I do not count my life of any value to myself

There are many, many moments when I question God’s direction in my life when it comes to the furtherance of my education.  For some strange reason He has found His glory in my lack of education.  On the other hand, Paul, fully and completely educated, tried hard every day to ensure his life did not matter at all – he only wanted to make sure every person would have the opportunity of hearing the good news of God’s grace.

In light of that vision, nothing moved Paul, even the countless times he almost lost his life.  Even at his last trip to Jerusalem where he knew he would end his missionary journeys, his hope was in the Gospel, and the ministry of the word.  His faith was strong, he had no fear and he did not alter his purpose and knew he was completing his design.

There may have been even a sense of happiness that he was finishing his course well. He did not need an extra day or week to do more – his satisfaction and joy was in what he had done.  I am sure he was tired of the warfare in his journey and was looking towards the comfort he knew would be found being with Jesus.

So this message of grace, this message Paul preached everyday, what can we say about it? I found a sermon from Spurgeon on this and thought it might add some great thoughts..

Spurgeon in his sermon on this passage declared…

I shall try to proclaim that word, “GRACE,” so that those who know its joyful sound shall be glad, and those who despise it shall be cut to the heart! Grace is the essence of the Gospel! Grace is the one hope for this fallen world! Grace is the sole comfort of saints looking forward to Heaven!…Let me try to explain in a brief manner how the Gospel is the good news of Grace. The Gospel is an announcement that God is prepared to deal with guilty man on the ground of free favor and pure mercy. There would be no good news in saying that God is just, for, in the first place, that is not even news—we know that God is just. The natural conscience teaches man that. That God will punish sin and reward righteousness is not news at all and, if it were news, yet it would not be good news, for we have all sinned—and upon the ground of justice we must perish. But it is news and news of the best kind, that the Judge of all is prepared to pardon transgression and to justify the ungodly! It is good news to the sinful that the Lord will blot out sin, cover the sinner with righteousness and receive him into His favor—and that not on account of anything he has done, or will do—but out of Sovereign Grace!

Though we are all guilty without exception and all most justly condemned for our sins, yet God is ready to take us from under the curse of His Law and give us all the blessedness of righteous men as an act of pure mercy! Remember how David saw this and spoke of it in the 32nd Psalm—“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.” This is a message worth dying for, that through the Covenant of Grace, God can be just and yet the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus! That He can be the righteous Judge of men and yet believing men can be freely justified by His Grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus! That God is merciful and gracious—and is ready to bless the most unworthy—is a wonderful piece of news, worth a man’s spending a hundred lives to tell! My heart leaps within me as I repeat it in this Hall and tell the penitent, the desponding and the despairing that, though their sins deserve Hell, yet Grace can give them Heaven and make them fit for it—and that as a sovereign act of love—altogether independent of their character or what they deserve! Because the Lord has said, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion,” there is hope for the most hopeless! Since “it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy,” (Rom. 9:16), there is an open door of hope for those who otherwise might despair!…

The Gospel message is of Grace because it is directed to those whose only claim is their need. (A Gospel Worth Dying For)

 But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. – Acts 20:24

Deeply distressed

Distress is not a bad thing when it happens because you are confronted by people without hope.  For those of us moving in the area of missions and Christian witness this is a common expression – distressed for those who do not know Jesus for reality is not without hope.

As followers of Christ we are fully aware that life is held by God – it is also a life where we find ourselves finding our life and our being in Him and by Him.  Life is about the fruit of the Spirit in full display as we live out our faith as devoted disciples of Jesus and not in things that do not matter.  Since Jesus is the source of our being that enables to be agents of peace and hope to a hurting world, and since we have experienced the love of God and the good news of eternal life, grace and forgiveness, we have much to offer our world of hurt.

 When Paul was so deeply distressed when he met a people group who had no idea who God was, maybe Paul was giving us an attitude that modelled somewhat how we need to approach our culture today.  Maybe hidden in this is a biblical perspective of culture that we can use to navigate ourselves through it and what our objective should be as we approach our world.  Confronting culture starts by engaging culture.  Their is neither a blending in because with that we cannot challenge it and we cannot run away and hide for with that we lose hope of changing culture.

Paul did not normally use this approach – sharing his hope in Jesus.  Normally he would use an apologetic approach.  I like this approach much better – it is definitely a more engaging approach and as a result there were invitations to speak more and to more people.

When we ask the world about their experience of looking for God’s presence and how others have looked for it, we know that we all are looking for that hope that will enable us to face the realities of this world.  Imagine what that conversation looks and sounds like at a funeral and then a wedding or a birth of a child.  What does God look like – His love, mercy, or truth in the lives of those who sit next to us, talk to us, join us in worship – by listening we find the language to speak of Jesus – crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. 

While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols.  – Acts 17:16

What must I do to be saved?

Are you willing to turn from what you have been trusting and transfer all your hope of heaven upon Christ?

What hope then do we have? God has made it possible for us to be reconciled to Him by providing a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. God sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life so that He could die, not for His own sins, but for ours.  

How can we can receive forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life? The Bible’s answer is that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace which we receive through Jesus by responding to Him in faith.

 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.  He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God. – Acts 16:28-34

We believe

… through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved. Peter compares these two contrary points – to have hope in the grace of Christ and to be under the yoke of the law.  So if we cannot receive salvation until the yoke of the law is removed then it follows that salvation is not in keeping the law at all and it also follows that those who have accepted the grace of Jesus are not subject to the curse of the law.   So it is that we hope for salvation by the grace of Christ.

To speak of salvation it is assumed that one would need salvation from something.  Jesus said He had come to seek and to save the lost.  What does it mean to be lost?

  • To be without hope and without God in this world.
  • To not know what it is to live now, and have no hope for life to come. 
  • Those who were dead while they were still alive.
  • It means to spend eternity in hell.

We believe…our church is doing a sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed – here is a bit of a taste of why such a statement of faith was necessary for the early Church.  Peter here is declaring his first statement of faith – “we believe through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved.” 

“Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe.  God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us.  He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” – Acts 15:6-11

We Believe – Kenneth Cope.wmv

 

My Redeemer lives

Amazing to find the Trinity here in Job.  The Holy Spirit has moved on the mind of Job and he as declared a good confession, soundness of his faith and assurance of his hope.  Somehow he knows that Jesus is his Redeemer and that his end hope is not in this world but in heaven. Somehow he knows that he is supposed to look for the resurrection and that his Redeemer would free him from the condemnation of sin and break the power and yoke of Satan.  His Redeemer was his salvation. This truth, this Holy Spirit quickening must be the root, as in a tree, in our heart too.  For this acceptance of grace in our heart will give us both the security and strength in our foundation as well as produce spiritual fruit in our lives as we live them today. Here he introduces God as his comfort and that God will avenge those who accuse him.

I can still remember the moment when I learned that love was a decision.  I am faced with a similar truth here too.  I am impressed with Job’s certainty.  This was a hope that he knew, and so in some way this was more than a hope but hope sprung from the truth that he declared about his Redeemer.

Other scholars are confident that Job anticipates the future resurrection of his body. Gleason Archer believes this passage “strongly suggests an awareness of the bodily resurrection that awaits all redeemed believers in the Resurrection” (1982, 241). Kaiser asserts: “Job was expecting a resurrection of his body! It was this which lay at the heart of his hope in God and in his vindication” (1988, 151). Andersen observes that: “The references to skin, flesh and eyes make it clear that Job expects to have this experience as a man, not just as a disembodied shade, or in his mind’s eye” (1974, 193).

In any case Job’s hope is in his present life, and in his vindication before God and man. This is not a messianic prophecy or expression of a messianic hope.

Job seems to perceive that the Redeemer who will advocate his case before God is none other than God Himself. It is hard to make sense of that except by the way we Christians know with God the Son as Redeemer standing before God the Holy Father as Judge. Job somehow—I suggest by the Holy Spirit—knows that his Redeemer lives and will advocate on his behalf, and that Job himself will see it in renewed flesh. That gives him hope—not mere wishful thinking but well-founded conviction, a knowing—of eventual vindication in eternal life.

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;  and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God – Job 19:25-26

Aria(soprano): I know that my Redeemer liveth

Choose life

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water[a] of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7

 

What is it that we are all here to do? They were here, as Browning would tell them, to make a choice. Their life’s value would be judged by the choice they made. A moral choice and a moral judgment—that was what they must, at their peril, to their cost, have made before they died. ‘I have set before you this day good and evil, life and death; therefore choose life.’ That was the cardinal secret, the challenge that was to ring in their ears day and night in every variety of experience and circumstance and condition, in hope and in fear, in sorrow and in joy, in confidence and in doubt, in darkness and light, at whatever social level their lot was cast, under whatever limitations life and death were set before them, and they were to choose one or the other; and each such choice determined their bent, and each such determination built up their character, and by that character, so formed, they were judged. Character—that was the key-word needed. They were looking round anxiously in London for men of character. But character belonged to the man who had gained a steady bent towards the right, and who had made his choice, who had committed himself on the side of a sound life, who could be counted on to be straight and true and pure. There was something in the man on which they could rely. His will always made in one way, and nothing could turn it aside, and that was the way of justice, and righteousness, and conscience. – Canon Scott Holland

As we follow Jesus, we are not choosing a life that by-passes the law or negates the need for boundaries, but we are looking for trust and love and hope in all of our actions.  A lot depends on why we seek to live a good life, to be responsible and to have principles – essentially determining why we want to live.  If by fear, then we play safe.  If to exclude and condemn, then others are right and others are wrong – welcome to structure turning life into a prison.  If out of trust in God, then we love how He purposed our lives to be – a world of caring for one another and having hope for the future no matter what life throws at us – in other words, real life.  If our life is lived in any matter resembling that of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is making our life real and that discovery is what makes real life, the only life worth living.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Living

No matter what your lot in life, one always has hopes for something better.  Most call that the search for happiness and most find ourselves prone to entertaining or even cherishing the thought of a better life and the possibilities of improving our opportunities.

It is also in living that we hope to make amends.  Living is the hope of choosing and possessing eternal life.

Such are the passages in the Bible for one who is contemplating ending their life at their own hand.  Life must be pretty messy for anyone to be in this state of mind – relationships turned bad, finances dried up and spiritually there is a distance too great for one to return to God.  But if you are breathing, there is hope that things will get better.  Too many people have built up on the ashes of failure – relationships get healed, health improves, finances are restored and the very mention of Jesus’ name brings the presence of God right into your life.

The sense of powerlessness and the inability to change things for the better puts God at a distance.  With Him so far away from us, we cannot hope to either understand or be part of God’s influence in our world.

When Solomon mentions this in Ecclesiastes, he is really saying that hope in this life only lasts to the grave.   I still remember my hopes – good health, falling in love, getting married, having children, finding a great job with enough pay to support my family and accomplishing a few ambitions along the way. But for the short time my life is on this earth, if these are my only hopes, then I am lost.  For it is the hope of eternal life and then living that hope after my death that I realize my hope all along – to spend eternity with Jesus.  Maybe Solomon was just trying to say that – maybe he wanted us to enjoy life, as difficult at that might be, but to not put our hope just in this one, short life.  Enjoy it, yes, live it, yes, but to place our hope in Jesus so that when we die we can spend the rest of eternity with Him and live in the place He has prepared for us.

This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone. Moreover, the hearts of all are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But whoever is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.  The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost.  Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished; never again will they have any share in all that happens under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 9:3-6

This Is Living (feat. Lecrae) (Music Video) – Hillsong Young & Free

 

The certainty on death

I cannot tell you, good woman, what is to become of the little child who is pressed to your bosom this evening. God bless it and make it a comfort to you and an honor to His church! But it is all matter of hope as yet. Children are certain cares, they say, and uncertain blessings. I hardly like the phrase. They are blessings anyway—but there is certainly this about them—we cannot tell what will become of them when they grow up and come under the influence of evil. You look upon a youth as he grows up and you feel, “I cannot quite see what you will be. You may be led astray by temptation, or by divine grace you may cleanse your way. You may be useful and honorable, or you may be dissolute and degraded. ”Everything is uncertain about the child on his birthday, but everything is certain about the saint on his death day. Spurgeon
When we are born we begin life, but what will that life be? Friends say, “Welcome, little stranger.” Ah, but what kind of reception will the stranger get when he is no longer a new-comer? He who is newly born and is ordained to endure through a long life is like a warrior who puts on his harness for battle; and is not he in a better case who puts it off because he has won the victory? Ask any soldier which he likes best, the first shot in the battle or the sound which means “Cease firing, for the victory is won.” When we were born we set out on our journey; but when we die we end our weary march in the Father’s house above. Surely it is better to have come to the end of the tiresome pilgrimage than to have commenced it. Better is the day of death than our birthday, because about the birthday there hangs uncertainty. I heard this morning of a dear friend who had fallen asleep. When I wrote to his wife I said, “Concerning him we speak with certainty. You sorrow not as those that are without hope. A long life of walking with God proved that he was one of God’s people, and we know that for such there remains joy without temptation, without sorrow, without end, for ever and ever.” Oh, then, as much as certainty is better than uncertainty, the day of the saint’s death is better than the day of his birth. So, too, in things which are certain the saint’s death-day is preferable to the beginning of life, for we know that when the child is born he is born to sorrow. Trials must and will befall, and your little one who is born to-day is born to an inheritance of grief, like his father, like his mother, who prophesied it as it were by her own pangs. But look, now, at the saint when he dies. It is absolutely certain that he has done with sorrow, done with pain. Now, surely, the day in which we are certain that sorrow is over must be better than the day in which we are certain that sorrow is on the road. – Spurgeon
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death, than the day of birth – Ecclesiastes 7:1

What will be after you?

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:24

We can look to grace and the leading of the Holy Spirit to help us learn how to take the evil in this world and see it turned into good.  Since life and its earthly pursuits are without purpose, your hope is Jesus, who cannot disappoint.  Grace enables us to walk through this world of sin, sorrow, self-serving and troubles with wise indifference as we await our place to be prepared.  For Jesus Himself promised us who have missed His grace, those of us who are weary and burdened with this world’s care, to come to Him and He would give us rest.  He has graciously purposed Himself to be our joy.  So let us not be so earthly minded as to prefer the shadows, to be in love with our chains, to pursue phantoms and to reject the everlasting realities. 

Lord Jesus, do not only invite, but allure me with your grace.  You have birthed hope by your resurrection from the dead, and offer to us the inheritance of an incorruptible, purity, eternal life.  Today, lead me by the teaching influences of the Holy Spirit that I may set my sights on the heavenly things – may the things that matter to You, matter to me.

These are the questions that I can ask myself and others — 

  • Do I know the meaning of life and what will happen when I die?
  • Can I explain the good news of Jesus Christ to another person?
  • Does my life exude hope and purpose to my family members, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances?If not, why not?
  • How can I become a more contagious Christian?
  • What about “new” things? Is there any hope there? Is there anything altogether new?

As much as we need to learn how to live with evil, that is, to accept life in this cursed world with all of its labyrinths, we are called for something more.  We can choose between abandoned resignation or for mastery and both are poor choices for resignation entails fatalism and not faith and mastery is a form of striving that leaves one with a handful of air.  Rather we are called to obedient fear and humility before God who alone purposes everything.  I do not talk about false hopes too much, but in this case the idea that I read of “shepherding the wind” should be replaced with a confident enjoyment of His gifts which He gives in the few years we have on this earth.

How self-serving is it for us to contend with God.  Who contends with someone greater than themselves? Again, there is no hope for such purposes, yet even we, as followers of Christ, sometimes contend with Him.  If He permits us to be disappointed in our aspirations, we right away demand – “why is this?”  I think most of us have seen this getting carried away and carried on and on and on.  The end result unfortunately with the individual who would not forgive God.  That kind of rebellious spirit creates ten times more pain than the affliction itself. 

For who knows what is good for mortals while they live the few days of their vain life, which they pass like a shadow? For who can tell them what will be after them under the sun? – Ecclesiastes 6:12

Speaking into lives

I look at events that have attracted large crowds to them and I try to see if the people are there for the speaker, or the singer or for the entertainment or for something to do just to have fun.

It would not surprise me if all of these were reasons at some point or another.  But to consistently be at a seminar where the Kingdom of God was the only discussion, it would seem that you would need quite the motivational speaker.

Our world has seen its share of them, whether we have seen them on TV or in our mega church scenario or even our evangelists who have engaged with audiences all over the world.

The one thing that draws all of us to them – whether they are good or bad – is that they have the ability to tap into our mainstream need to hope.  That need to hope for another day, to get through the day, to make the day seem not so dark is a need that many keep looking for without be satisfied that they have received it.

What seems worse is that even our best evangelist – and let’s say that is Billy Graham – only 3% of those who make a commitment to follow Jesus actually remain faithful to that commitment. 

It seems that hope is fleeting, does not have anchors, the lottery ticket concept of hope causes us to keep trying other things.

So when the crowds gather around Jesus, He tells them straight out, as much as His message is designed to bring them to God, He knows that many of them will not be able to come as they will fall away. But for those who are ready to follow, their lives will exponentially explode as God works in their life.  Their hopes of a life changed will be realized.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.  Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach – Matthew 13:1-2

TobyMac – Speak Life