Monday, April 19, 2021

"God loves naughty boys"

Henry Ironside, who ministered in the first half of the 1900’s, pastoring the Moody Church in Chicago for 20 years, tells this story.

“I remember, when I was a boy, going to a missionary meeting. A missionary was there from Africa and was showing us a whole lot of curious things, and then he said, ‘Now, boys, I want to tell you the kind of Gospel we preach to the people of Africa. How many good boys have we here?’ 

A lot of us thought we were good, but our mothers were there, and so not one of us dared hold up his hand. ‘Well,’ said he, ‘not one good boy here; then I have the same message for you that we have for the heathen in Africa; God loves naughty boys.’ 

‘My,’ I thought, ‘he is getting all mixed up,’ for you see I had heard people say, ‘If you are good God will love you.’ But, dear friends, that is not true. God is not waiting for you to be good so He can love you; God loves sinners.” 

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Friend, if you’ve been hearing people say (and believing) that God can only love you if you’re good, then this revelation of God’s sacrificial love can change your world. The truth is that apart from Christ we’re all morally deficient, ungodly sinners and even enemies of God. We’ve done nothing – and can do nothing – to earn God’s love. 

Truly, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). 

And as it is written, “None is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). 

As rebellious, self-centered trespassers, we deserve the wrath of God, not His love. 

But here’s what you need to hear and believe and embrace: God is love! And being rich in mercy, overflowing with grace, whose love is unfailing, unending, unconditional, and unparalleled; whose love is amazing, steadfast, great, and perfect; this God put His love on display for all to see by sending His Son Jesus into our world to die in our place. 

Not for the good boys, but for the naughty boys.

And on the cross of Calvary, the blood of Jesus shed for the forgiveness of sins can make the sinners clean, washing away every stain, making us right with God, and saving us from His just wrath. Not only that, but He adopts us into His family as sons and daughters, and by His resurrection victory He gives us the promise of eternal life. 

And I don’t even have room to unpack the abundance of life that He gives us even now – a life of purpose and meaning, fellowship in His presence and with His people, peace that passes all understanding, joy inexpressible, hope unshakeable, and the guidance and comfort and help and power of His Holy Spirit all the time, every day, every step of the way! 

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene

And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean

How marvelous, how wonderful, and my song shall ever be

How marvelous, how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me! 

Have you received this gift of God’s sacrificial love that brings eternal life? Why not repent from sin, trust Him today as Savior, and surrender to Him as Lord? It doesn’t matter what’s in your past or where you’re at right now. Come to Him in faith. God loves naughty boys. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ready for Revival

I am ready for a revival! How about you?

I am ready to see God reignite a flame in the heart of every believer. I am ready to see the power of Jesus’ resurrection victory transform lives for His glory. I am ready to see what happens when the Holy Spirit fills the followers of Jesus for undivided loyalty and unbridled obedience to the will of God.

I am ready to see Christians get thoroughly right with God, confessing and renouncing sin, turning away from every form of wickedness, putting all idolatry and immorality to death, and finding the freedom of cleansing forgiveness in Christ fresh and new like never before.

I am ready to see those who claim the name of Jesus embrace Him fully, clothing themselves in His righteousness, transformed by the renewal of their minds, abiding richly in Christ, delighting in His Word, and walking in lockstep with the Holy Spirit day by day.

I am ready to see a new hunger for the things of God among His people, passionately pursuing purity and holiness, living by faith and not by sight, loving the Lord with everything they’ve got and loving their neighbor as themselves.

I am ready to see revival!

I am ready to see the church on her knees pleading with the Father to pour out His mercy upon us, to amaze us anew with His grace, to overwhelm us again with His unfailing love, and to unleash the wonder of His power at work within us.

I am ready to see the church praying earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest fields, to raise up men and women who will unashamedly witness for the gospel in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces and schools, and to call out some to serve as vocational missionaries, pastors, and ministers to the hurting and helpless.

I am ready to see the church crying out to God for the salvation of lost souls with an aching that cannot be quenched apart from a mighty and marvelous work of God.

I am ready for revival!

And I am ready to experience the heart of true surrender in the church, with the Bride of Christ giving herself in full submission to the mission of her Savior, putting herself at the disposal of God to be used any way He desires to reach others for Christ.

I am ready to see prodigals coming home, the hopeless finding hope, the broken finding healing, the fearful finding the Prince of Peace, the lonely finding a Friend, and sinners finding the Savior.

I am ready to see a Great Awakening in our land and to the ends of the earth as the people of God take the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit with a burning desire to see souls saved. I am ready to witness the Spirit of God opening the eyes of the blind to see the glory of Christ Jesus, as men and women, boys and girls are rescued from spiritual darkness and brought to the light of the Kingdom of God, ushered by God’s grace from death to life, and freed from the chains of sin to serve to the risen and living Christ.

I am ready for revival, and I’m ready for it to begin in my own heart and among the church right here in Petersburg.

Oh, God, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalm 85:6).

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Resurrection Truth

If the resurrection of Jesus is not true, then what fools we are who believe this. Seriously, what a waste of our few years on this planet if we’ve fallen for a hoax thinking that Jesus came back to life after a horrific crucifixion.

But if it is true, then doesn’t this change everything for now and for eternity?! The faith we profess, the hope we possess, the life we express, the Lord we bless – everything hinges on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. How do we know it’s truly true, that it really did happen, and it’s not just a wishful fantasy of someone’s clever imagination?

Of course, volumes have been written on the subject, but allow me to summarize a few key pieces of evidence to help strengthen (or challenge) your belief about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The prophets foretold it. Long before Jesus ever stepped down from glory into our world, the prophets spoke of the coming King who would conquer death and reign forever. Just one example comes from Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost where he quotes from David (Psalm 16), and says, “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:31).

The Bible records it. “All Scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Timothy 3:16), and obviously the Bible clearly records the resurrection as fact. When the women went to the tomb, they expected to find the dead body of Jesus, but the angel said, “He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6). “Every word of God proves true,” (Proverbs 30:5).

Jesus appeared to many people after His resurrection. Over the course of 40 days from His resurrection to His ascension into heaven, Jesus presented Himself alive by many proofs (Acts 1:3). He showed them His nail-scarred hands and pierced side. He ate with them, talked with them, walked with them, taught them. They saw Him, touched Him, and believed.

Names were named. If I made a hole-in-one on 18 at Shambolee, who’s going to believe me unless I tell you who I was playing with so you could go ask them yourself? In 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul talks about the resurrection, He names specific people, including himself, who were eyewitnesses of Jesus. In effect, he’s saying, “If you don’t believe me, go ask them!”

The disciples of Jesus testified to His resurrection even to their own martyrdom. If they had stolen the body of Jesus, as some claimed, perhaps they could have circulated the lie for some time. But who goes to such great lengths of suffering and dying while staging something they know is not true? And none of them ever blew the whistle unraveling the mystery? They never wavered because they knew it was true.

Lives were patently transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. Unbelieving skeptics like Saul/Paul and James are examples of men whose lives were changed by the truth. Fearful, dejected disciples were made bold and courageous as they proclaimed this message. Jesus gives life and power to those who believe the reality of the resurrection.

Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus is not only true, it is the most glorious and life-saving news you’ll ever hear, for Christ died to save us from the penalty of our sins, and He rose that we might have eternal life with Him in heaven! Do you believe this?

Monday, April 5, 2021

Phony Faith or Genuine Salvation?

Many people live with a phony faith. They talk a religious talk and do religious things. But you can’t cash in phony faith on Judgment Day. 

The crowds that lined the streets for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we call “Palm Sunday” remind us that not everyone who shouts, “Hosanna!” is a genuine, born-again believer. Not everyone who waves palm branches truly knows Jesus as Lord and Savior, either. 

Some of the most piercing words Jesus ever uttered were these: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me; you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21). 

Many people give lip service to Jesus, but they’re not really saved. You can honor Him with your lips while your heart remains far from Him. You can sing praise songs at the top of your lungs and quote Bible verses all day, but that’s not the way to heaven. 

And many think their impressive religious record of service will surely be enough. “Lord, didn’t I go to church every Sunday, observe religious fasts, take communion, teach Sunday School, volunteer at the soup kitchen, and give money to the poor?”

Tragically, many will hear not a gracious welcome into His glorious presence, but a chilling condemnation to eternal separation. Can you even think of more crushing words from Christ than, “I never knew you; depart from me”?

Friend, there’s no better – and no more urgent – time than now to do a spiritual checkup. The apostle Paul exhorts: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The good news is that you can have full assurance of your faith. You can know that your faith is genuine, not counterfeit, and that when you stand before God on the Day you will be unashamed and uncondemned. How can we know this for sure?  I’m glad you asked!

Here’s the bold print: Genuine faith is built on knowing Jesus in true repentance and faith which results in obedience to the will of God.

Salvation is a work of the grace of God through Jesus. Because we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and because the wages of sin is death and hell (Romans 6:23), we are utterly unable to save ourselves. Apart from Christ we are spiritually dead. Dead men can’t breathe new life into themselves.

But Jesus, the Son of God, God incarnate, in immeasurable love for us came and lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death in our place, taking our sins upon Himself and thus satisfied the wrath of a just and holy God against sin.

And on the third day, He rose in victory over sin and death and hell, and now He is exalted at the right hand of God.

The Bible tells us clearly that “whosever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This kind of faith is a faith that makes dead men live! It puts the sinful ways to death and lives in a new way of life – for the will of God to the glory of God.

Make sure that your faith is genuine by believing in and obeying the One who gave His life so that you can truly live!