Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Follow Me

As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him. (Mark 1:16-20)

Jesus took twelve men and asked them to follow as the first step in leadership.  They turned the known living world of their day right side up because, without Jesus, we are upside down!  True leadership rises from the ranks of those who know how to follow and who never forget to keep following Jesus. 

Following Jesus is serious business and we've made it big business.  Today the trend is to wear the right gear with the right message on it; such as the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) paraphernalia.  T-shirts, key rings, bracelets, earrings, bumper stickers, sunglasses, lunch bags, notebooks, bible covers, cups, pens, pencils, and screen savers; all for the purpose of declaring who we ought to be imitating.
Does all of this lead us to MIMIC Jesus, or does it teach us to really follow Jesus?  It is true that Paul does use this very word (mimic) in I Corinthians 11:1 "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ." – but he is clear that he is following Christ.  Please don't get this wrong.  There nothing wrong or bad in wearing or using these items.  But is that all there is to following Jesus?  Do we wear the gear, sing the songs and attend the services thinking we are following Jesus when, in fact, we are merely mimicking a religious behavior?  Are we aware that for many, religion may be the death of authentic Christianity.

It is probable that if asked the question, "Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?" the majority of churchgoers and even others would raise their hands to signify they are.  The common answers might be...

·      Yes, I am a Christian...meaning I am not a Muslim, Hindu, Atheist.
·      Yes, I am a Believer...meaning I believe certain creeds or beliefs
·      Yes, I am a Baptist...meaning I am not Methodist, Assembly of God or any other denomination.

William Barclay said, “Jesus did not say discuss me; He said follow me.  We do not make terms with Christ; we surrender to Christ.  We do not compromise with Christ; we submit to Christ.  Christianity does not mean being interested in Jesus Christ; it means… we commit to absolute loyalty to Christ…
"Keep looking in the road ahead and make sure Christ is there. Make sure He is walking in front of you. Keep walking with Him and then look over your shoulder and you'll find there is someone following you because you are following Christ." - Joseph Stowell

Today as we enter our places in the world it may be good for us consider our actions and determine if they are based in a creed, an ethic, a morality or a call to “Follow Me.”

Scripture to Claim
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.   Acts 4:13 

Monday, February 27, 2017

The “Silvani”

Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it! (1 Peter 5:12)

It is easy to read over the names mentioned in the Bible while we search for spiritual truths, physical facts or theological information and fail to recognize the significance of a specific individual.  Peter closes his letter with "Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him)."
The mention of this name seems so very insignificant. No book is named after him and no real attention is afforded him as is others.  Yet, here is a very significant statement by Peter regarding a man who he expects the readers will know.  He must have been a powerful and influential man to these believers. 

Sometimes we forget that churches are not made up primarily of the vocal few but the quiet and effective faithful.  This is who Silvanus represents.  Powerful churches are not the product of powerful preachers and staff members.  They are what they are because of those who Elton Trueblood calls the “company of the committed.”  Laypersons who are responsible to carry out their calling as a part of the body of Christ.

We know this man better by the name of "Silas".  Though not an apostle or disciple he was a special part of the formation of the early church.  We best remember him for what is told in Acts 15-16.  Silvanus (Silas) was chosen by the early church to fill the gap left by Barnabas and go with Paul as he followed the call to Macedonia. He was a layman willing to go when called on.
Being a Roman citizen and a man of reputation and education, his influence with the Romans was important to the spread of the Gospel.  He was a man bold in his faith and was beaten, arrested and thrown in jail for preaching.  Willing to suffer for his faith, he exampled the commitment of believers in the early church. 

Acts 15: 22 speaks of this layman as one of the "leading men among the brethren."  He was regarded with respect among his brothers; a leader in service and example.  He was willing to go as well as send... to do as well as pray.  As a matter of fact, he was evidently a pretty good preacher (although scripture says he was a bit long-winded).  Silvanus (Silas) was able to proclaim the gospel with conviction though he is not known as a pastor.

So who was Silvanus?  He was a good church member; a lay missionary, preacher, evangelist, writer and beloved friend Paul and Peter.  He was content to be only a name, content to take second place, and content to serve in the background so long as God's work was done.  It is men like this who make preachers look good.

Peter speaks with additional authority when he says, "through Silvanus".  Any preacher or pastor has those for whom can fondly say, "faithful brother for so I regard him."  On such the church is built.
Today, let’s all take time to thank God for those who serve our Lord His church faithfully and diligently.

Scripture to Claim

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Qualified By Grace

Colossians 1:12-14
After Paul writes of the Christian walk, he turns his attention to the work of Christ that has brought us our salvation.  Just one word carries a wealth of meaning. 
A failure to remember what it is like to be “lost” can lead to a failure to give thanks for being “saved”.
Deep gratitude for our salvation rises for believers such as this when they consider the cost of salvation regardless of the depth of the sin.
The Status of the Natural Man
·       Separated from God by sin because of the nature of God.
Romans 3:23
Man is not separated from God because of God’s choice but because of His holiness.
·       Susceptible to the wrath of God. Romans 1:18
  • Controlled by the "domain of darkness" - blinded by sin and unable to receive truth.  Ephesians 2:1-2
  • Condemned to eternal death Romans 6:23; Romans 5:12
For a person to be saved:
·       The penalty of sin must be paid in death.
·       The sins of that person must be forgiven. 
·       The justice of God must be rendered consistent.
·       The righteousness of God must be delivered to the unrighteous.
·       The nature of that person must be converted to a spiritual nature.
The Elements of the Atonement (at-one-ment)
·       Justification - Making it "just-as-if-I’d" never sinned
This is not forgiveness.
·       Substitution – He took my place  2 Corinthians 5:21
Being redeemed needs a redeemer who can pay the price demanded.  Christ is our Redeemer!
The requirement for payment for sin does not issue from God’s wrath against man but His perfect justice and holy nature.
·       Adoption – We are family
We are chosen!  2 Thessalonians 2:13

·       Glorification - We shall be like Him

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