THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION

Matthew 16:13–16 :”Now when* Jesus came to the region of Caesarea ⌊Philippi⌋, he began asking* his disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, ⌊Some⌋ say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

As we read through these verses we notice that there are two questions that Jesus asks the disciples. First, who do the people say I am? And second, who do you say that I am? Both are serious questions, but ONLY one truly matters!

It can be helpful to “guage” the crowd or take a survey to find out what the most popular opinion is at any given time, but that’s just it: times change and so do our opinions. The “survey says,” (that’s a popular line from the old Family Feud show) that Jesus was everything other than who He was!

“There was a wide range of opinions on who Jesus was. Some of them were very clearly ill-informed. Which one of these answers is obviously false? Why? Jesus clearly could not have been John the Baptist since their lives overlapped and they were born just a few months apart and had actually seen each other face to face on at least one occasion. But all of the opinions had one thing in common. Everyone believed Jesus was somebody special and not just an ordinary man.”

That may seem to be an encouraging answer, “He’s special, certainly not ordinary,” but it really isn’t. Many people believe Jesus was a great man, good teacher, and wonderful example, but such beliefs will not find them enjoying peace with God and life everlasting!

The answer to Jesus’second question is the one that counts. “Who do YOU say That I am?  This question is personal and direct. Opinion polls do not matter. Surveys have no place here.  Who do you say Jesus is dear friend?

Matthew 16:16–18 :”16 And Simon Peter answered and* said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” 17 And Jesus answered and* said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this* to you, but my Father who is in heaven. “

Simon got it right! Do you notice how different his answer is compared to the majority opinion? Simon understood Jesus to be the Messiah: the rescuer; the redeemer! BUT, Simon could never of came to that truth claim without the help of God the Father.

Neither can we. Neither can YOU! Friends, you will be truly blessed when God reveals who Christ is to you. When you finally come to that place where you know absolutely who Jesus is (as Peter did), and receive Him by faith, your life, your destiny will be forever changed!

You will become a “new creation in Christ Jesus.” His just condemnation will be removed from you. And you will become an heir of the grace of God in Christ!

And, you will truly understand just how “special” He really is! Please, look unto Him and llive.GOSPEL

TODAY is the day of your salvation

As I was sitting in my school bus waiting to begin my route, I was scrolling through my news feed and came across this article that I want to share with you.

There is nothing new or unusual about this article (link to it below). Sadly, such a thing has become more normal to us as this world and it’s technology allow us immediate information on what is happening around our world.

https://share.newsbreak.com/15q55bin

Below is just a sample of the article that I hope might open our eyes once again to the sad reality that our Bible teaches. “ And inasmuch as it is [a]appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). And this reality happens to the very young as well.

“15-year-old dies at high school track and field practice, Indiana district says (A 15-year-old) freshman died at his high school’s evening track and field practice, according to an Indiana school district.”

“The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township and Lawrence North High School are extremely saddened by the (sudden) and unexpected death of a 15-year old freshman student … at Track & Field practice,” a district spokesperson said. “Our deepest sympathies go out to his family, friends, teachers, and classmates.”

Notice that this was a teenager not an elderly person who lived a full life. No one knows when his/her life will be required of them. No one knows how it will happen. I am sure that this young boy, so full of life, never in his wildest dreams thought that that day would be his last.

His last to participate in track and field. His last to hug his parents and tell them he loved them. His last day to joke around with his peers. His last day to look to Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins.

Admittedly, I don’t know this young man or his family. I don’t know if he was part of a loving functioning family or not. I don’t know if he professed faith in Christ. What I do know however, is that EVERYBODY NEEDS THAT FORGIVENESS!

Our youth is a time when we think we are invincible; a time when getting old and dying are the last things on our minds. In some ways this is normal, even right. But take notice to the counsel we receive from scripture.

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).

“Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; (Ecclesiastes 12:1).

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Our children desperately need us to teach them about Jesus and His Word. They need godly examples to follow in a culture that is one of perversion and death. A culture that’s primary purpose seems to be to entertain us right into hell!

It’s challenging enough for us older folk. Imagine what it must be like for our children.

Today it’s a new day. You feel great, even blessed, but you are not guaranteed to make it through. Neither are our children! Have you been instructing them in the things of God, their creator? Have you shared the gospel with them?

Today just might be the last chance you have.

GRATITUDE AFFECTS ATTITUDE (PT 2)

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Philippians 2:1-4

BRIEF RECAP:

In our last study we noticed Paul’s approach with the Philippians. He’s not only warm and pastoral, but he’s also quick to first mention the blessings of the gospel before giving certain exhortations to help them understand the importance of striving for unity within their church. In this post we will continue our study of these first couple verses and look at his exhortations to these believers.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

FOCUS ONE:

Fellowship unites us (2-4) 

That is an interesting statement for Paul to make, “make my joy complete.” He expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? “unity in the bonds of peace.” What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church is unity among their fellowship! 

In these verses, 2-4, I see two themes emerge: 

1. Fellowship 

2. Self-denial

In order for there to be biblical fellowship, within a church, there has to be like-mindedness, there has to be expressions of love, there has to be an understanding and grasping hold of “one purpose.” ALL of these things begin with what Paul was talking about in verse one: The saving, changing work of the Holy Spirit! We cannot have true God honoring fellowship with one another, if we do not have fellowship with the Spirit ourselves! Gratitude affects attitude!  

It is very clear in these verses that selfishness and empty conceit are polar opposites to self-less-ness and humility.  

Perhaps Paul’s mind is on Euodia and Syntyche. Later he writes urging them to be of the same mind. They were not maintaining their love for one another. They did not have the same purpose at heart. Selfishness or empty conceit may have been playing apart in their discord, and it was wreaking havoc within this church. It was so bad that Paul, many, many miles away, in prison, hears about it from Epaphroditus, most likely, when he was sent to serve Paul on their behalf.  

So, Paul, and it is an interesting observation, in the Greek, uses the imperative here. “Make my joy complete,” is a strong exhortation to begin doing something they were not presently doing.   

It could read: “Right now work at being of the same mind, right now begin maintaining your love for one another, right now start esteeming others better than yourselves. Right now stop being so selfish, stop being so prideful and share the benefits of your fellowship with Christ and His Spirit with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”  

vss. 2-3 explains how Paul’s joy would be complete-Fellowship is fostered by people whole-heartedly agreeing with each other, loving one another, and working toward the same goal (Gospel unity, gospel witness). It necessitates self-less-ness, humility and a true regard for others that places their needs above our own.

Selfishness, empty conceit, double-minded-ness, always stifles gospel centered unity, always hurts others, always is disobedience to the Lord.  

This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. It seems that he frames the letter, with that issue.  For example, in the first chapter he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”  

So, in chapter 1 we see an urging toward one mind and one heart.  In chapter 4 another urging toward one mind and one heart -And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses of chapter 2 also deal with the issue of unity in the church.  This is a plea for unity.   

FOCUS TWO:

3. Unity strengthens us (2-4)   

Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are working and striving together to make the gospel known to the lost as well as living it out in community with one another?  

Can you imagine a church where the Christians are humble, serving one another allowing their Lord to encourage and comfort and show mercy to others through them?  

Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are obedient to Christ even when their feelings get hurt, or their ideas for ministry are not acted upon or done to their satisfaction?  

Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are “standing firm in one spirit, steadfast in their opposition to the enemy, unrelenting in their humility before God and others?

How strong would such a church be? It is true: “united we stand, divided we fall.”      

Christian, have you noticed any potential areas of disunity in your congregation? Have you sought to bring unity in that situation? 

Maybe there is someone in the congregation that you personally are in conflict with, how can the Elders help you through that?

Talk with another mature believer about it and work towards maintaining “unity within the bonds of peace.”  

Paul, in a way, is giving them, giving us, a blueprint for a strong, healthy, vibrant, fruitful fellowship within the local church, and it has everything to do with UNITY!  

BUT, this unity is all wrapped up in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ! We see that in verses 5-11. That will be my focus in my next post!  

Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly thinking that unity and love, God honoring fellowship, self-less-ness is something that they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example.   

So, in order to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The passage combines Christian doctrine and Christian practice. The immediate connection is between the principle in Philippians 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.” 

All that now follows declares how Jesus looked upon our dire needs as sinners. We are the “others” whose “needs” were the great object of His acting in grace. And it is His mind, as thus expressed, that is to be our mind.

His “attitude” was one of: self-denial (6-7) Humility (8) Obedience (8) 

And Paul lays before these loved ones the greatest example he could ever give. No one was more undeserving of love, forgiveness and fellowship than they were, then we are as vile sinners. Who were we that God should become man, lower Himself for a time, in order to redeem us and qualify us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? (Colossians 1:12) 

And yet, He did. “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). 

Dear Christian, Christ is our supreme example, His selfless love is an example to us. His Humility and obedience even to the point of death are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.

Friend, just like all those who have gone before, just like all of us sitting here today, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You as the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness. 

But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous! Forgiven!Reconciled! At peace with God, your creator! Please believe in Him and you “will” be saved!