Intro: I wonder how many people are afraid to die today? Perhaps when one is young the thought does not even come to mind. What about when one is getting older and in the vicinity of the dying age? I remember where we used to live in the Philippines that every time I have to leave quite early in the morning I see old people coming out of the Catholic Church after hearing the daily mass, but I did not see younger people coming out with them. They are not yet in the dying age.
Recently the world was troubled with the scary prediction that doomsday was to come last May 21. Because of this a California woman slashed the throat of her two daughters ages 11 and 14 then herself for fear of the suffering that will come upon them. An elderly man in Taiwan jumped to his death from a building. A teenage girl from Russia committed suicide for the same reason – fear of having to suffer the judgments on doomsday. So what did that false prophet cause? Fear that led people to commit suicide. They did not fear dying but feared suffering before they will die.
Then there are the suicide bombers who do not fear dying, and are willing to die because of a religious belief that there is great reward in heaven by killing the infidels and assures them of going to heaven. Jesus said of them,
“All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.” John 16:1-4
Isn’t this happening today? How many died at the World Trade center? How many are killed because of suicide bombers and terrorists? Victims are not necessarily all Christians. But what are we to expect as Christians?
“What and Whom do you Fear?”
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony, and then the end will come.” Matt. 24:9-14
When Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, He was speaking to them of two events. First, he was telling them what would happen to the temple.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its building. “Do you see all these things?” he asked, “I tell you the truth not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be torn down.” Matt. 24:1-2
This was fulfilled in the year 70 AD when the temple was burned and all the stones were torn down. Soldiers and people who were around were getting the gold that melted in between the stones, so they had to turn them over. I saw these big blocks of stone myself all scattered below the temple mount.
Then Jesus talked about a second event that will happen in the distant future.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of age?” Matt. 24:3
What made them ask this question of His return? Did they know already about this and who told them? Jesus did.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:1-3
So now Jesus gave them the signs.
Jesus answered:“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nations will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt. 24:4-8
The other gospel writer Luke, added what Matthew and Mark did not write.
“There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry before hand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you the words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life.” Luke 21:8-19
Many of the signs Jesus warned his disciples has already happened and are still happening. They are occurring more frequently and at closer intervals.
It is now confirmed that Jackie is pregnant. Praise the Lord for this is in answer to prayers. She is still far from delivering her baby. When will she know she is about to give birth? Her doctor will give her instruction that when she starts having birth pains she should take note of the intervals. When the intervals get closer between pains she should be ready to go to the hospital. She is about to give birth. This is what Jesus said will be the sign that He is about to return and the end of the age.
However, His bodily return and the rapture when all true believers will be caught up to meet with Him in the air are two different events. The rapture happens before the great tribulations. This is not yet the end of the world. There will be seven years of God’s judgment of the people that will be left behind because they have not believed in Christ. There is a description and the sequence of events found in the book of Revelations. The calamities that are happening today are not yet the judgment of the last days. This is only a preview and warning.
Should Christians be fearful of these events? The first Christians that Jesus called and saved were fearful of death. We read of Peter that he would go to prison and die with Jesus. But when the time came and was becoming real, what did he do? He feared death. But because he was chosen by God and called by Christ, he was spared until God’s purpose for Peter was fully accomplished. Here’s God’s purpose in sending His Son to save His people from the fear of death both physically and spiritually.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Heb. 2:14-16
Who are the children referred to here? I believe they are those who were saved are being saved and will be saved. Many people today come to Christ and receive Him only as their Savior but not as their Lord. They come for healing especially when it is a dreaded disease. They need Him to save marriages that are in danger of breaking up. Fear of uncertainty of the future and people who are in need of financial help. One thing in common is their need in life while still living on earth. The fear that is missing is the fear of death. Not just physical death but spiritual and eternal separation from God.
After I graduated and finished my training to become a military pilot, I had no fear of death. I would do unsafe maneuvers when I would be flying alone for proficiency as I prepared to become a flight instructor. Even though a couple of my colleagues have just died, it did not affect me. Just like those thrill seekers who are defying death for thrills and some for fame and money, that’s where I was. Many years later I encountered a close to death experience and I trembled in fear of the reality of dying, not knowing where I will go, to heaven or hell. This is when I started to seek the Lord. My seeking was to the best I knew how, by being serious with my religion. As I look back, I know now that it was Christ who was seeking me and sent a missionary to tell me the good news. When I heard the truth that I was a sinner and the wages of sin is death that defined what my fear was. Do I still have that fear now? Not anymore for I have eternal life and the certainty that when I die I will be with Jesus in heaven. I have testified before when I was flying in Angola, that we were hit by a guided missile. Yet, I experienced peace that did not come from me. I had no more fear but the expectation to be with my Lord Jesus. God spared me from death for it was not my time.
How come there are suicides and people are dying from calamities and natural death today and everyday. Jesus said that He came to destroy the one who holds the power of death. Jesus said this is what the devil does,
“The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroys.” John 10:10a
According to Jesus, he has the power to kill but is limited only to those whom God allows him to do so. In the account of Job, God restrained the devil from killing Job. He destroyed all his property and even allowed him to kill all of Job’s children, but on Job he was not allowed to kill him. When I was a young child I was taught that we have guardian angels. I did not fully understand what he does and how they guard our lives.
“Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Heb. 1:14
Now I know why I did not die in my near death experience. God kept the airplane from crashing because my guardian angel lifted the plane from hitting the ground. So if one is a Christian, does he have no more fear of anything? There are many things we fear. I don’t know how many “phobias’ they have named. But should a Christian fear of “being handed over to be persecuted and put to death?” Jesus said, “I have told you this so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you.”
Then, what more did Jesus say? “Because of the increase of wickedness the love of many will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” First question we ought to ask ourselves, is my love for Jesus growing cold? Or am I growing more and more in love with Jesus now? How do I know I love Jesus? He gave us this test to test ourselves.
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” John14:21
Jesus does not beat around the bush. This is a very clear test of a genuine believer and follower of Jesus Christ. The next question is, will a true believer stand firm to the end? Answer. Only if Christ alone saved him?
“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more! Amen” Jude 24-25
So then, is there anything or anyone whom we should fear?
“I tell you my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him, who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-5
There is only one fear that we ought to have just as Jesus had.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse: from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Isa. 11:1-3
Intro: The latest news that recently hit the headlines involved infidelity and attempted rape. One Senator just resigned when he was exposed of adultery. These landed on the headlines because these are well known men, men with authority and well educated and rich. But one could be poor, uneducated and ordinary and just as guilty except nobody cares because it is not newsworthy. Marital unfaithfulness is not new and the sin of adultery had been going on even among God’s chosen people. One of the excuses when committed by Christians is that David was also guilty of adultery. Last Sunday, we learned that all the unsaved will be judged and God gave a list of all the sins that they have committed and guilty of. Adulterers are no worse than liars. However, while still alive and exposed they don’t only hurt themselves but their love ones who are shamed by their action. How come they fall into sin? The Bible says that sin entered into the first man Adam and all humankind inherited the sinful nature. We may not be guilty of committing all the sins but we will sin because that is our nature. That’s why God sent His Son down to earth as the second Adam. Born of a woman, born under the law but did not inherit the sinful nature of Adam. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born with the nature of God. Yet, He was the Son of Man and had flesh and blood. He is everything like you and me except that He was pure from birth and he lived His entire life sinless in all purity and godliness.
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being, the last Adam, a life giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Cor. 15:45-49
What we will be looking at today is to understand man’s weakness to resist sin and how one can overcome the sins inherent to our sinful nature and what differentiates the true believers of Jesus from the unbeliever?
Last Sunday the Lord Jesus gave us a parable about the Wedding feast. Was there a difference between the guest who were chosen and the gatecrasher? We knew why he was thrown outside, the picture of hell. To understand our text today and to whom it was addressed to is very crucial. There is also a difference between the four gospels and the purpose they were written. Here’s how John summarized the purpose of writing the gospels,
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31
Now what about the letters of Paul and the rest of the New Testament? Were they not written for that same purpose and to whom was it written? The book of Acts is an historical account to tell us what happened to His followers after Jesus returned to heaven and I believe Christ continues His work in the lives of His disciples living today through His Spirit that is now in them. Miracles after miracles still happens everyday the greatest of which is the miracle of the new birth. The rest of the New Testament are letters of instructions for believers how they are to conduct their lives, apply the teachings of Jesus in our daily lives so as to be conformed to His likeness, and the power we have to live in righteousness. Let’s first find out to whom the message from our text was addressed to?
“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. To the church of God in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.” 1 Cor. 1:1-2
Although this letter was to the church in Corinth, which no longer exists and written almost two thousand years ago, it is still current and applies to us here in Reno today in 2011. Why? Because Paul’s writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says “together” with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Are we that? Is Jesus Christ our Lord and the Lord of this church? Are we doing what the early disciples were doing?
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.”
When I look back at my life before I became a Christian, I can hardly recall that I had to struggle resisting temptations. I may have used my head as far as doing foolish things, but I was not even conscious of being tempted. I sinned because that was my nature and I did it because I loved it. But now that I am a Christian the temptation has become real where there is a struggle to resist them. Every temptation that a believer is tempted with is common to all believers and nonbelievers. The difference is that non-believers do not resist the temptation but easily give in. They may use their heads as far as not killing anyone for fear of going to jail but with other sins they don’t and even if they don’t want to they have no power to say no. In fact most of the sins are deliberate, planned and pursued especially the sin of adultery and sexual immorality. There are also other reasons that prevents unbelievers to sin is their concern of the consequences and what people will say. Protecting ones reputation is a deterrent from sinning. And the best deterrent is ones fear of God, which according to the Bible is the beginning of wisdom. When a believer is tempted it is still possible that he falls because the Scripture say it has “seized you,” meaning you were caught in the trap. Falling into a trap is not deliberate. But will he stay and remain in sin? Here is what will be true to the believer as compared to an unbeliever.
“And God is faithful.” Faithfulness is God’s character. He will be true to all His promises and to the covenant. A believer may lack faith but God’s faithfulness is never lacking and will never fail. That’s why I believe that if God were the one who saved you, you can never lose your salvation. If it depended on you or you had a part in your salvation you will lose it because you will not be faithful to keep it 100%. Only God can keep His Word and His promises even when we are not. This is the bedrock of our salvation, the faithfulness of God and Christ to keep His covenant with us. We have learned from the Old Testament that the Israelites, descendants of Abraham could not remain faithful to the covenant by keeping the commandments, that’s why there was a need for a New Covenant. Only the Son of Man was able to keep the commandments and never sinned. And because with God nothing is too hard or impossible for Him, He is able to keep all His promises. So God is faithful, but what does His faithfulness have to do with our being tempted? Very much because our victory to avoid falling into the temptation rest upon Him. Here’s what He promises to do.
“He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” The “you” addressed here are those who are already born again believers of Christ. As human beings we have the power to resist temptations. However, left on our own we cannot be victorious in all. One example of resisting sin base entirely on human power is the case of Joseph. He was practically seduced by the wife of his master. Day after day, she was inviting him to go to bed with her. But he resisted. Why? Joseph had the fear of God. God gave him a vision that he would be great some day. He knew that if he gives in to the temptation this was sin against God and would get him in trouble with his boss. He resisted because he feared God and was determined to do the will of God. In contrast, David gave in to the temptation after he saw Batsheba bathing. God knows our strength and our weaknesses. It is like stretching a rubber band. There is a limit when it will break and God knows our breaking point. So we have these two men who are men of God and one gave in while the other did not. And both did not have the Holy Spirit yet in them.
Temptations are not just limited to sexual immorality. Jesus was tempted by food when he was starving, wealth and power to possess in exchange for worshiping the devil. Then we can be tempted by fear of man just like Peter who denied Jesus three times. He feared that he will be arrested with Jesus and punished with Him. Have you ever been tempted to tell a lie related to your job for fear that you could be fired by telling the truth? Peter lied by denying that he knew Jesus. Did God know his limitations and what he can bear when tempted? Yes. God knew that he would deny Jesus three times and Jesus revealed it to him beforehand. Yet God allowed it to happen even though Jesus prayed for him.
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32
Simon’s failure in denying Jesus was not intentional or deliberate. It came when he was confronted with the possibility of being arrested also.
But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Luke 22:33
Even after he was with Jesus more than three years he reached his breaking point and gave in to fear. I have no doubt that he meant what he said but at that time he was only relying in his own power because he did not yet have the Holy Spirit in him. But was the Son of God unfaithful to His promise?
“But when you are tempted, he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” After Peter failed Jesus looked at him with compassion.
The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:60-62
I believe when Jesus looked at Peter it was not to condemn him but lovingly reminded him of what Jesus said he would do. That was not a rebuke because Jesus knew that he would fail. He looked to remind him that He knew why he reacted the way he did and understands fully his weakness. Yet it caused Peter to weep bitterly in repentance and felt the guilt. After Jesus resurrected, Jesus lifted him and to stand up from under his failure. Three times Jesus asked if he loved Him? And Peter answered that he did. Yet even that love that he had for Jesus was still human love because the Holy Spirit was not yet given. But what happened after the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost and went into every one of the believers? Peter was never the same again. He became fearless to preach the gospel and he openly did in the temple courts.
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John, and because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:1-4
What changed? What made the difference? Peter and together with all the believers were now indwelt by the Holy Spirit as well as every born again believer of Christ today. We will all be tempted with the same temptation that the apostles and disciples were tempted with. The greatest temptation Christians will encounter is persecution for being a Christian. Our sinful nature regarding the cravings of the flesh should be put to death.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry.” Col. 3:5
These sins have already been given up at salvation when we repented of all sins found in the Ten Commandments. But is it still possible to fall into any of these sins? Yes, but we have God’s power and His faithfulness to provide a way out. Young Christians may still be ignorant of who they are and what power they have to resist all the temptations of the evil one. We need to be watchful and then pray for God to provide a way out. But first we have the responsibility to decide either to say no or to give in to the temptation. Those who give in to sins of the earthly nature, the top of the list being sexual immorality should not think that because they are already saved it’s okay and they will not lose their salvation anyway. We are not to forget that God saved us from the penalty and from the power of sin. Being saved is never a license to sin. There is this truth for those who intentionally keep on sinning.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of the raging fire that consumes the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Heb. 10:26-29
Notice what it says, “after receiving the knowledge of the truth.” This is only head knowledge but not believing from the heart. One can believe the facts about Jesus without commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. But for those who have repented and received Jesus as Lord, here’s what is true. We have the Holy Spirit and we are now partakers of the divine nature of God
“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:9
So in regards to sexual sins here’s what God has commanded.
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own: you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” 1 Cor. 6:18-20
What are we capable of deciding? To flee just like what Joseph did. Who will provide us the way out and the power to stay out? God the Holy Spirit.
Can we depend on our strength? No. That’s why before this verse in our text we have this warning,
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Cor. 10:12
We can stand only by the grace of God when we humble ourselves before God for He gives grace to the humble. The victory is in Christ, through Christ and because of Christ.
Intro: A little over two weeks ago there were four events that did not go un-noticed around the world. First, there was this record breaking tornado touch downs in Alabama killing hundreds. Almost at the same time there was this wedding in London watched by billions around the world. People lined up the streets to see their future king and his wife. Then on that Sunday another big event happened at the Vatican. Then right after that, the killing of Usama Bin Laden. Four big events watched by the world in one week. Is there a message God is telling the world in all these? Starting with Alabama, I believe that was God’s judgment. The Bible says that God sends calamities to punish the people of the earth for their sins. Tornado is one calamity no one can even forecast where it will touchdown. I believe we are under judgment for the many sins of the nation, like keeping God out of the schools. You cannot pray and even mention the name of Jesus in schools or workplace. Then there is the killing of the fetus (abortion) that is protected by law and even funded by the government. And now the support for same sex marriage is gaining among many states. While we had these calamities here, there was this great wedding taking place in London. People were lining the streets to welcome their prince and bride. Many even camped days ahead outside the church building just to take a glimpse of the bridegroom and his bride. I watched part of the wedding and everything was in perfect order but most of all, when the bride came out the sun also came out. It was forecasted that it would rain but God brought the sun out to show who was in control showing that He was pleased. The event was a thing to behold. Then on Sunday following, there was this big event at the Vatican to beatify the late Pope John Paul. They are about to add another god to the thousands of dead saints that the Roman Catholic Church believes can intercede in behalf of their people. It was reported there were more than a million who flooded the Vatican. Then in the evening of the same day, one of the most evil persons was killed. The life of Usama Bin Laden was taken out. So what did we witness? God’s judgment, a preview of a future event in heaven, the wedding of the Lamb and His bride, exalting the dead to be honored or worshiped as another god and the triumph of good over evil. But what does God say about the people who died and all will die and one day face God’s judgment? And who are they?
“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Rev. 21:8
Anyone who dies but have not repented and forgiven of sins by the only Savior, Jesus Christ will end up in the lake of burning sulfur. For those who have responded to the gospel will be in heaven for the wedding and banquet.
“The Wedding in Heaven”
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘the wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. Friend, he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt. 22:1-14
Jesus used many parables to reveal spiritual truth through earthly things and worldly events. And why would He do that? This is the explanation.
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable, so was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” Matt. 13:34-35
This was a quote from Psalm 78:2. Jesus clarified this to His disciples.
The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will ever be seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused, they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Matt. 13:10-15
It is clear that only His disciples and not the crowd referred to by Jesus as “them” understood the parables. Now what is the message and meaning of this parable we are going to look at today? The central theme of the parable is about a wedding banquet. The main characters are the King being God and his Son Jesus Christ. Now who are the servants? They are those who are already citizens of the kingdom and are commanded to go and deliver the invitations to the wedding. No name is mentioned among the servants and neither are those who were invited but only to tell those who have been invited that the banquet is ready. How did those invited respond? The sad thing is they paid no attention. They rejected the invitation.
How many times have you experienced when you tell people the gospel, giving your best to explain it, only to be told, sorry I am not interested or give any excuse for you to stop because they are busy. In the Muslim countries, Pakistan, some parts in China and North Korea you are in danger of being imprisoned or killed. When Jesus was preaching and giving out this invitation Himself what did they do to Him? Did they believe Him?
“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” John 1:10-11
And in the end what did the Jews do to Him? They crucified Him.
What about the servants who followed after Jesus to invite the Jews to the banquet? They too were martyred for their faith in Christ. Last Sunday we read that after Paul preached to the Jews and they rejected the invitation, Paul and Barnabas turned to the Gentiles. Now there were those who responded to Jesus’ invitation. Who were they?
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collector and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” Matt. 21:31-32
Jesus here was talking to the religious who rejected Him. But there are two mentioned by name in the NT. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, were both Pharisees who believed. Jesus also said that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but it is not impossible because with God all things are possible. And what will God do to those who reject the invitation and especially to those who killed his servants? The King was enraged (wrath of God) and sent his army to destroy the murderers and burned their city just like Sodom and Gomorrah.
The tax collectors in Jesus’ time were the most hated people in Israel especially because they were Jews and took advantage of their people by overtaxing for their benefit. But one of the first disciples Jesus called and invited was Matthew a tax collector. Then another tax collector mentioned was Zachaeus. And one of the followers of Christ was a prostitute believed to be Mary Magdalene and she became one of the most faithful followers of Jesus. What’s the hope today of sinners who are literally and spiritually bankrupt? Just as much hope as anyone because the king sent out more servants to go to street corners and invite anyone they find whether they are good or bad, meaning everybody. The good here does not mean that they are not sinners but good in the sense they are not as bad as others. Compared to Usama bin Laden we are good. Yet the Bible says that both need to be saved for everyone is a sinner and deserves the punishment of death and eternal separation from God. And many came to the wedding hall from the street corners. The wedding of Prince William and Kate was filled with the wedding guests. Every seat was taken and guests were appropriately dressed.
Now when the king came to see the guests he noticed a man not wearing wedding clothes. Today we would call that an impostor. He may be sincere and really want to go to heaven but chose the way of his religious belief. He did not have the prescribed attire and would stand out in the crowd because he did not belong. So the king asked, how did you get in here without wedding clothes? He was speechless. He probably assumed that he had the right to be there, thinking he was good enough. Is it possible for anyone to enter heaven without being noticed? God knows who will be there. The one who gives the right to enter heaven knows who has received Him.
“Yet, to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
“The Lord knows who are his,” and “everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from all wickedness.” 2 Tim. 2:19b
Why does He know? Because God the Son knows whether one has repented of his sins or not. He sees the heart. This is the testimony of those who were with Him while He was still on earth.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all men but by witnesses whom God had already chosen, by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:39-43
When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he could not understand what Jesus meant when he said, “You must be born again.” And this is what Jesus told him,
“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things.” John 3:12
What did Jesus mean by being born again? This is the spiritual birth that must happen before anyone is admitted to heaven. It is a record of live birth like our birth certificate. In the spiritual realm once a person is born again, immediately his name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. And once it is there it cannot be taken out or removed. And when judgment day comes this list is brought out for the final judgment.
“If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:15
Here’s what happens when a person is born again after he repents of his sins and receives Jesus Christ as Lord because he believes. All his sins are forgiven because it has been given up to Christ. All the sins from the time he was born, at present and even sins that may be committed in the future. When Jesus receives what has been given up, He then forgives the repentant sinner and His record of perfect obedience to God is now exchanged for the sinners record. Christ’s righteousness is now credited to the repentant sinner. An exchange deal takes place. He takes our sins, and pays the penalty that He paid for two thousand years ago. When the exchange is done the new covenant is now in effect. God sees the righteousness of Christ in us. This was pictured to us way back in the Garden of Eden. When God clothe Adam and Eve with garments of skin, that represented the righteousness of Christ and their sins were forgiven on the basis of the blood that was shed before God skinned the animal. Now then, everyone that has been born again will have this new life in Christ and will go through a transformation, a process called sanctification to conform every born again believer into the likeness of Christ. One whose name has been written in the Lamb’s book of life has become a member Christ’s body and combined into a local church for his spiritual growth. And Christ will accomplish His purpose for those He has already saved through His church, which is His body.
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Eph. 5:25b-27
We are looking at the finished product of the church and everyone of its member? Corporately the church is called the bride of Christ. And we are shown this wedding and banquet in heaven in the near future, revealed ahead to us through the apostle John as written in the last book of the Bible.
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud and peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints) Rev. 19:6-8
This is the picture of what is yet to come and it will surely come. In the meantime every born again believer while still living on earth are to live lives according to the righteous life of Christ. But can we do this on our own? By ourselves we cannot. Only when we let God the Holy Spirit to have full control over us in order to empower us to live the righteous life.
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Phil 2:13
“I can do all thing through him (Christ) who gives me strength.” Phil. 4:13
Are you fully yielded to God, to work it out His will in your life? Why not? This is the reason why He saved you. Out of the many that has been invited He has chosen you. How do you know He has chosen you? You understand the parables because you believed and have received by faith Jesus Christ in your heart as your Lord.
You may be here today and have not yet been born again and the Holy Spirit is now convicting you of your sins and your need to be saved, God is inviting you to the banquet the wedding of the Lamb. Come to Jesus…
Intro: Have you ever entered a “do not enter” street in your driving experience? You can either be ticketed if there is a policeman or you can get into an accident. Either way it will get you in trouble. Have you noticed that in the Ten Commandments there is only one positive command, the rest are negative and are not to be done. This command is to honor your father and your mother. This is the only command that comes with a promise. Notice also that it does not say, “Love your father and your mother.” How then do we honor them? We honor our heroes for what they have done that benefited us. So what benefit have you received from your parents? You would not have been born if it were not for them. You would have died if they did not feed you. You would be ignorant if they did not send you to school. So, do you recognize that as worthy of honor? Even if you don’t find them worthy, God’s command remains. You only have one father and one mother.
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Ex. 20:12
Notice that there are many people who live long lives who are not born again Christians. They do because God is true to His promise. This will not save them but only extend their lives. But how does one measure whether they have honored their parents? You and I have to judge that ourselves. I’m glad that in America a day is set to honor mothers and fathers. This is one way of expressing our appreciation and thankfulness for all they have done. Yet doing this will still not save anyone because we all have sinned by breaking the other commandments. Even just breaking one of the commands the penalty for that one sin is eternal separation from God. For believing parents this is what you are now to teach your children today.
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor you father and mother” which is the first commandment with a promise – that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on earth.” Eph. 6:1-3
Did Jesus obey His parents? Yes He did. Did He honor His mother? Yes, He did but not to the point of worshiping her. Here’s what Jesus said,
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt. 12:46-50
Jesus did not elevate her position other than what was commanded. And with that Jesus honors all mothers who do the will of His Father. Today we will look at the commandments and how it relates to everyone.
“The Law and the New Covenant”
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt. 22:34-40
So what happened to the Ten Commandments? Did God abolish them? Not at all. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses to give to the people after they have entered into a covenant with God. God invited the Israelites to enter into a covenant with Him after He delivered them from slavery in Egypt and then saw God did another miracle by parting the red sea.
“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.” Ex. 19:3-8
So when was the Ten Commandments given? After they entered into a covenant with God. Did they know what sin was? And what they would repent of if there were no laws? According to this next passage no.
“Therefore, just as sin entered through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command as Adam did, who was a pattern of the one to come.” Rom. 5:12-14
If my father has aids what will I inherit after I am born. I will also inherit what he has. Adams blood was infected and it came to all mankind, except the blood of Jesus. The effect of sin was passed on to his son Cain, murder.
We have known that even though the people entered into this covenant they could not fully keep and obey the commandments. The commandments were not to enslave them but to set them free. The commandments were given first of all to reveal the character of God. The Law when obeyed will keep them from sinning against God and hurting their fellowmen. This would keep order and harmony among God’s covenant people. It is for our good. Can you imagine if there are no traffic laws and regulations to govern the traffic in Reno? There would be chaos. When you come into a four way stop, you ought to know what to do. But if you are ignorant or willfully violate the rule then you are bound to get into an accident or a ticket.
But the covenant people of God could not keep the law. Only Jesus kept the law perfectly and never sinned. God knew the desires of their hearts to keep the law and be faithful to the covenant. They sought to know God and made an effort to obey all the commandments. Yet they failed. No power to obey. Therefore, God provided a new covenant so they can obey.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Why and how did God accomplish this?
“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is the mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with the first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand and lead them out of Egypt because they did not remain faithful to my covenant and I turned away from them. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete and aging and will soon disappear.” Heb. 8:6-13
Was this promise only for the house of Israel and Judah? What about us Gentiles? Are these promises true also to us? Here’s what Scriptures says.
“For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” Again, it says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” And again Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” Rom. 15:8-12
Who is this “him” referred to here? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. When did this happen? When the Jews rejected Jesus after the gospel was preached.
“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.” Acts 13:46-48
So how do the Gentiles get saved? First by believing in Jesus, who He is and what He came to do for man’s greatest need the salvation of his soul.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
So when one believes in what Jesus said, he must now act on His message.
“The time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Mark 1:15
So what is the first step? Repentance. Turning away from sins we are guilty of. But how does one know what sin is and where is it found? Found in the Law. I believe every Filipino have heard of this but has not really read it or know them all. Is this necessary? Of course, otherwise how can one know what to repent of and the sins to turn away from? When one repents is he already saved? No, not yet. This is the purpose of knowing the Law.
“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” Gal. 3:22-25
Knowing the law only makes us aware of sin and the Holy Spirit has to come and bring about the conviction to say – You are guilty and condemned.
“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:8
The Holy Spirit must convict the sinner of his sins before he can see his need for Jesus as Savior. Many people came to Jesus for various reasons. Most were for physical healing, demon possession and material need. That has not changed today. In fact this is the most sought after need physical healing of the body and prosperity. But giving up sins? Not necessary. Just go to church, pray and do your best to be good. So, if there was no conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit I would ask myself, am I really save? This is what one should experience before being saved. Hatred for sin that God hates. Why? One cannot love God and love sin at the same time. Again let me mention how Peter describes the unsaved as dogs who goes back to eat his vomit. If that is still true in one’s life then he is like the dog described in the Bible.
“Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Rev. 22:15
After repentance, only then can one be ready to respond to the gospel or good news and act upon it by faith. And what’s the gospel?
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4.
This is the gospel that Paul preached first to the Jew and then to the Gentile.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom. 1:16-17
Notice it says Jew and Gentile. It is an individual decision to respond. No one can do it for you, not even your parents or the pastor. And this is what one must be willing to do, identify with the death of Christ by dying to sin and self so Christ can live in you and give you this new life.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
What happened to all the sins committed under the law? It was all given up to Christ for He took the punishment for them as payment in our behalf so that God is now justified to forgive us and accept us as His child. The commandments have now become for the save one, “Love the Lord with all your heart and with all soul and with all your mind first and then love your neighbor as yourself.” If one is not saved, can he possibly obey this? No. This love for God is not from us. It is the love that is produced by the Holy Spirit. And this comes after taking this action by a step of faith,
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
Jesus is the One who decides whether you are saved or not. He knows if you entered the kingdom His way and if you did, you receive the love of God Jesus said in John 3:16 in the person of the Holy Spirit.
“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Rom. 5:5
One who has truly been born again will not deliberately sin from what the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered him from. The Holy Spirit has come into the heart to give our spirit new life. The Holy Spirit produces that love for God and neighbors and empowers the believer to sin no more. Obedience is how we show our love for God. Our only part is to believe and be willing to obey and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ that He will do what He says to live in us.
Have you come to Jesus in this way, His way? Perhaps, it is only now that the Holy Spirit is giving you the conviction and understanding, then come to Jesus and receive the love of God and forgiveness for all your sins.
Intro: Is it possible to be a Christian and not be saved? Anybody can make that claim by profession but not possess eternal life. There is a difference between claiming and being, religious and being spiritual. Religion cannot give eternal life and bring to life a dead spirit. Only Jesus can. One can be in a church all his life and still go to hell, even preachers. I say this because Judas was with Jesus, saw everything He did and yet after more than three years betrayed Him. Religious people can have a form of godliness but denying its power. The apostle Paul qualifies the two different kinds of people, the religious and the spiritual.
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 2:14-16
In our reading from Everyday with Jesus Bible last Friday, Jesus revealed to his disciples what was going to happen to Him,
Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them. “We are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” Luke 18:31-34
The disciples lacked understanding because the Holy Spirit was not yet in them. No spiritual discernment. Just like the parables that Jesus spoke of, unbelievers cannot understand the spiritual significance. But those who have the Holy Spirit are now spiritually alive and can understand spiritual matters. So what matters now for the believer is how do I live this new life in Christ.
“God’s Purposes to be pursued”
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Phil 3:10
Last Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because He lived, we have this blessed hope. And once any person becomes born again eternal life is certain and one day that blessed hope will become a reality. So how now do we live this new life, having made alive spiritually through this new birth? Paul spelled it out in our text the life to be pursued while still living here on earth. In heaven, there will be no more sin, no more Bible study to know God, no more work but only to serve and worship God.
But first, Paul wrote that this should be true to every born again believer,
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…” 2 Cor. 5:17-18a
It is very clear that without Christ there is no reconciliation with God and so those who are not in Christ will remain separated and eventually spend eternity in hell. But those who have been reconciled, a new life is born which is God’s workmanship created in Christ. The physical body remains the same but the spirit is now alive and in tuned with God. It was dead because of sin but made alive in Christ. Who gives this new birth? Jesus Christ. It is a must to be born again, yet it does not depend on us but on Him who gives us this new life. That’s because He was raised from the dead and is fulfilling what he said, “Because I live, you also will live.” Just as the apostles and disciples were given the Holy Spirit to live in them, believers today are given the same Holy Spirit immediately at salvation when the dead spirit is made alive.
Once alive, what does this born again believer in Jesus Christ do? He needs food, spiritual food in order to grow. This is the first sign of a live birth. There is hunger for spiritual food and that food is the Word of God. This hunger is for life, just like our physical food. We only stop feeding ourselves both foods when we are already in heaven. Here’s what Peter wrote.
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God…Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 1 Pet. 1:23; 2:2
I connected these two passages because these are very important truths for us to know that one must first hear the gospel of salvation and by their response to repent and receive Christ they are born again. And the evidence of this spiritual birth is hunger for food, spiritual food for the spirit that is now alive. There is a desire to attend a Bible study, worship and read the Bible. The opposite is true, no hunger for the Word means the spirit is still dead.
Feeding on the Word is imperative to grow spiritually and this ought to be the goal of our life. The first desire of one who has been made alive is to know the One who saved him. Why? Because this is God’s purpose in saving us to know the One we have entered into a relationship with. Jesus revealed His authority and God’s purpose in saving us.
“Father, the time has come, glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:1-3
One cannot know the true God without knowing Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man. Is this automatic? No. Knowing God is a growing process. We grow in knowing God by first knowing Jesus Christ. How He lived out the character of God as a human being, untainted by sin and in all godliness. He also came to reveal the will of God so that we can know how to do the will of God just as Jesus lived doing the will of God. Here’s God’s progressive revelation from the beginning.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Heb. 1:1-3
Therefore, anyone who is not born again is spiritually dead and cannot know the true God. He revealed and affirmed this to His disciples,
“If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, doing his work.” John 14:7-10
The disciples who were with Jesus did not believe in Him by faith because they were seeing Him in person. They saw him, heard him and touched Him. They did not need faith in that. Yet after Jesus was resurrected, and returned to heaven, they now have to live by faith that everything that Jesus had taught them and promised, He would fulfill. They were no longer following the Jesus they can see but by faith believe that He was still leading them and was with them. We don’t have that privilege to see Jesus in the flesh but we are blessed by the faith that He gave us through the Word. So what is this lifetime goal for every born again believer in Jesus Christ? “To know Christ.” This is the first purpose and goal also for our church “To Know Him.” But to know Christ does not come to us served in a silver platter. Paul said, “I want to.” There is that craving. When you want something in this world like, to own a 2012 car, what would you do? You would work more hours or get another job to raise the money. Keep yourself from buying other stuff to save the money to buy what you want. This is a poor illustration and I don’t know if one can have that passion for a car. I believe there is this passion to know Christ in the believer, how we can glorify Him and be like Him. And by knowing Him we can know the power we have to overcome sin and to live a holy and blameless life. A believer will have new desires and hate the sins he did in the past. We will not want to return to our old life of sin which we have already turned away from. Otherwise you are like a dog going back to eat what he vomited as illustrated by Peter. We are a new creation like Paul, the apostles and other born again believers who are experiencing transformation. It comes by knowing the God who created the universe from nothing and has control over the movements of the galaxies, the weather, the calamities but most of all what He will do and does for us. Scriptures says,
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
What about the “fellowship of sharing in His suffering?” Will we really suffer as part of being a Christian? This is another evidence of this new life.
“For it has been granted to you in behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” Phil. 1:29-30
The apostle Peter can say amen to this because he too also suffered.
“Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Pet. 4:12-16, 19
We are told that when we suffer for doing good and persecuted for being a Christian, we will experience the closest fellowship with Christ. When Stephen was being stoned to death for his preaching of Christ, (this is another of our purpose “to make Him known”) where was Jesus at that time? He was closest to Stephen, for he was full of the Spirit of Christ and so Stephen became like Jesus in His death.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Acts 7:59-60
Why was he able to say this without any hatred in his heart for those who stoned him? Earlier this is what happened before he was stoned to death.
“When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Acts 7:54-56
This was the closest fellowship recorded by one who has experienced Jesus while suffering for Him. And this made Stephen like Jesus in His death. No hatred, forgiving his persecutors and totally surrendered to the will of God for His glory. And he got a standing ovation from his Lord and Master. And whom did God forgive because Stephen forgave among those who persecuted him? The apostle Paul who was formerly named Saul.
“And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” Acts 8:1
“And so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” I believe we can somehow experience the resurrected life here on earth while still in this body. I believe Paul was writing that out of his experience while still alive. A resurrected life that sin cannot touch. A life that can delight without any complaint for whatever one goes through in his service to Christ. A life that has known Christ to the fullest and have become like Christ while still in the body of flesh. And we too can have that life because that is the will of God for everyone that has been given by God to His Son to be saved.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might become the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called and those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Rom. 8:29
Why is there no mention of sanctification? Sanctification is a growing process to conform us into the likeness of Christ that may take a lifetime. I believe we can experience the resurrected life while still in the body.
Let me close this by addressing our young people. You, who are young in age and are growing to become adults. I am not referring here to adults who are spiritually young and young people who are referred to by John as young men. Here’s word from the man whom God gave wisdom to teach us about what really matters in life.
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them…” Ecc. 12:1
Solomon is exhorting you by what he experienced in life, the life he lived without restraint to all the pleasures that he could find, because of all the wealth he possessed and power he had in his hands. Here’s what he said,
“Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed in judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” Ecc. 12:8, 13-14
And the Psalmist also said and exhorts you and every one of us.
“How can a young man make his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Ps. 119:9-11
All these are possible to the one who knows the author of the Word, Jesus Christ.