How Great Salvation

It was my wonderful joy and privilege earlier today (Saturday) to lead a new believer to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is always a profound experience to do so, and of course I’ve been thinking about it all day. 

As one recounts the simple plan of salvation, one has to be reminded of his own experience of coming to Christ in humility and gratitude. Saying the words, saying the verses (I like to use the Roman Road to Salvation) has to remind us of what Jesus did; of what God provided; that greater love has no man than this, to lay down His life for His friends. 

Here are the verses: 

Romans 3:10

Romans 3:23

Romans 5:12

Romans 5:8

Romans 6:23

Romans 10: 9, 10, and 13

Other verses I like to use:  I John 5:13, and John 10: 27-30. 

If we were capable of being good enough, by following rules, to achieve heaven, then Jesus didn’t have to die. 

But He did have to die, as the perfect, unblemished sacrifice to not only cover our sin, but to wash us clean. 

If He had died on the cross and been buried, that would not have been any different than the thousands of others who suffered a similar execution at the hands of the Romans. But He conquered sin and death and rose from the grave, and that’s what makes the difference. 

Because He lives, we can live also. 

If you would like to know more, please message me.  I will be more than glad to help you. 

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“I Will Come and Heal Him”

Matthew 8:7-8. “AndJesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.”

This Gentile centurion stepped up to Jesus and showed complete, unquestioning faith in Him.  Wouldn’t you love to have been there?  To have seen the faces of the Jews who surrounded Jesus, walked with Him, and  had nothing but revulsion for this arrogant Roman? 

Maybe he wasn’t so arrogant. When Jesus offered to go and heal the servant, the centurion immediately said, “You don’t have to enter my home to do this.  I am not worthy that You should do so.  Only speak, and my servant will be healed.”

I’ve been thinking about this all week.  It’s simply amazing. I wonder if this centurion had been studying the Hebrew scriptures, or talking with people who had seen and heard Jesus. How did he have such unquestioning faith in Him? How did he understand, from his position of authority, that he was face to face with One Who was far above him? 

What a great foreshadowing of this Church Age in which we are privileged to live. This dispensation is characterized by the mercy God has shown to the gentile nations. Jesus is not physically with us, and yet it is by His Word that we are healed. We need to do nothing; only believe, as the centurion believed.

 

 

Anger: Unmet Expectations

Unmet expectations.  One of the biggest causes of anger  is when we have such high hopes, and then we come crashing down into reality.  We’re disappointed because we don’t get what we wanted, the way we wanted. We’re heartbroken because of failed relationships; we’re just plain angry at the loss of a job or perhaps something of value that was stolen from us.  We’re frustrated that we aren’t achieving financial goals while others seem to ride the winds of worldly success with very little effort.

Here’s the thing.  We want. We are born wanting.  We want food, sleep, and human contact.  Later, we want complete control of our toys, and maybe of everyone else’s as well.  Later still, we want control of our own lives even though we’re still living on our parents’ nickle. We want a car, we want all the electronic stuff, we want the cool clothes, we want a girlfriend or a boyfriend.

When the “wanter” that lives in each of us is allowed to dictate our behavior, we are bound to be angry quite a bit of the time.  See, other people mostly just don’t care if our wants are fulfilled, because they’re all focused on their own.  Parents, it’s very important to teach your little ones to have a spirit of gratitude, and not a spirit of discontent.

We are plagued with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). The lust of the flesh includes tasting, touching, smelling, and hearing. There is a strong appeal to our senses, and we crave to satisfy our senses. Our bodily appetites demand to be satisfied, and when they are not, we’re angry.

The lust of the eyes is seeing. It involves covetousness, a malicious desire for what other have that you do not.

The pride of life is thinking you are special because of who you are, what you have, what you know, or what you look like. Today, we call this a sense of entitlement.  We really do seem to believe we are somehow special, set apart, and that we deserve to have everything our own way.

Unmet expectations.

The Bible says we need to humble ourselves (James 4:5-8). We need to recognize that we are NOT above anyone else; that we do NOT deserve special treatment.  I’ve always found it interesting that we are told to humble ourselves; we are not encouraged to ask God to humble us. It is only when we deliberately choose to submit to His authority that true humility can grow in our hearts.

We are to draw near to God.  We do this by dying to ourselves every day (I Cor. 15:31), and allowing His Holy Spirit to control our wants.  We are to resist the devil, and he will flee from us.  To resist is not to chase or attack; it is to stand fast and firm in God’s strength.

So how dow we replace this cycle of anger?  The answer is in Ephesians 4:22-24. “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Let me give you my own paraphrase of that passage:  In order to become contented and filled with the Holy Spirit,  we need to take off our former behavior, which is the  old sin nature, as if we were taking off a garment. That garment , that behavior, is corrupt because it is based on deceitful cravings and appetites. We have to be made new in the spirit of our minds, our thinking. This can be done when, after taking off the old nature, we replace it with the new nature, which is the Spirit of God, created in righteousness and true holiness.

Set aside old habits, thoughts and behaviors.  Anger will go away right along with them. When we no longer allow ourselves, with the power of the Spirit, to dwell on unrealistic hopes, dreams, expectations–the anger, hurt and disappointment make a quiet exit out the back door.

We’re going to look at another aspect of unresolved anger next week, again in Ephesians 4.

The Centurion

Matthew 8:5-6. “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him, and saying, Lord,my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously  tormented.”

We’re going to take at least a couple of days to walk through this one.  There are so many fascinating details that I don’t want to rush through this next story. 

Capernaum is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  It was  the home town of the apostles Peter, James, Andrew and John, and the tax collector Matthew. Jesus spent a lot of time there, teaching in the synagogue and on the surrounding hillsides and shores. During Rome’s occupation of Israel, Capernaum was a major stop on the highway between Rome and Jerusalem.  It was probably at its most prosperous during this time, and a large synagogue was built in the center of the city to accommodate both the citizens and the travelers on the trade routes. As such, it was a perfect hub for Jesus’ ministry. 

A centurion was the captain over 100 men, which was in turn a 60th part of a Roman legion. The centurion had absolute authority over his men in every detail of their lives.  Understanding the power of his position, and that he was a gentile and probably a worshiper of the Roman pantheon of gods, it is more than a little surprising that, first, he sought out Jesus; and second, that he beseeched Him.  Centurions didn’t beseech anyone!

One wonders how the centurion heard of Jesus; how he knew what Jesus’ reputation already was at this period, and why he seems so readily to have believed what he had heard. Obviously, people were talking about Jesus.  Isn’t it amazing how that has never stopped?  People are still talking about Jesus, whether pro or con.  You simply cannot ignore the Son of God!

It would seem that God had already been working in the heart of this powerful centurion. He was looking for something, anything, that would help his servant–which brings me to look at the centurion’s character. 

He was that concerned for his servant?  Really?  That’s amazing! Apparently, this was a man of noble character; kindness, concern, sincere love for those who operated under his authority. No wonder Jesus so quickly agreed to help him. 

This centurion represents a turning of the tide in Jesus’ ministry.  To this point, He had spoken specifically to the Jews.  Many of the people followed His progress throughout the land, but the Jewish religious leaders rejected Him. Even those who physically followed His progress  turned their backs on Him in Jerusalem after His arrest. As a result, Jesus began to direct more of His ministry to the gentiles, making it clear beforehand that salvation was offered not just to Israel. 

The centurion described his servant as being sick with palsy, and “grievously tormented.”  Palsy was a paralytic condition often accompanied by involuntary tremors, spasms, and muscle seizures. It was painful and debilitating. It is likely that it was what we now know as Parkinson’s Disease. The Greek word used here for grievous is deinos, and denotes excessive, terrible pain. 

The thing that fascinates me at this point is that the centurion simply stated the problem.  He didn’t demand, order, command or force Jesus in any way.  I picture him as standing strong with all his authority clearly settled on his shoulders, but with an attitude of begging for help.  That’s what beseech means–to beg.  That a man of such power was begging Jesus for help certainly points to a kind heart and an innate humility.  Living in Israel, he would have surely learned that as a gentile he was owed no special treatment by this Jewish teacher Who could heal people of their diseases. 

Stay with me.  This story gets even better!

 

If Thou Will

Matthew 8: 2-4. “And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, if Thou will, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth His hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”

Jesus showed Himself to be Jehovah, the King, when He healed. Jehovah alone could show Himself like this in mercy, healing and restoring. Later, in chapter 12, Jesus says, “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?”  He said this in response to the Pharisees’ accusation that He healed by the power of Satan.

His healing power was seen, in the Old Testament  (Isaiah 35) in connection with the kingdom. But the King and the kingdom are rejected, and the kingdom is postponed, and the nations wait with a groaning creation for the glorious fulfilment of this chapter in Isaiah. Surely this old world is groaning today under the load of our sin and the evil of the Prince of the Power of the Air!

In that day, the evils of leprosy will no longer exist.  It is a horrible disease, disfiguring and defiling its victims as their bodies decompose  and waste away. What a picture leprosy is of the results of sin allowed to settle in our hearts and minds, crippling us from the inside out and rotting  us away at the core. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I look forward to being free of sin and its corruption!

In this miracle, Israel is represented by the leper. Leprosy is a type, or picture, of sin. There was no cure then, and it is still a dreaded disease. It is curable now, but the stigma and the dread are still there. In Jesus’ day, only Jehovah could heal the awful disease.

The man Jesus healed, we are told in Luke 5:12, was full of leprosy.  It seems to have been in its advanced stages.  He represents the condition of Israel described in Isaiah 1:5,6. The whole head is sick, the heart faint. From the sole of the foot to the head, it is unsound.  It has wounds, bruises  and putrid sores, not treated or bandaged. It’s a terrible picture, for sure. Worse, because of the disease, a leper was outcast and wandered from place to place, seeking shelter and finding only greater misery.

When the leper saw Jesus, he fell before Him and worshipped Him, acknowledging His power alone to heal the leprosy if He chose to do so. Jesus reached out, touched him, and spoke: “I will. Be thou clean.”

And the leper was clean! He was whole, completely healed, skin as fresh as a baby’s! No sign of the disease remained.  Jesus would do the same for Israel if only they asked. He showed Himself here as Jehovah-Rophe, the Lord Who heals.

Jesus sent the cleansed leper to the priest and told him to perform the offering (gift) that Moses had ordained, fulfilling the Law that Jesus had not yet fulfilled Himself. He warned the leper to tell no other person, because the priest was the only one who had the authority to pronounce the leper to be cleansed and thereby allow him back into the community.

Now, think for a moment with me.  What if you had been that priest, and a known leper in the advanced stages of the disease came to you, showing you that he was healed, cleansed, and whole.  Would you have looked, pronounced him clean, sent him away and simply gone back to your work?  Wouldn’t you have a million questions?  How, who, when, what, where?? Wouldn’t you have run out to see the One Who had done the miracle?  Wouldn’t you have called to everyone, “Come and see the Man Who healed the leper!  This is a miracle!”

No such thing is recorded.  We don’t know what the priest may have said or done in private, but he certainly is not recorded as having even so much as asked the leper how this had come to be.

So, are we any different today when we see God working among us?  When a soul is saved from endless torment, when a marriage is healed, when a child survives a dreaded cancer? Or when you missed being in a serious accident by no more than a whisper? Or the money is just always there when you need it?

We can’t point our fingers at the apparently unimpressed priest without having three other fingers pointing back at ourselves. We see miracles every day, but we fail to give the credit to God. We are without excuse.

A New Section of Matthew

Matthew 8:1. “When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him.”

Chapters 8-12 tell the wonderful stories of Jesus’ ministry to His own people. Each story carries a specific significance as Jesus journies ever closer to the cross. He is making Himself plain as the divine King, the Jehovah and Messiah of the Old Testament.  It doesn’t take too long before those who should most have recognized Him began to revile Him, even accusing Him of working His miracle by the power of Beelzebub.  These five chapters tell the story of the full manifestation of Jehovah-Jesus among His own people, and their rejection of the King. 

I’ve heard people wonder, and have wondered myself:  If I had been there, would I have followed Him?  Would I have believed His words and His miracles and known Him for Who He was? Or would I have been skeptical and cast doubt on the veracity of His words and actions?  I don’t know.  I would like to think I would have known Him, but then I, we all, have the benefit of hindsight. 

I’m looking forward to these next five chapters.  So many wonderful events take place as Jesus reveals Himself to His chosen people.  I hope you’re excited about it, too.  We’ll hear all our favorite Sunday school stories, and I’ll be picturing the flannelgraph board in my mind. It’s really a shame that we tend to relegate these stories as “children’s stories.”  They’re so important for us, as well.

Our verse today tells us that after Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount, He came back down into the areas of the towns and villages; also, we read that  “great multitudes” followed Him. No wonder.  What they had just heard was new, different, exciting and challenging. 

Truly, Jesus was something unusual.