Thursday, February 27, 2014

We Are In A War.

THE CHRISTIAN’S WARFARE. 
by Dwight L. Moody

From the Book: The Overcoming Life and Other Sermons

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”  John 5:4,5

When a battle is fought, all are anxious to know who are the victors. In these verses we are told who is to gain the victory in life. When I was converted I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought that old things had passed away, that all things had become new; that my old corrupt nature, the Adam life, was gone. 

But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army, that there was a battle on hand, and that if I was to get a crown, I had to work for it and fight for it.

 Salvation is a gift, as free as the air we breathe. It is to be obtained, like any other gift, without money and without price: there are no other terms. “To him that worketh not, but believeth.” But on the other hand, if we are to gain a crown, we must work for it. Let me quote a few verses in First Corinthians: “For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire: and the fire itself shall prove each man’s work, of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide, which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.

We see clearly from this that we may be saved, but all our works burned up. I may have a wretched, miserable voyage through life, with no victory, and no reward at the end; saved, yet so as by fire, or as Job puts it, “with the skin of my teeth.” I believe that a great many men will barely get to heaven as Lot got out of Sodom, burned out, nothing left, works and everything else destroyed. 

It is like this: when a man enters the army, he is a member of the army the moment he enlists; he is just as much a member as a man who has been in the army ten or twenty years. But enlisting is one thing, and participating in a battle another. Young converts are like those just enlisted. It is folly for any man to attempt to fight in his own strength. The world, the flesh and the devil are too much for any man. But if we are linked to Christ by faith, and He is formed in us the hope of glory, then we shall get the victory over every enemy. 

It is believers who are the overcomers. “Thanks be unto God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ.” Through Him we shall be more than conquerors. I wouldn’t think of talking to unconverted men about overcoming the world, for it is utterly impossible. They might as well try to cut down the American forest with their penknives. But a good many Christian people make this mistake: they think the battle is already fought and won. They have an idea that all they have to do is to put the oars down in the bottom of the boat, and the current will drift them into the ocean of God’s eternal love. But we have to cross the current. We have to learn how to watch and fight, and how to overcome. The battle is only just commenced. The Christian life is a conflict and a warfare, and the quicker we find it out the better...

 It is God's power that makes all the means of grace effectual. The story is told that Frederick Douglas, the great slave orator, once said in a mournful speech when things looked dark for his race:— “The white man is against us, governments are against us, the spirit of the times is against us. I see no hope for the colored race. I am full of sadness.” Just then a poor old colored woman rose in the audience, and said.— “Frederick, is God dead?” 

My friend, it makes a difference when you count God in. Now many a young believer is discouraged and disheartened when he realizes this warfare. He begins to think that God has forsaken him, that Christianity is not all that it professes to be. But he should rather regard it as an encouraging sign. No sooner has a soul escaped from his snare than the great Adversary takes steps to ensnare it again. He puts forth all his power to recapture his lost prey. The fiercest attacks are made on the strongest forts, and the fiercer the battle the young believer is called on to wage, the surer evidence it is of the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart. God will not desert him in his time of need, any more than He deserted His people of old when they were hard pressed by their foes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Who am I?"



Moses
So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, "I will be with you.  Exodus 3:10-12


Gideon
The LORD turned to him and said, "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?"  

"Pardon me, my lord," Gideon replied, "but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family."  The LORD answered, "I will be with you."    Judges 6:14-16

"Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: "Who am I, Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" 2 Samuel 7:18


Jeremiah


The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you...

Amos

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 

Johah


The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord. Jonah 1:1-3

But the Lord would not leave Jonah alone, because the message he was sent to give would help Jonah himself. He learned to conquer his fear and to realize the Assyrians were loved by God as well as the Jews. He learned that God would be with him. Traditional writings say that Jonah stayed in Ninevah teaching the Assyrians about the one true God.

The Lord used all these men who were humble. They did not think too highly of themselves, but were amazed that God had chosen them for a service. I think this is always the type of people God uses. If we think we can do a job well - without God's help - he cannot use us for that job.





Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Child-Likeness of God.


This is an excerpt from a sermon called, The Child in the Midst, by George MacDonald.

 "And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receives me; and whosoever shall receive me, receives not me, but him that sent me."——MARK 9: 33-37

Then to receive a child in the name of Jesus is to receive Jesus; to receive Jesus is to receive God; therefore to receive the child is to receive God himself

How terribly, then, have the theologians misrepresented God…Nearly all of them represent him as a great King on a grand throne, thinking how grand he is, and making it the business of his being and the end of his universe to keep up his glory, wielding the bolts of a Jupiter against them that take his name in vain. They would not admit this, but follow out what they say, and it comes much to this. 

Brothers, have you found our king? There he is, kissing little children and saying they are like God. There he is at table with the head of a fisherman lying on his bosom, and somewhat heavy at heart that even he, the beloved disciple, cannot yet understand him well. The simplest peasant who loves his children and his sheep were but a true type of our God beside that monstrosity of a monarch.  

The God who is ever uttering himself in the changeful profusions of nature; who takes millions of years to form a soul that shall understand him and be blessed; who never needs to be, and never is, in haste; who welcomes the simplest thought of truth or beauty as the return for seed he has sown upon the old fallows of eternity, who rejoices in the response of a faltering moment to the age-long cry of his wisdom in the streets; the God of music, of painting, of building, the Lord of Hosts, the God of mountains and oceans; whose laws go forth from one unseen point of wisdom, and thither return without an atom of loss; the God of history working in time unto Christianity; this God is the God of little children, and he alone can be perfectly, abandonedly simple and devoted. 

The deepest, purest love of a woman has its well-spring in him. Our longing desires can no more exhaust the fullness of the treasures of the Godhead, than our imagination can touch their measure. Of him not a thought, not a joy, not a hope of one of his creatures can pass unseen; and while one of them remains unsatisfied, he is not Lord over all.  Therefore, with angels and with archangels, with the spirits of the just made perfect, with the little children of the kingdom, yea, with the Lord himself, and for all them that know him not, we praise and magnify and laud his name in itself, saying Our Father. We do not draw back for that we are unworthy, nor even for that we are hard-hearted and care not for the good. For it is his child-likeness that makes him our God and Father. 

The perfection of his relation to us swallows up all our imperfections, all our defects, all our evils; for our childhood is born of his fatherhood. That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and his desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to him, "Thou art my refuge, because thou art my home."





Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Great Decision and Transfiguration of Jesus.


This is an excerpt from the book, "How to Become Like Christ," by Marcus Dods.

On earth Jesus (when he spoke of his death) had found incredulity among his best friends; incapacity to see why he should die; indifference to his object here. He now meets with those (Moses and Elijah) who, with breathless interest, await his death as if it were the one only future event.

In their persons Jesus sees, at one view, all who had put their trust in God from the foundation of the world; all who had put faith in a sacrifice for sin, knowing it was God's appointment, and that he would vindicate his own wisdom and truth by finding a real propitiation (atoning sacrifice); all who, through dark and troubled times, had strained to see the consolation of Israel; all who, in their misery of their own thought, had still believed that there was a true glory for men somewhere to be attained; all who through the darkness and storm and fear of earth had trusted in God, scarcely daring to think what would become of their trust, but assured that God had spoken, nay, had covenanted with his people, and finding true rest in him.

The whole anxiety of guilty consciences, the whole hope of men awakened, the whole longing sigh for a God revealed, that had breathed from the ancient church, at once became audible to Jesus' ear. At once he felt the dependence of all who had died in faith in the promise. He meets the eager, questioning gaze of all who had hoped for salvation concentrated on himself. It this he who can save the lost, he who can bear the weight of a world's dependence? What an appeal there is here to his compassion! How steadfastly now does he set his face towards Jerusalem, felling straitened till the world's salvation is secured and all possibility of failure forever at an end. This was for Jesus an appeal that was irresistible...He saw that he must die. Now, he yields himself to the will of the Father.

Those are the supreme moments in human life when man, through sore conflict and at great cost, gives himself up to the will of God. Never was there so sore a conflict and never so much joy as here. His face was transfigured; it beamed with the light and peace of heaven that shone from within. It was at the moment of his yielding all to God that Jesus attained his highest glory.

It is on the cross that Jesus is truly enthroned. It is because he became the Servant of all that he is greatest of all. He gave himself for us, willing to do all to save us in our direst need, that he takes a place in our confidence and in our heart that belongs to no other. He becomes the one absolute need of every man, because he is that which brings us to God and gives God to us.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Did God Choose Mary?


Photo by:  Hans Weingartz

Why, out of all the girls in Israel, did God choose Mary to be Jesus' mother? I always thought it was because she must have been very devout and close to God. One thing we do know, it was a wonderful blessing.

The angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!" Luke 1:28

Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!"  Luke 1:42

Mary herself said, "From now on all generations will call me blessed." Luke 1:48


TDJakes says "Blessed" means the uncanny ability to go through trouble and land on your feet. He says that is one of the reasons why God chose Mary. She was strong, she was brave and she had faith.

Imagine being a young girl engaged to a man in ancient days and it is found that you are pregnant. She may have told her parents and in-laws that an angel appeared and spoke to her - but who would believe her? I doubt anyone did. In fact, when Joseph found out she was pregnant, he decided to write a divorce paper. 
"The thought is of public proclamation of the fact of the divorce, not that of bringing Mary herself forward for public punishment, and so making her a public example." Pulpit Commentary

What shame for Mary to face!

It took an angel from heaven to convince Joseph to wed Mary.

Before she gave birth, the Emperor decreed everyone needed to to return to the land of their ancestors. Mary, nine months pregnant, had to ride a donkey for miles. Then when she looked forward to a bed to sleep on, there was none. She had to sleep in a barn or cave and give birth on the floor.

Joseph and Mary stayed in Bethlehem, but then an angel appeared to Joseph in the night, "An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." Matt. 2:13  Mary had to get up in the middle of the night and go on an even longer and more arduous trip with her baby - to a foreign land she had never seen and where she knew no one.

After Herod died, an angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus back to the land of Israel. Being afraid of Herod's son, they moved north to Nazareth and there they stayed.

I'm sure Mary had years of happiness in Nazareth with Jesus and Joseph. But when Jesus was preaching she also must have heard rumors of how the leaders of the church hated him. I'm sure she worried over Jesus and prayed constantly for him. Then she finally hears of the trial and condemnation of Jesus. She hears he will be crucified by the Romans.

She goes to the place of execution and there sees her beloved son bleeding, suffering and dying on a cross. What heartache for her! But then she hears he is raised from the grave and I'm sure, although the Bible doesn't say so, Jesus saw her again before he went back to heaven.

So, why did God choose Mary? I think T.D. Jakes is right; she was a woman who knew how to be strong in the Lord.




Monday, February 10, 2014

The World or Jesus?

"You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money." Isaiah 52:3

From a sermon by, T. DeWitt Talmage:

When a man gives himself over to the world he expects to get some adequate compensation. He has heard the great things the world does for a man and he believes it. He wants a lot of money. Money that will give him houses and horses and a summer resort and jolly companionship.

To get it he parts with his physical health by overwork. He parts with his conscience. He parts with much domestic enjoyment (being home with the family). He parts with opportunities for literary culture. He parts with his soul. And so he gives over his entire nature to the world.

He does it in four installments. He pays down the first installment and one fourth of his nature is gone. He pays down the second installment and half his nature is gone. He pays down the third installment and three quarters of his nature are gone. And after many years have gone by he pays down the fourth installment and lo! his entire nature is gone.

He then comes up to the world and says, "Good morning, I have delivered you the goods; I have given you my body, mind and soul and I have come now to collect my fortune. The world says, "What do you mean?" He says, "Well, I have come to collect the money you owe me, and I expect you to now fulfill your part of the contract. "But," says the world, "I have failed. I am bankrupt. I can not possibly pay that debt."

"Well," you say, "give me back the goods." The world replies, "Oh no, they are all gone. I can not give them back to you. And there you stand on the confines of eternity, your spiritual character gone, staggering under the consideration that, "You have sold yourself for nothing."

I tell you the world is a liar; it does not keep its promises. It is a cheat and it fleeces everything it can put its hands on. It is a bogus world. It is a swindler. Many a man has woken up in such a time to find that he has sold out for eternity and has nothing to show for it.

I went to see a worldly person die. (His house was decorated beautifully with art of every kind) The man had given 40 years to the world - his wit, his time, his genius, his talent, his soul. Did the world come in to stand by his death-bed or give any compensation? Oh, no! The world does not like sick and dying people; it leaves them in the lurch. It ruined this man and then left him. He had a magnificent funeral.

I want to persuade my audience that the world is a poor investment; that it does not pay 90% of satisfaction nor 80% nor 2% nor 1%. It gives no solace when a dead child lies on your lap; it gives no peace when conscience rings its alarm; it gives no explanation in the day of dire trouble.

To you who have tried this world, is it a satisfactory portion? Would you advise your friends to make the investment? No. You have sold yourself for nothing.Your conscience went. Your hope went. Your Bible went. Your heaven went. Your God went.

Did you think your soul was a mere trinket which for a few dollars you could buy in a toy shop? Did you think your soul was short-lived and that it would soon lie down for extinction? Or had you no idea what your soul was worth? Did you not know if you die knowing Jesus, after your soul leaves your body you reach to the stars and the next step to the farthest reaches of God's universe? Oh my brother, what possessed you that you should part with your soul so cheap?

There is an alternative to this, "He that believes on the Son shall have everlasting life; and he that believes not on the Son shall not see life."

T. DeWitt Talmage

This sermon reminded me of this verse: "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"  Mark 8:36


Friday, February 7, 2014

Part 2 of Oscar Wilde's Conversion.

Part 2 on Oscar Wilde.

Wilde wrote of Jesus' last day on earth as being poetic:

The little supper with his companions, one of whom has already sold him for a price; the anguish in the quiet moon-lit garden; the false friend coming close to him so as to betray him with a kiss; the friend who believed  in him and on whom as on a rock he had hoped to build a house of refuge for man, denying him as the bird cried to the dawn; his own utter loneliness, his submission, his acceptance of everything; and along with it all such scenes as the high priest rending his raiment in wrath, and the magistrate of civil justice calling for water in the vain hope of cleansing himself of that stain of innocent blood that makes him the scarlet figure of history; the coronation ceremony of sorrow, one of the most wonderful things in the whole of recorded time; the crucifixion of the Innocent One before the eyes of his mother and of the disciple whom he loved; the soldiers gambling and throwing dice for his clothes; the terrible death by which he gave the world its most eternal symbol; and his final burial in the tomb of the rich man, his body swathed in Egyptian linen with costly spices and perfumes as though he had been a king's son.

On Christ's love:

He saw that love was the first secret of the world for which the wise men had been looking, and that it was only through love that one could approach either the heart of the leper or the feet of God.

Pity he has, of course, for the poor, for those who are shut up in prisons, for the lowly, for the wretched; but he has far more pity for the rich, for the hard hedonists, for those who waste their freedom in becoming slaves to things, for those who wear soft raiment and live in king's houses. Riches and pleasure seemed to him to be really greater tragedies than poverty or sorrow.

Christ mocked at the 'whited sepulcher of respectability and fixed that phrase forever. He treated worldly success as a thing absolutely to be despised. He saw nothing in it at all. He looked on wealth as an encumbrance to a man.

He pointed out that forms and ceremonies were made for man, not man for forms and ceremonies. The cold philanthropies, the ostentatious public charities, the tedious formalisms so dear to the middle-class mind, he exposed with utter and relentless scorn. He showed that the spirit alone was of value.

The world had always loved the saint as being the nearest possible approach to the perfection of God. Christ, through some divine instinct in him, seems to have always loved the sinner as being the nearest possible approach to the perfection of man. He regarded sin and suffering as being in themselves beautiful holy things and modes of perfection.

Of course the sinner must repent. But why? Simply because otherwise he would be unable to realize what he had done. The moment of repentance is the moment of initiation. More than that; it is the means by which one alters one's past. The Greeks thought that impossible. They often say in their Gnomic aphorisms, 'Even the Gods cannot alter the past.' Christ showed that the commonest sinner could do it, that it was the one thing he could do.

Christ, had he been asked, would have said - I feel quite certain about it - that the moment the prodigal son fell on his knees and wept, he made his having wasted his substance with harlots, his swine herding and hungering for the husks they ate, beautiful and holy moments in his life. It is difficult for most people to grasp the idea. I dare say one has to go to prison to understand it. If so, it may be worth while going.

He sought to be eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf and a cry on the lips of those whose tongues had been tied. His desire was to be to the myriads who had found no utterance a very trumpet through which they might call to heaven.

I find the words of Oscar Wilde to be moving and so poetic. To me, these are the words of a person who appreciates and loves God. He said much more of course, but I can't write it all here. If you can find a copy of De Profundis I think you would get a blessing from it. I find many fine, old books on  http://www.gutenberg.org/  This is where I downloaded my copy of the book.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Oscar Wilde - His Conversion and Belief in Jesus. Part 1.



Oscar Wilde was converted when he was in prison. (Some dispute that)  He wrote about his change in the book, De Profundis. In this book I found some great truths and beautiful descriptions of Jesus. I thought I would share some of them with you.

What he thought before he was imprisoned:
I said to her (a friend), there was enough suffering in one narrow London lane to show that God did not love man, and that wherever there was any sorrow, though but that of a child, in some little garden weeping over a fault that it had or had not committed, the whole face of creation was completely marred.

I was entirely wrong. She told me so, but I could not believe her. I was not in the sphere in which such belief was to be attained to. Now it seems to me that love of some kind is the only possible explanation of the extraordinary amount of suffering that there is in the world. I cannot conceive of any other explanation. I am convinced there is no other, and that if the world has indeed, as I have said, been built of sorrow, it has been built by the hands of love, because in no other way could the soul of man, for whom the world was made, reach the full stature of its perfection. Pleasure for the beautiful body, but pain for the beautiful soul.

Written about his imprisonment:
I bore up against everything with some stubbornness of will and much rebellion of nature until I had absolutely nothing left in the world but one thing. I had lost my name, my position, my happiness, my freedom, my wealth. I was a prisoner and a pauper. But I still had my children left. Suddenly, they were taken away from me by the law. It was a blow so appalling that I did not know what to do, so I flung myself on my knees and bowed my head and wept and said, "The body of a child is as the body of the Lord; I am not worthy of either."

That moment seemed to save me. I saw then that the only thing for me was to accept everything. Since then - curious as it will no doubt sound - I have been happier. It was of course my soul in its ultimate essence that I had reached. In many ways I had been its enemy, but I found it waiting for me as a friend. When one comes in contact with the soul it makes one simple as a child, as Christ said one should be.

The fact that God loves man shows us that in the divine order of ideal things it is written that eternal love is to be given to what is eternally unworthy. Or, if that phrase seems to be a bitter one to bear, let us say that everyone is worthy of love, except him who thinks that he is.

To be continued...


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ruined by Prosperity.

File:Rimini083.jpg
Photo by:Georges Jansoone (JoJan) 

" There are more men ruined by prosperity than by adversity. If we had our own way in life, before this we would have been impersonations of selfishness and worldliness and disgusting sin, and puffed up until we would have been like Julius C├Žsar, who was made by sycophants to believe that he was divine, and the freckles on his face were as the stars of the firmament."

"It was out of Dante's suffering came the sublime "Divina Commedia," and out of John Milton's blindness came "Paradise Lost," and out of miserable infidel attack came the "Bridgewater Treatise" in favor of Christianity, and out of David's exile came the songs of consolation, and out of the sufferings of Christ came the possibility of the world's redemption, and out of your bereavement, your persecution, your poverties, your misfortunes, may yet come an eternal heaven."

New Tabernacle Sermons: T. De Witt Talmage

I remember hearing a sermon where the preacher said, "If you are a Christian, you will be happy all the time." I thought, "He has never suffered a great loss." Even Jesus wasn't happy all the time. And we have this comfort, that if we never suffered we would be hard-hearted. We would think about people, "Why can't they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps? I can do it, why can't they?

Prosperity ruined Solomon and King Saul. David fell into adultery and murder when he was prosperous. Joseph did better. He was righteous in slavery, in jail and in a palace sitting next to Pharoah. Sometimes God tests us in prosperity and in suffering. Let us pray we will all pass these tests.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Our Champion Jesus.


Photo by Harry Kossuth

Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? "It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save."
 Isaiah 63:1

 Who is this? Jesus - mighty to save!

"Blessed be God, we have a Champion! He is so styled in the Bible: A Champion who has conquered death and hell, and he is ready to fight all our battles from the first to the last. "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, mighty to save?" If we follow in the wake of that Champion death has no power and the grave no victory. The worst man trusting in Him shall have his dying pangs alleviated and his future illumined."
New Tabernacle Sermons: T. De Witt Talmage