Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Good Degrees to Earn

I believe in getting a good education and in having the proper degrees needed for successful ministry. Among all the degrees which can be conferred upon a person, there are the following: an associates degree, a BA, BS, a MM (Masters of Ministry), MDiv (Masters of Divinity), DD (Doctorate of Divinity), Thd (Doctorate of Theology), and Phd (Doctor of Philosophy). I am sure I have left some out, so I will not labor the point. There are others, I am sure.

But of all the degrees that can be earned, there are two that are the most important. The first is the UPS degree. Every Christian has it and every preacher, pastor, missionary and Christian worker should labor in light of it. A person is not qualified for any ministry in the kingdom of Christ without this degree. It doesn't take much on our part to earn it. In fact, every Christian has earned it. This degree has been conferred on each of us already. It is recorded in the halls of true academia already. What is it?

The UPS degree- "Un Profitable Servant". This degree is conferred based on Luke 17:10: "So likewise, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded of you, then say, 'we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do'." God himself confers this degree upon everyone enrolled in the school of Christ. All of us hold this degree. We have earned it, having finished all the work necessary to be considered a true unprofitable servant, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities thereunto.

Let every Christian and servant of Christ realize that this degree has been conferred on us and is hanging on the wall of our lives already. It follows after every use of our name in everything we do. It marks every sermon, every good work, every labor of love, and every effort we make in life. Having done all, in the end, that degree expresses everything about our accomplishments. So see yourself as John Doe, UPS.

Then there is a second degree which we are working on-- or at least we should be. It is the highest, most desirable of all degrees. There is no accomplishment beyond the earning of this highest achievement of learning and knowledge. It is a degree program that every of one us ought to be motivated to earn. We should be working on this one day and night. It will be a great day when this degree is conferred on us. And it ought to be desired and expected with real anticipation.

The second degree is the famous and prestigious WD degree - "Well Done, thou good and faithful servant-- enter thou into the joy of your Lord." - Matthew 25:21

Are you working on your second degree, now that you already have your first one? Labor hard; the course work is extensive but nothing is more satisfying.

The thought strikes me this morning with fresh reality-- If every Christian and every preacher walked in light of the first degree they have already earned- the UPS degree, and if they then realized there is no higher degree that can be ever earned than the WD degree, we would have a much more educated and wise ministry and a much improved class of students in the kingdom of God. If every preacher only had these two degrees, it would be a wonderful thing and we would have a highly educated ministry.

Leonard Ravenhill, when asked where he went to seminary, used to reply: "Bush University." When people said, "Oh, I've never heard of that one- who else went there that I would have heard of?", Ravenhill said, "Moses."

That's the university we should all graduate from.

By the way, there is another degree mentioned for a few men, which is not for anyone else. It is for deacons in the church of Jesus Christ. Christ has a degree for them and they should realize it and rejoice in it, that it can be conferred on them: "For they that have served well as deacons purchase to themselves a good degree and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 3:13) You deacons-- go after that good standing and great confidence for yourself as a minister of Christ to his people.

These degrees summarize everything that is important in the higher educational system of the kingdom of God. You've earned the first degree. Now work on the second one more.

Warmly yours, increasing in the knowledge of God and his ways, I remain,

- Your fellow UPS scholar with honors, and future WD candidate

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Christ's Sufferings

I have heard a million sermons about the nails and the thorns, and granted, the physical agony of crucifixion is a ghastly thing, but there have been thousands of people who have died on the cross and who have had more horrible painful excruciating deaths than that. But only one has received the full measure of the curse of death. I doubt that Jesus is even aware of the nails and the spear, He was so overwhelmed by the outer darkness. Dear friends, on the cross Jesus is in Hell! Right there. Totally bereft of the grace and presence of God, utterly separated from all blessedness of the Father. He becomes a curse for you, so that you someday will be able to see the face of God. So that the light of his countenance will fall on you, God turned His back on His Son. No wonder He screamed, He screamed from the depths of His soul.
- R C Sproul

His sufferings were far from consisting in mere corporal afflictions, with such impressions upon his soul and spirit as were the effects and issues only of them. It was no more nor less than the curse of the law of God which he underwent for us: for he freed us from the curse by being made a curse.
- John Owen

The whole of it evinces the truth of Christ's human nature, that he was in all things made like unto his brethren; that he had a human soul, and endured sorrows and sufferings in it, of which this of desertion was not the least: the heinousness of sin may be learnt from hence, which not only drove the angels out of heaven, and Adam out of the garden, and separates, with respect to communion, between God and his children; but even caused him to hide his face from his own Son, whilst he was bearing, and suffering for the sins of his people.
- John Gill

Had there been no deeper and more awful sufferings, it would be difficult to see why Jesus should have shrunk from these sorrows, and used such a remarkable expression. Isaiah tells us, (Isa 53:4,5) "He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, Gal 3:13, he was made a sin-offering, 2Cor 5:21 he died in our place, on our account, that he might bring us near to God. It was this, doubtless, which caused his intense sufferings. It was the manifestation of God's hatred of sin to his soul, in some way which he has not explained, that he experienced in that dread hour. It was suffering, endured by him, that was due to us; and suffering by which, and by which alone, we can be saved from eternal death.
- Albert Barnes

"Why hast thou forsaken me?" We must lay the emphasis on every word of this saddest of all utterances. "Why?" what is the great cause of such a strange fact as for
God to leave his own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in him, why then was he deserted? Hast:" it is done, and the Saviour is feeling its dread effect as he asks the question; it is surely true, but how mysterious! It was no threatening of forsaking which made the great Surety cry aloud, he endured that forsaking in very deed. "Thou:" I can understand why traitorous Judas and timid Peter should be gone, but thou, my God, my faithful friend, how canst thou leave me? This is worst of all, yea, worse than all put together. Hell itself has for its fiercest flame the separation of the soul from God. "Forsaken: " if thou hadst chastened I might bear it, for thy face would shine; but to forsake me utterly, ah! why is this? "Me: " thine innocent, obedient, suffering Son, why leavest thou me to perish? A sight of self seen by penitence, and of Jesus on the cross seen by faith will best expound this question. Jesus is forsaken because our sins had separated between us and our God.

- Charles Spurgeon

A Grateful Spirit

"You have pleaded the causes of my soul; you have redeemed my life."

A grateful spirit should ever be cultivated by the Christian, and especially after deliverances we should prepare a song for our God. Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a censor smoking with the sweet incense of thanksgiving. How joyful Jeremiah seems to be while he records the Lord’s mercy. How triumphantly he lifts up the strain! He has been in the low dungeon, and is even now no other than the weeping prophet; and yet in the very book which is called “Lamentations,” clear as the song of Miriam when she dashed her fingers against the tabor, shrill as the note of Deborah when she met Barak with shouts of victory, we hear the voice of Jeremiah going up to heaven—“You have pleaded the causes of my soul; you have redeemed my life.” O children of God, seek after a vital experience of the Lord’s lovingkindness, and when you have it, speak positively of it, sing gratefully, and shout triumphantly.

- C. H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Divine Appointments

[God gives divine appointments--let us not miss ours that come along regularly. This is from my friend, Jeff Gregory, in Dallas-- Mack T. ]

This evening I was doing some late night shopping at Albertsons Foods and as I was unloading my shopping cart onto the conveyor belt at the checkout , I pulled out my keys and was fumbling through them looking for my Albertsons keychain card so I could get a discounted price on a few items. The cashier lady spoke to me in a foreign accent and said, “Those cards aren’t used anymore. How long has it been since you’ve shopped at Albertsons?”

I replied, “I couldn’t remember if Albertsons still used the card or not. It hasn’t been that long since I’ve shopped at Albertsons.”

As she was checking me out, I read her nametag. It said, “Megibre.”

“Your name is Megibre.”

“Oh, you pronounced my name correctly.”

“What language do you speak?”

“I’m from Albania.”

“Oh, you speak Albanian.”

“We came here because of the war. Maybe you heard about it.”

“Does “Megibre” have a meaning in English, like “Margaret”?

She shook her head.

“How long have you been living in Dallas?”

“I’ve been here eleven years.”

“What is your religion?”

She looked a little sheepish, and said, “I’m Muslim.”

I was surprised because she didn’t look at all like a Muslim woman. She was about 55 years old – looked like a typical middle-aged American woman.

I continued the conversation: “I’m a Christian. I believe in Jesus. Do you know Jesus?“

“I don’t know anything about religions. I work all the time. I have four children.”

“Jesus is the one who died on the cross so we could have forgiveness of sins.”

She looked at me as if she didn’t know what I was talking about.

“What are you going to do with your sins?” I asked.

“We don’t eat all day from 6:00 am till 8:00 at night…”

“You’re talking about Ramadan.”

“Oh, you know Islam?”

“You know what sins are? The things we do that displease God. God doesn’t like our sins and has to punish them. But Jesus came to pay for our sins by dying on the cross. Because of our sins God will punish us in hell, but instead he punished Jesus on the cross so we won’t have to go to hell. He came to give us forgiveness and eternal life. Do you know the Bible?”

She was looking at me like she was having a hard time grasping what I was saying. She also was fidgeting a bit. There was no one else around within hearing distance so I didn’t hesitate to carry on the conversation.

“Jesus died on the cross but he rose from the dead on the third day. He resurrected. He’s alive. He’s a living Savior.”

“I became a Christian when I was 21 years old and he’s been with me ever since. Jesus came into my heart and forgave me of my sins and he’s given me peace and joy.”

“I’m sorry. I have to go.”

As I passed by her on the way out she was helping another customer but she said to me, “Come back. Thank you.”

After I unloaded my groceries into my car and was driving down Buckner Boulevard, I began to pray loudly and with emotion:

“Oh God, may this woman know she has met a servant of the living God this night. May she know that a messenger from God has come to her this night. Stir up her heart and mind. May this night be the beginning of a search for her to learn about Jesus. Speak to her, O God, in dreams. I pray she will look for a Bible.

O God, I pray I will meet her around your throne one day. Maybe she will even remember this night, this conversation. O God, may this night be a divine encounter for her!”

Will you join me in praying for Megibre’s salvation?

- Jeff Gregory

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God is Planning for Thee in Love

Please remember that God is planning for thee in love. God is never capricious, never moody, and never experiments with us. He plans all things always in love. If there are wounds (and who of us can escape them?), then there is still balm in Gilead. If there is rejection, then we remember that all men rejected Him. We can still fill up the sufferings of Christ. Remember Madam Guyon's words:

A little bird I am, shut off from fields of air,
Content within my bed to lie,
Since God has placed me here;
Well pleased a prisoner to be
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

- Leonard Ravenhill

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Keep on with your Work

Keep about the work that God has given you. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil's dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil's rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let councils resolve, let the devil do his worst, but see to it that nothing hinders you from fulfilling the work that God has given YOU to do!

He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood about yourself which Satan and his servants may start to peddle. If you do these things you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourselves and not for the Lord.

Keep at your work. Let your aim be steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded, and rejected. (You will not be the first!) But see to it with steadfast determination and unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life until you too can say: "I have finished the work which You gave me to do".

- from The Reformer

True and False Assurance and the "Carnal" Christian

The real question we must face is this: What do we do with a host of our converts that are living like the Devil after they were 'saved' by going through our system? There are not too many choices and most of them are cures that are worse than the disease. Let me mention two errors that arise when we refuse to admit that something may be wrong with our system of giving assurance of salvation.

First of all, we can adopt the old view that these people were saved and then lost. Granted there are some texts that seem to teach that this is possible, but a careful examination of those texts plus an exegesis of many other texts will always lead us to conclude that no one will ever be truly saved and then lost.

The second error is of more recent origin and has deeply penetrated the church in our generation. It was invented by people who were unwilling to either examine their system or give up their doctrine of eternal security. I am referring to the Carnal Christian doctrine. I want to remind you of several things.

(1) This doctrine was a deliberate invention to protect the converts of an easy-believism gospel that had departed from the biblical gospel. Leaders could not blame their own system nor could they accept that a Christian could be saved and lost. Believing those two things forced them to find another answer to the problem and the Carnal Christian doctrine was the result. This doctrine enabled the proponents to protect (a) their easy-believism gospel, (b) the altar call and giving assurance to all who came, (c) the doctrine of eternal security of all who had been assured, and (d) the 'sure salvation' of their converts who did not live like real converts. Everybody and everything won except the truth of the gospel. The truth of the gospel was dragged through the streets.

(2) The Carnal Christian doctrine is less than 200 years old and was preceded by, and consciously brought about by, the people who rejected the preaching of both repentance and the lordship of Christ in evangelism. This doctrine was designed and promoted purely as a means of justifying the lack of true godliness among the converts of easy-believism.

(3) No Christian is totally carnal and likewise no Christian is totally spiritual. There are not two categories. A carnal Christian, meaning a person totally controlled by carnality even though truly saved, is a contradiction in terms. All Christians have carnal aspects in their life and likewise all Christians have spiritual aspects in their life.

A Fair and Honest Question

"But Mr. Reisinger, are you saying that we should never label people? Do you mean we should never tell anyone, 'You are saved' "?
That is exactly what I am saying. If you are honest, you will have to admit that since you cannot see a person's heart you cannot give him assurance that he has truly believed. Someone may say, "But I always make sure they are sincere." And how my friend, do you do that without looking into their heart? If you reply that you "always ask them if they are truly sincere," I will not bother to answer that silly statement.

Whether we like it or not, we are not in a position to say with perfect certainty that any one individual is either saved or lost! The most we can say of any person in an absolute sense is that they either do or do not make a profession of being a Christian. There are many people that appear to be truly lost and others that appear to be truly saved, but in both cases we cannot see the heart.

In my first pastorate there was a deacon who used to say, "Time and the Devil will tell." If someone got married and I said, "Ray, I believe that will be a good marriage," he would say, "Time and the Devil will tell." When someone made a confession of faith and I said, "I believe that is genuine," I would get the same "Devil will tell" routine. And do you know what happened in every case? Time and the Devil would show that sometimes we were right in our expectations, but other times we would see how very wrong we were. Let me give you a few biblical examples of this fact.

If we would have heard Peter curse and swear by the fire when he openly denied Christ, we would have concluded he was not a truly saved man, but at that moment Peter was a true believer.
If we would have heard Thomas utter his words of unbelief, we would have been sure he had no faith, but he did have saving faith.
We would have called David an adulterous and murdering hypocrite, but at that very moment he had the grace of God in his heart. (By the way, people often say, "David's sin of adultery and murder prove the doctrine of eternal security." That is nonsense. David's awful sin only proved that he was a sinner. The sincere repentance expressed in Psalm 51 is what proved the grace of God was in his heart.)
Likewise, if someone would have suggested that Judas was a phony and had his hand in the till, we would have protested and said, "He is a godly believer. You are misjudging him."

In all of these cases we would have been as wrong as can be.
I honestly believe the average fundamental church in our generation would have labeled Judas a "carnal Christian" who was eternally secure. They would have never let that rich young ruler get away. They would have "decisioned" him and made him a deacon within six months as well as chairman of the building committee.
- John Reisinger

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Darkened Mind

No man will see truth clearly at all and truly believe it unless God first opens his eyes to see it.

I sit listening to two college professors over a cup of coffee discuss their work and the intricacies of academic life. It's obvious they are smart men intellectually. But what is also obvious is that they are self-confident, arrogant men. I desire to walk to their table and after introducing myself, say to them, "Gentlemen, is it at all real to you that one day soon you will stand before Jesus Christ, the Judge of the universe, and give account to Him for everything you've ever done and every word you've ever spoken. You will give account for every word in your classroom, every motive you've ever had, and every thought of your heart. Are you now ready to meet Him?" Such men, unless they are Christians, would think I was either a dinosaur or mentally imbalanced.

As I think about it, it is clear. Men's minds are so darkened, prideful and blind, they could sooner be persuaded that they could build a ladder to the moon with spagetti noodles than be persuaded of their personal accountability to God. Their darkened minds have convinced themselves He doesn't even exist. If they believe He exists at all, in is obvious that He is not pertinent to this life and will not factor at all in their death.

Men more easily believe there is life on other planets than believe they will stand before God one day.

Men more easily believe that they came from monkeys than from their Creator.

Men more easily believe they will be re-incarnated as a bug than that their soul is to live forever.

Men more easily believe they will cease to exist after death than that they will exist consciously in an eternal state.

Men more easily believe that life originated here by the arrival of aliens than that they were created.

Men more easily delude themselves into thinking everything will somehow be all right when they die than face the truth that they will perish in their sins.

Why will people more easily believe a lie than the truth? Because the natural mind is darkened. It is at enmity with God and wants to believe a lie. They don't want God to exist; they want Him gone and out of the picture as a non-factor. If they can delude themselves into believing the lie, then they are free from any personal responsibility and accountability.

What an awesome and terrifying prospect awaits the secular, proud man upon death--to awake in eternity, only to realize too late that all you denied IS true and all you believed is a lie. Then its too late, for the eternity condition is irreversibly set.

The most terrifying thought an unbeliever can have--"Hell is real and what if I am there forever?"

The second most terrifying thought--"My personal accountability to the living God--when I die, I will stand before God in judgment."

- Mack Tomlinson

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Behold, He Prays"

Acts 9:11

Prayers are instantly noticed in heaven. The moment Saul began to pray, the Lord heard him. Here is comfort for the distressed, praying soul. Often a poor broken-hearted saint bends his knee, but can only utter his wailing in the language of sighs and tears. Yet that groan has made all the harps of heaven thrill with music. That tear has been caught by God and treasured in heaven. "Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle" implies that they are caught as they flow.

The praying soul, whose fears hinder his words, will be well understood by the Most High. He may only look up with misty eye, but prayer is the falling of a tear. Tears are the diamonds of heaven and sighs are a part of the music of Jehovah's court, numbered with the sublimest strains that reach the Majesty on high.

Do not think that your prayers, however weak or trembling, will be unregarded. Jacob's ladder is lofty, but our prayers shall lean upon the angel of the covenant and so will climb its starry rounds. Our God not only hears prayer, but also loves to hear it. "He forgets not the cry of the humble." True. He regards not high looks and lofty words. He cares not for the pomp and pageantry of kings and regards not the triumph and pride of man.

But wherever there is a heart big with sorrow or a lip quivering with agony, or a deep groan or penitential sigh, the heart of Jehovah is open. He marks it down in the registry of His memory. He puts our prayers, like rose leaves, between the pages of His book of remembrance, and when the volume is opened at last, there shall be a precious fragrance springing up:

"Faith asks no signal from the skies,
To show that prayers accepted rise;
Our Priest is in His holy place,
And answers from the throne of grace."

- C. H. Spurgeon

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jesus and Sinners

All that Jesus does for lost sinners, He does freely, out of pure pity, kindness, and love.

Yet we are always looking for something in ourselves--to encourage us! On the other hand, we tend to look at some sin committed by us--which discourages us. Whereas we should look only to Jesus. I want now, for a few minutes, to fix the eye of your mind on what Jesus does for sinners--how He acts toward them today.

Jesus calls the sinner. He says, "Come unto Me. Come, just as you are. Come, this moment. Come, for all that you need. Come, for all that you desire. Come, and be saved. Come, and I will satisfy you. Come, and commit all your concerns to Me, and I will make all things that occur, work together for your good."

Jesus receives the sinner when he comes. He receives every sinner, however base, vile, or unworthy he may be! He receives the sinner graciously--pardoning every sin, forgiving and forgetting all that he has done amiss, and treating him with the utmost kindness.

Jesus cleanses the sinner. In the fountain of His precious blood, and in the laver of His holy Word--He cleanses him from guilt and pollution--fitting him for holy service on earth, and for holier service in heaven. Nor is there any getting rid of guilt--but by His blood; nor of impurity--but by His Spirit working with His Word!

Jesus clothes the sinner. Cleansed from guilt and filth--we are clothed in His garments of salvation, and are covered with His robe of righteousness. All that is necessary for our honorable appearance in heaven among the glorified--He undertakes to provide.

Jesus feeds the sinner. Those who trust in Him, are completely nourished by Him. His flesh and blood becomes our daily food. We can no more live and be healthy, without nourishing food for the body--than we can live and be happy, without sweet and frequent nourishment from Christ. There is in the renewed soul--a craving for Christ, and it is never satisfied--but as it realizes His presence, meditates on His Word, or is solaced with His love!

Jesus employs the sinner. Having called, received, cleansed, clothed, and nourished him--He sets him to WORK. He gives him a cross to carry, and aplot in his vineyard to cultivate. He sends him to speak to others of His grace, and to manifest to others His temper and disposition. He sends him to thepoor widow's cottage, to the sick man's chamber, and to the ignorant soul's home--and says, "Feed them for Me; comfort them for Me; and teach them for Me!"

Jesus comforts the sinner. Yes, when he is depressed and discouraged, when he is low and cast down. He consoles by some special providence, by some seasonable portion of His Word, by the counsel of some friend, or by the sweet whispers of His Spirit.

Jesus assures the sinner. Assures him of His love to him, of a saving interest in His finished work, and of a title to heavenly mansions! When Jesusassures us--our doubts and fears depart, our unbelief is destroyed, and our souls are filled with peace and joy.

Jesus visits the sinner. He says, "I will come unto him." And He does come, and brings with Him--pleasant light, precious fruits, and joy and peace. He says, "I will come and sup with him--and he with Me." And He draws him out into such sweet, near and dear communion with Himself--that no costly meal, no delightful company--can be compared to it.

Jesus restores the sinner. For as astonishing as it may appear, it is nevertheless true--that we are prone to wander!

We leave light--for darkness!
We leave plenty--for poverty!
We leave joy--for sorrow!
We leave a paradise--for a desert!

And having wandered, we would never find our way back--if He did not come after us! But, blessed be His holy name--He does! And then He restoresour souls, and again feeds us in green pastures, causing us to lie down beside the still waters!

Jesus reproves the sinner. However He may spare our persons--He never spares our sins! He visits our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquitieswith stripes! His reproofs are often sharp. Cutting convictions, heavy losses, severe trials, perplexing troubles, bodily sickness, and painful bereavements--are some of the RODS which He employs. But however numerous and heavy His strokes--they are lighter than our guilt, and fewer than our sins! He deals with us as with sons. He chastens us for our profit--and to make us partakers of His holiness!

Jesus glorifies the sinner. Glorifies him with Himself--and confers on him an eternal weight of glory! What it is to be glorified--we do not fully know. At the least, it is to be freed from all that is sinful, painful, and degrading--and to be invested with all that is bright, beautiful, and blessed. It is to be made as likeJesus as possible, and to be with Him where he is forever!
O wondrous grace, of a wondrous Savior!
Believer, this precious Savior is yours!

Will you not love Him then?

Will you not bear witness to the power and sweetness of His love, to the joy and happiness that are found in His ways?
Will you not observe His statutes and keep His laws?

Will you not come out of the world, which is peopled by His enemies--and be separated to Him? Can you mingle with the carnal, and frequent places of worldly amusement? Must you go to the world to be gratified and amused?

Beware how you wound your precious Savior's loving heart!

- James Smith