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.

Jesus: Giver of Living Water

At the very beginning of the story of the woman at the well, we see Jesus do something that yet again sets himself apart from most religious leaders at the time. We are told that he had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4). Most devout Jews would avoid Samaria on this journey to and from Judea, taking a much longer route, due to their racism and hatred of Samaritans. Jesus, however, walks right on through, and sits down for a divine appointment with a sinful Samaritan woman.

Jesus tells the woman,

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.” -John 4:14

The woman suddenly makes a request for this water, but she does not understand what Jesus is saying. This is clearly shown in the latter part of her sentence, “..so I will not be thirsty

Jesus came to quench the “thirst” of those longing to know God. He alone provides the “living water” for us to be in a relationship with God and be satisfied with Him forever!

To aid the woman’s misunderstanding, Jesus helps her understand who he is by telling her he knows of her five husbands (4:18) and prophesying that people will eventually be able to worship anywhere (because God will no longer dwell on a mountain or in a tabernacle, but in the hearts of believers). When the woman tells Jesus that she knows that a “Messiah” is coming, he responds with what would be an incredibly dramatic scene in a movie by saying, “I who speak to you am he.”

I trust that at once the woman knew who Jesus claimed to be, and she believed- she drank of the living water.

In verse 28 we are told, “So the woman left her water jar and went away into the town..”

She left her water jar! This is not astounding to 21st century readers as it should be, because we do not understand the difficulties of retrieving water. Most women in the 1st century would walk some great distance to fill their jars for the necessities that the day held: cooking, bathing, drinking, etc. Also, the fact that the woman came at approximately noon is a possible indicator itself that she felt ashamed and didn’t want to be seen in public (potentially due to her having 5 husbands)- which makes it all the more interesting that this is the woman that Jesus speaks to. Nevertheless, what we do know for sure is that the retrieval of water was a big deal-so to leave the jar behind and return to town without it-was a big deal!

This is to say that the most important thing in the woman’s life at the time was dropped when she encountered Jesus. I believe she understood that she had encountered something far greater than a necessity for this physical life- she encountered the necessity for a spiritual life in God- Jesus.

You see Jesus offers this living water to us, it is ours for the taking. To trust him, to drink of the water that he offers, to be brought in relationship with Him, and to never thirst again- is the offer on the table. Will you take it?

If you are dying of thirst in a desert and you stumble upon a pool of water, would you look at it? Would you admire it? Would you try to understand how it got there? Or how you stumbled upon it? Would you memorize its color and study it? No- You would drink it at once!

The woman not only left her jar, she ran into the town, among the people she was ashamed to be seen by, and emphatically told them about Jesus. Her previous worries of being mocked or looked down upon were gone! She knew who she had encountered- the King of the universe. You can encounter him, too.

My friends, please drink of this living water! Drop everything else your worrying or thinking about. Nothing is as important as this- Have you accepted Jesus? Have you drank of the living water? Throw yourself upon Christ. He is waiting to quench your everlasting thirst!

Please email me at jrfletch@uga.edu with any questions!

God’s Word- Purpose Beyond Salvation

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God’s Word is amazing. It is inerrant, infallible, and is the literal Word of God! No other book holds the keys to eternal life; We have everything that we need within the Scriptures to lead us unto salvation. Life can be found through them, and a sinner can be eternally changed by them. What other book can provide this kind of strength, meaning, and power?

However, I believe many Christians (including me for a long period of time)think that after salvation, the Bible is supposed to be used for retracting a verse that makes us feel good, or to help convince us that what we believe is true. For years of my Christian life, I read the Word because “thats what good Christians do,” and because I wanted answers to theological arguments that I enjoyed having. I never read the Scriptures for application, I never read them with thoughts of, “How can I apply this?,” “What does this mean for me?,” “How can I actually live this out?,” or “What is this calling me to DO?” Because of my surface level reading and incorrect motives, I believe that I misused a lot of reading time, time that could’ve shaped me into a more Godly man.

At the beginning of my Sophomore year I was challenged by the guy that disciples me to read the scriptures with a different mindset: seeking applications from them to help me walk out my faith. I began reading the Word with the questions mentioned above, and my life started to change. I was convicted of certain sins in my life, encouraged by verses I never noticed before, and developed a genuine hunger for the Word of God. I started reading every morning, journaling my thoughts, and praying through the scriptures, asking for help to do what it commanded of me, and giving thanks for verses that built me up or declared what Christ has done for me.

This morning, I was reading in Luke 11, where a woman exlaims in a crowd to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb you came from!” and Jesus says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Luke 11:28. I recalled a passage I read from a few days earlier, where someone else calls out to Jesus, telling him that his mother and brothers are waiting to see him. Jesus continues teaching, and says, ““My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:21. I was reminded of the importance to coming to Scripture with the attitude and stance of coming to hear, and hearing so that I can do.

Reading the Scriptures with this mindset provides such a beautiful alleyway into faith and prayer. Upon reading the Sermon on the Mount and other teachings of Jesus, I cannot help but to be humbled and drawn to my knees asking the Father to empower me to be able to do what my Savior teaches. Reading the Scriptures with this mindset has drastically changed my walk and relationship with Christ, as well as my relationship with others! I have come to notice the Spirit working in my heart now more than ever, and I’ve also become more and more aware of sin that I need to repent of! Reading the Word this way has also developed an increase faith in Christ, because I need his help to even begin to do what he says, and after I continue to fail, my eyes are lifted back unto him, who has saved me from my inability to live up to God’s standards!

Let me make this clear: I do not believe that we must read scripture like I have talked about to merit salvation. Salvation is a gift. A gift cannot be earned, it can only be received! However, lets say you receive an amazing Christmas gift that comes with an instruction manual, wouldn’t you read the manual to make sure you can reap all the benefits and learn all the components of the gift? My friends, this is no different! The fact that Christ reconciled us to the Father and saved us from death by his sinless life and willing sacrifice on the cross alone contains so much beauty that we need all of eternity to admire it. However, theres more to this gift than just Heaven! The Scriptures also give us practical applications on how to live, how to walk with Christ, and how to be conformed to HIS image, which Scripture defines as a life full of joy and life abundantly! Christ refers to those who read the Scriptures who do them as his “brothers.” O, what a beautiful opportunity we have to please him, rely on him, and acquaint ourselves with him daily through reading the Word like this!

I challenge you to read the Word and ask the Father to empower you through his Spirit to DO what is says this week!

 

Jesus in the Old Testament: Isaiah 53:7 (Part One)

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. ” –Isaiah 55:7

The book of Isaiah was written about 2700 years ago, an entire 700 years before Jesus walked the earth. Yet he writes about Jesus several times, identifying several specific aspects about his life and death that are perfectly fulfilled at the end of Jesus’ life. This is clear proof that God had preordained and planned the very events of the crucifixion that would cover the sins of the world!

Verse 7 of Isaiah 53 says that Jesus didn’t open his mouth. What does this mean? Well, when Jesus was brought before Pilate, twice scripture tells us that he was accused by the high priests several times, and in Matt. 27:13 Pilate asks him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” And in verse 14 it says, “But he gave him no answer, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” In very good book I read this past month, Pontius Pilate, it describes how unusual this was that Jesus didn’t offer a defense against the accusations of the Pharisees. Those who weren’t guilty would emphatically declare their innocent, yet even those who were obviously guilty offered some type of argument or defense. Jesus didn’t need to argue back or defend himself, for he knew what was to come, and knew that a defense would only hurt his testimony, his humility, and his obedience to the Father. In that moment, we were on his mind, and he remained quiet to be obedient, fulfill what Isaiah wrote, and to humbly embrace the crucifixion sentence that was coming.

This passage of Isaiah also describes Jesus like a “lamb that is led to the slaughter.” In ancient Judaism, the lamb was the most powerful sacrifices to atone for sin. We can clearly see this in the Passover in Egypt, when the Hebrews were required to sacrifice a lamb and paint its blood over their door so that they would be saved. When the angel of death came through Egypt to fulfill the final plague, those who had the lamb’s blood over their door were “passed over” and were saved from death. We must not think that this referring to Jesus as a lamb is a coincidence! In John 1:29 we read, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John exclaimed this the first time that he saw Jesus, for he knew exactly who he was and exactly what he came to do. Likewise, Isaiah intentionally prophesies about Jesus, calling him a lamb. When we compare the use of the lamb to the passover story mentioned above, we can see an amazing parallel that relates directly to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. Those for whom Jesus died (believers) are covered by the blood of the cross, just like the Hebrews were covered by the blood of the actual lamb, and by this covering we are saved from spiritual death, just as they were saved from a physical death!

It is through His death on the cross as God’s perfect sacrifice for sin and His resurrection three days later that we can now have eternal life if we believe in Him. The fact that God Himself has provided the offering (a perfect “lamb”) that atones for our sin is part of the glorious good news of the gospel that is so clearly declared in 1 Peter 1:18-21: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

 

The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Lamb-Of-God#sthash.0sFBM4vo.dpuf
The next day he *saw Jesus coming to him and *said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Lamb-Of-God#sthash.0sFBM4vo.dpuf The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” John 1:29

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?

 

“It Is Finished.” Jesus vs. World Religions

Faith in Christ compared to every other world religion or belief system is amazing in that- one man and his life changes everything. Every other religion in the world spells D-O and is all about trying to do enough to please God. Whether it be keeping laws, praying certain times a day, refraining from foods, sharing your belief so often, or taking part in rituals or traditions, the main goal is to do enough good things to achieve eternal life. In the Bible, Romans 3:23 lets us know that this is not achievable because “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is drastically different than any religion. Where every other religion says D-O, Jesus says ,”D-O-N-E.” His final words on the cross exhibit this beautiful truth: “It is finished,” (John 19:30). Jesus did what we could never do by living a perfectly obedient life to the Father’s will. In addition to this, He willingly laid down his life for us on the cross and by doing so He paid for all of our wickedness and sinfulness by taking the Father’s wrath upon himself. This was done so that “whoever calls on his name shall be saved (Romans 10:13).” One of my favorite examples of how our salvation is not about doing is found when Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a generous landowner Matthew 20:

In my own paraphrasing, this is what happens: A master goes out and hires a group of workers early in the morning and promises to pay them a denarius (a day’s typical wage.) Then the master went back out around 9:00am and picked up some more workers, and he did the same thing again at 12:00, 3:00, and then even 5:00. All of the workers worked until about 6:00pm, and each were given one denarius. The workers that had worked for twelve hours exclaimed,” these last have only worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us.” But the master replies, “Am I not allowed to do what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matt. 20:15).

What a beautiful representation of the Gospel! When I have talked to some of my coworkers and friends who are nonbelievers about the Gospel, I have usually been asked, “So someone who sins their entire life….can have faith in Jesus the last year of their life and still be saved?” The answer is YES my friends! It simply does not make sense to those who have not been shown by the Holy Spirit. But I wonder, how many times have we acted like the men who worked the entire day..judging and thinking that we have done more, are more spiritual, and deserve more blessings and recognition because of our obedience, works, and “strength of faith”? Jesus tells his disciples after the parable, “So the last will be first, and the first last.” This is the great beauty that is found in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ! It is all about our faith in him, and not about what we have done or how long we have done it! Each believer will be rewarded with heaven, whether he is a Billy Graham or a murderer who has faith in Jesus in the last moments. Don’t think this last part is sounds fair? Take it up with Jesus, who tells the thief who had just asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom this: “Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise” Luke 23:43.

How beautiful is this! The man on the cross next to Jesus had spent his entire life in sin, but at the end of it, something was different. At the end of his life of rebellion and wickedness, he realized how depraved he was, which led to his realization of his need for a Savior. Regardless of his life experiences, his simple faith in Christ was enough for him to be given Jesus as his personal savior, and for him to be granted eternal life. My friend, this amazing love is at the door for you and me! Oh how he desires for us to come to Him, just like the thief, at the end of our rope and in desperate need of a Savior. Seek Him, and you will find Him. He longs to save us from the weariness of doing, and bring us into the fullness of joy that is found in resting in what he DID!

How can we not love, worship, and seek to know this amazing God! We no longer have to do, because it has already been done.  Trust in him, and him alone, because when Jesus said, “It is finished,” I promise you, HE MEANT IT!

 

Gospel Call: “Come to me….and I will give you rest.” -Jesus

We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  This is one of my favorite verses of scripture because it depicts the call to salvation, a demonstration of what saving faith looks like, and the promise of rest that Jesus intends for us to live with! So, let’s unpack it:

First, Jesus issues a command: “Come.” It’s a simple term, but can mean so much. How do we come to him? Well, we can’t come to him with the idea that he will just be the cherry on top of our lives. That’s not coming to him. We don’t just need Jesus as another component to our lives to just complete our lives, we have to come to him with the intent of making him the center of our life, laying everything down at the feet of the cross. “I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared; “he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Jesus issues the command to “Come” to those who labor and are heavy laden. The Pharisee’s at the time were imposing so many religious laws, acts, and rituals on the Jew’s at the time, that if they made even a small error they were counted unrighteous and unfit for heaven. Jesus is saying, “Are you tired of working for salvation? Are you tired of worrying if you’ve done enough to get into heaven? Are you tired of trying hard to be good enough to please my Father? Good, you should be, because you can’t please him…on your own. ” If anyone at the time felt like this, they were personally encouraged by Jesus to come to him. Although the term itself is not used in the text, Jesus gives a call to repent, to turn away from the self-centered and works-centered life and come to Him. The person who is weary and heavy-laden despairs of his own ability to please God. He comes to the end of his own resources and turns to Christ. Desperation is a part of true salvation, because a person does not come to Christ as long as he has confidence in himself. To repent is to make a 180-degree turn from the burden of the old life to the restfulness of the new. If a person does this, Jesus promises them rest.

So, what is the rest that Jesus promises?

The dictionary gives several definitions of rest that remarkably parallel the spiritual rest God offers those who trust in His Son. First, the dictionary describes rest as cessation from action, motion, labor, or exertion. In a similar way, to enter God’s rest is to cease from all efforts at self-help in trying to earn salvation. Second, the dictionary defines rest as something that is fixed and settled. Similarly, to be in God’s rest is to have the wonderful assurance that our eternal destiny is secure in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. If we back up to verse 11, Jesus says that there is no one on earth who is greater than John the Baptist, yet the person who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he! Guys, we have such an amazing glory awaiting us in heaven. Jesus promises us that even the person who is the least in heaven, is considered much greater than the best person who lived on earth! And if we come to Jesus, he promises that this glory awaits us! At the end of our lives, if we are in the faith, we are not rewarded for what we have done, we are rewarded for what Christ has done! And how much glory and praise does He deserve!?- So much that there cannot even be a time frame on it, because it would not be enough-it has to be eternal!

Third, rest is defined as being confident and trustful. When we enter God’s rest we are given the assurance that “He who began a good work in [us] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Finally, the dictionary describes rest as leaning, reposing, or depending on. As children of God, we can depend with utter certainty that our heavenly Father will “supply all [our] needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

My friends, you are invited to this eternal rest. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

He promises rest, and so much more. It’s up to you to go to him!