Four Things NOT to Say to Those Who Are Suffering

As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens, especially when we experience suffering. Yet we often do not prepare for these moments and get tongue tied, speak with general spiritual platitudes, or avoid speaking altogether. But we must learn to comfort and encourage each other in suffering, because it is a natural part of life and a supernatural part of God’s plan (see Philippians 1:29). As we help one another, we can be instruments used by God to comfort those in need.

As we seek to speak to those who are suffering, we must avoid saying these four things:

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Looking Unto Jesus- Charles Spurgeon

“Looking unto Jesus.” —Hebrews 12:2

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 – Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 378.

God’s Sovereignty In the Book of Acts: Ordaining the Cross

God’s-Sovereignty

“His Sovereignty rules over all.” – Ps. 103:19

I have often heard the phrase, “God is sovereign” in a way that has been spoken to me to give me encouragement in a tough time or situation. But I never really took the time to meditate on what it meant for Him to be sovereign. The term is defined by having supreme power and authority, a free ability to do as one pleases. In other words, God is in absolute control over every situation, and works out everything according to His will. Think on it for a while, and it will drive your brain into massive confusion. However, we are called to submit ourselves to and believe what scripture tells us, and trust in his sovereignty.

These past few days, I have read through the book of Acts, and I was struck with how much it reveals about God’s sovereignty-with regards to salvation! I simply would like to share them with you in a 3 part series, so that you too can see how God has worked out salvation for his people, and how you, too, if in Christ, were brought into salvation by his amazing grace.

In this first post, Lets look at the major theme of sovereignty in how God ordained the cross:

  • Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” Acts 2:23

I had a very interesting conversation with a Muslim man the other day, who asked me if Christians hated Jews, because they were the ones who “killed Jesus.” This was the first time that I had really come across this misconception. Before I could reply, my friend with me answered, “No,no,no, we don’t hate them at all. We believe it was God’s plan all along, that he used the Jews and the Romans to accomplish his purpose of sacrificing Jesus!” This can be a tough pill to swallow, but Acts 2:23 clearly states for us that Jesus was crucified because it was the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Let’s look at another verse:

  • What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Acts 3:18

In this verse we are told that not only did God plan it from the beginning, but you can see his plan through reading the prophets in the Old Testament. Lets look at one of the most well-known passages. Isaiah 53:5 reads, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” Isn’t is incredible that these words were written 600-700 years before Jesus birth? There are over 300 in the Old Testament like it! God surely had a plan, and was voicing it to his people all throughout history.

If you haven’t been convinced yet, lets look at one last verse,

  • For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus…Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your hand had predestined to take place.” Acts 4:27-28

In the most heinous crime committed in the history of mankind, God was behind the scenes, sovereignly ruling. His hand predestined for Jesus to go to the cross, and to bear the weight of our filthy sin. He planned it all, so that whosoever would repent and believe in Him, would have eternal life. This was the depth of his love for us, that he would send his own Son, who would be despised and rejected, so that we might have life with Him. “But God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Romans 5:8. Recognizing this plan helps us understand the cornerstone of the gospel, seen in Isaiah 53:10,” Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him.” Him- meaning Jesus.

People everywhere are commanded to repent and believe in this incredible gospel (Acts 17:30). How could we not accept so great a Savior? How could we not devote our lives to a God, who in his sovereignty planted the very tree that he would be crucified on-all to give us life and relationship with Him?

Truly, He is sovereign.

John 2: Jesus Turns Water To Wine: Amazing Symbolism

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Most people have heard about Jesus turning the water into wine, but do they really know what it means? Do you really know what it means?

If you have not read this portion of scripture, please read John 2:1-12 now so that we may be taught of the Spirit together as we analyze this passage! This miracle of Jesus packs a deep meaning that radically sets the stage for the rest of his life, ministry, and purpose.

First, its important to know the setting for where He performed his first miracle. We see that he performs it at a wedding feast (John 2:1), one of the most treasured celebrations in 1st century Jerusalem. He is attending with his mother and a few of his disciples, and it is brought to his attention that there is no more wine to be served. To us, this doesn’t seem like a big issue, but the point of all Jesus’ miracles is to demonstrate spiritual truth, and what a amazing truth he reveals through this miracle!

Key Point: Jesus uses the ceremonial cleansing jars to create the wine. (John 2:6)

We need to note what Jesus used to turn the water into wine. He used ceremonial cleaning jars, which probably already had a decent amount of old water sitting in them. The Jews would use these water jars to purify themselves: to wash themselves, and make themselves “clean” before God. By using these jars, Jesus is giving us a sneak peek of what is to come. Jesus is showing us that the cleansing of His blood (as we know, in the Bible, the blood of Christ is represented by wine -Matt 26:28) is far greater than any ritual washings – and the transformation of this very water into wine symbolizes the transformation of Judaism.
The fact that Jesus changed the ceremonial washing water into wine proves that he will do away with the rituals of Judaism, and that we will be made clean before God through his blood. Jesus filled the containers to the brim (John 2:7) to show that no space is left for ritual washings after his sacrifice.

Jesus instructs the servants to take a pitcher of this water to the master, and so they did. We don’t actually know when the water turns to wine, but when the master of the feasts takes a sip, he says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (John 2:10). Is this recorded just to show us that Jesus should start a new career as a wine-maker? Certainly not. The Spirit is showing us something here:

The statement made by the master of the feast implies this: That typically, the best wine is served first, so that the people “get their fill” (get drunk) and can’t tell when a cheaper wine is introduced. In the same way, The Jews had been “drinking wine” (aka. performing their ritual washings) for so long that they weren’t able to recognize when something better came along (Jesus)!

Jesus conveys this truth again in the same chapter when he drives out the temple. He exclaims, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus was talking about his own body, and it was through the “destroying of it” and his rising from the dead that was able to accomplish this new system, where his blood covers our sin, not our ritual washings or other works.

Jesus came to make everything new, and he clearly demonstrated that by turning old water used for bathing into brand new wine. He also came to make the heart new. We will see that tomorrow in John 3!

(please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu for further explanation or questions)

The Heavenly Wedding Feast…Do You Have The Attire?

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In Matthew 22 Jesus speaks to the disciples in a parable that we regard as “the parable of the wedding feast.” He starts of by telling them that “the kingdom of heaven could be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son..” (verse 2). He proceeds to tell them that the king sent out his servants to invite people, but the people would not come. He sent more servants to invite them to the wedding, but the people paid no attention to them, treated them shamefully and even killed them. He sends out new servants with new instructions, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.” These servants gathered good and bad (a foreshadow that Gentiles would later have the gospel message offered to them, but more on that in a different post) people, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But the king comes in and sees a man without the wedding garment and asks him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” (verse 12). The man was speechless, and at once the king had him bound and cast into outer darkness.

If your like me, you may read this and think, “What in the world? The man didn’t have on the right clothing…so he was cast out? What about meeting people where they are and welcoming them into our churches no matter what?” These are the things that I thought before the Spirit revealed to me the much deeper meaning of the passage. Here’s the deeper meaning:

The wedding feast represents heaven, and the King represents God. The servants that go out and invite people (the Jews) represent God’s prophets in the Old Testament, that proclaimed repentance and prophesied about Jesus, but were treated badly and put to death.  The good and the bad people represents everyone else (because the Jews refused to respond). All of this so far may or may not be obvious, but what on earth does the poor man without the wedding garment have to do with anything? Well, he is truly a poor man, and I’ll tell you why:

The wedding garment represents Christ’s righteousness that is laid over us. This is the way that Jesus taught that our self-righteousness would never be enough! From the very beginning of creation, God has provided a “covering” for our sin. To insist on covering ourselves is to be clothed in “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame, but they found their fig leaves to be woefully scant. God took away their handmade clothes and replaced them with skins of animals (Genesis 3:7, 21). In the book of Revelation, we see those in heaven wearing “white robes” (Revelation 7:9), and we learn that the whiteness of the robes is due to their being washed in the blood of the Lamb (verse 14). We trust in God’s righteousness, not our own (Philippians 3:9)! The man who did not wear the wedding garment is an example of one who trusts in his own righteousness and merit to get into heaven! It simply cannot be done, if we try to do so, we will be cast into outer darkness.

The king provided wedding garments for his guests, and God has provided salvation for mankind through Christ! My friends, our wedding garment is the righteousness of Christ, and there is no wedding feast for us if we do not have it! When the religions of the world are stripped down to their basic tenets, we either find man working his way toward God, or we find the cross of Christ. Jesus crucified, buried and resurrected is the only way to God, for He himself says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

God has invited us to a wedding feast, and an eternity with him. Our invitation comes with a garment that we must receive and put on to enter: Christ’s righteousness. We do this by trusting in His life and finished work on the cross to cover our sins, without any bit of trust in our own merit or good works. If we trust in ourselves, our own righteousness, and our good works to gain us entrance to the feast, we wil be cast in to utter darkness: eternity in hell. However, the kingdom of heaven is opened to those who will set aside their own righteousness and by faith accept Christ’s righteousness.

My friends, there is a heavenly wedding feast awaiting, and your invited. The question is, do you have the attire?