Part I (Chapters 1 – 4)
General Survey Of Salvation (Topical Study Of Salvation)
Matthew 2:13-18, John 1:4-5
The Indestructible Christ!
Christ is the most beautiful person who ever lived! Christ is God's outstretched arm to save mankind from self-destruction. Christ is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But John records that He who made the world came into His own world to save His world, but that the world of His own people failed to recognize Him and refused to accept Him. "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." (John 1:12 NASB)
Christ, the ever-contemporary One, confronts every person in every age and seeks entry into every life. All today, as in the days of Christ's earthly ministry, react to Christ in one of three ways.
Herod the King represents all those who react to Christ with hatred and hostility. The Chief Priests and Scribes represent all those who react to Christ with complete indifference. The Wise Men represent all those who react to Christ with adoring worship. We must look at each of these reactions to Christ.
Think first of Herod the King. He represents those who react with hatred and hostility. Herod tried to destroy Christ, but he was unsuccessful. Men can never destroy Christ or His message! The message of the Gospel may be either accepted or rejected, but it can never be eliminated. It is like a flame that can never be extinguished or quenched! Men try to put Christ out of their minds, but their conscience betrays them and it continues to speak out for Christ and for the right! The messenger of Christ may even be eliminated, but Christ and His Gospel can never be destroyed!
Reverend Richard Wurmbrand, who has suffered greatly for the cause of Christ, and who has often written about the heroic Underground Church, says "The secret police persecuted the Underground Church very much, because they recognized in it the only effective resistance left. And just the kind of resistance, the spiritual resistance, which, if left unhindered, would undermine their atheistic power. They recognized, as only the devil can, an immediate threat to them. They knew if a man believed in Christ he would never be a mindless, willing subject. They knew they could imprison men, but they couldn't imprison faith in God. And so they fought very hard" (Tortured For Christ, p. 17).
Men, like Herod, hate Christ because Christ is a threat to them. Christ will not let evil men have their own way.
"Christ, You and Your message are indestructible! The messenger may be imprisoned or even eliminated, but Your message can never be imprisoned or destroyed! It is an inextinguishable flame!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The gates of hell cannot prevail against the Christ of God and cannot kill the God in Christ!
Matthew 6:24, Matthew 10:37-39, Matthew 12:30
Is Christianity Worth Counterfeiting?
The Chief Priests and Scribes represent those who react to Christ with indifference. "They were so engrossed in their Temple ritual and their legal discussions that they simply completely disregarded Jesus. He meant nothing to them. There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them." (Daily Study Bible, Matthew, vol. 1, p. 21, William Barclay.)
There are various reasons why persons today are indifferent to Christ and the Gospel. Some are indifferent because they believe the Church has been a failure. As I was having my hair cut one day, a barber said to me, "My experience with church-going, professing Christians has been unpleasant, so I decided I wouldn't have anything to do with the church". A university student said to me one day: "I was once a very active member of a Protestant Church, but because I saw corruption and hypocrisy in the church, I decided church was not for me. I don't believe in any organized Church. I believe that science will probably someday have all the final answers to man's problems. It may be a thousand years from now, but never-theless science will have the final word. look what progress science has already made. Someday Christianity will probably look simple and be archaic. What we need in Western Civilization is a liberal religion, merely as an agent of change. If you classify me as anything, I suppose that you could classify me as an agnostic. I can't say that I believe in Christ, and I'm not sure that there is such a thing as heaven or hell". A distant relative of mine said to me, rather indifferently, "There is a lot of churches, and it doesn't make any difference to me what church one belongs to. All have to live their own lives, and therefore, I don't care what other people do. Every church has its good and its bad, and you can go to church if you want to, but you don't need to if you don't care to!"
To each of these encounters, I reacted in a similar manner. I pointed out that, while the Church is important, it is not the Church, but only Christ, that can save from sin and give eternal life. Although it must be admitted that there is the superficial and hypocritical elements at times within the organized Church, there is far more of the genuine and the noble within the Church. Ten dollar bills are counterfeited because they are worth counterfeiting. Why is Christianity counterfeited? Because it is worth counterfeiting! Did you ever see a counterfeit unbeliever? No, never. Why?
"God, help me to be honest with myself. The medical profession is not judged because of a few quack doctors. I do not condemn all lawyers simply because some are dishonest. Don't allow me to deceive myself by judging Christ because of some counterfeit Christians!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Even the counterfeits of Christianity pay a great compliment to Christians, for they acknowledge that Christians are worth counterfeiting!
Hebrews 2:1-4, Luke 12:16-21
How Shall We Escape If We Neglect?
The Chief Priests and Scribes represent those who react with indifference. They were too preoccupied with their own pursuits to pay attention to Christ. There are too many today who are indifferent to Christ because they are preoccupied with the cares of life. The wife of a university student replied to me when I asked her if she was attending church: "No, we are not attending church now. I have uncles who are Methodist ministers, but since my husband is a student, we don't have time to get involved in church now. In the future, after my husband gets out of college, we plan to begin coming to church".
Some say that they want to have their 'share of fun in life' while they are young, and that they will consider Christ and the church when they become older. What a false delusion to think that there is always plenty of time in the future to consider God! The old must die, and the young may die! No one knows the appointed hour of his death. The rich man (as recorded in our Scripture reading for today) thought he had a long time to enjoy his wealth, but God said, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you!" (Luke 12:20).
In one of his many books, William Barclay recounts the fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and to ruin men. The first said, "I will tell them that there is no God". Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God". The second said, "I will tell men that there is no hell". Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell for sin". The third said, "I will tell men that there is no hurry", "Go", said Satan, "and you will ruin men by the thousand". Barclay than asserts that the roost dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time. He notes that the most dangerous day in a man's life is when he learns that there is such a word as tomorrow.
The Bible's exhortation is wise: "For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:2-3 a NASB).
Today is the acceptable time to receive Christ. Now is the day of salvation. Tomorrow may be too late–eternally too late! Someone appropriately said: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".
"I have a hell to shun, a heaven to gain, a soul to save, and a God to serve! O Christ, turn my good intentions into decisive commitments! Heal me of my procrastinations!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Tomorrow never comes! today! I will choose Christ
Neutral You Cannot Be!
Some are indifferent because they attempt to be neutral to Christianity. Some consider it a great virtue to adopt a policy of neutrality, to be tolerant to every religion. However, Christ dogmatically asserted that He was the Only Way to God. Jesus is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life". Only through the name of Christ can man approach God. "There is salvation in no one else! Under all heaven there is no other name for men to call upon to save them." (Acts 4:12 Living Bible) An indecision to follow Christ and an attempted neutrality, automatically becomes a decision against Christ. Said Jesus, "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad". (Matthew 12:30) He also said, "No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon". (Matthew 6:24) Joshua could well have been speaking to our generation when he said, "Choose you this day whom ye will serve". Christ will not share any other allegiances; He demands all. He is dogmatic in His claims, and all-inclusive in His demands. Pilate attempted to be neutral in his reaction towards Christ, but he was unsuccessful. His cowardice was a vote against Christ, and resulted in gross unjustice. The guilt that was on his hands was too great for mere water to wash it away! The blood of Christ was on his hands!
There are many nominal 'Christians' in our society and in our churches today. They are sympathetic to Christian principles, but uncommitted personally to Christ.
"Ye call me Master and obey Me not, Ye call Me Light and see Me not, Ye call Me Way and walk not, Ye call Me Life and desire Me not, Ye call Me wise and follow me not, Ye call Me fair and love Me not, Ye call Me rich and ask Me not, Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not, Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not, Ye call Me noble and serve Me not, Ye call Me Mighty and honor Me not, If I condemn you, blame Me not."
It is not easy to make the right decision. Jesus knew that. In the light of the absolute obedience and faith which Christ demands, many will make excuses. Excuses today are still 'a dime a dozen'! Of course, if Christ could reign along with all other gods in our idolatrous hearts, the decision would be easier, but that cannot be! It is either Christ only, or Christ not at all. Christ is jealous of your total allegiance, and will accept nothing less!
"The right decision is a hard decision, for Your absolute Lordship demands my total surrender and my absolute obedience. But it all results in absolute freedom! Thank you for your total claims on my life!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Neutral I cannot be. I must make Christ the Lord of all or He will not be the Lord at all!
Wise Men Seek Jesus!
The Wise Men represent all who react to Christ with adoring worship. The Wise Men only found Christ after they diligently sought for Him. "Where", they asked King Herod, "is the newly born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in its rising and we have come to worship Him." (Matthew 2:2)
Centuries before, God spoke through Jeremiah and said, "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart". (Jeremiah 29:13) Our seeking must be genuine; our asking must be sincere; our knocking must be persistent. God will only be found when we seek him with our whole heart. One cannot be pretentious, proud, or half-hearted, and expect to find Christ. The Wise Men were not satisfied until they found the Christ child. Their searching was in earnest. To find the Child was their only concern.
Jesus' parable of the lost coin well illustrates the necessity for diligence in ones search for God. In another parable, the precious pearl which was found in a field caused the finder to sell all that he had in order to purchase that gem. Full surrender is essential if one is to be a disciple of Christ and in order to find peace in life.
The Wise Men offered gifts to Christ. "When they came into the house, they saw the little child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him; and they opened their treasures, and offered to Him gifts." (Matthew 2:11 Barclay)
The essence of true worship and adoration is self-surrender–presentation of ourselves to God.
"Who answers Christ's insistent call Must give himself, his life, his all, Without one backward look. Who sets his hand un to the plow, And glances back with anxious brow, His calling hath mistook. Christ claims him wholly for his own; He must be Christ's, and Christ's alone."
Wise men still seek Jesus!
"Jesus, if I had the whole world to give to you, that would be a present far too small! 'Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all'!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Like the Wise Men of old, I will today bow before Christ, 'lost in wonder, love, and praise'.
Jesus' Threefold Work — King, Priest, Saviour
Although the New Testament no where says specifically that there were three wise men, we assume that there were three because of the threefold gift which they brought. The significant thing is not the number of wise men, but rather the gifts which the wise men presented.
Gold is the gift for a King. The coming of a great king was a deep-seated expectation in the hearts of all Jews throughout the centuries, since the rule of David. Jesus came to be King, but not the type of King the Jews were anticipating. The Jews looked to Jesus as God's agent through whom the Jews would conquer all their enemies and enjoy an age of peace and prosperity. Their expectation reached its height when the excited Jews shouted Hosanna to Christ as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Jews expected Jesus to soon fulfill their nationalistic dreams. Jesus, however, came not to be a conquering king over earthly kingdoms, but He came to be the King of men's hearts. He came not to shatter the Romans, but He came to die on a cross in order that the Romans might be truly transformed, as well as all other Gentiles of the world. Christ came not to destroy, but to restore. He came not to hate, but to love. Christ came to destroy man's passion and pride and then set up his rule in man's heart.
Frankincense is the gift for a Priest. It was the work of the Old Testament Priests to act as representatives of God to man, and to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. The Old Testament Priesthood was imperfect and unable to remove the guilt of sin. Christ came to be the Perfect High Priest, of which the gift of frankincense was but a symbol. In the Old Testament the common man was barred from personal access to God. It was the High Priest's responsibility to intercede in behalf of the people. On the Day of Atonement the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple where it was held that God's presence dwelt. Jesus, the Perfect High Priest, became a bridge to God by which man can personally encounter God. The veil of the Temple was rent in two, symbolizing man's personal access to God.
Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die. In the opening account of Matthew's Gospel, the purpose of Christ's coming is defined. "She (Mary) will bear a son, and you must call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 Barclay) Our Scripture reading for today indicates that Jesus is both the Perfect High Priest and the Perfect Sacrifice for sin. The gift of myrrh symbolized Christ's death, His Saviourhood. To stop with the Babe of Bethlehem without considering the Christ of the Cross, is to miss the meaning of the Incarnation!
"Because of your threefold work as King, Priest, and Saviour, do your threefold work in my life. Rule my life, become my bridge-builder to God, forgive my sins!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Because God has given the gift of His all in the form of Christ, I will give Him the gift of my all in the form of my full surrender!
Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23
Is Your God Too Small?
We have looked at three ways in which people react to Jesus. Some, like Herod, react with hostility to Christ and attempt to eliminate the truth. Others, like the Scribes, react with indifference to Christ and attempt to avoid Christ or His claims. Still others, like the Wise Men, react with adoring worship to Christ.
In His parable of the Four Soils, Jesus described four different responses to the Gospel Message.
The first soil is the wayside soil. (Matthew 13:3-4, Matthew 13:19) The wayside soil is hardened and unresponsive to the seed. The wayside soil represents the close-minded person who is unresponsive and indifferent to the Gospel appeal. Some are indifferent to Christianity because they do not realize the seriousness of its demands. They classify Christianity alongside politics, art, literature, music, science, etc., and consider it only with academic interest. They have a "take it or leave it" attitude. They classify Jesus alongside Plato, Aristotle, and other great teachers, even though they assert that Jesus is the greatest teacher in history. Many would be offended if it were seriously suggested to them that Jesus was God Incarnate. Many classify the Church alongside a business, a club, or a shop, thus denying its distinctive message and purpose. To them it is a place to enhance prestige or to fulfill social needs, the same functions that a club fulfills. Indifference is manifested in such expressions as this: "If I want my shoes repaired, I go to a shoe repairman. If I want a good meal, I go to a good restaurant. If I want religion, I go to some church".
Many are indifferent to Christianity because their conception of God is too small. The Modern-day shallow conceptions of God are effectively discussed in J.B. Phillips' excellent book 'Your God Is Too Small'. Notice what some of those misconceptions are. Some think of God as a policeman who is constantly seeking to punish. Some think of God as a harsh father, seeking to drain all pleasure out of life. Some think of God as the spine-less, mild, and pale Galilean who lacks courage, strength, vitality and joy. Some think of God as an escapism for the weak and fearful. Some think of God as the one who is contained within the four walls of a church, unable to meet life in an every day, practical way. Others are bitter towards God because of an unexplained tragedy in their lives. All such notions of God are far from the Truth, but holding such notions has caused many to become indifferent towards Christ and Christianity. Such people have shut minds because they have never had a mature conception of God, and because they have never really considered seriously the demands of Christianity.
O Christ, you are not one among many great teachers, to be admired. You are the son of the Living God, to be worshipped!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will shut my mind to immature caricatures of Christ and open my mind to the true character of Christ!
Matthew 13:20-21, Hebrews 12:1-4
Shallow-Minded Response To Christianity
In His Parable of the Four Soils, Jesus said that some seeds fell on rocky soil. Jesus gave the interpretation: "As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has not root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away". (Matthew 13:20-21)
The stony ground represents the shallow mind. Such a mind does not think deeply and seriously about Christianity. There are so many who have never really considered the cost of being a Christian. Their lives are based on a shallow sentimentality. To such people, the beauty of a church is more important then the beauty of holiness. To such people, a tear-jerking sermon is more important than a thought-provoking sermon. The stony ground represents those whose Christianity is based upon emotionality rather than upon rationality. Jesus encouraged people who were potential followers to consider seriously what it means to be a Christian. He wanted none to begin the Christian walk and then stop midway. He wanted all to seriously consider the demands of discipleship. It was Jesus who said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me". (Matthew 16:24) He also said, "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple". (Luke 14:26)
There are many who begin the Christian way, but many do not last, simply because the Word has not found deep rootage in their hearts. One famous evangelist said, "We have learned that it takes about five percent effort to win a man to Christ, and ninety-five percent to keep him in Christ and growing into maturity in the Church". Someone insightfully said: "It is not easy to be a Christian; but it is easy to start". Why is there such a mortality rate in the Church among young Christians? One reason is that many have failed to realize that "Christianity is a case of all or nothing". Too many have stopped short of total surrender to God.
Another reason why many who begin the Christian life wither instead of grow, is that they have never learned the importance of patience and perseverance. It is easy to start, but difficult to finish. Says J .B. Phillips: "Long preparation, careful planning and slow growth would seem to be leading characteristics of spiritual life". (Your God Is Too Small, p. 59)
"Lord, help me to respond fully to Christ's call in order that I may enjoy Christ fully. Help me to feel deeply, think clearly, and commit decisively!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I am willing to take the slow, but sure road to spiritual maturity!
Colossians 3:1-17, Matthew 13:7,22
"Lost! Lost! Lost! — My Life Is Lost!"
The thorny soil represents the care-ridden mind. Said Jesus, "Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them". (Matthew 13:7) A garden lot may be weeded, plowed, and racked and thus appear to be very clean and productive soil. However, such soil may be filled with weed seeds which may spring up and throttle the life out of the good seed. Jesus gave the interpretation to this kind of soil. "As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful ." (Matthew 13:22)
It is too easy to become encumbered with the cares and concerns of making a living and in the meantime forget that we should be making a life. It is sometimes easy to become more concerned how far we made the dollar go than how far we go in living for Christ and others. In trying to maintain a material standard of living, we can easily lower our spiritual standard of service and sacrifice. Self can replace service as a standard of life. When that happens, life is literally robbed of its meaning.
"A young man, some years ago, lay dying. His mother believed him to be a Christian and was greatly surprised and distressed one day when, on passing his room, she heard him say, 'Lost! Lost! Lost!'. Immediately she opened the door and cried, 'My boy, is it possible you have lost hope in Christ, now that you are dying?'. 'No, Mother, no!' he replied, 'it is not that. I have hope beyond the grave, but I have lost my life! My life has been spent for self. I have lived for this world–and now–while dying, I have given myself to Christ–BUT MY LIFE IS LOST!'." (Shoe-Leather Faith, Merv Rosell, No. 331)
It is good for us occasionally to remind ourselves of these words: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation", (Hebrews 2:3 a) How easy it is for us to neglect the most important things in life. Why? Because the intangible and invisible values of life take time and effort to cultivate. A holy life does not come automatically. It takes discipline, time and effort. A Christian must take time to pray, attend church services (Hebrews 10:25), witness, and read the Bible. The competitive loyalties of worry, riches, and pleasures can destroy spiritual life! Ask yourself: "Am I operating my life by God's agenda or by my own agenda?", Do not allow the good seed of God's Word to become choked by the weeds of worry, riches or pleasure!
"God, do not allow my heart to become overcrowded! Do not allow the 'good' to destroy the 'best' in my life! Help me to 'take time to be holy'. The 'weeds' must go in my life!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Money and pleasure will be expressions of my faith, not substitutes for my faith!
James 1:22-25, Matthew 13:8-9, Matthew 13:23
"I Like My Mother's Translation Best!"
Jesus said, "Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear". (Matthew 13:8-9)
There is some soil that is rich, deep and clean of weeds. In such soil, there is a bountiful harvest. Jesus said, "As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty". (Matthew 13:23)
The good soil represents the productive mind, the mind that listens carefully to Jesus' words, reasons them out, and considers their implications. Such a person is not quick and impulsive, but deeply contemplative and reflective.
He not only listens, but he understands. Jesus' words do not fall upon deaf ears, but Jesus' words sink deeply into his heart. He ponders them until he understands their true meaning and significance for daily living.
He not only hears, he not only understands, but he applies and practices Christ's words. He knows that ultimately Christianity is a life of action and practice, not simply theory and thought. He realizes that a man will in the last analysis be judged by his actions, not simply by his words. He knows this because he understands Christ's teachings: "There was a man with two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Go and work in my vineyard today, my son'. He said, 'All right sir'–but he never went near it. Then the father approached the second son with the same request. He said, 'I won't'. But afterward he changed his mind and went. Which of these two did what their father wanted? 'The second one', they replied". (Matthew 21:28-31 a)
"There is a story about four clergymen who were discussing the merits of the various translations of the Bible. One liked the King James Version best because of its simple, beautiful English. Another liked the American Revised Version best because it is more literal and comes nearer to original Hebrew and Greek. Still another liked Moffatt's translation best because of its up-to-date vocabulary. The fourth minister was silent. When asked to express his opinion, he replied, 'I like my mother's translation best. She translated it into life, and it was the most convincing translation I ever saw'." (Shoe-Leather Faith, No. 101, Rosell)
"God, help me to be a productive-minded person, one who listens carefully, understands thoroughly, and applies constantly the words of Christ!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will be a doer of the Word, and not a hearer only! (James 1:22)
Business Interests Before Kingdom Interests
What a discourtesy to be invited to a meal; first accept it, and then later reject the invitation on some flimsy excuse. God invites you to His banquet. Will you accept it or will you, like the persons in the parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24) make flimsy excuses?
It is clear that the great Banquet stands for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a society of men who desire to do God's will more than they desire anything else. In mercy, God has extended His invitation to every person to be a member of His Kingdom–to come to the Banquet of God! But before a person can become a member of God's Kingdom, he must accept God's invitation, putting the priorities of the Kingdom before personal, selfish interests. Each of the excuses in the parable are the same types of excuses that are heard today.
The first man put business interests before kingdom interests. "I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused." (Luke 14: 18) Many there are who put their work before their church, who are more interested in making a living than they are in making a life. The ring of the cash register is sweeter to some than the quietness of the sanctuary. The glitter of gold fascinates some more than the glory of God. Bargaining at the stock market is more important to some than bargaining for the souls of men. Missing a day's work is more disturbing to some than missing a worship service. Getting ahead of the Joneses is more important to some than staying in step with God. Investing in earth's real estate is more important to some than investing in heaven's incorruptible mansions. Earning a college degree is more important to some than earning a degree in faithfulness and service.
Energy and hard work are commendable, but if misdirected can result in rejection from the kingdom. Wealth is not to be despised, if it does not result in poverty of the soul. Position in business and work is honourable, if it does not crowd God from the throne room of one's heart. If a choice must be made between more money on earth or greater treasure in heaven, there is no question as to how one should choose. "And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." (1 John 2: 17)
"Help me to set my affections on things above, not things on earth. Help me to be wise in my investments, investing in eternity as well as in time, investing in people as well as in things, seeking God's glory primarily and my own interests secondarily."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: He who lives only for time will be frustrated in time and lost in eternity!
Psalms 1:1-2, Psalms 16:1-11, 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Interests Of Novelty Before Interests Of Kingdom
We are looking at the flimsy excuses which people give for not entering the Kingdom of God. (Parable of the Great Supper, Luke 14:15-24)
"Another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please have me excused'." (Luke 14:19) Sound familiar? "I have bought a new car, and I want to try it out. We are taking a trip on Sunday." "I have built a new cabin and plan to stay there over the weekends during the summer months. I'll worship God in nature." "I have bought a new camper and new fishing equipment. They say the fish are biting good. Might see you next Sunday. Depends on how the fish bite this weekend." "I have bought some new skis. The snow is just right for skiing. Got to take advantage of the snow. Besides, everyone is going to the slopes. Have me excused please." "A new TV series is starting on Wednesday night. Sorry I will miss Bible class. Have me excused." "Spring is in the air. Time to get the garden planted. Please have me excused this time."
Sad it is that the toys of sensual pleasure are more real to us than the delights of spiritual discoveries. The novelty of picking up a moon rock seems to thrill us more than picking up the Bible. Low attendance at a party is more disturbing to us than low attendance at worship services. Missing a favorite TV program disturbs us more than missing a good Bible class. The garden not growing disturbs us more than the church not growing. Learning a new recipe excites us more than learning a new verse of Scripture. Fishing for trout is more exciting than fishing for the souls of men. The excuse of the one who said, "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out", is the same type of excuse that many give today. The interests of novelty are more important than the interests of the Kingdom. Such people are fools, for they accept the second-best or worse, when they could have the very best! These people miss out on the delights of the Kingdom Banquet!
They miss out on the mental delights. The Christian life delights the mind! While the sinner is feeding his mind on the husks of the world, the Christian is exploring new frontiers of knowledge and wisdom!
They miss out on emotional delights. There is an aesthetic heightening in Christian conversion!
They miss out on spiritual delights. There is a great contrast between the ever-dawning hope of the Christian and the ever-increasing despair of the unbeliever. Poor indeed is the man who puts the interests of novelty before the interests of the Kingdom!
"God, you are the source of all joy! You give me all things richly to enjoy! The pleasures of sin last for only 'a season', but the "Joy of the Lord' is eternal!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will gladly accept God's Invitation to His Banqueting Table where heaven's delights are lavishly served!
Matthew 22:37-40, Luke 14:25-27
Love Of Maid More Than Love Of Master
The third man in the parable (Luke 14:15-24) put good interests before the superior interests of the Kingdom. "Another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore, I cannot come'." (Luke 14:20) Loyalty to wife and family is commended, but if wife or husband or child becomes the object of one's deepest love, then a man is not worthy of God's Kingdom! Adam walked alone with God before Eve was created. A man must know his God intimately before he can enjoy his family completely. The love of the Master must come before the love of the Maid. Indeed, the love of the maid is enhanced by the love of the Master! "They live best together who live with God; they serve each other best who also serve their fellow men; the atmosphere of a home is most lovely when those who dwell within it never forget that they are also members of the great family and household of God!" (Daily Study Bible, Luke, p. 201, William Barclay) Is your home open to fellow believers (Psalms 133:1)? Is your home open to strangers (Hebrews 13:1-2)? Are you willing to present your children to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1)?
"Two men stood on a dock in New York City. They were watching an ocean liner as it left for far-away shores. One of "the men said to the other: 'That ocean liner is carrying a gift from me to the mission fields. It has on it thousands of dollars worth of supplies for a mission hospital'. The other man replied: 'That ocean liner also carries a gift from me to the mission fields. It has on it my only daughter. She is going as a missionary. I have given her to the Lord's service'. Tears came to the eyes of the first man. He said: 'My friend, you have given far more to the Lord than I have. I have given money. You have given your only daughter!'." (This Is the Will of God, by Barker, p. 57-58)
The story is told of a Sunday School class of boys who planned to have a surprise birthday for a small boy who was one of the members of the class. When the class arrived at the home, the boy's mother called in vain for her son. The class finally went ahead with the party without the guest of honor. After the party was over and the class had left, the boy came home and the mother finally got the truth out of her son. The boy had heard the mother call him, but thinking that he was being called to do some work, he ran to the barn where he hid all afternoon!
Don't run and hide from God when He calls you! Accept the invitation to the Kingdom Banquet!
"God, I have too often thought you were calling me to an unpleasant task, and I have gone to the 'barn' to hide. I have hid myself in my material pursuits, in my leisure and novelty and even in something so good as my family! Forgive me! I accept your invitation to the Kingdom Banquet!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will not allow the 'good' to destroy the 'best' in my life!
Discussion Questions On 'How Do You React To Christ?'
What three basic types of responses to Christ are represented by Herod the King, the Chief Priests and Scribes, and the Wise men? Are these three types of responses typical of human responses to Christ today, and if so, can you give examples from your personal observations of these three different kinds of responses?
Illustrate from your personal experience or from your observation of other people, how it is possible to become so engrossed in one's own affairs that Jesus Christ means little or nothing to him.
List various reasons why persons today are indifferent to Christ and the Gospel. Which is the worse kind of reaction to give to Christ, a reaction of passive indifference or a reaction of active hostility? Why?
What answer would you give to a person who says that he doesn't believe in Christianity because of the superficial. and hypocritical elements which he observes within the organized Church?
What is meant by the statement: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". What is one of Satan's most effective weapons in fighting against mankind?
What is Christ's reaction to a person who seeks to be neutral in his reaction to Christ?
What qualities exemplified in the lives of the Wise Men must be manifest in our lives today if we are to find and to please God?
List the three gifts which the Wise Men presented to Jesus, and tell what each of these three gifts symbolized in terms of the threefold work of Christ.
In His parable of the Four Soils (Matthew 13:1-9, Matthew 13:18-23), Jesus describes four different responses which people manifest toward Him. List those four responses (as symbolized by the Soils), and give an illustration from your own personal life or from your observations of other people of each of these four different responses.
If indifference (as symbolized by the wayside soil) is one of the basic negative responses to Christ, give reasons why some people react indifferently to Christ?
List various manifestations of the shallow-minded response to Christ (as symbolized by the Rocky Soil).
What are some of the 'weeds' or 'thorns I that can easily choke out the believer's spiritual life (as taught in Jesus' parable of the Four Soils)?
Discussion Questions On 'How Do You React To Christ?'(continued)
How can the 'productive mind' (as symbolized by the good soil) be described? Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "A man will, in the last analysis, be judged by his actions, not simply by his words". (Note James 2:12-20)
List the three excuses given by the three men in Jesus' parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), and share examples of people whom you have known who have used one or more of these same excuses for not following Christ.