Meaning Of Incarnation

The Meaning Of Incarnation

The Meaning Of Incarnation

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: The Meaning of The Incarnation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14

TEXT: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us." (John 1:14 a)

INTRODUCTION: This is the meaning of the Incarnation – God has stepped out of the picture (Universe) and become a man to live and to die for mankind. Jesus showed us the kind of God that rules the universe – a God who loves and who has come to redeem.

PROPOSITION: At Christmas Time we sing of the coming of Immanuel or Jesus – and Immanuel means 'God with us', or 'God in us', or 'God for us'. It means that Eternity has invaded Time, that God has become a man.

I. God with Us

A. In Sorrow and Pain and Loneliness and Poverty

B. In Joy

II. God in Us

A. To Convict

B. To Forgive

C. To Cleanse

D. To Comfort

E. To Keep

III. God For Us

A. In Making Decisions (small and great)

B. In Meeting Satanic Attacks

C. In Carrying Out Life's Tasks

CONCLUSION: God has stepped out of the picture and is with us now – through the power of the Spirit!

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CHAPTER 5

SUBJECT: The Meaning of the Incarnation

SCRIPTURE: John 1:1-14

TEXT: "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:14 a)

INTRODUCTION: "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)

This is the meaning of the Incarnation – God has stepped out of the picture (Universe) and become a man to live and to die for mankind. Jesus showed us the kind of God that rules the universe – a God who loves and who has come to redeem.

"The Christian faith is not just a little better than other faiths – a little more moral, more free from contradictory elements, more lofty in its conceptions. It is that, but it is more – it is different in kind. Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one Gospel. Religions are the Word become word; the Gospel is the Word become flesh." (E. S. Jones; page 8 of 'Word Became Flesh')

PROPOSITION: At Christmas Time we sing of the coming of Immanuel or Jesus – and Immanuel means 'God with us', or 'God in us', or 'God for us'. It means that Eternity has invaded Time, that God has become a man.

I. God With Us

"The greatest thing of all is this, that when you see this compassionate Christ, you are seeing God. This is the comfort which the Advent tidings bring – and it is all in that one word Immanuel: for Immanuel means 'God with us', with us in Jesus, God going through the darkness with you, God saying, 'My friend, you must not carry the trouble alone any longer – cast it down at My feet: I will take it and carry it, and the hardest part shall be my part.' The word Immanuel means that where we, with all our poor human words of comfort, break down utterly, God begins. Immanuel means that when you feel nobody wants you, God does. Immanuel means that when your heart is crying to every would-be comforter, 'Ah, you don't understand, you can't see things from my side of them, you are outside' – Immanuel means that God is right inside. Immanuel means God with you and in you, God making the pain a sacrament, the conflict a crusade, and the broken dreams a ladder up to heaven. And so, through Christ, God speaks home to the heart of Jerusalem." (The Gates of New Life; page 197, 198; James Stewart)

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A. In Sorrow and Pain and Loneliness and Poverty

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained 
Too deeply for mirth and song; 
As the burdens press, and the cares distress, 
And the way grows weary and long? 
O yes, He cares; I know He cares, 
His heart is touched with my grief; 
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, 
I know my Saviour cares. 

Jesus is called 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief". He feels and he knows every burden you carry. The Bible exhorts you "To let all your anxieties fall upon him for his interest is in you." (1 Peter 5:7, Moffatt.)

When Jesus' friend, Lazarus died, and Jesus saw Lazarus' sisters in great grief, 'Jesus wept', and not only wept, but did something about the problem – He raised Lazarus to life.

"The poor mother of Nain, crying as if her heart would break as she stumbled after the pathetic little procession going out to bury her only son – Christ could not bear it!" (Stewart; page 197) So Jesus raised him to life.

An embittered father, who had lost his son in the war, asked a minster: 'Where was God when my son died?' Replied the minister, 'The same place He was when His own son died.' There is no experience that God can't understand.

God is with you in loneliness, for Jesus understands what it means to have his one- time follower's leave and forsake him. Jesus went through His trial all alone – with even his disciples leaving him. You need never walk alone. Jesus said, 'Lo, I am with you always.'

God is with us in times of poverty. Jesus experienced the depths of poverty. Born in a manger, working hard, long hours in a carpenter shop to 'make ends meet' for the family that he was to provide for, after Joseph died, while Jesus' brothers and sisters were still young – these are experiences that enable the poor to so closely identify with Jesus. Said Jesus, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head." (Matthew 9:20) Jesus left the 'ivory palaces' of heaven, and emptied himself on earth for man. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes be became poor, that ye through

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his poverty might be rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

B. In Joy

Jesus identifies with us in our joys. In fact, Jesus enjoyed life so much, that his sour critics called Jesus a wine-bibber. "The Son of man came eating and drinking (showing jolly spirit) and they (the critics) say, Behold a man gluttonous, and wine bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." Jesus often ate and dined at sinners' homes.

Jesus showed gaiety of spirit at the wedding at Cana of Galilee, and wanted the guests and hosts to be so happy, that he changed water into wine, to save the hosts (who were probably poor people) embarrassment and shame.

The spirit of Jesus is reflected in the writings of Jesus' followers: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." (Philippians 4:4) "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4) "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (Ephesians 5:18-19)

II. God In Us

A. To Convict

If it were not for the mercy of God's conviction of sin and of our need for Christ, no man would be saved. God is in every man to create a need for Christ. "John Nelsen, weighed down with a deep sense of sin, went to hear John Wesley. Though unknown to the field preacher, Nelson felt that Wesley was aiming his message directly at him, as one standing alone before a preacher. 'As soon as he got up on the stand, he stroked back his hair, and turned his face towards where I stood, and I thought fixed his eyes upon me. His countenance struck such awful dread upon me, before I heard him speak, that it make my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock: and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me. When he had done, I said, "This man can tell the secrets of my heart"'." (Mavis; Personal Renewal Through Christian Conversion; page 45)

B. To Forgive

God is in us to forgive us all our sins. "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalms 103:12) God has hid our sins in the sea of forgetfulness, never to remember them against us

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again. Says God, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Hebrews 6:12)

I believe the most important word of the English language is "Forgiveness".

C. To Cleanse

"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. .. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalms 51:2, Psalms 51:7)

William Carvosso, saintly class-leader in the Methodist Church for over 60 years, had prayed earnestly for 'inward holiness'. The Spirit directed him to the promise in Ezekiel 36:25-27. At length, one evening, while engaged in prayer meeting, the great deliverance came. 'I began to exercise faith, by believing, "I shall have the blessing now." Just at that moment a heavenly influence filled the room; and no sooner had I spoken than refining fire went "through my heart – illuminated my soul -scattered its life through every part, and sanctified the whole." I then received the full witness of the Spirit that the blood of Jesus Christ had cleansed me from all sin. I cried out, "This is what I wanted! I have now got a new heart." … O what boundless happiness there is in Christ, and all for such a poor sinner as 1." (Entire Sanctification; page 73)

D. To Comfort

Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans." The Holy Spirit is in us to enable us to cope successfully with life. He enables us to 'Brave Life Together'. The Spirit imparts courage and rest and power. There is rest for the weary. Said Jesus, "Come to me and I will give you rest – all you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke – for it fits perfectly and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens." (Matthew 11:28)

"True comfort of Christ is a strong, bracing, reinforcing thing. It is like a wind to a boat that has been becalmed. It is like the gift of a job to a man who has been for years out of work. It is like the clasp of a friend's hand in a time of need. This is certainly the root idea of the word 'comfort' in the New Testament; and when Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the 'Comforter', He is really giving a promise that God will stand by a man in the day of his need, and brace his heart and nerve his arm, and make him more than conqueror." (Stewart page 193; in The Gates of New Life.)

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"A very sensitive and dedicated Christian, after a deep disappointment in some of her trusted colleagues, threw herself on her bed and cried, 'O Jesus, if it weren't for You I'd not be a Christian five minutes'. He held her steady through that letdown." (Word Become Flesh; page 339; E. S. Jones)

E. To Keep

The Holy Spirit is in us to keep us from sin and evil. "The Lord is faithful; he will make you strong, guard you from satanic attacks of every kind." (2 Thessalonians 3:3) Declared Paul: "I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to safely guard all that I have given him until the day of his return." (2 Timothy 1:12) "His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)

Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you even until the end of the world."

Says E. Stanley Jones: "For sixty years I've thought of one subject, have spoken about that one subject, and have written about that one subject – that one subject, a Person, Jesus Christ. After thinking and talking about one subject for sixty years, one should be bored and should want a moral holiday, want to get away and think of something else. On the contrary, I was never so excited, so exhilarated, so full of surprise as .now. Something new breaks out from Him every day, a surprise around every comer, horizons cracking, life popping with novelty and meaning – and value. The Truth is making me free, free to find more Truth and yet more Truth. And so on forever and forever." (Word Became Flesh; page 51). "The testimony of Evan Hopkins can help us." The year of his deeper crisis was 1873. In 1913 – just four decades later – he was at Keswick. He opened one of his addresses by saying: 'I think I ought to be the most thankful man in this tent, because I am privileged to testify that the blessings last. It has lasted with me forty years. I shall never forget that sacred spot where the first consecration meeting was held, in London in May, 1873. I had been converted thirteen years, brought to the Lord through a coast guardsman, and I had learned the need of my own heart during those years. At the time that I refer to I was immensely stirred to seek this blessing. We had heard about it and there in Curzon Chapel, Mayfair, under the gallery, sixteen well-known Christian people met together… this was just the beginning of the movement, and I ought to be one of the most thankful men in this tent, because of God's gracious keeping power for forty years. I want to bear testimony to that fact, and give Him all the glory. There have been many failures. I am not glorying in self, but what was revealed to me that day – the all-sufficiency of Christ – as precious to my soul as it ever was.'" (Prayer and Life's Highest; page 87; Rees)

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III. God For Us

The Bible asks the important question, 'If God be for us, who can be against us'? 'Immanuel' means that God is for us.

A. In Making Decisions (small and great)

God promises: "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." (Psalms 32:8) "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Proverbs 3:6)

B. In Meeting Satanic Attacks

"The Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind." (2 Thessalonians 3:3) "There hath no temptation taken you but such as in common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32)

Said Jesus: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33)

C. In Carrying Out Life's Tasks

"Susanna Wesley had a prayer: 'Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the Church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy presence. '" (Barclay's Matthew, Vol. 2, page 180)

God is for us, in helping us to carry out our daily tasks. One college youth was having difficulty disciplining himself to do his college studies, and he made this a special subject of prayer, and discovered that he was able to do a much greater job.

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Brother Lawrence, who worked as a monastery cook in the 17th century, was a simple man who learned to take God with him in the simplest tasks of life. He wrote:

"Lord of all pots and pans and things .... 
Make me a saint by getting meals 
And washing up the plates!" 

He further testified: "The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament." (Practicing The Presence of God; page 6)

"Mrs. Billy Graham admits 'that I do most of my praying "on the hoof'. She says that sometimes a busy homemaker simply cannot get down upon her knees often. ' but to know that you can wash dishes, iron, clean, shop, drive, and in whatever you have to do Jesus Christ is there beside you, urging you to talk over your problems with him – that is a joy and a comfort it is impossible to describe.'" (Alive To God Through Prayer; Donald Demaray, pg 89)

"After thirty-five years of service, the superintendent of nurses in a Philadelphia hospital retired. Her service had been outstanding because of her radiant personality, her thoughtfulness, her self-forgetting service, her courage and her hope. A banquet was held to honor her on her retirement. Hundreds of persons, doctors, nurses, other hospital personnel, former patients and friends gathered to do her honor. Speeches gave glowing tribute to her service. Then she arose, and told of an incident that took place thirty-five years before that changed her life. It was the last year as a student nurse. At Christmas time she found the schedule of duty did not permit her to get away from the hospital, while other girls had Christmas leave. She was homesick and irritated, and her attitude was reflected in everything she did. On Christmas Eve, a little boy was brought into the ward where she was on duty. The day after Christmas she was going about her duties, when she entered the room to help the little boy.

Suddenly the lad spoke up and said, 'I guess you never heard of the baby Jesus, did you?' She was stunned by the remark and snapped, 'Why did you say that?" The little boy looked up from his pillow and said, 'Cause you couldn't look so cross and sad if you had heard of the baby Jesus!'

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The now-retired superintendent of nurses said she ran from the ward. In the seclusion of her own room, she fell on her knees and promised God that as long as she was a nurse, she would never give any patient reason to think that she had never heard about Jesus. The incident, she said, changed her life. Her devotion to her work, and her enthusiasm for her task were dated from that hour, now sacred in her hall of memories." (Sermon Builder; page 13, 14 of Dec. 1972)

CONCLUSION: Remember – 'Immanuel' has come – God with Us (in sorrow, pain, loneliness, and poverty), God In Us (to comfort, to forgive, to cleanse, to comfort to keep), God For Us (in making decisions, in meeting satanic attacks, in carrying out life's tasks).

God has stepped out of the picture and is with us now – through the power of the Spirit! Glory!

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The Meaning Of The Incarnation

Questions

  1. From your knowledge of World Religions and of Christianity, give illustrations to demonstrate the truth of the following statements: "Religions are man's search for God. The Gospel is God's search for man. Therefore, there are many religions, but only one gospel."

  2. Based on the fact of the Incarnation, do you really believe that there is a Personal Divine One who truly understands your own heartbreaks, perplexities, loneliness, pain, hardships, poverty, broken dreams, and disappointments? (Read 1 Peter 5:7 in as many translations as possible, and share with other believers how this promise has given great comfort to you during a crisis in your own life). Tell with what degree of conviction you believe the following statement: "There is no experience that God can't understand."

  3. What evidence is there from an observation of the life of Jesus and the writings of Jesus' followers, that God is pleased when believers are full of joy, pleasure, and happiness? (Note John 2:1-25, Philippians 4:4; 1 John 1:4; Ephesians 5:18-19)

  4. Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "God is in every man to create a need for Christ."

  5. Would you agree that the most important word of the English language is the word "Forgiveness"? Why or why not? (Note Psalms 103:12; Hebrews 8:12)

  6. Have you, as a believer, ever had an experience when you felt that the precious "blood of Jesus" was deeply cleansing your inner motives and desires, enabling you to become more committed to Christ and more compassionate toward your fellow men? (Note Ezekiel 36:25-27; 1 John 1:7)

  7. What is the root idea of the word 'comfort' in the New Testament?

  8. Share as many Scriptural promises that you can which assure you of "God's Keeping Power" – i.e., God's ability and desire to keep you safe from evil and to preserve you blameless in godly character until God calls you Home to Heaven. (Note 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:12; Philippians 4:7)

  9. In spite of all your personal mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and sins, can you today personally testify to God's faithfulness in keeping you secure in His love – amidst all the changes and chances of your past experiences?

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  10. Share from your personal experience, times and ways in which God has given you divine guidance amidst life's decisions, both large and small. (Note Psalms 32:8; Proverbs 3:6)

  11. Share a time in your life when you sensed the protecting presence of God, amidst sore trials and pressing temptations. (Note 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Luke 22:31-32; John 16:33)

  12. Tell to what extent you identify with the prayer of Suzanne Wesley:

"Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the Church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence."

Have you sensed the reality of God's presence just as greatly while you perform your daily routine jobs, as you have during the times of your Holy Communion in God's sanctuary? What "holy disciplines' are you developing in your Christian life which are helping you to "practice the presence of God?"

"Besides your practice of the "discipline of the Quiet Time" of daily devotions, are you learning regularly and consciously to pray to God throughout the routine of your daily responsibilities – in other words, learning to "pray on the hoof'?

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Experience Power in Witnessing

Experience Power In Witnessing

Chapter Three

Experience Power In Witnessing
The 'Secret' To Witnessing 52 Becoming A 'Courageous' Fisherman 60
The Authority Of Keys 54 Are You Ready To 'Go Fishing'? 62
Skilled Sinners And Addicted Saints 56 Helping People Get Ready 64
Learning To Be 'Fishers Of Men' 58 Discussion Questions 65

Acts 1:1-8; Acts 2:1-4

The 'Secret' To Witnessing

The great soul-winners throughout the history of the Christian Church have been filled with the Holy Spirit. Whether they were highly educated persons (like the apostle Paul) or 'blue-collar' persons (like Simon Peter who was a fisherman), the 'secret' to effective witnessing has been the infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). In his helpful book 'How You Can Pray With Power', Lowell Lundstrom shares a vivid example of this truth. He writes: "Dwight L. Moody was a great success as an evangelist. He drew large crowds to his church, but he says that many of these early victories were accomplished '…largely in the energy of the flesh.' The change came when two humble Free Methodist women, Auntie Cook and Mrs. Snow, attended his meetings. They sat in the front row and prayed as he preached. Moody appreciated their intercession so much that he spoke to them about it. 'Yes,' they said. 'We have been praying for you.' 'Why me?' the evangelist inquired, surprised. 'Why not the unsaved?' His pride was a bit hurt by the implication that he personally needed prayer. 'Because you need the power of the Spirit,' was their answer. Several weeks later, Moody invited the two ladies to his office to talk more about his need for power. 'You spoke of power for service. I thought I had it,' Moody said. 'I wish you would tell me what you mean.' Auntie Cook and Mrs. Snow told him all they knew about the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Then they prayed with Moody and left. Moody said later, 'From that moment, there came a great hunger in my soul. I really felt that I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service.' He continued to pray for a special infilling of the Holy Spirit. Then one day in 1871, the evangelist went to New York on a fund raising mission. As he walked the streets of New York, his soul became hungry for God. Suddenly the Spirit of God swept over him, and his companions could tell something was happening. To his companions, Moody said, 'Get me in a room, and get everybody out and leave me by myself!' Afterward, Moody said that waves of God's power poured over him until he cried out, 'Lord, You will have to stop or I will die! I've got all I can hold! God, it is about to kill me!'" (pgs. 139-141)

Here is how Dwight Lyman Moody described the experience of being 'filled with the Holy Spirit' – and the permanent results in his ongoing ministry. "I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name … I can only say God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world; it would be as small dust in the balance."

"My blessed Father, I desire not only to be 'indwelt' by your Spirit, but I desire also to be 'filled' with your Spirit. Give me the courage to 'pay the price' – full surrender!'

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AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is my Father's good pleasure to give me what I most need and desire – namely, the gift of the Spirit's fullness! Inner purity and outward power!

– Ron Christian –

NOTES:

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Page 53


Matthew 16:13-20

The Authority Of Keys

While pastoring in a city, I was employed for a brief time with a janitorial service for floor maintenance in a department store. Keys to the front door permitted me to enter at 5:57 – 6:03. Wells Fargo, a security agent, took it for granted that it was I who entered the building within those six minutes, when the light lit on their downtown monitor. Once inside, I was not to leave until the manager arrived, nor could anyone else enter, including the manager, prior to 9 o'clock, unless granted permission.

There was a knock one morning on the glass door at 7:45. A well dressed man with a satchel wanted in, but was denied. He showed me his I.D. as an employee of the franchise. A call to security revealed that they had no one by that name with permission to enter the store at that hour. I refused his entry; and he said he would report this to officials; then left with curse words ringing in my ears.

I reported this incident to the manager, who wondered the intent of the man wanting to enter at that hour; and further, stated that I was right in refusing him entrance. The case was closed, except for spiritual lessons.

Keys are symbolic of authority and knowledge. Permission, entrance, ownership, ex/in-clusion – are included in the use of keys.

Jesus said to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Dr. Harold Lindsell in the Harper Study Bible, commenting on this verse says: "Thus men of God have the power to declare that God has forgiven the sins of those who have repented and received Christ by faith." The hypocritical teachers of Jesus' day were shutting up the kingdom; actually keeping people from entrance. But Peter used the keys to unlock the door, as stated in the Book of Acts. He, by the Holy Spirit, convinced people that Jesus is Lord and Christ, telling them to repent. In one day 3000 people were brought into the kingdom.

At the Beautiful Gate of the temple, Peter, with authority said to the lame man, "…in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." And the man stood and walked. Arrested, along with John, and brought before the Sanhedrin, Peter boldly proclaimed, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Later, Peter used the same keys to unlock closed doors.

Christians hold the same keys when they proclaim the terms of salvation in Christ. You do too, as a praying, interceding Christian. Guided by the Holy Spirit and the Bible, we will not lose the keys through neglect, indifference, or misuses.

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"Dear Jesus, many people are bound by sin's habits, unable to find release. Enable me by the Holy, Spirit to share with them the good news of repentance and salvation. Amen!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I do not have the power to forgive sins, nor can I pronounce absolution, but today, as opportunity comes, I can exhort people to repent and receive Jesus Christ.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Page 55


Jeremiah 4:22; 1 Corinthians 16:15

Skilled Sinners And Addicted Saints

The title seems paradoxical in inference to society's battle with addiction. And "skilled" is more in alignment with the positive aspects of the work force. But an examination of the two above scriptures reveal the title's correctness.

Jeremiah, writing of the spiritual and moral conditions of Judah in the seventh century, says that "they are skilled in doing evil" (RSV). The people are idolatrous, rebellious, wicked; they have forsaken God, they practice injustices. "They are skilled in doing evil."

A skilled person is one who has the ability in a particular trade or occupation. By practice, repetition, and devotion that individual becomes skilled in that trade or business or occupation. It may have been learned in an apprenticeship, or by a observation, practice and experience.

So Jeremiah says: "They are skilled in doing evil." "They are experts at doing what is evil" (GNB). Daily they practiced idolatry; repeatedly they rebelled against God; their mode was that of wickedness, even to the forsaking of God.

Society today is akin to that of Jeremiah's day. Repeated offenders, majoring in sin and crime, bound by destructive habits. Wickedness, evil continually, corruption, and violence describes our world today as it did in the antediluvian period. (See: Genesis 6: 5, Genesis 6:11-12)

Skilled sinners, one people; addicted saints, another. Tucked away in a parenthesis and amidst concluding exhortations and salutations is this observation: "(You know the house of Stephanus, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints)" (1 Corinthians 16:15)

Addicted is to be devoted or given up (to a practice or habit, esp. a bad habit). Addiction is a habitual inclination. (Web. Dict.) The drug scourge has given a bad connotation of the word "addicted." An addict is one who is apparently controlled by something.

Was Stephanus appointed by the church to this work? No. How he fleshed out his addiction is not known. He lived out Chapter 13. Problems in that church did not deter his addiction. Converted to Christ, he yearned to express his love for Christ. How? So "Stephanus and his family … are spending their lives helping and serving Christians everywhere". (TLB)

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Through an inner change by Christ, skilled sinners can become addicted saints.

"Dear Jesus, enable us to snatch the perishing from sin; to weep o'er the erring one; to lift up the fallen; to tell them of Jesus. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace I will be vulnerable to needs and hurts of others whom I meet on life's pathway.

– Floyd Cooper –

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Page 57


Matthew 4:18-22

Learning To Be 'Fishers Of Men'

Jesus called some of his disciples from the life of being fishermen. Jesus based his call upon what they knew so well – "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. "What does it mean to be 'fishers of men'? To answer this important question, we must simply look at what good fishing involves. In his Daily Study Bible (commentary on the book of Matthew), William Barclay points out five characteristics of all good fishermen, and relates these qualities to the life of a good 'fisher of men'.

First, "he must have patience. He must learn to wait patiently until the fish take the bait. If he is restless and quick to move he will never make a fisherman." Paul said he learned to be all things to all men, that by all means he might win some to Christ. The Scriptures exhort us as believers 'not to grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not'. That spells 'patience'! Adapting to meet the needs of all. A private (in the military) who was a Christian was abused badly by a rough and big sergeant. One night when the private came in very tired and wet, he got down on his knees to pray. The sergeant took his heavy boots, wet with mud, and "let him have a boot on each side of the head". The private patiently endured this cruel treatment and did a most unusual thing, in response to this abuse. Next morning, the sergeant found his muddy boots beautifully polished and standing by his bed. That gentle reply of the private by kind action broke the heart of the rough sergeant and, as a result, the sergeant was wonderfully saved and he became a beautiful Christian.

Second, a good fisherman "must have perseverance. He must learn never to be discouraged, but always to try again." During his long (and oftentimes, difficult) ministry of preaching and teaching and organizing, John Wesley demonstrated this wonderful quality. John Wesley preached 42,000 sermons. He averaged 4,500 miles a year (which means that he rode about 60 to 70 miles a day on horseback). He preached three sermons a day on an average. When he was 83 he wrote in his diary, "I am a wonder to myself. I am never tired, either with preaching, writing, or traveling." Barclay describes the rugged virtue of Christian 'perseverance' as follows: "It is that determination, unhasting, and unresting, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on, and which refuses to be deflected. Obstacles will not daunt it; delays will not depress it; discouragements will not take its hope away. It will halt neither for discouragements from within nor for opposition from without." (Hebrews; pg. 196)

"O for a faith that will not shrink, though pressed by every foe, 
That will not tremble on the brink of any earthly woe. 
A faith that shines more bright and clear when tempests rage without; 
That when in danger knows no fear, in darkness feels no doubt. 
Lord, give us such a faith as this, and then, whate'er may come,

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We'll taste, e'en here, the hallowed bliss of an eternal home."

(E. H. Bathurst)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Perseverance will enable me not to swerve from my God-given task, however difficult it might be!

– Ron Christian –

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Luke 5:1-11

Becoming A 'Courageous' Fisherman

Which is more exciting to you – catching fish from a large pond or 'catching men' in a needy world? To certain fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, John) Jesus said, "From henceforth thou shalt catch men." (Luke 5:10) In our devotional yesterday, we looked at two of the several qualities which all good 'fishers of men' possess. Let's continue.

Third, a good 'fisher of men' must have courage. Let's remember that, especially in the ancient world of Jesus' time, a fisherman faced the tempestuous sea in a small boat. That took a lot of courage! It is also true that the 'fisher of men' must possess a lot of courage. He must be willing to risk, if necessary, his very own physical life that he might share Christ with the unsaved. Never forget, more Christians have died for the sake of Christ in the 20th century than in all the other centuries together, since the time of Christ! Remember also that the word 'witness' (when it was first used by Jesus) meant 'martyr'! Every one of Jesus' original disciples died a 'martyr's death' except the apostle John (who died as a very old man, after he had been exiled on an island as a form of 'punishment' because he was a follower of Christ). To follow Christ, during the first centuries of Christian history, took considerable courage. But, amidst all the abuse and persecution in our modern-day world, followers of Christ now must also exercise great courage! It is not easy for a believer to 'stand alone' in the midst of a sneering crowd of unbelievers! But remember, "any dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live fish to swim upstream!" The follower of Christ must be willing to 'swim upstream' against the 'current of popular atheistic culture'! It takes courage (as it did with Noah who preached so long to his unresponsive world) to continue to speak up (witness) for Christ, even when no one seems to be listening or repenting.

George Fox (1624-1691), who was the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was a man of unusual courage (a great 'fisher of men'). Listen to his own account (in his old-fashioned English) of what happened to him at Tickhill. He writes: "I found the priest and most of the chief of the parish together in the chance! So I went up to them and began to speak, but immediately they fell upon me; the clerk took up the Bible as I was speaking, and struck me on the face with it, so that it gushed out with blood, and I bled exceedingly in the steeple-house. Then the people cried, 'Let us have him out of the church'; and when they had got me out they beat me exceedingly, and threw me down, and over a hedge; and afterwards they dragged me through a house into the street, stoning and beating me as they drew me along, so that I was besmeared all over with blood and dirt… Yet when I was got upon my legs again I declared to them the word of life and shewed them the fruits of their teachers, how they dishonored Christianity."

"O thou most courageous Christ, you 'never answered back when insulted; when you suffered you did not threaten to get even; you left your case in the hands of God who

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always judges fairly'. (1 Peter 2:23, Living Bible) Give m courage to follow in your steps!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: By God's grace, I 'dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!'

– Ron Christian –

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Mark 1:16-20

Are You Ready To 'Go Fishing'?

Let's continue to look at those qualities which you must possess in order to be a good 'fisher of men'.

Fourth, a good fisherman "must have an eye for the right moment. The wise fisherman knows well that there are times when it is hopeless to fish. He knows when to cast and when not to cast." The good 'fisher of men' knows when to speak and when to remain silent. He is a man who is sensitive to 'good timing'. There is a time, when, if you spoke (to a sneering person about Christ) you would be 'throwing away your pearls'. There are times when wisdom would 'dictate' that you (as a witness) should 'keep your mouth shut' and 'simply pray' (for a rebellious person). Said Jesus "Don't give holy things to depraved men. Don't give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and turn and attack you." (Matthew 7:6, Living Bible) During a part of His so-called trial (which was a 'mockery of justice'), Jesus remained 'silent'. To some of Pilate's questions (and accusations) Jesus 'opened not His mouth'. A good 'fisher of men' is wise and discreet. Yes, Jesus was the wisest of all soul-winners. There were times when he was silent in the face of opposition and there were other times when He was very verbal. Jesus sought for 'points of contact' with people. For instance, with the woman of Samaria (John 4), His 'point of contact' was water. Jesus began with the physical and material and then He made an application to the spiritual. Jesus always had 'an eye for the right moment', and so must every good 'fisher of men'.

Fifth, a good fisherman "must fit the bait to the fish. One fish will rise to one bait and another to another." Jesus, the master soul-winner, fit the bait to the fish. He could speak philosophically to the intellectual, as demonstrated in the discourses in the Gospel of John. Or Jesus could speak illustratively and in parables to the more simple (and illiterate) as shown in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The message of Christ's grace is always the same, but the methods by which we present the Gospel must be adapted to the 'kind' of person (or group) to whom we are speaking (witnessing). There are intellectually-orientated persons who may need a witness which contains more of a 'reasoning approach' (apologetic approach) than the person who is more emotionally-oriented or more volitionally-oriented. The latter 'type' may respond more to the great 'challenges of a cause' which Christianity offers – for such a person is 'looking' for a 'great cause' to which he may commit himself. Adapt your methods (bait) to the 'type' of person to whom you are speaking.

Sixth, a good fisherman "must keep himself out of sight. If he obtrudes his own presence, even his own shadow, the fish will very certainly not bite." The 'fisher of men' is concerned in attracting people to Christ, not to himself. Focus on Christ alone!

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"Lord Jesus, You are the Physician and I am only the 'Instrument"; You are the Destination and I am only the 'pointer in the way'. You must increase; I must decrease!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: My 'glory' is found in being able to point people to 'the Lamb of God' who takes away the sins of the world!

– Ron Christian –

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Acts 2:20

Helping People Get Ready

I was surprised by this morning sunrise. It was very red and very beautiful. As I was not usually an early riser, I'd forgotten that sunrise could be as glorious as sunset.

Growing up at the foot of the sage-covered Horse Heaven Hills of southeast Washington, I saw some dramatic skies over the hills. As a child, I was sometimes awed or even frightened by them. Did you, like me, grow up hearing of (and sometimes fearing) the awesome signs in the heavens of end times. Did you associate that with the coming of Jesus? Did you wonder if you were ready for His coming?

One afternoon I came home from school and my mother didn't answer my calls around the house and yard. I thought of the skies and wondered. Did Jesus return? Had my godly mother gone to be with Him and I was left behind? My mother soon returned from a visit to the neighbors. But these experiences were part of God's preparing me to be ready for Jesus' 'first' coming. Oh, not the one at Bethlehem but the one when I asked Him to forgive me and come to live in my heart, when I was not yet twelve.

Receiving Christ as my personal Savior prepared me for the awesome signs of His second coming still ahead. Yes, I am still awed by great natural phenomena. Storms and earthquakes seem to be increasing in number and intensity these days. It's scary. How do I prepare myself for Jesus' second coming?

When Jesus left this earth he was taken up into heaven before His watching disciples. Angels asked them "…why do you stand here looking into the sky?" (Acts 1:11).

In Mark 16:20, we are told "then the disciples went out and preached everywhere and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it." That brought much joy and excitement to them.

If we, like the disciples, are busy helping others get ready for Christ's coming we'll be ready for the awesome signs of His second coming. "…the great and glorious day of the Lord." (Acts 2:20)

"Dear Jesus, I want to be forgiven and to serve You, and to be ready for your return."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Helping others to be ready for His return helps me to be ready too.

– Beth Stewart –

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Discussion Questions

  1. After carefully reading the devotional about D.L. Moody (entitled "The 'Secret' To Effective Witnessing"), share your personal insights, 'feelings', and responses (or reactions) to his testimony.

  2. As a witness for Christ and as a soul-winner, do you have the 'right' ('power') to declare that God has forgiven the sins of those who have repented and who have asked Jesus to come into their hearts, during a time when repentant persons are troubled and doubtful that God could accept them into his 'forever family'? Why or why not? (Note Matthew 16:19)

  3. Even though you (as a follower of Jesus Christ) do not have the authority (power) to forgive sins, what God-given authority do you possess and can you exercise? (Note Matthew 16:13-19; Acts 3:1-10)

  4. Give your interpretation of the following statement: "Through an inner change by Christ, 'skilled sinners' can become 'addicted saints'." (Note Genesis 6:5, Genesis 6:11-12; Jeremiah 4:22; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Acts 9:36; Acts 11:22-24; 1 Thessalonians 1:6-10)

  5. As a skilled 'fisher of men', why is it important to wait patiently until the fish (sinners) take the 'bait'?

  6. From a Biblical viewpoint, how would you define and describe 'Perseverance' especially as this virtue applies to soul-winning efforts? Do you think that this Christian (God-given) virtue is one of the most difficult virtues for Christians (soul-winners) to cultivate in their lives? Why or why not?

  7. Do you think it takes a lot of 'courage' for Christians to continue to speak up (witness) for Christ, even (as in the time of Noah) when no one seems to be listening or repenting? In addition to Noah, can you think of other faithful believers (as recorded in the Bible or throughout the ages of the Christian church) who courageously 'stood up' and 'spoke up' for Christ, amidst times of great persecution? (Note Daniel 6:1-23; Daniel 3:1-30)

  8. During Christ's earthly lifetime, share ways and 'occasions' in which He manifested unusual courage. Do you believe that (like Christ) the most courageous persons (believers) are those who "return good for evil", who continue to trust God even when "wrong seems so strong" and when "right goes unrecognized and unrewarded"? (Note 1 Peter 2:20-23)

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  9. Give your 'explanation' of the meaning of the following statement as it applies to the life of a skilled 'fisher of men, (witness): "The good 'fisher of men' is sensitive to 'good timing'."

  10. As it relates to 'good timing' and to discreet understanding of the 'context' (and the 'spiritual condition' of the person to whom you are witnessing), how would you apply Jesus' teaching as recorded in Matthew 7:6?

  11. After reading the 4th chapter of the Gospel of John, how would you describe Jesus' 'point of contact' with the Samaritan Woman? What have you discovered to be some of the most effective 'points of contact' ('openings') with unbelievers to whom you have witnessed?

  12. From your own personal experiences in witnessing, and from your observation of other effective soul-winners, and from your study of God's Word, give examples which illustrate the truth of the following statement: "The message of Christ's grace is always the same, but the methods by which we present the Gospel must be adapted to the 'kind' of person (or group) to whom we are speaking (witnessing)."

  13. Practically-speaking, what does it mean for a 'fisher of men' to "keep himself out of sight" when he is witnessing and seeking to lead a person (sinner) to a 'saving knowledge of Christ'?

  14. What affect does one's personal knowledge that his sins are forgiven have upon him, as he becomes increasingly sensitive to the calamities (catastrophic) happenings throughout the world, and as he sees the 'signs for the last times' and realizes that Christ may soon return to earth?

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