way
I’ve often been asked how a person can know if they have been called to the ministry? My stock answer is, ‘If you can stay out of the ministry, you weren’t called to begin with.’
As for me, the call to preach has rested on my heart from childhood. You can verify this with some of my cousins.
I use to hem some of my cousins in the outhouse while I stood in the door so they couldn’t escape. And there I would preach a hellfire and brimstone sermon. Course we didn’t have much room for an altar call. Everyone was just glad when I let them out.
Well, no, I’ve never lost my sense of humor. The good news is that I’ve graduated far beyond fire and brimstone preaching. Found out through the years that the gospel has a much greater story to tell.
The old old story is about a Father’s love for all of fallen humanity. It is the story of redeeming grace. It is a story that cannot be measured by any measurement we are acquainted with.
Jesus said it best of all. Listen:
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” (Joh 6:37-39)
Guess you could say that my ministry has had great changes through the years.
Be that what it may, here is a song that will minister to your heart. It carries the story of the gospel, the very story that I will be telling in the Mora House of Prayer revival – ‘Selah – There is a Fountain.’
” … ‘Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you.’” (Mat 21:28-31 NASB)
Why did Jesus say that prostitutes and tax collectors would enter the kingdom of God before the chief priests and the elders of the temple?
Let’s see if we can find out.
Think about it – The primary reason prostitutes and tax collectors would enter God’s kingdom before the chief priests of the temple, is because the prostitutes and tax collectors knew they were sinners. The chief priests and other religious leaders were of a different fabric. They never considered themselves as sinners.
You see this typified when Jesus healed a blind man. Listen -
“So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man [Jesus] is a sinner.
“He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’” (Joh 9:24-25)
Why did they say that Jesus was a sinner? It was because the Lord never aligned Himself with the religious system. He was always in the mix of sinners of all sorts. Even lepers were allowed to touch Him.
And so it is with the prostitutes and tax collectors that we find the gospel story unfolding. These people were utterly detested by the religious authorities. You have the dregs of society versus the high and mighty.
You have those who knew they are sinners, and you have those who looked down their noses at everyone not of their sort.
Why Prostitutes and Tax Collectors
To appreciate what Jesus had to say about prostitutes and tax collectors entering the kingdom of God before the religious authorities, we need a bit of background.
The day before this exchange with the chief priests, Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple area. When He returns to the temple the following day, He is confronted by the temple authorities -
“When He entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?
” Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things.
“The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?
“And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.”
“And answering Jesus, they said, ‘We do not know.’ He also said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.’” (Mat 21:23-27)
It is at this point that the Lord gives the parable of the two sons and follows it up with the vineyard story. (You may want to read the parable and the vineyard story in its entirety: Mat 21:28-436)
But it is how Jesus ends this parable that is so interesting. He simply says that the prostitutes and tax collectors would enter the kingdom of God, ahead of these Jewish leaders?
Think about it. The Lord was in the temple complex speaking to the recognized leaders of world Judaism. Included in this group would be those who would have Him crucified.
Yes, have you guessed it yet? It wasn’t the prostitutes and tax collectors who would crucify Jesus. It was religion that crucified Jesus.
And this is the story of the cross.
Do you find it interesting to find that the very first person to carry the message of the risen Christ was a woman of whom Jesus had cast seven demons? It wasn’t Peter, or John, or any of the apostles that Jesus first showed Himself to. It was the woman Mary Magalene.
Paul nailed it down very well when he said, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” (Rom5:20)
The apostle included his personal testimony in how God reaches into lowest points of sin to rescue the sinner -
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
“Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” (1Ti 1:15-16)
The Sinner’s Story is Seen in the Genealogy of Jesus
Strangely enough the verity of ‘the prostitutes entering first’ can be seen in Biblical form.
In the genealogy of Jesus Christ, only four women are recorded. Three of the four women were non-Hebrew in ancestry; Tamar the Canaanite, Rahab the Canaanite, and Ruth the Moabite.
Two had prostitution written in their lives, Tamar and Rahab.
One was an adulteress, Bathsheba. (Bathsheba was the only Hebrew of the four. She was from the tribe of Judah.)
These four women were in the direct lineage of Jesus Christ. Does that tell us anything at all?
Why were these the only women recorded? Perhaps it is because in these women we see the very heart of the gospel, and the story of God’s love for all of humanity.
Here is a brief rundown.
Tamar dressed herself as a temple prostitute to deceive Judah. Through Judah would come King David, and thus God’s Messiah. (Story in Genesis 38)
Rahab was a ‘harlot.’ [Hebrew is 'zanah' which means to be a harlot or to commit fornication.] The two spies were sent to spy out Jericho. Rahab protected them. She believed in the Lord God of Israel. (Story in Joshua 2)
Ruth’s story is one of the most beautiful in all the Bible. She was a Moabitess. Once again we have a non-Israelite woman preserving the seed of Messiah. (See the book of Ruth.)
Finally we have Bathsheba. She was married to Uriah the Hittite. David paid dearly for his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. And yet this is another of the four women who are written in the genealogy of Jesus. (Bathsheba was the mother of Solomon.)
The Issue is Not Justification of Sin
It is important to understand that this is not an issue of lifting up immoral sexual behavior. Sin pulls its own red wagon. Sin is a destroyer of lives. No one knows this better than the one who is in sin.
There is a truism which says…
Sin will take you further than you want to go.
It will keep you longer than you want to stay,
And it will cost you more than you want to pay.
To glory in sin and think that it doesn’t really matter, is a grave mistake. To preach the love of God in a way that sin is not part of the picture, is to preach a false gospel.
Jesus came to save us from our sins, not to endorse us in a sinful life-style.
Sin does matter. It was the sin of the fallen race that brought Jesus to the cross.
This is why in the new covenant God gives us the gift of a new heart. Thus the apostle said that a true believer can never be comfortable in sin. It hurts too deeply.
And this is where religion needs to be looked at more closely.
The Law says, ‘Stone her! What do You say?’
What is Jesus speaking of with the parable of the two sons is that religion in and of itself can become the very destroyer of lives. Sometimes we exalt our religion to the extent that we’ve become ‘religion worshipers.’ This is what had happened in Israel’s religious establishment.
We see religious blindness in the gospel story of Jesus. When the men wanted to stone a woman caught in adultery, Jesus diverted the attention of the men to their own sins.
He spoke nothing but kindness to the frightened woman. However, the Lord said two things to her that we must never forget. First, He did not allow her to stay under the bondage of condemnation.
And secondly, Jesus simply told her to free herself from the sin that she was involved in. He Himself would be her freedom.
The woman at the well is another classic example. This woman had been married five times and was then living with a guy.
How did Jesus handle her? He began by helping her process her life. He spoke to her heart. He awakened something in her. Jesus Himself would be her answer.
But notice that the woman has a final argument. It had to do with religion. She said,
“Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
There it is. See how plain and simple it is? All she knew was religion. She had a pain in her heart and couldn’t do anything about it. The Lord took it out of the hands of religion. He said,
“Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
He goes one to say,
“God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Now we know the primary reason the temple authorities hated Jesus. He was dismantling their power over the people.
No More Special Mountains
Jesus was telling the woman at the well that there wasn’t going to be any more special mountains she needed to go to. There will be no anointed places you need to seek out.
There will be no more great religious figures you will need to bless you. True worship will be a matter of the heart. It will be as personal as a kiss. (The Greek for worship, proskuneo, literally means ‘to kiss.’ It is a very intimate word.)
True worship is deeply personal.
Jesus drew attention to the danger of following religious movements and men:
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. [Keep in mind that the term ‘the Christ’ essentially means, ‘the anointed one’.]
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.
“Behold, I have told you in advance. So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.” (Mat 24:23-26)
Think deeply about what Jesus is urging. He is saying that there will be men and women who will be noted as ‘special anointed ones’, there will be movements and places that will be noted as, ‘special anointed movements and special anointed places’ that you need to go to truly find Jesus.
Anything wrong with this? You decide.
The apostle said it as well as it can be said.
“…to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27)
Where is Christ? He is in the hearts and lives of all God’s children.
What Does All This Mean
This brings us full circle back to the high priests, the elders, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors.
What does all this mean? It means the door to heaven has been flung open. The curtain has been ripped. No one can ever again stand between you and the Lord God. There is no prophet that you need to go to.
Jesus is present with every one of His people. He is in their hearts. He is in their mouths. He is in their lives.
“I have other sheep also, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one Shepherd.”
Does this do away with the Church? May it never be.
Jesus Founded the True Church
The Church has never been a building. It has never been a denomination. It has never been an earthly institution. The Church is a heavenly institution and can be found in many forms throughout the earth.
Christ Himself builds His Church, and He flocks His people as He wills. We just need to find out where we need to be.
Did the Lord not say,
“Heaven is my throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me?” (Isa66:1)
Well, God did build a house to contain His glory. He built it out of fallen humanity.
The apostle said it well enough;
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts (this is the glory shining) to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face [exact presence] of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels…” (2Co4:6,7)
The flock of God
So, whence went religion? If the glory is shining in our hearts, why would we need an outward system of symbols and rituals, with vestments and forms, to tell us what God is like? Well, we don’t really need any of that.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (Jn10:27,28)
Now the big question – What need do we have for flocking together as a Church?
The need is great. God has ordained that each of His people be assigned to a particular flock for their care and safety.
There are hundreds of thousands of gospel believing churches with the same hundreds of thousands of godly pastors who care deeply for their flock. We just need to look to the Lord to place us in our proper flock.
A church assembly may be of the thousands or it may just be a handful. The church always addresses the gatherings of God’s people.
It should go without saying that we aren’t in heaven yet. Nor are we secured from the presence of evil.
And so God has decreed that He will meet with every flock, regardless of how tiny or how large it may be, and it is in these gatherings that He will make Himself known in special ways.
The point at hand is that the young lambs need a place of security so they can grow properly, and be taught the ways of the Lord, and not have to worry about harassment by wolves.
God’s people do need pastoral oversight. Mature believers are a safe-guard against spoilers of the flock.
Paul warned us about the spoilers. Wolves are sly. They often try to enter the flocks disguised as sheep. But you can recognize them after a bit.
They emit an order that is unpleasant to the sheep.
Besides that, wolves are really stuck on themselves. They can’t hide it. On the other hand, sheep are humble creatures and non-threatening.
I have been a pastor for a long time. My greatest joy is to look at those who have been made part of God’s church, and say …
“Thank you Lord, for every prostitute and every tax collector. Thank you for all these beautiful people. They were once sickened in sin, but you have glorified Yourself in them. Thank you Jesus.”
While you think on these things, take time for the beautiful gospel song – “He Touched Me’, by the Heritage Singers.
“In addition to being a wise man, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge; and he pondered, searched out and arranged many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd.” (Ecc 12:9-11)
The greater part of my 71 years on this earth have been as a servant of the Lord. (47 years preaching and teaching.)
I want to add that I have always had a great love and respect for all of God’s called ministers. They will forever be dear to my heart. Yes, all ministers have their share of mistakes and struggles, yet it is the truly God called servant of the Lord who has been commissioned by heaven to declare the message of God’s Son to the world.
The apostle says it well enough:
“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?
“Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!’” (Rom 10:14-15)
For my case, in addition to the gifts of preaching and teaching, the Lord has also gifted me with an ability to explain the gospel in a way that can be easily understood by those who chance upon my writings. On the web alone I have over 500 studies that can be accessed. (This number does not include another 334 postings that are found on an earlier blog.)
With that being said, I wanted to make note of the top ten of my 217 studies that are offered in this Journal. You may wish to find out why they have acquired the most readers.
Here they are beginning with the highest read study:
“ … to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith … ” (Eph 3:14-19)
What is it in a believer’s life that validates their faith in Jesus Christ? The answer really isn’t complicated. What validates any true believer’s faith in Jesus, is the presence of the Lord in their heart and life.
Peter address this validation:
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1Pe 3:15)
Paul also addresses this quite plainly:
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’
“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Rom 8:15-16)
The Power and Presence of a Person
When the apostle said that the believer is to be, ‘strengthened with power in the inner man,’ he was not addressing an abstract notion. Paul is speaking of the very personal presence of Christ Jesus Himself.
It is the presence of Jesus in the hearts of believers that enables them live in an overcoming life. Jesus strengthens us, nurtures us, corrects us, guides us, disciplines us, but He will never leave us.
The apostle explained this personal aspect of our walk with the Lord. Listen:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal 2:20)
This is why it is so important to realize something of …
The Voice of God
The call of salvation is a personal call to come walk with Jesus. It can never be merely about religion. Nothing can substitute for the call from Jesus Christ. This is why faith in Jesus cannot be conjured up. It is a living reality.
Faith is responding to a living voice.
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word (or, ‘utterance’) of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)
Paul is stating something that Jesus had said:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish … ” (Joh 10:27-29)
The Greek term for voice [phõné] speaks of the cry of a living being which can be heard by others, or by someone in particular. It always addresses a voice. In this case it is the call of Jesus for His sheep to follow Him.
Again from Jesus:
“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice [phõné]; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (Joh 10:16)
Phõné is the word used when the Father speaks at the baptism of Jesus…
“And behold, a voice [phõné] out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’” (Mat3:17)
Then we have this from the book of Isaiah about the voice of Christ leading us to correct paths:
“Your ears will hear a word behind you, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” (Isa 30:21)
The issue in Isaiah has to do with God bearing witness, even through others.
No matter how much we love where the Lord has placed us in His body, we must never let our religion take the place of our relationship with Jesus.
Religion Was Nailed to the Cross – Relationship Takes its Place
It was religion that was nailed to the cross when Jesus was crucified. I realize this may seem difficult to grasp, but it is very crucial to understand when it comes to living by faith.
We are to have faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of where we may find ourselves worshipping.
Both Jesus and the apostle Paul addressed this. Listen:
[To the woman at the well.] “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. … God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.’” (Joh 4:21-24)
Jesus is telling her that there is no longer a need for religion of itself to serve as her guide. The time had come when true worshippers will know a personal reality of the Father and will serve Him in spirit and truth.
Paul also shares how the Jewish religion [law of Moses] was nailed to the cross:
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him,
“… having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us;
“… and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Col 2:13-14)
This brings us to the place where we need to …
Expect the Unexpected
The apostle explained that in learning to walk with the Lord Jesus, we must learn to expect the unexpected.
“ … so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, …
“ … and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
“ … Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” (Eph 3:17-20)
Every word that the apostle shares, counts.
Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. We are to be rooted and grounded in His love for us, that is, a love that we can never be fully comprehended or that we can ever be separated from.
But we are to seek to comprehend that which seems incomprehensible. Thus we have the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus spoke of this teaching aspect as the schoolhouse of the Holy Spirit. (Schoolhouse is my term.)
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.
“All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (Joh 16:13-15)
The Call of Love
Expect the unexpected can be reckoned as the call of God’s love.
We are to realize that God truly loves us, and that Jesus Christ is not limited in our lives to what we think He can do. His presence and power knows no limit.
Expect the unexpected works on two levels. It works in providence, that is, where we can look back and see how the Lord cared for us through time and circumstance. We even see where our trials were a form of blessing.
Expect the unexpected also continues to work with Christ speaking into our lives. (We’ve already address the voice aspect.)
The point is simple. The Lord’s call to, ‘Come walk with Me,’ is the call of God’s love. It includes the call to a straying child. It is the call of love that reaches past our failures, our sins, and even our greatest disappointments.
It is the call of eternity.
What you don’t hear is, “Follow Me, and I will make a wreck of your life.”
Jesus said that He came to give us life and life abundantly.
This is what Jesus said:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30)
Do you need a validation for your faith?
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying,
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jer 33:3)
Have you called upon the Lord? Think about it.
In the meantime, here is a song for your meditation - ‘How Great is Our God’
“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their body. Watch over your heart with all diligence,for from it flowthe springs of life.” (Pro 4:20-23)
The Hebrew word for ‘springs’ is the word ‘tosaah.’ Tosaah is a geographical term that speaks both a boundary and of a source. It’s reflective meaning is, ‘goings forth’.
The point is that what we have in our hearts does have to do with the boundaries and the outgoing of our own life.
It can be said that we give shape to our life by what is in our heart.
Thus we have the admonishment to…
Watch With all Diligence
Can many of our trials in life be a result of our own heart attitude? Can there even be a sickness or other ailment in our life as a result of harboring unforgiveness, resentments, bitterness, or ill will towards others?
Yes, the Bible does teach that our total well-being can very well show our inward state of being. Both our blessings and our disappointments in life can be a direct result of what is happening in our heart.
Just as a tree grows from the inside out even so with us. If the tree is not healthy on the inside it will reflect on the whole of the tree.
This is why the sage said,
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”
David draws attention to how life reflects on the man who refuses to bless.
“He also loved cursing, so it came to him; and he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from him. But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, and it entered into his body like water and like oil into his bones. Let it be to him as a garment with which he covers himself, and for a belt with which he constantly girds himself.” (Psa 109:17-19)
The New Testament also addresses the issue of a bitter spirit.
“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”(Heb 12:15)
The heart issues in our life well show forth in our speaking. According to Scripture, our heart and our tongue have a direct connection.
Let’s see how the Bible allows us to understand how …
Our Tongue Reflects Our Heart
In Hebrews we are told that bitterness is a defiler. It not only defiles our own personal life, but it can defile those around us. And some of our bitterness can come from a failure in our own past. We need to change how we look at our past.
James draws attention to not being able to share the gospel properly because of a heart that is not where it needs to be with the Lord.
“With it [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (Jas 3:9-11 NASB)
Now listen very carefully to the instructions given by the apostle Peter -
“To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
“For, ‘The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.
“’He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.
“’For the eyes of the Lord are towards the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’” (1Pe 3:8-12)
Pursuing Righteousness and Peace
There is no question that bitterness can create an excessive burden in a believer’s life. It carries such a corrupting ability that if often calls for a discipline of the Lord.
The writer of Hebrews call attention to the issue of Godly discipline:
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. …
“Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.” (Heb 12:11-14)
This is metaphoric language that calls attention to some of the burdens than can weigh a believer down as a result of unforgiveness and resentments. Is it not possible that some of our physical ailments are a result of the bitterness we carry?
Is it also possible that some of our health issues can be the result of a corrective measure from the Lord?
Perhaps this is also where some of our miracle healings come from. Forgiveness can be the gate of healing.
These are things to consider.
A Word from the Apostles
Let’s see how both Paul and Peter speak to this.
[Paul] “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.”
— The background for this is the Lord’s table, but its directive is to those who were resentful of others. The sicknesses in this case are punitive or corrective judgments from the Lord. — 1Co11:22-34.
[Peter] “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” (1Pe2:1,2)
— Where Peter speaks of the ‘pure milk’ of the word, he is speaking of milk that has not been adulterated by bitterness and other such things.
Consider this lesson in life.
A Cow in the Bitter Weeds
As a country boy I can give an example of what pure milk is not. In the south we have what is called bitter weeds. A cow will sometimes make these weeds part of her diet.
The milk looks so refreshing. But the moment you begin to drink, instantly you spew it out. Why? The milk is full of bitterness. And yet in appearance the milk itself looked perfectly good.
Can you draw a lesson with this story? I hope so.
This brings up a primary issue with regard to bitterness.
It is crucial for believers to …
Make Peace with the Past
Very often bitterness in our life is a result of not having forgiven someone. It is not a matter of whether the person deserves forgiveness, or even if they have asked for forgiveness. It is a matter of keeping one’s own spiritual life pure.
We have a perfect example to follow from the cross.
“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
“But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” (Luk 23:33-34)
We also hear this with the first Christian martyr.
“They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’
“Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Act 7:59-60)
The Message of the Cross is Forgiveness
When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,” was this not the message of the cross?
Are we not forgiven by a life exchange with Jesus? Jesus gave His life up for us.
Are we not to learn to live in this flow of forgiveness? Are we not to forgive?
We are also under commandment to walk in love the way Jesus walked. The Lord pointed out that a powerful faith walk revolves around forgiveness.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25)
And so it may well be that the most crucial matter in a believer’s life is in coming to grips with the past.
Until we learn to make peace with the past, we will suffer in the now. Are you free from the past? Is there something you need to let go?
The place to begin is by…
Identifying With Jesus
What does identifying with Jesus mean? John said,
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1Jn 4:4)
How did Jesus conduct Himself in the gospels? He freely loved and He freely forgave. What should we do? Freely love and freely forgive.
Jesus forgave all our sins, past, present, and future. How can we do otherwise?
Forgiveness is a power key of the faith walk. If we learn to forgive quickly, it gives us the power to jerk the rug out from under the enemy. He will have nothing to work with.
Paul tells us how this works. Listen and learn:
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” (Gal 2:20 NASB)
Did you catch it? Good.
Jesus provides the power for the child of God to walk a life of victory in Him.
Let Jesus be the reflection of your heart.
Here is your song of meditation. Listen – The Lord wants to speak to your heart.
“…in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise; and again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ …
” … And again,‘Behold, I and the children who God has given Me.’” (Heb 2:11-13 nasb)
Notice the bold portion of the above Scriptures where we hear Jesus say, “Behold, I and the children who God has given Me.”
This statement draws on a redemption promise that God gave through the prophet Isaiah.
“And I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him. Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (Isa 8:17-18)
Then we have this in Isaiah:
“Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: ‘Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now turn pale; but when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, they will sanctify My name; indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (Isa 29:22-23)
Fulfilled in Christ
“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. …
“ … This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds [looks to] the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (Joh 6:37-40)
Again pay close attention to the words in bold print – “Of all that He [the Father] has given Me I lose nothing.”
Christians who lack knowledge in how salvation works will always battle insecurity. The problem isn’t merely with the believer. In some pulpits Jesus Christ is being presented in a way that is not worthy of the gospel message.
The message they hear is often filled with fear and condemnation. It centers on a salvation through works, that is, a salvation that is based on a believer becoming good enough.
This kind of thinking is a misreading of the gospel story. The work of salvation is not our work. We are all sinners saved by grace. Salvation is God’s work from beginning to finish. He alone is the author and the finisher of our faith.
Here is an example where a Scripture is sometimes mismanaged:.
“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Php 2:12)
Sounds pretty plain. How then is it mismanaged? The problem is that this statement is only half of what is being said. Listen to the rest of the statement:
“ … for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Php 2:13)
Notice carefully that the working out has to do with God Himself. The believer is to place his faith in God who is at work in his life. The believer is to trust that the Lord is working His will in the believer’s life.
That isn’t the only Scripture that sets forth God at work in the believer. Listen with your heart:
“Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, …
“… working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Heb 13:20-21)
Once again note the words in bold. God is the one who equips us to do His will. God is the one who is working in us that which is pleasing in His sight.
The Author and Finisher
The apostle said he was convinced the good work that God began in us, He would perfect until the day of Jesus Christ. God is the author and the finisher of our faith. He is the perfecter of His work. The Lord God began the work and the Lord God finishes the work
The Lord does not want His children to live in fear of any nature. And when the Lord speaks into our lives it is His purpose is to destroy our fears. Even when He needs to correct us, it is a correction towards life.
Here is an example from my walk with Jesus -
It was 1974
I had just resigned from my former church affiliation. The following morning at my office a dark cloud settled over me. What will we do? Where do we go? Where will we find fellowship? Did I miss God?
The last words my former pastor had spoken to me when I handed him my resignation was ringing in my ears, “Brother Martin, these people will never anything else to do with you.”
I fell on my knees next to a chair, and reached for my Bible. Lord, I need to hear from You.
My Bible actually fell open to Philippians 1:6, and my gaze riveted on these words,
“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
The Son of God had spoken to my heart. Instantly the cloud vanished. No more fear! No more uncertainty. I knew everything would be alright. Our future was well cared for.
In my excitement I reached for the phone to call Betty. Little did I realize that she was facing the very same struggle at that very same moment. Before I could get the words out of my mouth, Betty said,“Honey, listen to what the Lord just shared with me.”
“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:10) — We were both using the KJV at the time —
The Lord had spoken to both of us at the same time. Betty knew just as I knew that our future was well cared for.
God’s Unconditional Promises
Of course I’m not telling any true believer something that you don’t know. Jesus has come to my aid myriads of times on my pilgrim journey. He does the same for all who belong to Him. What did the Lord say about His presence in our lives?
“ … for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, or will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Heb 13:5-6)
That, dear friend, is an unconditional promise.
This is where we need to understand Biblical promises.
Conditional promises are based upon some action on our part. Unconditional promises are based upon something God has promised with no aid from us. These are the, “I will” promises of God.
An example of a conditional promise is Luke 6:38, where the Lord says,
“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
Notice that it is by ‘our standard’ of measure that gauges the ‘pressed down’ blessings.
Unconditional promises are different. Unconditional promises are generally summed up as redemption promises. These kinds of promises are, ‘from God, through God, and to God’ promises. They cannot be broken by believers simply because we have no role to play in them. They are based entirely on the sovereignty of God.
The Bedrock of the Faith Walk
These ‘never-ever’ promises serve as the bedrock of our walk with the Lord. One of the very last things Jesus said to the disciples was,
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt28:20)
Another one is the John 10:27,28, promise where Jesus said,
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”
Some believers see the strength of their walk in how strong their grip is on God. This is not what Jesus is saying. The safety for a child of God does not depend on his or her grip. It rests entirely in the hands of the Lord. Jesus said,
“No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
A few more ‘never-ever’ promises
“…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
“…everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26)
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
Our Inheritance in Christ
The point being that these promises are based upon something God says He will do. These unconditional promises relate to God’s redemption plan in Christ, a plan that was set forth before time.
Paul gave insight into this area, when he said,
“We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to [God's] purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.” (Eph1:11)
Notice that Paul said it is God’s will that is at work. The apostle John certainly agrees. He said that our birth from heaven was not a thing of our will. He says,
“[We] were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:13)
When we were born again, it is because God opened our ears to hear, and placed in our heart to respond. We see this being worked out in a lady named Lydia. It says,
“A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)
The stumbling, bumbling apostle
Have you ever been a stumbling believer? Sure you have. Think about a man called Peter. Peter actually denied the Lord three times. Was that the end of the story? Certainly not. Jesus sought him out, restored him in faith, and gave him the privilege of preaching the gospel at the very place where Peter had become fearful for his life.
Have you caught the point in all this?
— Regardless of how well we think we understand the mystery of our salvation, the fact remains that God’s unconditional promises do not rest upon how well we are able to do or howmuch we understand. They are not performance promises. Each of these promises rest upon God Himself. When He says that He will never desert us or forsake us, that promise cannot be broken.
Yes, we all become stumblers at times. So we ask, “Why me, Lord?” About the best any of us can do is write songs about all this.
In the Midst of the Congregation
And so, we agree with the Psalmist who said,
“…in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise; and again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ …
“I don’t know why Jesus loved me. I don’t know why He cared. I don’t know why He gave His life for me. Oh, but I’m glad. So glad He did.”
“Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.”
‘All hail the power of Jesus name! Let angels prostrate fall…”
“I am weak but Thou art strong, Jesus keep me from all wrong…”
“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, … Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”
Oh yes, we Christians write songs without end. And we will continue to write them.
But the message from heaven never changes. While we love the Lord with a love that cannot be measured, John wants us to understand something very special when he writes,
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1Jn4:10)
Think about these things.
In the meantime listen to this song that was written and sung by Kris Kristofferson – ‘Why Me Lord.’