Christmas is for Sinners

Christmas Is For Sinners

Christmas Is For Sinners

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CHAPTER 2

SUBJECT: Christmas Is For Sinners!

TEXT: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Said Jesus on one occasion, just prior to his death: "For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37) What is the truth of which Jesus testified when He came into the world?

I. Jesus testified to the truth of man's sinful and helpless condition.

II. Jesus testified to the truth of His personal identification with the lost.

III. Jesus testified to the truth of man's need for deepest repentance and … genuine conversion.

CONCLUSION: Christmas is for sinners — for respectable sinners with so-called respectable sins and also for repulsive sinners. Everyone stands on the same level at the foot of the cross. Christmas is a good time to receive forgiveness and go on your way rejoicing!

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CHAPTER 2

SUBJECT: Christmas Is for Sinners!

TEXT: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Said Jesus on one occasion, just prior to his death: "For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37) What is the truth of which Jesus testified when He carne into the world?

I. Jesus testified to the truth of man's sinful and helpless condition.

Make no mistake about it! Jesus was sinless, but every other person is sinful and in need of forgiveness. Jesus said to His accusers, "Which of you can condemn me of sin?" In Jesus there was no sin at all. Even though He was tempted in all points as we are, yet He never once yielded to the allurements of sin. Jesus' every thought, action, and motive was pure!

To the self-righteous critics who were eager to stone the woman who was caught in adultery, Jesus said, "You who are without sin, you cast the first stone!" (John 8:7) Everyone of these men left, for all knew they were sinful! Said Jesus to the self-righteous persons of His day: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28)

A spirit of self-sufficiency and pride is one of the terrible characteristics of sin which Jesus often recognized in His dealings with mankind. To the self-righteous Pharisees who prided themselves in their religious achievements, Jesus said, "I have come into the world to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind" The Pharisees who were standing there asked, "Are you saying we are blind?' "If you were blind, you wouldn't be guilty," Jesus replied "But your guilt remains because you claim to know what you are doing." (John 9:39-41, Living Bible)

Notes Barclay, "The man who is conscious of his own blindness, and who longs to see better and to know more, is the man whose eyes can be opened and who can be led more and more deeply into the truth. The man who thinks he knows it all, the man who does not realize that he cannot see, is the man who is truly blind and beyond hope and help. Only the man who realizes his own weakness can become

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strong. Only the man who realizes his own blindness can learn to see. Only the man who realizes his own sin can be forgiven." (Barclay's John Vol. 2: pg.50)

II. Jesus testified to the truth of His personal identification with the lost.

Jesus said that He came into the world to seek and to save the lost, to give his life as a ransom for sinners. Jesus was called a "Friend of publicans and sinners." Jesus pictured Himself as the Shepherd in search of the lost sheep.

Said Jesus, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) Even before Jesus was born, the angel spoke to Joseph about Jesus' birth and his mission: "You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

If Jesus was born to die, if Jesus came into the world to redeem His people, if Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, this means that Christmas is for sinners – for those who are helpless, hurt, lost, and wicked!

Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1 demonstrates Jesus' identification with sinners. Jesus has some 'black sheep' in his family tree. He didn't try to hide this fact. Thamar was an adulteress! Bathsheba was the woman whom David seduced and took deceitfully from Uriah and with whom he committed adultery! Rahab was the harlot of Jericho! All of these women were sinners and yet they were part of Jesus' ancestry! The inclusion of these sinners in Jesus' genealogy shows Jesus' mission of redemption! (Note Matthew 1)

The gift of myrrh which one of the Wise Men from the East presented to the Christ child is a strange gift to give to an infant. Myrrh is used to embalm dead bodies. Giving this gift to Jesus symbolizes the fact that Jesus was born to die – to die as Saviour for sinners! "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)

If Christmas is for sinners, then Christmas is not for me if I claim no need for forgiveness for my sins!

Jesus' identification with sinners was at the deepest level – even to the point of dying on a cross for sin. Jesus became mankind's 'sin bearer' when he died on the cross. So much did He identify with mankind's problems (sins) that God turned His face away from Jesus while Jesus died on the cross. Jesus became the 'personification of sin' and, because God is so holy that He cannot even look at sin, Jesus felt terrible rejection even by God. Jesus cried out from the Cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"

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III. Jesus testified to the truth of man's need for deepest repentance and genuine conversion.

Said Jesus to a very religious Jewish leader (Nicodemus), "With all the earnestness I possess I tell you this: Unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God." (John 3:3, Living Bible)

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14)

The purpose for which Christ came (Luke 5:32), and the central message of the Gospel (Acts 3:19) is that men must repent and turn to God if they are to live. God's absolute requirement for salvation is Repentance: "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." (Acts 17:30 b)

To repent is to change one's mind regarding sin, from one of clinging to sin to one of abhorring sin. A change of mind regarding sin results in a change of direction, from one of following evil ways to one of pursuing godly ways. Repentance is a moral U-turn, turning ones back on sin, and turning one's face toward the Saviour. Turning to Christ is the essence of Biblical Faith and is the positive result of genuine repentance. Repentance and faith must work together if true conversion is to result. Repentance is the proper attitude toward your sin, and faith is the proper attitude toward your Redeemer. Faith is putting yourself in the care of Christ who is able to change your life. Faith is a transfer of trust for salvation from yourself to Christ, who alone can save you!

But you may say, "I am a Christian and you are saying that Christmas is for sinners. Does that mean that Christmas is not for me, a Christian?"

I would answer first that it is great that you are a Christian. A Christian is one who is saved from his sins. Jesus came to save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1) If one habitually and willfully sins, it is true that he is not a Christian. (1 John 3).

But even if you are a Christian, you can identify with your need for daily forgiveness of willful isolated sins, and sins of ignorance, and sins of omission. Repentance is not a once-and-for-all experience, but repentance is a life-time attitude towards all sin (willful or ignorant). Because Christmas is for sinners, and

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because all of us need forgiveness every day, we can all identify with the purpose of Christmas – Christians and non-Christians alike.

At Christmas time, we must not have a holier-than-thou attitude towards the unchurched and the unsaved, towards those outsiders who will make their way into our Church at Christmas time and Easter time. Let us be grateful that those sinners who visit our Churches twice a year at least instinctively recognize the fact that Christmas is for sinners – sinners like themselves.

It is only as sinners – unbelievers – see this spirit of humility in Christians that they will turn to our Christ and to our Church.

The following illustrates what we are trying to say. Writes Nancy Covert Smith in her book Journey Out of Nowhere, "One afternoon I picked up a woman at the mental health day care center. I was on FISH call (FISH is an organization of Christians who work together to provide emergency help) and she needed transportation home. She was a tall woman, red-haired, loud-spoken. After she had crawled into the car and we had started, she said:

'You'd better be scared. I'm a mental patient.'" "'I know.' 'Well, aren't you scared I'll hurt you?' She looked at me through a haze of cigarette smoke. 'But I was in the hospital.' "I smiled, 'So was I. 'We were like two children trying to out do each other. "'I had shock treatments,' she said. '"So did I.' '"I had seven.' '"I had fourteen,' I replied. "She looked at me a few minutes, and then she grinned. 'You win. You were sicker. Now let's talk.'" (Journey Out of Nowhere, Nancy Covert Smith, Word; 1973)

Says Robert Andrews who relates this incident, "After I read this I couldn't help but wonder what might happen this Christmas if the following similar scene were to take place. He was a tall man, red-haired, loud-spoken. I saw him on the street and began talking to him about visiting my Church.

"You'd better stay away from me. I'm just a bum." "I know." "Well, aren't you afraid I'll contaminate you or ruin your reputation?" He looked at me through a haze of cigarette smoke. "I'm a real bad sinner." "So am I." We were like two children trying to outdo each other. "I've done thousands of immoral things." "I've committed thousands of sins of pride, self-righteousness and neglect. I've been a hypocrite."

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"He looked at me a few minutes. "You win. You're as bad as I am. Let's talk."

Please don't misunderstand what I am trying to say. It is true that Christmas is for sinners, but we are not encouraging Christians to declare, therefore, that Christians are only saved in their sins rather than from their sins. Where sin abounds, grace super abounds. The atonement of Christ is able to cleanse from all sin – original sin and volitional sins (sins caused by wrong choice). We are not suggesting that because Christmas is for sinners, that Christians have a 'sin-fixation' rather than a 'grace-fixation'.

We are not to become preoccupied with sin and self, but we are to become preoccupied with the Saviour, with His power to cleanse from all sin. It is true that we must be aware of our sins – our sins of commission, our sins of omission, our sins of ignorance – but we must not fix our attention on our sins. We must glance at our sins, but we must gaze at our Saviour.

Says Dr. A. J. Muste, "In Neo-orthodoxy when we became obsessed with human helplessness and human corruption instead of being caught up in the transcending of them by the grace of God, we are still preoccupied with self, still self-centered and therefore still self-righteous. If we do not end with the experience of the grace and power of God as that which overcomes and blots out our preoccupation with our sinful selves, we are but giving another demonstration of the pretension and corruption of man, not of the grace of God." (Quoted by E. S. Jones in "Growing Spiritually' pg. 11)

However, even Christians need daily forgiveness. No one comes up to the perfect standards of God. Our attitude as believers must be an attitude of humility and confession. It is only as we continue to have a broken and a contrite and humble spirit that we can have forgiveness on a continuing basis. John wrote, "If we continue to confess our sins, faithful is He and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned and are now in a state where we do not sin, a liar we are making Him, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:9-l0) (Wuest)

CONCLUSION: Christmas is for sinners – for respectable sinners with so-called respectable sins and also for repulsive sinners. Everyone stands on the same level at the foot of the cross. Remember, "He hath visited and redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68)

Confess your sins at Christmas time. Christmas is a good time to receive forgiveness and go on your way rejoicing. Whatever your sins are today is the day to confess them. Jesus came to save His people from their sins.

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Christmas Is For Sinners

Questions

  1. Even though Jesus, as a man, was tempted in all points as other humans are tempted, did he even once yield to temptation and to sin?

  2. Cite scriptures which indicate Jesus' accurate evaluation of mankind's sinful condition. (Note Matthew 23:27-28)

  3. Why is a spirit of humility an absolute prerequisite for spiritual healing? (John 9:39- 41)

  4. Why can it be said that 'Christmas Is For Sinners'?

  5. Why was the strange gift of myrrh, which one of the Wise Men gave to Jesus, so significant as a symbol of Jesus' mission on earth?

  6. As it relates to Jesus' identification with lost mankind, what significance do you attach to Jesus' words from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!"?

  7. If repentance is one of the absolute requirements for salvation, how would you describe and define 'Repentance'? (Luke 5:32; Luke 13:3; Luke 18:9-19; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30)

  8. What is the relationship between 'Faith' and 'Repentance', as these words relate to conditions for personal salvation?

  9. Give your interpretation of the following statement: "Everyone stands on the same level at the foot of the cross."

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Here He Comes – Reconcile

Here He Comes – Reconcile

Here He Comes – Reconcile!

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CHAPTER 10

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'.

I. Possibility Of Reconciliation

II. Necessity Of Reconciliation

A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.

B. Because Of The Fact Of Misunderstandings In Human Relationships.

C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.

D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.

III. Steps To Human Reconciliation

A. A Christian Must Seek To Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.

B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.

C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.

D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.

E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.

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F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.

G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.

H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.

I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.

J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once.

K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.

CONCLUSION: Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb. Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.

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CHAPTER 10

SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

INTRODUCTION: Soon we will be engulfed in the Christmas rush – buying presents, decorating our homes, serving company meals, playing Christmas carols, window shopping, writing Christmas cards to old and new friends, attending Christmas programs, making candy, and perhaps going to the mountains to pick out that special tree, and many, many more activities.

Christmas time is a time when many hearts are opened to give, when those same hearts are seemingly closed the rest of the time of the year. It is a time of glee, anticipation, surprises, gifts, and gladness – and rightfully it should be! Christmas brings happiness to many unfortunate children who are often overlooked most of the time. Perhaps there will be more giving at Christmas time than at any other time during the year, even by people who are usually greedy and grasping.

Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ.

PROPOSITION: We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter. The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'. Christ came to reconcile sinners to Himself, and if we are to enter into the true spirit of Christmas, we must enter into the spirit of reconciliation with God and man.

I. Possibility Of Reconciliation.

Man was created in God's own image, and as such was made only for greatness and fellowship. Man had blessed communion with his Creator. He was meant to enjoy God's presence forever. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized man's beginning. God gave man superior intelligence, and permitted him to subdue the earth. Man's body was strong, his mind superb, his spirit unblemished.

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However, man lost his greatness. Man fell from splendor to despair, from the beauty of perfection to the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from health to weakness, from life to death. Man is estranged, haunted by loneliness and paralyzed by fear. He is alienated from God, from his fellow man, and from himself.

Paul taught that all of humanity indulged in sin and that the blanket wrath of God covered mankind. Says Paul, "We all… followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else." (Ephesians 2:3, Phillips)

Man fell from God and is under the wrath of God. However, man is heaven-starved and in need of forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation.

"And Here at last we find 
Strict diagnosis of our malady, 
Which is, in short, that man is heaven-starved 
Men are born thirsting for infinity." 

(Abundant Living, page 95)

Christ's coming and His eventual death made possible man's reconciliation to God. "It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body, and now as a result Christ has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are standing there before him with nothing left against you – nothing left that he could even chide you for: the only condition is that you fully believe the Truth, standing in it steadfast and firm, strong in the Lord, convinced of the Good News that Jesus died for you, and never shifting from trusting him to save you. This is the wonderful news that came to each of you and is now spreading all over the world. And I Paul, have the joy of telling it to others." (Colossians 1:20-23, Living Bible)

Christ makes it possible for man to be at one with God. "When William Tyndale was translating the New Testament into English, he encountered great difficulty in finding a word big enough to convey the meaning of the redeeming work of Christ. Finding no adequate word, Tyndale joined two simple words – 'at' and 'onement', thus making 'atonement' and giving in its etymology a clue to the Bible's teaching of salvation by reconciliation. In Christ's death on the cross, God and man, who had been severed by sin, were brought together by the cross." (World Aflame; Billy Graham; pg. 116)

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Man must face the fact of his estrangement and acknowledge that he can only be at one with God through faith and repentance. The object of man's faith is Christ who objectively accomplished man's reconciliation on the Cross. The meaning of man's repentance lies in his denial at attempts of self-reconciliation, and genuine sorrow for his sin.

"E. Stanley Jones has told a story of a little boy who stood before a picture of his absent father, and then turned to his mother and said wistfully, 'I wish Father would step out of the picture.'" (Sangster's Special-Day Sermons; page 17). The true meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that the God who rules this vast universe has stepped out of the universe to dwell upon this little, insignificant, sin-infested plant and lived and died for man, in order that sinners might be reconciled to the Father. The erring child may be reconciled. That is the true meaning of Christmas.

Have you repented and accepted Christ's offer of reconciliation? Remember, "All who trust him – God's Son – to save them have eternal life; those who don't believe and obey him shall never see heaven, but the wrath of God remains upon them." (John 3:36, Living Bible)

The meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to God. But also the meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to man. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas. The angels praised God on the night of Jesus' birth, and announced the purpose of Christ's coming into the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." One cannot truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas and at the same time have ill will toward his fellow man.

The spirit of Christmas means the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christmas is a time of calling all men everywhere to be reconciled to God, and also a time for calling all believers to be reconciled to their fellow believers. The call of Christmas is the call to forgive and to be reconciled.

II. Necessity Of Reconciliation

A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.

This problem of differences arising between fellow Christians is not new. Paul dealt with this problem in the Church at Philippi, as well as several other Churches. Wrote Paul to the Philippian Church: "And now I want to plead with those two dear women, Euodias and Synthche. Please, please, with the Lord's help, quarrel no more – befriends again. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked side by side with me in telling

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the Good News to others; and they worked with Clement, too, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are written in the Book of Life." (Philippians 4:2-3)

Jesus gave clear instructions as to what to do in cases between brothers who are divided: "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God." (Matthew 5:23, Living Bible)

B. Because Of the Fact of Misunderstandings in Human Relationships.

We need each other's forgiveness because we are very fallible human beings. One cause of misunderstanding among Christians is faulty judgment. The most sanctified Christian is subject to errors in judgment. With the best of intentions, a Christian can blunder and falter. Much misunderstanding among Christians is caused, however, because Christians make hasty judgments without sufficient knowledge even to form a judgment. What a different world this would be if we were very slow to form judgments about others.

"Has God deserted Heaven, 
And left it up to you, 
To judge if this or that is right, 
And what each one should do? 
I think He's still in business, 
And knows when to wield the rod, 
So when you're judging others, 
Just remember, you're not - God."

(God's Psychiatry; page 116)

Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them. Many Christians have pronounced judgments upon people, only to find out later that such judgments were unjust and the cause of much humiliation. How often we misinterpret someone's action, facial expression, or overheard conversation. God help us to admit that we are sometimes faulty in our judgment.

Sharp differences in opinions sometimes sever strong-willed Christians. The contention between Paul and Barnabas was so great that they parted company. Christians oftentimes differ in outlook, tastes, and opinions, and from this alone, misunderstandings arise. It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen.

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It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes closed-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions often times breeds misunderstanding.

C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.

Jesus made this truth clear in His Sermon on the Mount. He taught us to pray, "… and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." Jesus further said, "Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you." (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15)

D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.

"Don't cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live … Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ." (Ephesians 4:30 a, Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32, Living Bible)

"Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don't worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:12-13, Living Bible)

III. Steps To Human Reconciliation

A. A Christian Must Seek to Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.

A Christian must seek to understand the motives for people's behavior. How much easier it would be to forgive our fellow men, if we would seek better to understand the motives for their behavior. Impoliteness may be caused by worry or pain. Suspicion may be caused by misinformation. Impatience may be caused by bad nerves. James Fraser, a missionary who worked hard and prayed intensely for his people, one day lost his temper in the presence of the very people to whom he was ministering. His problem was not primarily spiritual; his problem was physical. He had worked so hard and had prayed so long that he had failed to get sufficient exercise and fresh air. To understand the cause for one's behavior is to be aided in developing the forgiving spirit. How much easier it would be to forbear with one another, if we sought to

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understand the personality make-up and the behavioral motives of those with whom we differ.

B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.

Each of us is unique and is born with differing temperaments that we will have the rest of our lives. People judge one another with such statements as these: "He's too progressive or he's too slow to change"; "He's too liberal or he's too conservative;" "He's too emotional or he's too staid"; "He's too visionary or he's too practical"; He's too talkative or he's too quiet"; "He's too active or he's too passive." These judgmental statements are made on the basis of one's own temperament or one's own background. It would be much easier to accept or to forgive one another, if we all learned to accept each other's differing temperaments and each other's differing backgrounds. Learn to give and take. Learn to appreciate that which is different from you.

C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.

E. Stanley Jones has a motto: "Fellowship is based on confidence; secret criticism breaks that confidence; therefore we will renounce all secret criticism." He further says, "If there is no outer criticism, then we know there is no inner criticism: so the fellowship is relaxed and unrestrained. We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making. ' If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst and we will probably find the best!" (Abundant Living, E. S. Jones, pg. 268)

D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.

"The fact that we have been able to hold the resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because Unsurrendered to the will of God." (E. S. Jones, Abundant Living, pg. 60)

E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.

"A self-centered person can image a group is talking about him when that group is talking about everything else but; he can read into actions and statements meanings never intended; he can go around with a suspicious, looking-for-slights attitudes, and will find imaginary ones a plenty." "Remember that 'when you go around with a chip on your shoulder, the chip is probably from the block above.'" (Ibid; pg.60)

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F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.

G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.

H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.'

I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.

"By doing so you are probably attempting to lift yourself up by pushing them down. It won't succeed. In mentally picking flaws in others you create a worse flaw in yourself – you become a sensitive, critical person, like the thing you habitually center upon.

J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once. (E.S. Jones)

"Most misunderstandings could be dissolved by quick action. If you let them go they fester." (Ibid; 268) Barclay says, "Again and again it is the experience of life that, if a quarrel, or a difference, or a dispute is not healed immediately, it can go on breeding worse and worse trouble as time goes on. Bitterness breeds bitterness. It has often happened that a quarrel between two people has descended to their families, and has been inherited by future generations, and has in the end succeeded in splitting a Church or a society in two. If at the very beginning one of the parties had had the grace to apologize or to admit fault, a very grievous situation need never have arisen. If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were in the right, we have to take the first step towards healing the breach. When personal relations go wrong, in nine cases out of ten immediate action will mend them; but if that immediate action is not taken, they will continue to deteriorate, and the bitterness will spread in an ever-widening circle." (Barclay's Matthew, pages 142, 143)

(All of the points in this last Section of the message are taken from E. Stanley Jones in his book 'Abundant Living'.)

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K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.

"Be so preoccupied with good will that you haven't room for ill will Dr. George Carver, the great Negro scientist and saint, has risen to fame through his classical discoveries and service to the farmers of the South. Someone asked him to reveal the name of the university which had accepted him as a student and then, on discovering he was a Negro, had refused him admittance. Dr. Carver consistently refused to tell, passing the incident off as nothing. He had what somebody called 'the peace that passeth not only all understanding, but all misunderstanding.' Someone said to me (Jones), 'I don't think you know when you are insulted'. I replied, 'I am not looking for insults and so don't see them'." (Ibid; 63)

CONCLUSION: Christmas time is a time when peace ought to reign between God and man and between man and man, especially in the Church – "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3, Living Bible)

Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb? Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.

IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR

Still thro' the cloven skies they come, 
With peaceful wings unfurled, 
And still their heavenly music floats 
O'er all the weary world: 
Above its sad and lowly plains 
They bend on hovering wing, 
And ever O'er its Babel sounds 
The blessed angels sing.
For lo! The days are hastening on, 
By prophet bards foretold, 
When with the ever circling years 
Comes round the age of gold; 
When peace shall over all the earth 
Its ancient splendors fling, 
And the whole world sends back the song 
Which now the angels sing. 

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WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT

"All glory be to God on high, 
And to the earth be peace:
Good will henceforth, from heaven to men, 
Begin and never cease!" 

HARK! WHAT MEAN THOSE HOLY VOICES

Peace on earth, good will from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found: 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! 
Loud our golden harps shall sound. 

I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

I heard the bells on Christmas Day 
Their old familiar carols play, 
And wild and sweet the words repeat 
Of peace on earth, good will to man. 

HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Hark! The herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the newborn King; 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled!" 
Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Son of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
Risen with healing in His wings. 

O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM

For Christ is born of Mary, 
And gathered all above, 
While mortals sleep, the Angels keep 
Their watch of wondering love. 
O morning stars, together 
Proclaim the holy birth, 
And praises sing to God the King 
And peace to men on earth! 

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GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

Hark! The cherubic armies shout, 
And glory leads the song: 
Goodwill and peace are heard throughout 
The harmonious heavenly throng. 
With Joy the chorus we repeat, 
"Glory to God on high!" 
Goodwill and peace are now complete, 
Jesus was born to die. 

PEACE ON EARTH – GOODWILL TO MEN

Peace on earth, Goodwill from heaven, 
Reaching far as man is found: 
Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! 
Loud our golden harps shall sound. 

Let us meditate often on the truth of our great text: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)

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CHAPTER 10

QUESTIONS

  1. During the Christmas Season, have you ever felt the 'pull of temptation' in your own life, as described in the following statement? "Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ."

  2. Explain what is meant by the following statement: "We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter."

  3. As Mankind, as represented by Adam and Eve, fell into sin through disobedience to God's command, what consequence did this "Fall" have in terms of human interpersonal relationships?

  4. Because of Christ's death on the cross, what has God made possible for every human being, in terms of interpersonal relationships? (Note Colossians 1:20-23)

  5. What is the basic meaning of the word 'Atonement'?

  6. What must a person do, in order for him or for her to be reconciled to God? (Note John 3:16, John 3:36)

  7. Tell to what degree you agree with the following statements: "The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas."

    Is it possible for a professing Christian to be "at odds" (feeling enmity) with another person, and, at the same time, enjoy intimate fellowship with God? Why or why not? (Note 1 John 3:10-18; John 4:7-8, John 4:11, John 4:20-21)

  8. Is the problem of misunderstanding between fellow Christians a problem which exists only in modem-day Churches, or was this a problem even during the time of the Early Church? (Note Philippians 4:2-3)

  9. What should a believer do if he learns that a fellow believer has been offended by him? (Note Matthew 5:23)

  10. From your perspective and personal experience in interpersonal relationship, why do you think that fellow Christians find it so "easy" to judge one another?

  11. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them."

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  12. Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen. It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes close-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions oftentimes breeds misunderstandings." (Note Isaiah 1:18; Philippians 2:1-4; James 3:17; Acts 15:36-41; Ephesians 4:31-32)

  13. What condition must a believer meet if he is to continue to experience God's forgiveness of his sins? (Note Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35)

  14. What should be our attitude towards those who wrong us and sin against us? (Note Ephesians 4:30-32; Colossians 3:12-13)

  15. How is seeking to understand the motives in another person a real aid in helping you to more quickly and easily forgive what seems wrong to you in another person?

  16. How does taking into consideration another person's temperament and background a real aid in helping you to understand and to forgive another person of his mistakes, shortcomings, and sins?

  17. Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making'? If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst, and we will probably find the best!"

  18. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The fact that we have been able to hold resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because unsurrendered to the will of God."

  19. Has it been your experience that overly-sensitive people tend to "read into actions and statements meaning never intended", and that they tend to hold resentments that are rooted in imaginary slights, insults, and wrongs"? What do you believe is the best "cure" for "over sensitivity" in a person's life?

  20. How does praying for a person, against whom you are tempted to hold resentment, help you?

  21. Why is it so important to say everything good that you possibly can, about a person with whom you are unfriendly? Does the fact that you "dwell on the fine, good things in other" (Philippians 4:8, Living Bible), and the fact that you verbalize those good qualities which you see in others, help you to begin to think and to feel positively about those persons with whom you don't have a close relationship (and with those persons that you don't naturally like)?

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  22. Is it possible for a Christian to love another person whom he does not like"? Why or why not? (Note Luke 6:27-36) Does 'agape' love (divine-type love) involve a "commitment of the will" or is it a "sentiment of the heart"? Is it possible, through God's enabling grace, for you to genuinely love your "enemies", even though you may hate their actions and attitudes and may not be naturally attracted to then personality? Why or why not?

  23. According to 2 Peter 1:5-8, what are the progressive steps which a believer must take, in order to become truly Christlike and mature in the Christian Faith? What is the greatest characteristic that best describes true maturity and Christ likeness?

  24. Is it possible for you to fasten and focus on the faults which you see in others, without at the same time becoming a critical and judgmental and overly – sensitive person yourself? What is the difference between being judgmental (Matthew 7:1), and evaluating and examining the character of another person (Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3)?

  25. Give your personal reacting or response to the following statements: "If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were right, we have to take the first step towards healing the break."

  26. Is it possible for one to be so full of the love of God that he is "too glad and too great to be the enemy of any man"?

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Cultivating the Fruit of Patience and Kindness

Cultivating The Fruit Of Patience and Kindness

Chapter Eleven

Cultivating The Fruit Of Patience and Kindness
Patience–Never Giving In To Despair! 132 Kindness In Expectation From Others 138
Patience With People 133 Kindness In Treatment Of Others 139
Love Which Never Gives Up! 134 The Winning Way Of Kindness! 140
Love Never Gives Way To Vengeance 135 Discussion Questions: 141
Motivation For Patience 136 Discussion Questions: (Continued) 142
Kindness In Compassion Toward Others 137    

2 Timothy 3:10-17

Patience–Never Giving In To Despair!

Another fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is Patience. Patience is one of the many rich dimensions of Love. Patience is love which can wait without despair and which can endure without resentment. We must look at both of these descriptions during the next few days.

The man of patience is the man whose spirit does not give in to despair. It is God's patience which breeds man's patience. God's patience is seen in His longsuffering with the sinful human race. Paul declared that he received mercy from God as an example of God's perfect patience (1 Timothy 1:16). "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)

Patterned after the patience of God, the Spirit-controlled person keeps on hoping, believing, and working with people, regardless of the odds and the obstacles, and the oppositions. Patience means persistence in loving people, regardless of human obstinacy and regardless of despairing circumstances.

Growth in love is growth in patience. To love truly means to wait persistently. Patience with sinners until they respond to God's call of repentance. Patience with believers until the slow growing fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives. Patience with the Church until God's sanctifying power removes the spots and the stains and the wrinkles in it's corporate life. Patience with God's patience with an unbelieving world which seems bent on self-destruction.

Love can wait on God and can wait on people, and while waiting, work persistently as God's tool of redemption. Notes E. W. Sangster: "The saint never gives up. He goes on serving, loving, helping. . .He aches for souls. Neither indifference, nor slander, nor injury can stop him. He does not make a motive of gratitude. His great motive is his utter love of God". (Daily Readings, p. 134)

The Christian must cultivate the fruit of patience in his life if he is to work effectively with people. The believer need not lose hope or faith in people, for he knows that God is constantly working to perfect His good work of grace in people's lives. Because all believers are merely 'Christians in the making', progressively changing to become more like Christ, the man of God can be patient with those with whom he lives and works. 'Be patient, God is not finished with me yet' is a good motto for all believers to personalize.

Every shepherd of the flock of God is to practice patience with his people and persistence in his love, being faithful to the sheep during times of sickness as well as during times of health, during times of danger as well as during times of safety. He never grows tired in caring for his sheep, for he is patiently and lovingly dedicated to his sheep (John 10:12-13).

"Dear Lord, help me to believe in people, looking beyond what they are to what they can become in Christ! As you have suffered long with me, help me to be longsuffering with others. Help me to breathe faith into the faithless and love into the loveless."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God has never given up on me, I must never give up on anyone else!

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132


Ephesians 4:2-3, Ephesians 4:31-32

Patience With People

Patience is a distinctively Christian trait, resulting from being controlled by the Holy Spirit. We said yesterday that the man of patience is the man whose spirit does not give in to despair with people.

John Wesley spoke to this need for a steadfast spirit which will never give in to despair. "You that are diligent in this labour of love, see that you be not discouraged, although, after you have used your best endeavours, you should see no present fruit. You have need of patience, and then, 'after ye have done the will of God' herein, the harvest will come. Never be 'weary of well-doing; in due time ye shall reap, if ye faint not'. Copy after Abraham, who 'against hope, still believed in hope. Cast thy bread upon the water, and after many days thou shalt find it again'." (Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching, vol. 3, p. 34)

An old saint of God for years wrote me almost monthly, and the recurring phrase of exhortation in her letters was: "Keep on keeping on!" One can wait patiently without falling into despair, if he believes that God is faithful to His promises. Because Abraham believed in God's faithful character, he 'patiently endured'. In the end, the promise was fulfilled.

One can work patiently with people if he is committed to Christ's unchangeable love. The question has been asked of some faithful Christians, "How can you work, decade after decade, with people who are so changeable, without despairing?" In answering that honest question, let it be honestly acknowledged that the temptation to despair is a real and recurring temptation to any Christian leader who is deeply involved with helping people. Any Christian leader who works long and closely with people knows how changeable and unpredictable human nature can be. The ever-present temptation to despair is best countered through commitment to Christ's unchangeableness and integrity. Christ promised to build His Church, and therefore not even the gates of hell can prevail against His Church. Christ promised to cleanse and to perfect and to sanctify His Church, and therefore not even the faithlessness and sinfulness of man can destroy God's purpose for His Church. (Ephesians 5:25-27) Because Christ believes in the Church, and because Christ has declared that the Church will endure and grow (in spite of problems within and without), the Christian leader can remain patient with people and can work without despair to build the Kingdom of God.

To be patient with people means to like people, to make allowances for people's faults (Ephesians 4:2-3), to be tenderhearted and forgiving (Ephesians 4:31-32), and to patiently believe in imperfect people.

"Father, I confess that I desire to be known as a fruitful, successful worker in your spiritual vineyard. Cleanse me from my inordinate desires to be 'successful', and help me instead to be faithful to your divine call to love people, regardless of the visible results of such loving. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Love never fails, so when I truly love people 'in the Spirit', I am always successful, regardless of the tangible results of such loving!

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133


1 Corinthians 15:58, Galatians 6:9-10

Love Which Never Gives Up!

Patience is that Spirit-cultivated quality in the life of the earnest Christian which enables him never to give up in his care for people, regardless of the imperfections in saints or the outright oppositions of sinners.

"There are the 'perfectionists' who are always tense and anxious about their own imperfections and the imperfections of others. .They cannot get along with themselves or with others. They are demanding the impossible and getting the possible–with disappointment!

"Jesus was patient with and hopeful for the weak and the faltering and the sinful. And yet he did not compromise with and accommodate himself to their imperfections and sins, for he held them to victory and not defeat, perfection not imperfection–and led them to it!

"That was what I needed: someone who would accept me with all my imperfections and yet hold me to perfection. . I could be imperfect and accepted as such by my Redeemer, but I could be held to perfection by my Redeemer whose grace would be set to work at producing it. And this subsidiary note: I would treat others as Christ treats me. I would accept them as they are but expect them into expectancy, hope them into hope of being different, believe them into believing they could grow up to the crown I am holding above their heads. I would be able to live with my imperfect self without chafing and to work with imperfect colleagues without discouragement or without losing my temper." (A Song of Ascents, p. 39-40; E. S. Jones)

If there is need to accept people in spite of their imperfections, there is even a greater need patiently to love people in spite of their sins. "God gave this mighty love to Catherine Booth. Even as a girl, she said that she was willing to die for her father's salvation. .She said that the all- absorbing question of her husband's life (and it was no less true of herself) was how best to reach and save the masses. Many a time she cried, 'a! the value of souls! They are worth all the trouble and sacrifice involved–yea, a thousand times over'… Or consider the life of John Woolman, the Quaker saint. His biographer says: 'The keynote of his message was always and ever love. Love to God and love to man. This single note runs through his life and writings like a silver thread'. It was still true of him when he came to die. On his deathbed he had no pre-occupation about heaven: no mention of crowns, harps, raptures 'but the same tender and touching concern for suffering humanity, relieved only by the thought of the paternity of God, and His love and omnipotence'." (Daily Readings, p. 134; Sangster)

"Father, fill me with so much of your love that I will see the saint in every sinner, and love each sinner with the very persistence of divine like love. May love be the single note that runs through my life. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My goal for life: To condemn no sinner, to condone no sin, to love all unconditionally and persistently!

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134


Matthew 5:38-48, Romans 12:17-21

Love Never Gives Way To Vengeance

Christian patience is not only the spirit which will not give in to despair with people, but further, it is the spirit which will never give way to vengeance. Christian patience has been defined as the spirit which could take revenge if it liked, but utterly refuses to do so. Patience is that spirit which will never retaliate. In Christian thought, the big man is not the man of vengeance, but the man of forgiveness. The violence of our Western culture is in direct violation to the Christian quality of patience. In secular culture, might is right. The prize goes to the strongest. The big man is defined as the man who goes all out for vengeance. The mighty man–the man of importance–is the man who tolerates no insult or injury.

The Bible says that the truly great man is the man who is possessed of love. He returns good for evil. He refuses to reap vengeance upon his persecutors, even though he could. To simply illustrate, have you ever seen a big dog harassed by a small dog? The big dog takes the harassment patiently, even though the big dog has within his power the ability to tear up the little dog.

God's loving, forbearing, forgiving, patient attitude toward sinful mankind is the attitude which every believer is to reproduce in his life. "If God had been a man He would have taken His hand and wiped out this world long ago; but God has that patience which bears with all our sinning and which will not cast us off." (Daily Study Bible, Galatians, p. 56; Barclay)

God delayed His judgment many times throughout history, providing opportunity for men to repent of their sins. God loves the loveless; He suffers long with unregenerate man. "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." (Psalms 103:8) God waited 120 years before sending the flood, to allow Noah's generation to repent. God suffered long in giving Sodom and Gomorrah opportunity to repent. He would have saved those cities if only ten righteous souls could have been found (Genesis 18). God spared the ancient pagan city of Nineveh from destruction when the inhabitants repented of their sins under the powerful preaching of Jonah. Romans 2:4 talks about God's great patience with sinful mankind. "Don't you realize how patient he is being with you? Or don't you care? Can't you see that he has been waiting all this time without punishing you, to give you time to run from your s in? His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." (Romans 2:4, Living Bible)

When Jesus' disciples were rejected in a certain Samaritan town, they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the inhabitants, but Jesus said that their spirit of vengeance was very wrong. Jesus suffered long with even those who rejected Him. Jeremiah suffered in unbelievable ways because of persecutors who rejected his prophesies. He was called the 'weeping prophet'. Are we able to weep over the lost rather than impatiently reject them?

"Help me to weep over the erring ones, to lift up the fallen, to tell them of Jesus the Mighty to save! Help me to bear with the insults of the ungrateful and to love the loveless for Jesus' sake."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When my patience grows thin with people, I will take a closer look at the eyes of Jesus!

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135


2 Peter 3:1-18

Motivation For Patience

We have spent several days describing the Biblical meaning of Patience. Patience, we have said, is that steadfast spirit which will never give in to despair. Further, it is that loving spirit which will never give way to vengeance. We must now look at the motivation for practicing such patience.

First, God's longsuffering with sinful mankind is our strongest motivation to practice patience with people. One great preacher said that if God has any 'weakness', it is His great mercy. God patiently spares His wrath and extends His mercy, calling men and nations to repentance. Even with those who refuse to repent and who finally perish, the Bible says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23, Ezekiel 18:32). Notes the great preacher Charles Finney, concerning the patience of God with sinners: "God never frets–is never impatient. His love is so deep and so great that He is always patient. Sometimes, when parents have unfortunate children–poor objects of compassion–they can bear with anything from them; but when they are very wicked, they seem to feel that they are quite excusable for being impatient. In God's case, these are not unfortunate children, but are intensely wicked–intelligently wicked. But oh, His amazing patience–so set upon their good, so desirous of their highest welfare, that however they abuse Him, He sets himself to bless them still, and weep them down, and melt them into penitence and love, by the death of His Son in their stead." (Twenty Centuries of Great Preaching, vol. 3, p. 334)

Second, the believer is motivated to remain patient with people because he is convinced that God's power is great to change human nature. Confidence in God's power to transform human nature, both instantaneously and gradually, gives a basis for patience in working with people. God is willing patiently to work with people in order to produce change, and therefore we too can learn to be patient with people while they are changing.

Third, God's ultimate triumph over all evil is our motivation to practice patience. The believer can be patient with people–both the righteous and the unrighteous–for he knows that God will have the final word at the end of time. Though wrong seems often so strong, God is Ruler yet. Though evil tries the souls of the righteous, the godly man can wait patiently upon God to bring judgment upon unchecked wrong and blessing upon unrewarded good. In the end, the wheat shall be separated from the tares. All wrong will be righted, all unrepented sin will be punished, and all the proud will be brought low. We need not fret ourselves because of evildoers (Psalms 37), for their certain end is destruction. All evil will be judged and Christ's righteousness will be vindicated. All knees shall someday bow before the Lord, and all tongues will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord of lords (Philippians 2:10-11).

"Father, I see now that Patience is a divine enablement, not a human attainment, and yet I realize that I must cooperate with You in cultivating His spiritual grace in my life. Help me to surrender to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to control my life. Then I –even I –will be able to work with people without despair, to experience love without resentment, and to suffer without complaint."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The fruit of patience is the fruit of holy love, produced by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I will not try harder to be patient, but I will trust more in the Holy Spirit who will produce patience with me.

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136


Matthew 25:31-45, Genesis 26:17-22

Kindness In Compassion Toward Others

"The Greeks defined this quality as the disposition of mind which thinks as much of its neighbor's affairs as it does of its own. Kindness is as concerned with the feelings of other people, as it is with its own feelings. It is as concerned with the sorrows, the struggles, the problems of other people, as it is with its own. Kindness has learned the secret of looking outwards all the time, and not inwards." (Daily Study Bible, Ephesians, p. 189; Barclay)

Notes William Sangster, "…if the professing followers of Christ are more concerned to maintain their own standard of living (four meals a day, cars, TV, etc.) than to serve a second meal a day for the hungry multitudes of the East… how hard it is for despised and suffering people to believe in Christianity at all. Talk of 'abundant' life sounds like a cruel joke, and the offer of 'salvation' smells of hypocrisy". (Daily Readings, p. 243)

Kindness always begins in the home, perhaps one of the more difficult places consistently to practice kindness. Kindness in common courtesies, kindness through a smile, kindness in a sincere compliment, kindness in a kind act or a secret prayer. Kindness can be demonstrated every day in the home.

A personal friend of mine, a godly woman in her 80' s shared with me recently a personal secret from her past life, that illustrates this selfless spirit of kindness in the home. She had the misfortune of a divorce early in her life, and consequently had to raise her children by herself, which was very difficult financially. She struggled even to have enough food to place on the table for her growing children. She shared with me that many days she herself would go without food in order to make it possible to feed her children. Her children, she said, never realized that many times she would eat only one meal a day in order to have more food for them.

Here is an illustration of motherly kindness, a kindness that involved sacrifice and love. Kindness means "the quality which thinks far more of others than of itself… the sweetness of temper which puts others at ease and shrinks from giving pain." (Daily Study Bible, II Corinthians, p. 216; Barclay)

The classic illustration of kindness is recorded in Genesis 26:17-22. Here is found the account of Isaac's willingness to give another his dug wells, rather than justly disputing over the wells which rightfully belonged to him. No spirit of fighting for personal rights, but rather a surrender of rights, allowing others the advantage. Seeking the welfare of theirs rather than one's own welfare! Seeking to live at peace with others, if at all possible, even if this means giving up personal rights! Kindness thinks more of others than it thinks of itself.

"Spirit of the Living God, I ask you to daily cultivate in me your noble fruit of kindness. Help me to be concerned with the feelings of others, and reach out a helping hand to meet the practical needs of others. Deliver me from mere sentimentality, and enable me to be concrete in expressions of love. In the compassionate name of Jesus, I make these requests. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Christianity that does not work itself out in deeds, is like a bell that is never rung and like a song that is never sung.

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137


Matthew 11:28-30

Kindness In Expectation Of Others

Jesus said, "My yoke is easy (chrestos–kindly) and my burden is light". (Matthew 11:30) The word translated 'easy' is the same word which can be translated 'good', 'pleasant', 'kindly'.

"The yoke was tailor-made to fit the ox. . .What Jesus says is, 'The life I give you to live is not a burden to gall you; your task, your life, is made to measure to fit you'. Whatever God sends to us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly; God has a task for everyone of us, which is made to measure for us." (Daily Study Bible, Matthew, vol. 2, p. 19; Barclay)

Jesus' yoke is a kind yoke, i. e., it fits us perfectly. Jesus has a yoke for everyone. It is this work–yoke–which gives dignity to each person. "No matter how despised a person or creature may be, Christ has a use for him . . . No matter how ordinary, ill-educated, disfigured, ill-born, one-talented or obscure a man or woman may be, Christ has a use for them, and He gives them dignity by that use." (Daily Readings, p. 85; Sangster)

Applying the kindness of Jesus to our own lives, the truly kind person will allow his fellowmen to be yoked by God for service, not yoked by man's ideas. Kindness is having realistic expectations for others. Kindness means allowing others the liberty to be the self which God created them to be and to do the work–i. e., wear the yoke–which God has designed for them to do, without forcing one's own preconceived molds upon others.

Apply this definition of kindness in the home of human relationships. "Joe Senior is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Yale Law School. Joe Junior is seventeen. Joe Senior's dream is that Joe Junior will work into his law firm. There's only one problem: Joe Junior has no apparent apptitude for law. In fact, he has very little inclination toward academic pursuits of any kind. Joe Senior constantly rides him, trying to motivate him to academic excellence. He has used pressure, insult, compliment, and even bribery to achieve his goal, but nothing works.

"On the other hand Joe Junior has a special talent. He can lift the hood of a car, take the engine apart, and put it back together again. He's a brilliant mechanic, but never once has Joe Senior given him recognition for his abilities. In his own way this young man is gifted–gifted by God!" (Becoming A Whole Family, p. 73; Huffman)

To be kind is not to force unrealistic expectations upon others, or to force the yoke upon others which does not fit another's aptitudes or abilities or God-given gifts. Being kind to one another means accepting each other for the unique self which God has created in each person.

"Father, help me never to impose my own convictions, notions, or expectations upon others, but instead, help me to accept each person as a unique creation, with unique contributions to make in your wonderful world."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Christ's yoke is my yearning, for I am only happy when I am wearing His yoke.

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John 8:1-11

Kindness In Treatment Of Others

There is a type of Christianity which is critical and harsh and legalistic. As in Jesus' day, there are still religious people who are adept at manifesting a rough spirit, all in the name of morality and justice. Such people would never offer a shoulder for you to weep upon!

Make no mistake about it; there are times when love must be expressed in forms of discipline, as when Jesus drove out the moneychangers with whips! However, more times than not, it is not whips, but words of tenderness and forgiveness which Jesus used to draw people to the heart of God!

We must never lose our ability to be indignant with holy love, and we must be able to whip our will into a holy campaign against sin when the occasion demands it. But too many times we find it easier to identify with the critical, self-righteous crowd who wanted to stone the condemned adulterous woman, than we do to identify with the kind-hearted Christ who spoke words of love and forgiveness to the guilty woman. The crowds' stones would have broken her body, but Jesus' love broke her heart. "Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more." Those were the kind words. Here is the sweetness of Jesus' temper which put the woman at ease and which shrank back from causing her needless pain. The pain of her shame and guilt was enough to drive her to repentance. No need for the infliction of the cruel pain of a self-righteous judgment. Jesus' kindness healed the woman! The kindness of Jesus' followers will also heal the broken-hearted today!

There are still those professed followers of Jesus–followers in name rather than in spirit–who are more concerned about the letter of the law than about the spirit of the law, more concerned about justice than about mercy, more adept in inflicting pain than in applying the salve of healing.

It is true that there is no place for compromise with sin, but it is also true that there is no place for discourtesy with sinners. While hating sin intensely, let us love sinners tenderly, and treat sinners with that courtesy which befits the Christian gentleman.

God is kind. He is not harsh. He came not to condemn, but to save. He is only severe after his mercy and love are ultimately spurned. Whenever Jesus was severe with the Pharisees, it was only a form of kindness, a kindness that sought through drastic means to awaken the complacent and to induce him to repentance. As God is kind, so must Christians be kind. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

"Father, never allow me to mistake harshness for justice, or sentimentality for kindness. Help me to be kind to sinners without compromising truth, and instructive to the complacent without sacrificing kindness."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will seek to be kind without being morally soft, and disciplined without being morally rigid.

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Matthew 9:9-13

The Winning Way Of Kindness!

I once read about a devout Christian who was riding on a train, sitting in a seat next to an unbeliever who was taking one drink of alcohol after another. The unbeliever asked the Christian if he would like to have a drink. "No thanks", replied the Christian. Before the unbeliever took his second drink, he asked the Christian if he would like to have a drink. Again, the Christian replied, "No thank you". A third time the unbeliever asked the Christian if he would like to have a drink, and again the Christian replied, "No thank you". Then the unbeliever said to the Christian, "You must think I am a terrible person". The kind-hearted Christian answered, "No, I didn't think you were a terrible person. As a matter of fact, I thought you were a friendly and generous person to offer me a drink three different times!"

This Christian could have proceeded to give the non-Christian a moral lecture on the evils of alcohol. He could have condemned the poor fellow. Criticism could have poured forth from the lips of the Christian. But instead, words of love and kindness and graciousness came from the Christian. Of course the believer was not condoning the fact of drinking alcohol, but neither was he critical and condemning of the person whose habit was harmful.

Jesus loved the sinner and was called 'a friend of publicans and sinners'. He accepted them unconditionally and His kindness won their hearts to God. More people are won to God through acts of kindness than by words of criticism. To criticize a man is to drive a man into self-justification and thus away from repentance and away from God. We hinder, not help, a man by becoming his judge. By becoming his judge, we stand in the place of God, who alone is Judge. The transgressor acknowledges wrong-doing in the quietness of personal contemplation or in the presence of a non-critical friend. Healing of the troubled or sinful person takes place, not in the atmosphere of criticism or self-righteousness, but in the atmosphere of mutual caring and sharing.

The kind person seeks to put others at ease, and always avoids inflicting needless pain upon others. This does not mean that wrong in others is denied or that sin is condoned. But the kind Christian is quick to see faults and sins in himself first, before pointing out sins in others. When the Christian is willing, according to James 5:16, to engage in self-incrimination, open sharing, and humble confession, then the wrong-doer will be motivated to do the same. Confession is contagious. It is the humble and kind and open person who will win the sinner for Christ!

Never be harsh, or bitter, or critical, or condemning. Have mercy. Be sweet in your spirit, never compromising with sin but also never treating the sinner roughly or discourteously. Provide a shoulder for hurting people to weep upon!

"Father, just as your kindness led me to repentance, use my Spirit-inspired kindness to lead the careless to you. Make my kindness robust and enduring, expressed with no appetite for praise and gratitude from men, but with a desire to reveal the kind heart of God to all."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will seek to treat all persons in the same way God treats me–kindly and mercifully!

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Discussion Questions:

Cultivating The Fruit Of Patience And Kindness

  1. Define and describe the Biblical concept of 'Patience'.

  2. The believer who is seeking to cultivate the fruit of patience, is to exercise patience with whom? (List at least four different persons or groups of persons, and describe how Christlike 'patience' is expressed with each one of these four.)

  3. Is the following description (by William Sangster) of the patience of a 'saint' too idealistic or is it realistic, considering the Bible's teachings and considering the 'possibilities of grace'?–"The saint never gives up. He goes on serving, loving, helping. .He aches for souls. Neither indifference, nor slander, nor injury can stop him. He does not make a motive of gratitude. His great motive is his utter love of God."

  4. What considerations must a Christian worker keep in mind when he is working with 'fallible human beings' in order that he might not lose hope or faith in people or become embittered and cynical?

  5. List some of the noble traits in the life of a good leader ('shepherd' of men's souls). (Note John 10:12-13.)

  6. How does the example of Abraham provide motivation for a hard waking Christian to continue persistently to perform acts of loving service and witnessing, even though quick or visible results may not be forthcoming from such earnest efforts? (Note Galatians 6:9-10)

  7. How does a Christian worker's commitment to Christ's unchangeable love help enable such a worker to work, decade after decade, with people who are so changeable, without despairing?

  8. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Love never fails, so when I truly love people 'in the Spirit' I am always successful, regardless of the tangible results of such loving!"

  9. From a Biblical viewpoint, do you believe that the following statement accurately describes 'Patience'? "Patience is that Spirit-cultivated quality in the life of the earnest Christian which enables him never to give up in his care for people, regardless of the imperfections in saints or the outright oppositions of sinners."

  10. Describe and define 'Perfectionists'.

  11. With what attitude did Jesus, as a Man, relate to the weak and the faltering and the sinful person of his day? What is there about the model of Jesus, as He worked with faltering and sinful persons, that will help you, as a Christian worker, to live with your "imperfect self without chafing and to work with imperfect colleagues without discouragement or without losing your temper"?

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    Discussion Questoins:

    Cultivating The Fruit Of Patience And Kindness (Continued)

  12. Is the following a worthy and Biblically-supportable goal for a believer to strive constantly to reach?–"To condemn no sinner, to condone no sin, to love all unconditionally and persistently."

  13. What is the Christian concept, in contrast to the secular concept, of true 'Manliness', in terms of aggression, strength, and vengeance?

  14. List several Biblical examples of the manifestations of God's patience and longsuffering with sinful mankind.

  15. List several motivations for believers to practice Christian Patience.

  16. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If the professing followers of Christ are more concerned to maintain their own standard of living (four meals a day, cars, TV, etc.) than to secure a second meal a day for the hungry multitudes of the East… how hard it is for despised and suffering people to believe in Christianity at all." Is exercise of the fruit of 'Kindness' in the life of a believer (in terms of showing compassion and practical concern for the poor) consistent with a luxurious lifestyle?

  17. What are the characteristics of 'Kindness', as illustrated in Genesis 26:17-22?

  18. Tell what is meant by the statement, "Jesus' yoke is a 'kind' yoke".

  19. What is your personal response or reaction to the following description of 'Kindness' ?–"Kindness means allowing others the liberty to be the self which God created them to be and to do the work– i. e., wear the yoke–which God has designed for them to do, without forcing one's own preconceived molds upon others."

  20. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "There are still those professed followers of Jesus–followers in name rather than in spirit–who are more concerned about the letter of the law than about the spirit of the law, more concerned about justice than about mercy, more adept in inflicting pain than in applying the salve of healing".

  21. What 'place' does the expression of Christian courtesy have in the life of a Spirit-filled, kindly-oriented believer? Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "It is true that there is no place for compromise with sin, but it is also true that there is no place for discourtesy with sinners".

  22. In counseling a troubled or sinful person, why should a Christian counselor avoid appearing critical or harsh or judgmental towards the counselee? Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "To criticize a man is to drive a man into self-justification and thus away from repentance and away from God. Healing of the troubled or sinful person takes place, not in the atmosphere of criticism, but in the atmosphere of mutual caring and sharing and confession."

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The Majesty of a Reigning Christ

The Majesty Of a Reigning Christ

Chapter Twelve

The Majesty Of a Reigning Christ
King Of The Ages 145 "The Truth Shall Make You Free" 151
Are You Looking At Life From The Right Angle? 146 None Can Remain Neutral To Christ! 152
Jesus Is The Lord Of History! 147 Saviour Today – Judge Tomorrow 153
Jesus Is The King Of The Stones! 148 Discussion Questions 154
Jesus' Way Is The Way To Live! 149 Discussion Questions (Continued) 155
"My Kingdom Is Not Of This World" 150    

Philippians 2:5-11

King Of The Ages

We have been looking intently at the person and work of Jesus Christ. We have looked at the costliness of His lowly identification with sinful humanity (Incarnation). We have gazed at the cross and sought to understand the meaning and significance of the cross to our personal lives. We have studied the resurrection from three viewpoints–devotionally, historically, and philosophically. It is now time to turn our attention to the nature and character of Christ's kingship.

The lowly Jesus, dying on a cross, has become the exalted Christ, reigning in power with the Father. "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-11 NASB)

Wrote Paul, "Glory and honor to God forever and ever. He is the King of the ages, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God, and full of wisdom. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17 Living Bible) As King of the ages, it was Jesus' purpose to save humanity. "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." (2 Timothy 1:9 Living Bible)

"Long ago, even before he made the world, God chose us to be his very own, through what Christ would do for us; he decided then to make us holy in his eyes, without a single fault–we who stand before him covered with his love. His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!" (Ephesians 1:4-5 Living Bible)

From everlasting to everlasting, Jesus has been king, and the central purpose of His kingship has been to redeem many subjects unto Himself, and to love those subjects as a part of His eternal kingdom. "In him we were chosen. Moreover, because of what Christ has done we have become gifts to God that he delights in, for as part of God's sovereign plan we were chosen from the beginning to be his, and all things happen just as he decided long ago." (Ephesians 1:11 Living Bible)

"O God, how amazing is your plan of salvation! Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension, and kingly reign–all are for me! How can I reject such love? I will bow my knees and confess with my lips that you are Lord of lords!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: What Christ purposed for me in eternity, I will allow Him to do for me in time–save me!

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Ephesians 1:19-23

Are You Looking At Life From The Right Angle?

From all eternity, Jesus has been 'King of the ages.' In time, Jesus remains as the king. But earth is filled with earthly sovereigns. How does Jesus compare with earth's powerful kings? His position may be challenged by the evil tyrants of earth, but Jesus continues to reign.

Jesus is rightly called "King of Kings.' This title acknowledges His eternal and continuing sovereignty in the midst of earthly kings. As King of kings, Jesus' power is incredibly great, and all other rulers, whether they acknowledge it or not, are totally subordinate to Christ. Writes Paul, "I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in heaven, far, far above any other king or ruler or dictator or leader. Yes, his honor is far more glorious than that of anyone else either in this world or in the world to come. And God has put all things under his feet and made him the supreme head of the church–which is his body, filled with himself, the author and giver of everything everywhere." (Ephesians 1:19-23 Living Bible)

When my youngest daughter was only four years old, one day she said to me: "God has a whole bunch of power. He has so many people to take care of." Yes, God is so big that He can rule the universe, and yet so loving that He can care infinitely for every person!

God is sovereign over the entire world–even the world of evil men. The modern-day poster motto expresses faith in a faithful God who still rules in a world seemingly out of control: 'God Has Everything Under Control.'

"This is my Father's world, 
And to my listening ears, 
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, 
God is the Ruler yet.

This is my Father's world; 
The battle is not done; 
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and heaven be one." 

Have you ever observed that kind of special picture which has two pictures within one frame? Looking from one angle the picture reveals Christ on the cross, suffering for lost humanity, an apparent defeat. But move a short distance and look at the picture from another angle and the picture is no longer the crucified Christ, but rather the picture now reveals the resurrected, ascended Lord, accompanied by two angels, going up into glory with all the power of heaven and earth at His disposal. From which angle are you looking at life? Do you see only suffering, or do you see victory over suffering and sin, as you view the resurrected Lord from the proper angle? Are you looking at life from the right angle?

"God, I gladly acknowledge what you have declared: The crown of thorns has been replaced by the crown of glory! Jesus reigns; I will serve!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: "Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is Ruler yet!"

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Revelations 11:15-19

Jesus Is The Lord Of History!

As King of kings, Jesus has sovereign control over all the kings of the earth. "The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes." (Proverbs 21:1 NASB)

Concerning Jesus, Isaiah wrote: "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this." (Isaiah 9:7)

"When the renowned artist, Dannecker, was requested by Napoleon to make a painting of Venus for the Louvre, he declined even though an enormous sum was offered. The emperor's anger was stirred and he demanded an explanation. The painter answered simply: 'I have painted Christ, and I can never lower my brush to paint an inferior subject.'" (Shoe-Leather Faith; Merv Rosell; No. 27)

Jesus is the God of all gods. He alone is worthy to reign. He stands as King of kings. E. Stanley Jones, that great veteran missionary, went around the world introducing the sign of Jesus' Lordship; namely, three fingers pointing upward, which stands for 'Jesus is Lord.'

The Bible says that all men will someday bow the knees to Jesus and confess with the tongue that 'Jesus is Lord.' All men will either voluntarily or involuntarily give to Jesus His rightful place which is His inherently–Sovereign Lord!

Said Napoleon, the great military victor: "If Socrates would enter the room we should rise and do him honor. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him."

It is Jesus who divides all of history in BC and AD. Jesus stands at the center of time and gives meaning to the whole. Pagan religions make no sense out of history, but believe history endlessly and regularly repeats itself in eternal cycles. To them, history is going nowhere. But Jesus gives meaning to history, for Jesus is the lord of history. History is going somewhere. History has a purpose and a plan and a destiny. History was divided into BC and AD because of Jesus' first coming. History will find its fulfillment and consummation when Jesus comes the second time!

"Stanley Jones said the awful events of earth did not disturb him because he knew 'how it would all come out.'… The genuine Christian, in his depths, is not at sixes and sevens, for he knows that history has a goal divinely determined and that, whatever happens, Almighty God is moving redemptively to that great and grand goal." (The Minister's Ministries; pg. 20; Donald Demaray)

"God, help me gladly give to Jesus the same place in my life which He inherently possesses in the universe–Lordship!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus is not one 'great' in a class of "greats"; Jesus is the incomparable one!

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Luke 19:28-40

Jesus Is The King Of The Stones!

Jesus is 'King of the Ages' eternally. Jesus is 'Lord of History' in time. Jesus is also 'King of Life'–physical life and human life.

On Palm Sunday, the disciples were praising and worshipping Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. "And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out." (Luke 19:39,40)

Jesus is King of the stones! The very stones are subject to Jesus and are made to praise Jesus as King of earth and creation! Because Jesus is king of nature, "the Christian way is written into the very structure of the universe." (The Divine Yes; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 48)

All of nature is created by God and for God. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein… Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." (Psalms 24:1,10)

As one poet wrote, "Earth's crammed with Heaven; and every common Bush afire with God."

The Universe belongs to God and will be redeemed by God from the effects which sin has had upon it. The universe is at the command of God. It is subject to Christ, the King. The universe is the friend of God, and is constantly singing praises to God. Barclay notes that if a man sins against God there is a sense in which the whole universe becomes his enemy.

Christ is not only king of physical life, but He is also King of human life. Both physical life and human life are made by God and for God.

Christ is king of human life for Christ's way "is written into living tissues–nerves, arteries, organs, cells." (Ibid; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 48) Christ is king, for He has His claim upon every human being in the very constitution of the physical body! Therefore, going against God is going against oneself! To go against God is to go against the very grain of human make-up! "A pastor's brilliant son, a personal man in a great corporation, told his father: 'I'm trying hard to be an atheist, but I'm having a time of it!'" (Conversion; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 20) It is hard to go against God, for when one goes against God he is going against himself. Man is made by God and for God, and to go against God is to go against the very purpose of one's existence!

"O God, you have your stamp of ownership on me–in my mind, in my body, in my spirit! To reject you is to reject myself! To accept you is to find myself! Glory!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To sin against Christ is to sin against myself. To bow to Christ's Lordship is to stand tall before everything else!

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Acts 9:1-6; Acts 26;9-18

Jesus' Way Is The Way To Live!

If you won't live for God, you can't live with yourself! Man is restless until he rests in God. Just as the lungs are made for the air, the stomach for food, and the eyes for beauty, so your soul is made for God. There is within you a God-shaped vacuum which can only be satisfied when filled with God. The soul that is in God is the soul that feels 'at home' with himself. Christ is your native land!

"A little boy was found weeping. They asked him what was the matter. He said 'I've been playing hookey all day from school, and I just found out this is Saturday!' So when playing hookey against the Way of the Kingdom you play hookey against yourself." (The Divine Yes; E. Stanley Jones; pg. 49)

"The whole idea that the Christian Way is the hard way is totally wrong. It is the other way that is the hard way. A man came to Sam Jones, the evangelist, and said, 'I only know one verse of Scripture, and I know the one verse is true. It is, "The way of the transgressor is hard. II I know this is true!' Yes, the idea that the Christian way is hard is all wrong. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, for his yoke is your yearning and his burden is your blessing. When you find him, you find yourself. The laws of your being are the laws of the Way. The Kingdom of Heaven, the Way, is within you and is the thing for which you are made, and therefore, when you find him, you find yourself. There is more joy to the square inch in being his than there is to the square mile in the outside world of rebellion." (Ibid; pg. 50)

"A surgeon said: 'I have discovered the Kingdom of God at the end of my scalpel. It is in the tissues. The right thing morally is always the healthy thing physically.'" (Ibid; pg. 50)

"If you are a Christian, a real one, you are a wise man. And if you are not, you are a fool, fooling yourself by sinning against your own being, against your own happiness." (Ibid; pg. 52)

You are made for God. Your destiny is stamped upon you by God. The way of the transgressor is hard! Running from God, you are running from yourself. Rebelling against God, you are rebelling against yourself. Estranged from God, you are estranged from yourself. Unwillingness to live for God is inability to live with yourself. To come to God is to come to yourself. To surrender yourself to Christ is to find yourself.

"God, I am now realizing that the Christian Way is the way to live! It is hard to 'kick against the pricks.' It is hard 'to spit into the wind.' Surrendering to You, I surrender to Life!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If I am 'out of sorts' with God, then I am 'out of sorts' with myself!

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John 18:33-37; Matthew 26:52

"My Kingdom Is Not Of This World"

At His trial, Jesus was asked by Pilate, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm." (John 18:36 NASB)

To understand the character of Jesus' kingdom, one must understand something about the popular Jewish expectations regarding the coming Messiah, which Jesus encountered when He came into the world. At the time Christ came into the world, the Jews were a subject people under the dominion of the Romans. The popular talk among the Jews was conversation concerning the coming of the messiah.

The formulation of the Messianic concept was brought about through the wistful longings of the Israelite people during the dark days of their nation's decline, many centuries before the time of Christ. The Jews wistfully longed for a king who would reign like King David. David was Israel's greatest king and it was David who reigned during the Golden Age of Israel's history. David was idolized as the ideal king who gave Israel military, political, material, and spiritual success. Ever after the time of David, the Jews looked back upon his age as the ideal age, and upon David as the ideal king.

At the time of Christ, the Jews expected God to send a Messiah whose power would be in the sword, whose genius would be in military organization, and whose glory would be in the destruction of the Roman army. The Jews expected the Messiah to establish his kingdom on the earth, with Jerusalem as his headquarters. The Messiah would be David incarnate. The borders of Israel would be expanded more than ever before, and all nations would bow in servitude to Israel. The Messiah would usher in an age of unprecedented power and prosperity for Israel.

Jesus shattered the popular Jewish Messianic expectations! Jesus' kingship or Messiahship was characterized not by hate but by love. Jesus' power as the Messiah would not be in terms of military power, but quite the contrary–it would be in terms of the power of love which would find its expression in the experience of suffering and sacrifice. Jesus came to show the true meaning of Messiahship. The Messiah must suffer, not seek revenge. The Messiah must love, not hate. The Messiah must save, not conquer. The Messiah must rule by love in the hearts of men, not rule by hate over the Jews' earthly enemies. Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. It is eternal!

"God, you are shattering my false conceptions! You come, not with a sword, but with a cross. You rule, not with the coercion of force, but with the compulsion of love. You come, not to destroy your enemies, but to save your enemies! What a King! A King of Love!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who 'takes the sword shall die by the sword.' He who lives by mercy shall receive mercy!

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John 8:31-36

"The Truth Shall Make You Free"

Jesus taught that the Messiah's kingdom would be established, not on the foundation of military force and arms, but on the foundation of suffering and sacrifice. When Jesus came into Jerusalem, the crowds cried out, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna in the highest!" Barclay notes that "Hosanna" means "Save Now!" and it was the cry for help which a people in distress addressed to their king or their god. (Daily Study Bible; Matthew; Vol. 2; pg. 264) The crowd on Palm Sunday addressed Jesus as the Son of David which was a Messianic title. The excitement of the Jews was great as they hailed the long-expected king. When they cried out, "Hosanna in the highest!" they must have meant, "Let even the angels in the highest heights of heaven cry unto God, Save Now!"

Modern man would quickly welcome Jesus today if He would only promise to change society and establish an era of peace and prosperity. Many Americans would doubtless follow Jesus today if He would destroy our enemies, eliminate our slums, fill our bank accounts, deal with our energy crisis, do away with our national debt, and destroy all diseases. Men today, who have such a shallow understanding of Christ's mission, are ready to cry "Hosanna!" – "Save Now!" People want to be saved from anything unpleasant or undesirable. However, when Christ offers suffering, sacrifice, a cross, and possible death, the popular cry of the crowd is no longer "Hosanna!" but "Crucify Him!"

Jesus came not to give political freedom to the Jews, but rather to give spiritual freedom to all mankind. Throughout Jesus' public ministry He refused to become an earthly revolutionary leader. The people attempted to make him a king, but Jesus refused. John records the following incident in Jesus' public ministry: "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the hills by himself." (John 6:15)

Jesus well knew that it is possible for a man to be free physically and politically and yet to be a slave to self, to passion, to pride, and to falsehood. Jesus could point to the Romans who, while enjoying prosperity and politica1 freedom and power, were yet slaves to idolatry, hate, and suspicion. Jesus came to give spiritual freedom. Jesus said, "every man who loves truth recognizes my voice." (John 18:37) True freedom comes through the truth. "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:32)

"O Thou King of Love, rule over my heart! Release my spirit from the prison of sin. Give me real freedom–freedom from my guilts, fears, hates, and prejudice!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: If the Son makes me free, I shall be free indeed! (John 8:36)

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John 18:28-32, John 18:38-40; John 19:1-15

None Can Remain Neutral To Christ!

Christ's kingship is powerful, but not militarily powerful. Christ is powerful as king because He calls every man to make a moral decision. None can remain neutral to Christ! All must either accept or reject His kingship!

Barclay notes various ways in which Pilate sought to avoid any personal decision regarding Christ.

Pilate first tried to put the responsibility for handling Jesus on someone else. Pilate said to the Jews when they brought Jesus to him, "Take ye him, and judge him according to your law." (John 18:31) But this didn't work. The Jews replied to Pilate, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death." (John 18:31) No man can evade personal responsibility in dealing with Jesus! The question is asked each man, "What will ye do with Jesus?" Each man must answer that question for himself.

Pilate then tried to engineer Christ's release by appealing to the custom of releasing a prisoner. Pilate's attempt failed when the crowd asked for Barabbas' release instead of Jesus' release. This shows that no man can resort to the world or to a group to make his decision for him regarding Christ. The world is hostile to Christ and is still crying out, "Crucify Him!" Each person must decide for himself, either to accept or to reject the Saviour.

Pilate tried the way of compromise. Pilate did not want to crucify Jesus, and thought that the mob would surely be moved to pity if they saw Jesus scourged. But Pilate's attempt at compromise–seeking to satisfy the Jews by scourging Jesus instead of crucifying him–did not work. When Pilate brought Jesus before the Jews again, the Jews cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him." (John 19:6) Compromise won't work. Pilate had outrightly to decide either to crucify Jesus or to release Jesus. The decision was that explicit. As in the case of Pilate, each person today must also outrightly decide whether to accept Christ or to reject Christ.

Jesus is king. His kingship demands a moral verdict from every man. Jesus divides all men into one of two categories–those who accept Christ and those who reject Christ. Jesus said that anyone who was not for Him was against Him! Every man is either a child of the light or a child of the darkness. Every man must either respond to the truth or harden his heart to the truth. Every man must either choose Barabbas, who represents hate and violence, or Jesus, who represents love and peace. "Choose ye this day whom you will serve!"

"O Thou King of kings, I see that your kingdom is universal! By right of creation and by right of the cross, you have a claim on every person! Your claim comes in the form of a call of love. How can I reject love?"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God's personal 'Love call' in my life is my opportunity to live by Love!

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John 19:12-22

Saviour Today – Judge Tomorrow

It is possible that the last action of Pilate in regards to Jesus is the most dramatic act and the act that is filled with the most irony. Pilate "brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement… it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, 'Behold your King!'" (John 19:13-14 NASB) This passage possibly "means that Pilate with one last mocking gesture brought Jesus out, clad in the terrible finery of the old purple robe and with His forehead girt with the crown of thorns and the drops of blood the thorns had wakened, and set Him in the judgment seat, and with a wave of his hand said: 'Am I to crucify your king?"… It may be said that Pilate jestingly caricatured Jesus as judge. If that is so, if Pilate really set Jesus in the judgment seat to make a fool of Jesus, what dramatic irony is there. That which was a mockery was the truth. And one day those who had mocked Jesus as judge would meet Him as judge–and would remember." (Daily Study Bible; John; Vol. 2; pg. 287; Barclay)

"When he was a young man, Judge Warren Candler practiced law. One of his clients was charged with murder, and the young lawyer made the utmost effort to clear his client of the charge. There were some extenuating circumstances and the lawyer made the most of them in his plea before the jury. Moreover, there were present in the court the aged father and mother of the man charged with murder; and the young lawyer worked on the sympathies and emotions of the jury by frequent references to the God-fearing parents. In due course, the jury retired for deliberation. When they had reached a verdict, they returned to the jury box. Their verdict read: 'We find the defendant not guilty.' The young lawyer, himself a Christian, had a serious talk with his cleared client. He warned him to steer clear of evil ways and to trust God's power to keep him straight. Years passed. Again the man was brought into court. Again the charge was murder. The lawyer who had defended him at his first trial was now the judge on the bench. At the conclusion' of the trial, the jury rendered its verdict as 'Guilty.' Ordering the condemned man to stand for sentencing, Judge Candler said, 'At your first trial, I was your lawyer , today I am your judge. The verdict of the jury makes it mandatory for me to sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.' Today Christ is our lawyer, our Saviour, willing to forgive and to cleanse and forget. However, there is coming a fearful day when He will be our judge." (World Aflame; pg. 244-245; Billy Graham)

God "hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained." (Acts 17:31)

"The question in time is: 'What shall I do with Jesus?' The question in eternity will be: 'What will God do with me?' Jesus, I do not ask for justice, but I plead for mercy. I do not want what I deserve–judgment– but I want what you offer–forgiveness!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Who I follow in this life will determine where I go hereafter!

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Discussion Questions On 'The Majesty Of A Reigning Christ'

  1. What does Philippians 2:8-11 teach us regarding the relationship between Christ's humiliation and exaltation?

  2. As King of the Ages, what has always been Christ's central purpose of His kingship? (Note 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:4-5)

  3. How is the glory of Christ described in Ephesians 1:19-23, and how is that power described which made possible Christ's exaltant glory?

  4. What are two different angles from which a person can look at life, and what are the different conclusions one will draw, depending upon the angle from which he views life?

  5. What is the difference between a Christian philosophy of history and a pagan philosophy of history?

  6. Why did Stanley Jones say the awful events of history did not disturb him?

  7. Describe what is meant by the phrase: "Jesus is King of the stones!"

  8. Discuss what is meant by the statement: "If a man sins against God there is a sense in which the whole universe becomes his enemy."

  9. What evidence can you point to that demonstrates the fact that Christ is the King of the physical body and human life?

  10. Do you agree with the following statement? "If you won't live for God, you can't live with yourself!" (Why or why not?)

  11. What evidence is there (from personal experience or from personal observation) that the following scriptural statement is true: "The way of the transgressor is hard."

  12. Share your personal insights into E. Stanley Jones' statement: "The idea that the Christian way is hard is all wrong. His (Jesus') yoke is easy and his burden is light, for his yoke is your yearning and his burden is your blessing."

  13. From your personal observation and experience, can you share evidence to validate the truth of the following statement, made by a surgeon: "The right thing morally is always the healthy thing physically."

  14. What kind of 'Messiah' did the Jews of Jesus' time expect God to send to earth, and upon what primary ancient model did these Jews build their Messianic concepts?

  15. Describe the main features of Jesus' Messianic concepts, both as He taught them and as He personified them (in contrast to the popular Jewish Messianic concepts).

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    Discussion Questions On 'The Majesty Of A Reigning Christ' (Cont.)

  16. What was the meaning of the popular cry of the people on the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on 'Palm Sunday,' and how are the popular expectations of people in our modern day similar to the popular expectations of the people of Jesus' day who cried 'Hosanna'?

  17. What is the freedom which Christ (as King) promises to all who follow Him? What are some of the misconceptions which people have today regarding the benefits of accepting Jesus? Will following Christ always result in physical, financial, or political freedom?

  18. What is the essence of Christ's power, as King?

  19. Note several ways in which Pilate sought to avoid any personal decision regarding Christ. How do Pilate's reactions remind you of modern-day man's various indecisive reactions towards Jesus?

  20. Is there any grounds for moral neutrality in the light of Jesus' moral demands? Why or why not? What implications does the 'Lordship of Christ' have for you personally?

  21. If the role of Christ on earth during Time is 'Saviour,' what will be the role of Christ at the End of Time?

  22. Cite scriptural justification for the following strong statement: "He who spurns God's mercy on earth will surely reap God's fiery judgment in eternity!"

  23. Is it both logical and scriptural to say that every person determines his own eternal destiny? Discuss the validity of the following statement: "Who I follow in this life will determine where I go hereafter."

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