My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27
From the Desk of Pastor Ed Lawfer
WE MEET AT THE CROSS
There was an entrepreneur who was extremely religious as well as being highly successful in his business. Merchandise was being sold and traded, and the cash register was busily ringing up high totals every day. He felt he had made his niche in society, because he could afford an expensive team of horses, and a beautiful carriage to transport him to the Temple each Sabbath day. People in the congregation would stare as he walked in and seated himself in the front row of the synagogue with the other members of the local top society. He was contented with his current status, except one thing had been bothering him, and he asked the Rabbi about that. He knew that he was always very careful about obeying the commandments, but he thought there must be something more that God must require of him. However, his Rabbi assured him that he was doing just fine, and there will surely be a place for him in Abraham's bosom when he departs this life.
But he heard about this amazing prophet that had been healing the sick and raising the dead, and preaching a message of assurance. He thought maybe he could meet this man and if he agrees with what the Rabbi told him, he would be able to rest assured and confident that all will be well with his soul. So one day he heard that this Prophet Jesus was in town, and after searching diligently, he found where He was and went running up to meet Him. He inquired of Jesus what requirements must he fulfill in order to be assured of eternal life. He boasted to the Lord that he surely kept all the commandments, but wanted to know if God would require more than that from a person to enter into eternal life. Jesus loved him for his diligence in trying to please God and for his efforts to abide by all the law of Moses. However, Jesus told him (in Mark 10:21 KJV), "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up your cross and follow Me." This man was sad and very grieved at this saying. He owned much property, a business, a wealthy place in the community and a large bank account. He thought to himself that no way was he about to part with any of them. He was always taught that just going to synagogue and giving ten percent of his income was buying him a seat in Paradise, but Jesus was telling him that was not all there was to it. God requires your all in complete surrender, because without faith it is impossible to please God. God was looking to see if he had the faith to be saved (Hebrews 11:6). The man knew he had to decide whether to believe Jesus or his Rabbi. In his heart he knew that Jesus was right, but the price was too high to pay in order to get into Paradise. And so he turned and walked away sadly and decided he wanted to hold onto what he had in this world, and take his chance on eternity. After all, he thought, Jesus only has a few followers that had given all to be His followers. The majority of people must be right, and they aren't following Jesus; so therefore Jesus must be wrong--the masses most certainly can't be wrong. If so, only a few will make it into Heaven. But God is a loving, forgiving God, and He will certainly have mercy on the majority, if they are wrong by not following Jesus.
But I'm sure that those words of Jesus were still reverberating in his ears as he departed from the Lord's presence, "One thing you lack...take up your cross and follow Me." Paul, like Jesus, is also telling us the importance of that cross in the life of the true believer in Colossians 1:20-21, when he reminds us of our former life of disobedience to God and how our allegiance was to our lustful fleshly desires. And as he says, we were enemies of God in our minds; but now, Jesus has reconciled us and made peace between God and ourselves, and all this He accomplished thorugh the blood of His cross. How blessed we are today to have the exact same assurance that Paul had and wrote to us in Colossians 2:1, when he declared that in Christ lives all the fullness of the Godhead. And then he goes on to explain that before we knew Christ we were dead in sin and living a Godless life; and then Jesus blotted out all of the sins on our slate and nailed them to His cross. How precious, then, is the cross of our precious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why for over two thousand years that cross has identified Christians by wearing jewelry in the shape of a cross-- and the same symbol is on Bible covers and book covers, and has identified churches and religions that were affiliated with Christianity. Paul writes in Colossians 1:20-21, that it is through the cross of Christ that men and women have been drawn out of the world to surrender their lives to Christ. In Ephesians 2:16, Paul explains how the Heavenly Father, through Christ's cross, has broken down the enmity that existed between God and the true followers of Christ and reconciled us together with Christ through His death on the cross. How precious is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ to all true believers today...certainly the same as in the times of the Apostle Paul. And the Apostle Paul admonishes believers in our day to be followers of Christ, using his walk as an example (Philippians 3:17-21) and avoid those that are not following Christ in this manner. However, he admonishes, even weeping, that there would be many who would not follow in Paul's walk in his day, and he classifies them as enemies of the cross of Christ whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly and who mind earthly things--as opposed to the true believers, whose thoughts, life and actions reflect the life of Christ. Therefore it behooved Paul to write in Galatians 6:14 that, "it would be far from me to glory in anything of this world, or in any one person in this world, or in anything of the flesh, other than me to glory only in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." But Paul fully realized that Satan would try to stamp out the true meaning of the cross, especially in the end of this current dispensation. Unfortunately he seems to have hit it right on in 1 Corinthians 1:17-18, when he wrote that the preaching of the cross is, to those who are perishing, foolishness. We suppose that is why many have removed the sign of the cross from church buildings that are professing to be Christian; but Paul closed his observation with, "but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
Let's bring back that cross in our lives, as the Apostle Paul did in Romans 1:16, when he said that he is, "not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation unto the Jew first and also to the Gentile." Or as the beloved Apostle John stated in 2 John 9, for those who sin in not continuing in Christ's teaching (in the Gospels) have not God, but he that continues in Christ's teaching (in the Gospels) has both the Father and the Son.
George Bennard wrote "The Old Rugged Cross" back in 1913, and it is said to have been the greatest hymn written in that century; in fact, it is reported to have been more popular than any music written in that century, whether secular or Christian. At the time he wrote it, he received some criticism that we should be focusing on Christ more than the cross, but we know when we see a building with a cross on the steeple, we know to go in there to fellowship with people who believe in the Christ of the cross. Let's not let Satan take down the cross, but be as proud as the Apostle Paul was when he said that he glories in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).
Matthew 14: 28-30
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
While Jesus was on the mountain in earnest prayer to the Heavenly Father, He made certain that His disciples were safe and secure in the ship which He had suggested that they use to reach the shore on the other side. When He came down from prayer the ship and the disciples were half way to the other side. Jesus decided to walk out on the water to meet their ship. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water they thought it must be a ghost, because they did not recognize Jesus in the darkness. But Jesus then identified Himself and told them to be of good cheer, because it is I, so don’t be afraid. Peter answered Him and said if it is you then give me the order to come to you by walking on the water. Jesus responded to Peter’s request by ordering him to come to Him. Peter came out of the ship, and began to walk on the water to get to Jesus. Then a strong wind suddenly came up and Peter’s attention was distracted. He got his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the boisterous wind. Fear took control of Peter and then he began to sink. As he was going down he cried out to the Lord: save me. Jesus stretched out His hand instantly and caught Peter and said “Why did you doubt, O ye of little faith?” We are commanded by Jesus to continue in a daily walk with Him by our remaining in the Gospel; His precious Word. “If ye continue in My word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). As the Apostle Paul told us in Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ live in you richly.
What happened to Peter may be a perfect example of what happens to us when we become distracted from putting Christ’s Words first in our daily walk. We, like Peter, begin to sink back into the world, and then also, like Peter, we must yell out “Lord save me, I’m sinking back into the sea of this world.” This incident also shows us that it is impossible to walk in the Christian life apart from Christ and keeping our eyes riveted on Him. To look away from Jesus in the gospel is to fail: but to keep our eyes on Jesus in the Gospels is to be able to walk that Christian life victoriously. It is just the minute that we begin to be too busy with our life and our activities that we begin to sink. If we are truly one of His sheep we will turn back to Him in the Gospels and cry out for restoration and divine power to live that God ordained victorious life, because “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)
One of the most popular parables that Jesus spoke in the Gospels of the New Testament was the parable of the sower. He is describing the farmer that expects to harvest a crop in late summer, and he sows the seed early in the Spring of the year. Obviously because he wants a good size and healthy crop to grow, he plants a good deal of seed in the soil. Wouldn’t that be marvelous if every one of those seeds did grow and produce a crop? No, you say, it wouldn’t, because they would crowd each other out and would never mature to bring forth fruit, or else the fruit would be dwarfed and not marketable. So why so many seeds then? Because the farmer knows that birds will follow behind him and devour as many of the seeds as they are able to get. But then also some seeds will mature but they fell in the wrong place to grow a healthy crop of fruit, because other plants will choke the life out of them. The analogy that He is giving is one that is similar to one He used in the 13th chapter of Matthew, when He told of the fisherman that used a net to do his fishing: and He threw the net into the water and he hit a great place because when he pulled in the net it was full of all kinds of fish. However, some of the fish in the net were not marketable and some were. He took the ones that He chose and He threw the rest back in the pond.
We see in these two parables that all of the seeds in the first parable had the same opportunity to end up as a mature stalk and loaded with fruit. Was there a difference in the seeds? No! Then what was the difference? It was in the soil where the seed was planted. It had to do with, not the seed, but where the seed landed. Jesus is telling us that the Word is what bears fruit and it is sown forth throughout the world, but the soil where it lands makes all the difference in what kind of fruit develops. He is saying that many people will hear His Word, even quote it, but never act upon it; it never has a chance. Many profess to accept the Lord, but then after making a profession they soon forget about the experience, and go about their own business. Others hear, but after a little time, they are distracted because of the lure of other things. They cannot spend time in studying Jesus’ Words and so they let the experience pass away, and someone says that’s all right…you’ve accepted the Lord, that’s all that you are required to do. But some of the seeds begin to grow as the apostle Peter said in II Peter 3:18: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. They fell solidly into the soil and got a good foundation – I Corinthians 3:11 “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ”. After describing this parable to His audience, He said in Mark 4: 24,25 (NLT): “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given – and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them”. Jesus said the listeners will grow, but those that fail to listen will soon lose even that which they thought they had. He is saying that some get close to entering the kingdom, but don’t quite make it; such as the rich young ruler who came to Jesus for eternal life, but when Jesus gave him the requirements; he said no, I don’t want to pay the price and he walked away from Jesus and went back to his old ways. He did not want to continue to listen to the Words of Christ, and Jesus said in John 8: 31 and 32: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. Jesus specified stay with Me and I will get you into the Kingdom of God. But many are like the rich young ruler and don’t choose the Kingdom because they prefer to do their own will, and follow their own desires. So this man walked away feeling very sorry, but nevertheless resolved in his decision to reject the way that Jesus had given him. A disciple is just another word for a student, and Jesus told us that we must continue to read and listen to His Word in order to qualify as a student, much as in the academia. If you fail to attend regular class sessions, you are not a student, and even if you call yourself one, you would nevertheless fail the course (John 8:31,32).
We read in Acts 11:26 “… And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch”. It was the students that were classified as Christians, but today the name Christian is applied too loosely to just a Sunday go to church person and not really a student of the Lord Jesus Christ. A student in college would certainly not be classified a student if he only went to class one day a week. Jesus calls His own to a daily walk with Him. If a person is a true believer they do not have to be told to read His Word everyday, but they will WANT to read His Word everyday.
I remember the story that was told of the young woman who heard about this popular best seller book that everyone was raving about. So after her curiosity got aroused she went out and bought the book and she read it, and found it to be one of the worst books she had ever read, and tossed it aside. Months later she was at a dinner engagement and was introduced to an attractive young man. The two were drawn together, and she really fell in love with this man. Then she found out that this was the man who wrote that book she had tossed aside. Now she picked up the book and read and reread that same book she hated. Now she loved the book and kept reading it over and over again. What was the difference: had the book changed? No, but she fell in love with the author and that is what makes the difference: when you meet Jesus and truly love Him, you will love His Word and keep reading it, because now you know the author. Love makes the difference. When you’ve been married for scores of years and you have spent a close fellowship with your spouse, you have a tendency to repeat certain stories over and over again. I know I do that, and one time I asked my wife, “I know that you must have heard me tell that story 50 times or more over the years that we’ve been together, but there you sit with so much interest as if you never heard it before: why didn’t you tell me to forget it, I’ve heard it before”. But her response was that she knew the story but she just loved to hear me tell it and she said that every time she hears it that it’s just like the first time all over again. What was she telling me? She was telling me it wasn’t just the story, but the story teller that she loved. She was just letting me know that her love for me was just as great as my love for her. I believe when you are reading the Gospel message over and over again it is always new to you, you are saying Lord I love you and you can never ever bore me with your message, because I just love to hear you tell it and I know that your love for me is far greater than my love for you can ever be. Jesus says: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: 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”. (Revelation 3:20)
Accept His invitation for dinner by reading the Gospel of St. John 21 times.
Beloved in Christ,
In the NIV translation of Luke 13:24 we read: "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many I tell you will try to enter and will not be able to. The teachings of Jesus are consistently that of perseverance. He made it clear that those who procrastinate will never make it into the Kingdom of God. We learn from the man that wanted to follow Jesus, but his first excuse was that he wanted to bury his father first. In other words, I'll be glad to serve you, Lord, after my father dies. We know that it was the Jewish custom to bury the dead the first day, and so it is obvious that his father was not yet deceased. He was willing to follow Jesus at a time which would be to his convenience, and Jesus is teaching that when He presents the opportunity to you, that is the proper time. "Now is the accepted time", (II Corinthians 6:2). "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts", Hebrews 4:7.
It is obvious that God has made every provision for us to respond to His beckoning at the time that He speaks to us, and so many times we put it off for some reason or another. The only problem is that we find when we later try to do that which we should have done at an earlier time, the same door that was then wide open to us, we find it is now ten times harder to open now. I always get a blessing from the K.S. Wuest translation of Matthew 8:7, "Keep on asking for something to be given and it shall be given you. Keep on seeking and you shall find. Keep on reverently knocking and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking for something to be given, keeps on receiving. And he who keeps on seeking, keeps on finding. And to him who keeps on reverently knocking, it shall be opened." The Lord tells us in Proverbs 6:6, "Go to the ant, you sluggard: consider its ways and be wise!" It is amazing how the ant continues relentless in the pursuit of the goal which it has set about to accomplish. God wants us to continue to pursue that course that we know He has tailored for us. Even if we failed Him the first, second or even the third or more times. Just keep on going after that God-ordained course for your life.
Thomas Edison did not give up when his first efforts to find an effective filament for the incandescent lamp failed. He did countless experiments with countless kinds of materials. As each failed he would toss it out the window. The pile reached to the second story of his house. Then he sent men to China, Japan, South America, Asia, Jamaica, Ceylon and Burma in search of fibres and grasses to be tested in his laboratory....One day, after 13 exhaustive months of repetitive failures, he finally succeeded in his search for a filament that would stand the stress of electric current.
It was his persistence amidst such discouraging odds that has given the world the wonderful electric light which we now all are able to enjoy.
In sports everyone remembers Babe Ruth for being such a tremendous hitter, and for the 714 home runs that he batted in. However, how often do we think that at that same time, he struck out 1330 times? He didn't quit because of the strike-outs, and because he didn't he is remembered for his home-runs. If you and I don't quit because of our strike-outs, some day up in glory we will be remembered for our home-runs.