He is Risen, Indeed

I’ve pondered and studied and all my words fall short. On this glorious Resurrection Sunday, hear the Word of the Lord.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.  As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed,

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen! He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, just as He told you.”

Mark 16:1-7

The tomb is still empty. Jesus is still alive.  And because He lives, you and I can have eternal life in heaven with Him. Beloved, There is no better day to repent and receive the Lord Jesus Christ than Easter Sunday.

Acts: Repent

Repentance was the message of the Old Testament prophets. It was the message of the apostles and the church for thousands of years. But it is a message we scarcely hear today. The theme in most churches now is “All you need to do is believe, and you’ll be born again.” But is that all there is to salvation? Remember Jesus’ message at the beginning of His public ministry? “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Before we leave Acts 3, I want to sit on one verse in particular: “Repent, then and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (v. 19).  

Why do we preach the Gospel? Because people are behaving badly or because they are lost? Do we tell them Jesus will make them nicer, kinder, and more responsible? Or that He will save them from their sins? Are we preaching a better life or eternal life? Are we pointing them to the blood-stained cross or to a warm, fuzzy feeling? Jesus didn’t die so that we would be better people – He died so that we would be saved people. Maybe the reason evangelism is waning is that we are not drawing lost souls to Jesus, we’re telling people to change their ways. We’re not preaching repentance from sins, we’re preaching a “gospel” of behavior modification. And maybe that’s the reason so many reject the message – in their estimation, they are behaving just fine thank you.

At the heart of the Gospel is the raw truth that we are all sinners separated from God and destined for hell, not because of our behavior but because of the sinful nature we inherited from Adam and Eve. Our behavior is the symptom; our sinful condition is the disease. Repentance – turning away from sin and turning to God is the only cure. Jesus shed His blood to wipe away our sins and make us acceptable to God. That is the whole Gospel.

Lost people do not need to be comforted in their sins; they need to be confronted with their sins. They need to run to the cross of Christ and fall down in honest repentance. Then they will be refreshed. Then they will be forgiven. Then the chains will be broken and they will know sweet freedom. The message of the gospel has always been “Repent and believe.” Beloved, tell them the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing less than the gospel.

The Most Encouraging Word You’ll Ever Hear

When I sit down at my desk every morning to write I look at my Bible and wonder, “Where do I start?” Every word on every page is important and valuable. It’s hard to pluck a small bit of text out of this wonderful, blessed book. So I ask Him to speak through me because He knows you so well. He knows exactly what you need. He knows me too and He speaks to me as much as He speaks through me.

Today He sent me to 2 Peter 3 – a wonderful word of hope. No, it’s not an “everything’s gonna be all right, just you wait and see” kind of encouragement – it’s better. The context tells us that his readers are under much duress and persecution by “scoffers who come scoffing and following their own evil desires” (v. 3). They deny the existence of God and His work of creation. They “deliberately forget” that He has the authority to judge “ungodly men” (vs. 5-7). They rejected His Word and His people. Sound familiar? Some things never change.

Peter’s audience was growing weary of evil and persecution – just as we are. They wanted to know when God was going to keep His word and pronounce judgment. Then Peter says, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends . . .” (v. 8). This is the message he knows will reach their minds and their hearts. “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises . . .” “the day of the Lord will come” (v. 9-10). Make no mistake – God will punish evil. But in His grace, He is giving men time to repent. If you have lost loved ones, that is good news.

Then Peter brings it all back to the Christian – to you and me. In light of God’s faithfulness, “what kind of people ought you to be” (v. 11)? People who “live holy and godly lives” and “look forward to the day of God” (v. 11-12).

The greatest, most encouraging, and hopeful promise I can share is this: Jesus is coming again. No, I mean: JESUS IS COMING AGAIN! He will gather us together and take us home. He will judge all the wickedness and evil that grieves us so. He will make all things right. Just “wait a little longer” (Rev. 6:11), Beloved, and keep your eyes on the eastern sky.

Hebrews: Are You Listening?

Several years ago I turned down an invitation to an event. Afterward, I discovered that one of my favorite authors was a surprise guest speaker that day and I missed it. I was so disappointed. A few years later this speaker passed away and I realized that I had missed my one opportunity to hear her in person.

The writer of Hebrews offers a warning that you and I need to heed. “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned those on earth, how much less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven.” (Heb 12:25a). The writer started this sermon by saying “In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son” (Heb 1:1-2).

The history of Israel had been a sad story of God’s people rejecting God’s word through His prophets. The Lord said, “They have not listened to my words, words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets” (Jer 29:19). Their stopped-up ears and stubborn hearts put them in exile in Babylon for seventy years. But now, the writer said, His people have rejected the very Son of God, whom John called “The Word [made] flesh” (Jn 1:14). God was speaking to His people face to face and they didn’t want to hear what He had to say. It’s not just that they couldn’t hear and comprehend – they refused to hear. It’s like the little kid with his fingers in his ears saying, “Lalala – I can’t hear you.” The writer said if the Lord didn’t excuse those who rejected the prophets, what makes you think He will excuse us for rejecting His own Son?

Here is something important I want you to notice. What were the prophets speaking? What was the Son speaking? Not “you can decide for yourself what is right and wrong.” Not “I just want you to be happy.” Not even “unconditional love.” Their messages were words of warning. It was always, “Repent.” Turn away from your sin and turn back to God.

Here’s another thought: If God did not excuse those who rejected the words of the prophets and the word of His Son, will He excuse you and me who have the luxury of His Word in written form? I have at least fifteen Bibles on the shelves in my office. I expect most of us have a Bible app on our phones – and every one of them says the same thing: “Repent.” It’s not that we don’t have His Word. It’s that we’re refusing to listen. Beloved, we have no excuse.

Hebrews: Judgement’s Coming

See the source image

Its earliest origins were in the 1720s in a small Dutch Reformed Church in New Jersey, but the First Great Awakening caught fire in 1741 when Jonathan Edwards preached the sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards’ message revisited the biblical truth of God’s wrath on unbelievers. He reminded his listeners that all men are sinful creatures and under the condemnation of God. ButGod is withholding His righteous wrath so that all may have an opportunity to repent and turn in faith to Christ. Faced with the fearsome wrath of God, people fell trembling and wailing, “What must I do to be saved?” I wonder why people are not asking that question anymore.

The final subject in Hebrew’s “elementary teachings” is “eternal judgment” and I daresay that is even rarer today than it was in Edward’s day. We talked about God’s wrath when we dug into Hebrews 2:2-3 so I won’t belabor the point (I will post a link to that devotional in the comments) because there’s something else I want you to see. 

The writer had previously listed “the resurrection of the dead” as another foundational truth of the faith. The two are intrinsically linked. The church has claimed “resurrection from the dead” as something saved people have to look forward to, and rightly so. But Jesus didn’t teach resurrection as a “saved-only” deal. “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28-29). The wicked will be raised also, but for the purpose of judgment and eternal punishment. Paul said, Those who do not know God (through Jesus) “will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord . . . on the day He comes to be glorified” (2 Thess. 1:9-10). Yes, God is infinite love, grace, and mercy, but He is also infinite holiness that cannot tolerate wickedness. The world needs to hear the whole gospel.

I ask the same question I’ve asked again and again throughout this section. What does the church know of this today? Very little. I say that because if we did every lost person in the church (yes, there are many) would be trembling and wailing, “What must I do to be saved?” And every saved person would be begging sinners to come to Christ. No one will be left in the grave – everyone has an eternal destiny. Beloved, your family members, neighbors, friends, and coworkers need to know.  Will you tell them?

REPENT! THE END IS NEAR!

See the source image

He stood on the corner of a busy intersection in Tallahassee holding signs that read: “REPENT! THE END IS NEAR!” “JESUS IS COMING AGAIN! ARE YOU READY?” People gave him the middle finger salute of ridicule.  I doubted that his methods were very effective, but I knew that he was not wrong. The end is near. Jesus is coming back. Soon. But this has been said in every generation since the Apostle’s day. Before the dust had settled at the empty tomb, Peter and Paul were watching the eastern skies. Maybe I’ve just become very cynical in my “old age,” but I believe the signs are so prevalent that we really are in the last days.

Let’s consider Paul’s words in the context of our world today: “Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves (the ‘selfie’ generation), lovers of money (how high did the latest lottery get?), boastful, proud (entertainers and athletes), abusive (people punching out random strangers), disobedient to their parents (ever raised a teenager?), ungrateful (see the previous), unholy (sexual deviants in church leadership), without love (mass shootings), unforgiving (how high is the divorce rate?), slanderous (politics in general), without self-control (how high is the illegitimate birthrate?), brutal (Antifa), not lovers of the good (Washington, D.C.), treacherous (I refer you back to politics), rash (daily shootings), conceited, (refer back to boastful and proud ), lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (pretty much the world in general), having a form of godliness but denying its power (the Western church). ” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, adapted).

Globally many things are coming together according to prophetic Scriptures of the end. Nationally, evil rules the day from the highest office in the land to the decisions of the local school board. Jesus spoke of the end of the age with an increase in war, natural disasters, famine, persecution of Christians, unholiness in holy places, and an increase of wickedness and a decrease of love. If you don’t recognize these things in the world today, you need to put down your phone.

But there is still time – at least a moment – before the end.

Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If Jesus is your Lord and Savior, are you spreading the gospel?

Beloved, it is time to repent because the end is near. Jesus is coming back. Are you ready?

People Get Ready!

kneelingprayer“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.  Do not make yourselves unclean . . .” Leviticus 11:44

When God prepares a people for a great move on His part, He always calls them to repentance – confessing and turning away from sin, and consecration – setting oneself apart exclusively for the Lord. Prior to the exodus out of Egypt, the people were to cleanse their houses and anoint their doorframes with the blood of a Lamb.  By this they ridded their homes of impurities and were set apart from the Egyptians who would suffer the wrath of God.  Just before they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Israelites were commanded to consecrate themselves “for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you” (Joshua 3:5).  Often King David ordered his men to consecrate themselves the day before a great battle.

All four gospels note the calling of John the Baptist who was sent to “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Mark 1:3).  In the first-century world, before a king came to visit one of his cities, the call would go out to level the roads on his path.  John was also calling for “straight paths” before the coming King, but it was a call to repentance and consecration.  It was a call for the people to prepare their hearts for the Lord.

Christians have pleaded with God for a great move of His Spirit in the United States.  We want God to “do amazing things among us.”  But are we hearing the call to prepare the way for Him?  Am I heeding the call for repentance?  Am I carefully examining my life for habits, desires, laziness, distractions and selfishness that serve as a quiet rebellion against God?  Are we consecrating ourselves unto the Lord?  Are you willing to let go of everything, no matter how attractive or comfortable, that draws your heart away?  Are you getting rid of everything that that compromises your testimony and drags you into the world?  What T.V. shows, movies, music, magazines, and websites need to go to make your heart ready for the Lord?  What attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, rights, and worldly influences do I need to turn from in order to be used for the Kingdom of God?

I believe God is getting ready to do a great work in the world.  But it will require people who are willing to set everything aside to join Him.   That means whole-hearted devotion to Christ and an unwillingness to compromise with the world.  I also believe a great battle is coming in this nation; the lines have already been drawn in our culture and our courts.  Only a people with pure, consecrated hearts will be able to stand firm in the face of it.   

Beloved, are you willing to set ourselves apart exclusively for Christ?