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Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 1

Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 1

Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ

“ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO ME; AND HIM THAT COMETH TO ME I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT.”—JOHN 6:37.

A little before, in this chapter, you may read that the Lord Jesus walked on the sea to go to Capernaum, having sent his disciples before in a ship, but the wind was contrary; by which means the ship was hindered in her passage. Now, about the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came walking upon the sea, and overtook them; at the sight of whom they were afraid. Note, When providences are black and terrible to God’s people, the Lord Jesus shows himself to them in wonderful manner; the which sometimes they can as little bear, as they can the things that were before terrible to them. They were afraid of the wind and the water; they were also afraid of their Lord and Savior, when he appeared to them in that state.

But he said, “Be not afraid, it is I.”

Note, That the end of the appearing of the Lord Jesus unto his people, though the manner of his appearing be never so terrible, is to allay their fears and perplexities.

Then they received him into the ship, and immediately the ship was at land whither it went.

Note, When Christ is absent from his people, they go on but slowly, and with great difficulty; but when he joineth himself unto them, oh! how fast they steer their course! how soon are they at their journey’s end!

The people now among whom he last preached, when they saw that both Jesus was gone and his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him, they wonderingly asked him, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?” but the Lord Jesus, slighting their compliment, answered, “Verily, verily, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”

Note, A people may follow Christ far for base ends, as these went after him beyond sea for loaves. A man’s belly will carry him a great way in religion; yea, a man’s belly will make him venture far for Christ.

Note again, They are not feigning compliments, but gracious intentions, that crown the work in the eye of Christ; or thus, it is not the toil and business of professors, but their love to him, that makes him approve of them.

Note again, When men shall look for friendly entertainment at Christ’s hand, if their hearts be rotten, even then will they meet with a check and rebuke. “Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”

Yet observe again, He doth not refuse to give, even to these, good counsel: he bids them labor for the meat that endureth to eternal life. Oh! how willingly would Jesus Christ have even those professors that come to him with pretenses only, come to him sincerely, that they may be saved.

The text, you will find, is, after much more discourse with and about this people, and it is uttered by the Lord Jesus as the conclusion of the whole, and intimateth that, since they were professors in pretense only, and therefore such as his soul could not delight in, as such, that he would content himself with a remnant that his Father had bestowed upon him. As who should say, I am not like to be honored in your salvation; but the Father hath bestowed upon me a people, and they shall come to me in truth, and in them will I be satisfied. The text, therefore, may be called Christ’s repose; in the fulfilling whereof he resteth himself content, after much labor and many sermons spent, as it were, in vain. As he saith by the prophet, “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain” (Isa 49:4).

But as there he saith, “My judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God;” so in the text he saith, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” By these words, therefore, the Lord Jesus comforteth himself under the consideration of the dissimulation of some of his followers. He also thus betook himself to rest under the consideration of the little effect that his ministry had in Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida: “I thank thee, O Father,” said he, “Lord of heaven and earth, because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21).

The text, in the general, standeth of TWO PARTS, and hath special respect to the Father and the Son; as also to their joint management of the salvation of the people: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” The first part of the text, as is evident, respecteth the Father and his gift; the other part the Son and his reception of that gift.

FIRST, For the gift of the Father there is this to be considered, to wit, the gift itself; and that is the gift of certain persons to the Son. The Father giveth, and that gift shall come: “And him that cometh.” The gift, then, is of persons; the Father giveth persons to Jesus Christ.

SECOND, Next you have the Son’s reception of this gift, and that showeth itself in these particulars:—1. In his hearty acknowledgement of it to be a gift: “The Father giveth me.” 2. In his taking notice, after a solemn manner, of all and every part of the gift: “All that the Father giveth me.” 3. In his resolution to bring them to himself: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me.” 4. And in his determining that not anything shall make him dislike them in their coming: “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

These things might be spoken to at large, as they are in this method presented to view: but I shall choose to speak to the words, FIRST, BY WAY OF EXPLICATION. SECOND, BY WAY OF OBSERVATION.

Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, p. 241). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.  (Public Domain)

 

 

 

 

Room For Christ Jesus

Room For Christ Jesus

Room For Christ Jesus

THE palace, the forum, and the inn, had no room for Christ; have you room for Him? “Well,” says one, “I have room for Him, but I am not worthy that He should come to me.” Ah! I did not ask about your worthiness; have you room for Him? “Oh!” says another, “I have an aching void the world can never fill.” Ah! I see that you have room for Christ. “Oh, but the room I have in my heart is so base!” So was the manger at Bethlehem. “But it is so despicable.” So was the manger a thing to be despised. “Ah! but my heart is so foul.” So, perhaps, the manger may have been. “Oh, but I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!” Nor was the manger a place fit for Him, and yet there was He laid. “Oh! but I have been such a great sinner; I feel as if my heart had been a den of evil beasts.” Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed.

I repeat the question,—Have you room for Christ in your heart? Never mind what your past life has been; He can forget and forgive. It mattereth not what even thy present state may be if thou sincerely mournest thy sinfulness. If thou hast but room for Christ, He will come, and be thy Guest. Do not say, I pray you, “I hope I shall have room for Him;” the Gospel message is, “To-day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation;” “behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Make room for Jesus! Make room for Jesus now!

“Oh!” saith one, “I have room for Him, but will He come to me?” Will He come? Do you but set the door of your heart open, do you but say, “Jesus Master, all unworthy and unclean, I look to Thee; I trust in Thee; come Thou, and dwell within my heart;” and He will come to thee, and He will cleanse the manger of thy heart; nay, more, He will transform it into a golden throne, and there He will sit and reign for ever and ever. I rejoice that I have such a free Christ, such a precious loving Jesus to make known; One who is willing to find a home in every humble heart that will receive Him. Oh! it will be a happy day for you when you shall be enabled to take Him in your arms, and receive Him as the Consolation of Israel. You may then look forward even to death with joy, and say, with good old Simeon, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy Word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

My Master wants room; and I, as His herald, cry aloud, “Room for the Savior! Room! Here is my royal Master, have you room for Him? Here is the Son of God made flesh, have you room for Him? Here is He who can forgive all sin, have you room for Him? Here is He who can take you up out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, have you room for Him? Here is He who, when He cometh in to your soul, will never go out again; but will abide with you for ever, to make your heart a heaven of joy and bliss through His presence? Have you not room for Him?” That is all He asks, room. Your emptiness, your nothingness, your want of feeling, your want of goodness, your want of grace,—all these will be but room for Him.

John tells us that, “as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God;” and in the last great day, the Lord Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “I was a stranger, and ye took Me in.” Is it not a strange thing that “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him,” and yet He was a stranger in it? Yet it is not a whit more strange than true; for, when He was born, there was no room for Him in the inn. Inns had open doors for ordinary strangers, but not for Him; for He was a greater stranger than any of those who were around Him. It was Bethlehem of David, the seat of the ancient family to which He belonged; but, alas! He had become “a stranger unto His brethren, and an alien unto His mother’s children,” and no door was opened unto Him.

Soon, there was no safe room for Him in the village itself, for Herod the king sought the young Child’s life, and He must flee into Egypt, to be a stranger in a strange land, and worse than a stranger,—an exile and a fugitive from the land whereof by birthright He was King. On His return, and on His appearing in public, there was still no room for Him among the great mass of the people. He came to His own Israel, to whom prophets had revealed Him, and types had set Him forth; but they would not receive Him. “He was despised and rejected of men.” He was the Man “whom men abhorred;” whom they so much detested that they cried, “Away with Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Jew and Gentile conspired to prove how truly He was a stranger; the Jew said, “As for this fellow, we know not from whence He is;” and the Roman asked Him, “Whence art Thou?”

Perhaps the strangest thing of all, and the greatest wonder of all, is that this Heavenly Stranger should be willing to be received by us, and that He should deign to dwell in our hearts. Such an One as Jesus in such an one as I am! The King of glory in a sinner’s bosom! This is a miracle of grace; yet the manner of accomplishing it is simple enough. A humble, repenting faith opens the door, and Jesus enters the heart at once. Love shuts to the door with the hand of penitence, and holy watchfulness keeps out intruders. Thus is the promise made good, “If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Meditation, contemplation, prayer, praise, and daily obedience, keep the house in order for the Lord; and then follows the consecration of our entire nature to His use as a temple; the dedication of spirit, soul, and body, and all their powers, as holy vessels of the sanctuary; the writing of “Holiness unto the Lord” upon all that is about us, till our every-day garments become vestments, our meals sacraments, our life a ministry, and ourselves priests unto the Most High God. Oh, the supreme condescension of this indwelling of Christ! He never dwelt in angel, but He resides in a contrite spirit. There is a world of meaning in the Redeemer’s words concerning His disciples, “I in them.” May we know the meaning of them as Paul translates and applies them, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”!

The moment Christ is received into our hearts by faith, we are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of faith; for the Lord adopts us, and puts us among His children. It is a splendid act of Divine grace, that He should take us, who were heirs of wrath, and make us heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. Such honor have all the saints, even all that believe on Christ’s Name.

Then, when Christ is in us, we search out opportunities of bringing prodigals, strangers, and outcasts to the great Father’s house. Our love goes out to all mankind, and our hand is closed against none; if so be we are made like to God, as little children are like their father. Oh, sweet result of entertaining the Son of God by faith! He dwells in us, and we gaze upon Him in holy fellowship; so that “we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

“Love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” May we daily feel the power of Jesus within our hearts, transforming our whole character, and making us to be more and more manifestly the children of God! When our Lord asks concerning us, “What manner of men were they?” may even His enemies and ours be compelled to answer, “As Thou art, so were they: each one resembled the children of a King.” Then shall Jesus be admired in all them that believe, for men shall see in all the children of His great family the Divine Stranger’s gracious and glorious handiwork.

Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 137–142). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

 

 

The Name of Jesus, Prized by His People

The Name of Jesus, Prized by His People

The Name of Jesus, Prized by His People

THE Name of Jesus, chosen by God for His Son, is also given to Him by all who truly know Him, and they give it to Him heartily, zealously, boldly. All of us call Him Jesus if we really know Him, and we are resolved to publish His Name abroad as long as we live. If He was Jesus in the cradle, what is He now that He is exalted in the highest heavens? As Emmanuel, God with us, His very Incarnation made Him Jesus, the Saviour of men; but what shall we say of Him now that, in addition to His Incarnation, we have His Atonement; and beside His Atonement, His Resurrection; and beyond that, His Ascension; and, to crown all, His perpetual Intercession?

How grandly does the title of Saviour befit Him now that He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them! If in the arms of His mother He was the Saviour, what is He now that He sitteth upon the throne of God? If wrapped in swaddling-bands He was Jesus, the Saviour, what is He now that the heavens have received Him? If in the workshop of Nazareth, and sitting in the temple among the doctors, He was Jesus, the Saviour, what is He now that His infancy and childhood are over, and He is exalted far above all principalities and powers? If He was Jesus when on the cross, presenting Himself as an offering for His people, what is He now that He hath by one sacrifice perfected for ever them that are set apart? What is He now that He sits at the right hand of God, expecting till His enemies be made His footstool?
Let all who trust in Him unite in calling our Lord by this tender human Name of Jesus. Did He not call all believers by the endearing titles of mother, and sister, and brother? Then we, too, will call Him Jesus.

      “Jesus, Name all names above,
         Jesus best and nearest;
      Jesus, fount of perfect love,
         Holiest, tenderest, dearest;
      Jesus, source of grace completed,
         Jesus holiest, sweetest;
      Jesus, Saviour all Divine,
         Thine’s the Name, and only Thine.”

Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 15–16). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

The Name of Jesus, God-Given

The Name of Jesus, God-Given

The Name of Jesus, God-Given

THE first angel, who appeared to the shepherds, gave them this message, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” That word “Saviour” reminds us of what the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.”

The condition of Joseph, when he heard this Name for the first time, is not altogether without instruction. The angel spake to him “in a dream.” That Name is so soft and sweet that it breaks no man’s rest, but rather yields a peace unrivalled,—“the peace of God.” With such a dream, Joseph’s sleep was even more blessed than his waking.

The Name of Jesus has evermore this power, for, to those who know its preciousness, it unveils a glory brighter than dreams have ever imaged. Under its wondrous spell, young men see visions, and old men dream dreams; and these do not mock them, as ordinary dreams do, but they are faithful and true prophecies of what shall surely come to pass. This Name brings before our minds a vision of glory, in the latter days, when Jesus shall reign from pole to pole; and yet another vision of glory unutterable when His people shall be with Him where He is, and shall reign with Him for ever and ever.

The Name of Jesus was comforting at the first mention of it by the angel of the Lord, because of the words with which it was accompanied; for they were meant to remove perplexity and anxiety from Joseph’s mind. The angel said to him, “Fear not;” and, truly, no name can banish fear like the Name of Jesus; it is the beginning of hope, and the end of despair.

It is worthy of note that the angel commenced his message to the shepherds in a similar way: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Let the sinner but hear of “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,” and, straightway, he hopes to live, he rises out of the deadly lethargy of his hopelessness, and, looking upward, he sees a reconciled God, and fears no longer.

This Name of Jesus appears to us even more full of rare delights when we meditate upon the infinite preciousness of the glorious Person to whom it was assigned. Ah, here is a Jonathan’s wood dripping with honey from every bough, and he that tasteth it shall have his eyes enlightened! We have no common Saviour, for neither earth nor Heaven could produce His equal. At the time when the Name was given to Him by God, Jesus had not been seen by mortal eyes, for He lay as yet concealed from human gaze; but soon He came forth, having been born of Mary by the power of the Holy Ghost,—the matchless Holy Child Jesus. He bore our nature, but not our corruption. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but yet in His flesh there was no sin. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” This Holy One is the Son of God, and yet He is the Son of man; this surpassing excellence of nature makes His Name most precious.

Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 12–14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

The Angels' Song, The Final Note

The Angels' Song, The Final Note

The Angels' Song, The Final Note

“GOOD will toward men.” Wise men have thought, from what they have seen in Creation, that God had much good will toward men, or else His works would never have been so constructed as they are for their comfort; yet I never heard of any man who was willing to risk his soul’s salvation upon such a faint hope as that. But I have not only heard of thousands, I know thousands, who are quite sure that God has good will toward men; and if you ask them the reason for their confidence, they will give you a full and satisfactory answer. They will say, “God has good will toward men, for He gave His Son to die for them.” No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and His subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives His only-begotten and well-beloved Son to die in the place and stead of guilty sinners.

Though the first note of the angels’ song is Godlike, and though the second note is peaceful, this third note melts my heart the most. Some seem to think of God as if He were an austere being who hated all mankind. Others picture Him as a mere abstraction, taking no interest in our affairs. But this angelic message assures us that God has “good will toward men.”

You know what “good will” means. Well, all that it means, and more, God has to you, ye sons and daughters of Adam. Poor sinner, thou hast broken His laws; thou art half afraid to come to the throne of His mercy, lest He should spurn thee; hear thou this, and be comforted,—God has good will toward men, so good a will that He has said, and said it with an oath, too, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live;”—so good a will, moreover, that He has even condescended to say, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” And if you say, “Lord, how shall I know that Thou hast this good will towards me,” He points to the manger, and says, “Sinner, if I had not had good will towards thee, would I have parted with My beloved Son? If I had not had good will towards the human race, would I have given up My Son to become one of that race, that He might, by so doing, redeem from death as many of them as would believe on Him?

Ye who doubt the love of God to guilty men, look away to that glorious circle of angels; see the blaze of glory lighting up the midnight sky; listen to their wondrous song, and let your doubts die in that sweet music, and be buried in a shroud of harmony. The angels’ song assures us that God has good will toward men; He is willing to pardon; He does pass by iniquity, transgression, and sin. And if Satan shall try to insinuate such a doubt as this, “But though God hath good will toward men, yet He cannot violate His justice, therefore His mercy may be ineffective, and you may die;” then listen to that first note of the song, “Glory to God in the highest,” and reply to Satan and all his temptations that, when God shows good will to a penitent sinner, there is not only peace in the sinner’s heart and conscience, but glory is brought to every attribute of God, so He can be just, and yet justify the sinner who believeth in Jesus, and so glorify Himself while saving him.

Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 9–11). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

 

 

The Angels' Song, The Added Stanza

The Angels' Song, The Added Stanza

The Angels' Song, The Added Stanza

“GLORY to God in the highest,” was an old, old song to the angels; they had sung that strain before the foundation of the world. But, now, they sang as it were a new song before the throne of God, and in the ears of mortal men, for they added this stanza, “and on earth peace.”

They did not sing like that in the Garden of Eden. There was peace there, but it seemed to be a matter of course, and to be a thing scarcely needing to be mentioned in their song. There was more than peace there, for there was also glory to God. But man had fallen, and since the day when the Lord God drove him out of Eden, and placed the cherubim with a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life, there had been no peace on earth, save in the breasts of believers, who had obtained peace of heart and conscience even from the promise of the Incarnation of Christ.

Wars had raged unto the ends of the earth; men had slaughtered one another, heaps on heaps. There had been strife within as well as struggles without. Conscience had fought with man, and Satan had tormented him with sinful thoughts. There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell.

But, now, when the new-born King made His appearance, the swaddling-band with which He was wrapped up was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should be stopped between man’s conscience and himself, and between man’s conscience and his God. Then it was that the trumpet of the heavenly herald was blown aloud, and the royal proclamation was made, “Sheathe thy sword, O man, sheathe thy sword, O conscience, for God has provided a way by which He can be at peace with man, and by which man can be at peace with God, and with his own conscience, too!”

The Gospel of the grace of God promises peace to every man who accepts it; where else can peace be found, but in the message of Jesus? And what a peace it is! It is like a river, and the righteousness of it is like the waves of the sea. It is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, which shall keep our hearts arid minds through Christ Jesus.” This sacred peace between the soul pardoned and God the Pardoner, this marvellous “at-one-ment” between the guilty sinner and his righteous Judge, this it was of which the angels sang when they said, “Peace on earth.”

Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 7–8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

 

The Angels' Song, Its Opening Note

The Angels' Song, Its Opening Note

The Angels' Song, Its Opening Note

“GLORY to God in the highest.”  The instructive lesson to be learned from this opening note of the angels’ song is, that salvation is God’s highest glory.  He is glorified in every dewdrop that twinkles in the morning sunshine. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it is born to blush unseen of man, and may seem to waste its sweetness on the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the trees, and in every lamb that skips in the meadows. Do not the fishes in the sea praise Him? From the tiny minnow to the huge leviathan, do not all creatures that swim in the waters laud and magnify His great Name? Do not all created things extol Him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that doth not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt Him, when they write His Name in golden letters upon the azure of heaven? Do not the lightnings adore Him when they flash His brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Do not the thunderpeals extol Him when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Do not all things that He hath made, from the least even to the greatest, exalt Him?

But sing, sing, O universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, yet thou canst not chant an anthem so sweet as the song of Incarnation! Though Creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle,—Incarnation! There is more melody in Jesus in the manger than in the whole sublime oratorio of the Creation. There is more grandeur in the song that heralds the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem than there is in worlds on worlds rolling in silent grandeur around the throne of the Most High.

Pause, reader, for a minute, and consider this great truth. See how every one of the Divine attributes is here magnified. Lo, what wisdom is here! The Eternal becomes man in order that God may be just, and yet be the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. What power also is here, for where is power so great as when it concealeth itself? What power, that God should unrobe Himself for a while, and become man! Behold, too, what love is thus revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man; and what faithfulness! How many promises and prophecies are this day fulfilled! How many solemn obligations are this hour discharged! Tell me one attribute of God that you say is not manifest in Jesus; and your ignorance shall be to me the reason why you have not seen it to be so. The whole of God is glorified in Christ; and though some part of the Name of God is written in the material universe, it is best read in Him who was the Son of man, and also the Son of God.


Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 5–6). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain)

Lord of the Harvest

Lord of the Harvest

In the two previous articles in this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness and Understanding the Mission, we said that, as believers in Christ, we are living “behind enemy lines” and that as followers of Christ, it is our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples for the Kingdom of our Lord.  Now we'll see how God provides all we need to accomplish our mission by:

· Equipping the messenger,

· Preparing hearts for the message, and

· Connecting the heart to the message.

Equipping the Messenger.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

Jesus was moved with a deep compassion for people, comparing the multitudes without a savior to helpless sheep without a shepherd (infantry squad without a squad leader).  The Holy Spirit of God, living inside the believer, will give us the same gut-wrenching compassion for our loved ones, friends, co-workers, comrades in battle, and even those who mistreat us.   

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Holy Spirit, who lives inside the believer, providing assurance, comfort and guidance, also provides power to be an effective witness to the gospel. Peter and John were common fishermen who hung out with Jesus for a few years, listening to His teaching. When the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost, the head knowledge became heart knowledge. They couldn't help but talk about what they had seen and heard!

Preparing hearts for the message.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

At the same time God is preparing messengers, He is busy preparing hearts to receive the most important message they will ever receive! It might be a family member,  friend or co-worker, or the soldier by your side in a firefight. Sometimes opportunities to share God's message come knocking loudly at your door, but more often they just  “happen.”
 I remember a lot of those ─ the medic on the SF “A” team who “happened” to be dating a Christian girl, who “happened” to be talking to him about spiritual stuff, resulting in his “happening” to ask me about the things she was saying!

Connecting the heart to the message.

There's a great story in the New Testament where we see the process at work. Acts 8:26-40 tells of Phillip, whom God had prepared as the messenger, an Ethiopian man who “happened” to be reading one of the prophets, and, a “divine” appointment. Phillip ended up sharing the good news about Jesus, and the Ethiopian received the message in his heart, was baptized in a convenient pool of water and went on his way rejoicing.

So What?

Although the story of Philip and the Ethiopian was a bit more spectacular than we see in our normal everyday life as Christians, the process is the same. There is an equipped messenger, a prepared heart, and a connecting that impacts eternity.  The architect of the process is the Holy Spirit of God.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the harvest!   He told his disciples:

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37, 38).

God has a plan and doesn’t need “Super-Christians” to make it work.  All God wants is workers.  Look in the mirror and see one of God’s harvest workers.  Now that you are available, the Lord of the Harvest will do the rest.  Remember, harvest workers are always behind enemy lines.

Understanding the Mission

Understanding the Mission

In the first part of this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness, we presented the premise that we, as Christians, are living ‘behind enemy lines.’  We are no longer citizens of this world, but we are members of God’s household, new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).  We discussed the clear teaching of Scripture that the world in which we live is hostile territory.  We then concluded with the question, “Why are we Still Here?”  Where do we go to find the answer?

Well, we can walk into just about any Christian bookstore, listen to any number of teachers, preachers, televangelists, television or radio ministries and get all sorts of answers!  We can  come away easily with the impression that the Christian life is mostly about things on an individual/personal level, such as relationships, abundant/victorious living, success in this world, receiving all of God's blessings, etc.

While the above might be ‘benefits’ of being part of the household of God and citizens of His Kingdom, are they to be the primary focus of the Christian life?  If they aren't, what is?

I submit to you that God didn’t send His own Son to die so we could have an abundant life here on earth.  Rather, He came because we are lawbreakers, born on death row, in order to save us from the certain judgment that MUST come if God is true to His word—“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

When we become believers and citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must still live here (behind enemy lines) in a world corrupted by sin, among people trapped in their sin.  We remain here by God’s design, for His purpose, as part of His strategic plan to save others from the certain judgment that is to come.

Chapter 17  of he Gospel of John records our Lord’s prayer to His Father shortly before he went to the cross to fulfill God’ plan for our salvation.  Concerning his disciples and, by extension, all believers to come, Jesus prayed:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (vv 16-21a)

Jesus asked for their protection, NOT their removal, because as he had been sent into the world for the salvation of the lost, He (Jesus) was now sending his followers into the world as part of a divine plan!

Furthermore, this ‘sending’ into the world was no secret to the disciples!  Earlier, the Lord himself told them:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)

Also, it was no secret to the disciples what they would face from the world during their ‘fruit bearing’ mission.  Read the entire chapter of John 15 for the rest of the story.  They knew they would be operating in hostile territory, but they went anyway!

The remaining piece to the puzzle is to define the ‘fruit.’  We know from the above verse that it is to be ‘fruit that will last’—eternal fruit.  So what is this eternal fruit?  There is a two-part answer here.  The first thing that should come to mind is that we are to show others the only way to escape coming judgment—the path to eternal life.  The second part of the answer is not quite so obvious. We are to help other believers grow in their faith walk so that they, in turn, will show still others the path to eternal life and help them grow!  If you aren’t convinced, listen to Jesus’ command to his disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The ‘Great Commission’ Christ gave to the disciples then and to us now is NOT about all the ‘benefits of belonging to the corporation’ mentioned at the beginning of this article, but ALL about growing the Kingdom of God on earth!  ALL about the Kingdom.

What drives this old soldier to his knees is the fact that God could save anyone he chooses, anytime he chooses, in any circumstance he chooses—and yet he has chosen mortal human beings, with all their ‘sin’ baggage to be his ambassadors!  Knowing we would mess up repeatedly, knowing that often we would  be poor examples of Christ, God has chosen us—you and me!  That, my friends is God’s master vision—His ‘strategic’ plan!

You might ask, “Isn’t this ambassador thing—preaching the Gospel and helping others grow in Christ the job of people with a special calling to full-time ministry and who have gone to Bible college or seminary?

What sort of training do you need for the task at hand?  Let’s look at a couple of guys who did some street preaching a couple thousand years ago.

When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Our Lord chose unschooled, ordinary men, not religious leaders, for the enormous task of spreading the Good News to the rest of their world.  Job qualification—just one— they had been with Jesus.  He chooses us for the same task in our world—in our homes and workplaces, in our barracks and squad rooms, on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

You and I have been ‘sent where we are,’ right now in our lives, on a mission from God!  If we ‘have been with Jesus’ we have a responsibility.  Have you accepted the challenge?

 

Living Behind Enemy Lines

Living Behind Enemy Lines

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger 'strategic' picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander's intent (God's strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander's intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range  from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on 'personal' growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the 'postmodern' church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver's seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our 'situational awareness' and overcome our spiritual 'nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to 'begin at the beginning' of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our 'makeover' is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been 'raised up' and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household. . ." Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our 'legal citizenship' status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the 'heavenly realm,’ we would have been 'illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were 'aliens and foreigners' to God's household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now 'aliens and strangers' in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live 'foreign territory,’ why are we 'aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God's creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22

All of God's creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a 'temporary landlord' ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:1-2

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new 'landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God's household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the 'god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe  it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was "No way!"  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too 'friendly' with the fallen culture around them.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus' words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.

 My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.


Christian Military Fellowship

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