Counting the Cost
You don’t have to listen to religious radio or TV very long before coming across “health and wealth” theology; that’s the notion that if you will just contribute to some ministry, God will bless you with health and prosperity.
It’s no wonder that it results in millions of dollars in financial support–that’s what many folks are looking for. Even in Jesus’ day, many in the crowds followed Jesus desiring things other than new spiritual life.
In our text, the people who are following Jesus to Jerusalem think it is a road to a crown; Jesus knew it was the road to a cross. He wanted to make it clear that following Him meant absolute commitment.
I. Following Jesus has a Cost
To be a follower of Jesus is not without demand; the cost is a cross (v. 27). That’s why Bonhoeffer called it “costly grace”–salvation is free, yet it costs everything we are.
The first disciples faced that choice. As Jim Wallis points out: “Jesus called people to follow Him. The first disciples took Him quite literally. They were young Jewish men with established occupations and family responsibilities who nevertheless left everything to follow Him.”
Like them, we must be willing to pay the cost if we wish to follow Jesus.
II. The Cost of Discipleship is Absolute Commitment
In verse 26, Jesus uses a strong verb: to hate, detest. He is not saying it is necessary to hate one’s parents; the parallel passage in Matthew makes that clear. Rather, He emphasizes that no other relationship can compare to our loyalty to Christ–not family, not even ourselves. As A. T. Robertson points out, “It is only where the element of choice comes in as it sometimes does, when father or mother opposes Christ. Then I must not hesitate.”
For some the challenge of conflicting loyalties may not be parental so much as financial, or vocational, or some other area of our lives. What claim on your life supersedes the claim of Christ? Whatever it is, it must go.
Andrew Murray gives the example of a writing pen, which must be absolutely surrendered to my hand in order to write properly. If it is held by two persons, it will not work properly. So our lives must be held by only One.
III. You Must Decide If You Will Pay the Cost
Jesus offers two examples of considering the cost: first is the matter of building a tower. Perhaps he was referring to a vineyard tower, used to watch for thieves who might try to steal the harvest. How humiliating to a farmer to get a tower half-built, only to have to abandon it for lack of funds. Jesus says count the cost before you begin to build.
Next He cites the king who faces possible war. First he considers his chances of victory; if they don’t seem likely, he will avoid going into battle. Likewise, says Jesus, decide that you are going to see the struggle through before entering the fray.
Each of us must make the choice. We must decide if we are willing to pay the price of commitment. Yet even as we do, we can trust in the one who calls us to discipleship to stand alongside us, giving strength and support for the journey. (JMD)
The Case of God vs. People
(Hosea 4:1-3; 5:15-6:6)
One of my favorite television programs is Perry Mason. When I have a noon hour at home I turn on the old black-and-white and watch Perry destroy his arch-rival Hamilton Burger. It’s always the people vs. Perry Mason’s client. Burger continually builds his case only to have it destroyed by Mason’s maneuvering and cunning style of getting to the truth.
Hosea builds an indictment against the people of Israel that even Perry Mason couldn’t defend because the truth is on God’s side. Jehovah Himself hands down the indictment against the people in the first three verses of chapter four and then amplifies in 5:15-6:6.
I. Let’s Examine the Charges.
(Vs. 4:1; 6:4)
Faithlessness is charged against the people. That’s the very opposite characteristic of God–for He is faithful.
What God desired was a firm commitment, that the people would be as good as their word. Unfortunately, these people were faithless in their responsibility.
The lifeguards were about to launch their boat in the face of a terrible storm, attempting to rescue the passengers on a floundering ship. One of the men, hesitating, said to the captain, “But how are we going to get back?” He was met with the response, “We do not have to get back.” There was the duty of faithfulness, something Israel forgot.
A lack of devotion (or love) was charged against the people.
Devotion is what we owe God. Israel failed the test. The rebellious people lost sight of who it was that loved them with an insatiable love.
A minister who was riding outside London over 50 years ago got into a conversation with the bus driver, and after a time, asked him “Do you love Jesus?” With a contemptuous look he replied, “No sir, I’ve no time to think of such things.” “Are you married?” was the next question. “Yes sir!” was the reply. “How many hours in a day do you work?” “Sixteen,” came the answer. “Then I feel sorry for your wife.” “Why are you sorry sir?” asked the startled bus driver. “Because you have no time to love,” said the Christian. “Love her,” said the driver, “why I love her every block I drive.” The zealous worker took quick advantage of the very reply he wanted to deliver the gospel message. The love of God should underlie every block we drive!
Israel acted as if she didn’t have time to love God. Do we act like that too?
A lack of knowledge was charged against the people. Someone once wrote, “Knowledge is that experiential awakening to God in love that affects our conduct.”
I’m not so sure that it was a lack of knowledge about God. They had been instructed about Him by mighty men of faith. Their problem was a rejection of the knowledge.
We are so much like them. We don’t like what God desires for us so we go in a different direction from God’s. The Israelites served idols of wood, metal and clay. We serve idols of lust, false religion, jealousy, money, etc. All are incompatible with the worship of the true God.
II. Let’s Examine the Results, (vv. 4:2-3)
God desires the best for our lives. Often I speak with those who mentally and vocally reject that concept. After the passing of time that continual rejection leads to an acceptance of evil or sin as right.
Hosea describes the result of rejection of God and His principles. This process includes moral depravity, as verse 2 indicates. Certain things once thought horribly wrong are now accepted. Things once considered hurtful to individuals and nations are now secretly tolerated. Moral erosion joins hands with spiritual decay.
Yet another result is a decline of spiritual leadership. Later in chapter 4, God speaks through Hosea: “The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be, like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds.” (vv. 7-9)
Today it is acceptable to be religious; for some it is even profitable. When asked why they have gone into the clergy, many respond: “To help mankind,” “I felt it my religious duty,” “I enjoy the administration or social work or counseling side.”
One of my college professors stated: “Gentlemen, if you can do anything else in life other than pastor or preach … do it.” He was telling that class that we are “in the business” because God has put us there. It is not because parents desired it, or it’s a way to serve humanity, or it’s an easy job. The spiritual lives of people are at stake.
III. Let’s Examine the Response, (v. 6:6)
The Israelites thought they could fool God. In 6:1-3, it sounds as if they were responding to God’s call to repent, but careful examination reveals the words are empty.
The words seem flippant: “Come, let us return to the Lord … In just a couple of days, or three at the most, he will set us on our feet again, to live in his kindness.” (1-2, TLB)
I’ve been around folks who act that way. They cheat at their business, lie to their boss, sneak around on their mates, go into a rage when they don’t get their way, but “God will forgive me if I just ask.”
Little do they realize that repentance is not just words. It is a “turning around” from the old lifestyle. Words mean nothing without resolve and action.
God’s response: “I don’t want your sacrifices … I want your love; I don’t want your offerings … I want you to know me!” Our response should be: “have all of me and my love.”
The time has come for us to make our case for God! (DGK)
The Compassionate Love of God
Hosea knew how to love, but his wife did not know how to accept his love. She continually rejected him. Out of this dreadful situation emerged a deeper understanding of Israel’s situation on the prophet’s part. He spoke from a broken heart.
Chapter 11 has been fittingly described as “one of the greatest chapters in the Bible.” This chapter contains some of the most compassionate and tender verses in this discourse. Clearly nowhere else in the Old Testament is the depth of God’s love so vividly, yet pathetically portrayed.”
Hosea hurt! His heart ached, yet as Ian Maclaren once said, “God is the Chief Sufferer in the universe.” It is His love that is in agony, not just because those whom He loves wrong Him, but also because they are wronging themselves and others.
When we talk about love we must commence with God.
I. Love’s Illustration (v. 1-4)
An illustration aptly put is “a window that let’s the light inside.” Theologians can give us doctrinal discourses on love, but there’s a need to demonstrate and illustrate it. What better way than to exemplify it by the ideal father/son relationship? “When Israel was a child, then I loved him and called my son out of Egypt.” (v. 1)
I have a teen-age son whom I love deeply. As a father I have a love obligation to meet some of his life’s needs. They include …
The need to grow. Anyone with a teen-age son knows how much they can stash away in their stomachs! His body is in a “growth pattern” that needs food. It would be unnatural for him to not grow.
The need to be disciplined. Occasionally he does something both of us regret. He disagrees with the old adage “This is going to hurt me more than it does you, son.” But as a parent I tend to agree with the statement. Proper discipline’s goal is to correct a wrong course and set it on the right path. All of us need that once in a while!
The need to be tutored. Learning never ends. Fathers can give their experiences to their sons. They become role models of learning.
Hosea illustrates a love relationship by giving us a father/son image.
II. Love’s Rejection (v. 5-7)
God does not force love upon us. At the County Fair one day I watched the horses and drivers warming up for the harness-racing events. The drivers had a common bond: a whip. If they wanted their horses to go faster, they applied the whip at the right place and the horse trotted faster.
We sometimes feel that God does that with love, that He forces His love on us, and if we don’t go as fast as He wants He applies the whip by putting a disaster in our life, or increasing financial difficulties, or causing a death in our family, or countless other ways.
God doesn’t do that! God draws us with cords of love, and there are no barbs in this cord. Love is the magnet. He is compassionate even if we reject Him.
Yet judgment comes when we ignore His commands. If we reject the theory of gravity, jump out of a tree and break our leg (or worse), it is not God’s fault.
III. Love’s Compassionate Reaching Power (v. 8-11)
God’s judgments are controlled by love and are redemptive and disciplining, rather than punitive and destructive. As one writer notes: “Love’s victory is assured as Israel responds to the discipline of an exile with loving obedience as Yahweh loudly (“roar like a lion”) but lovingly calls them back home.”
The old invitation hymn by Will Thompson says: “Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home. Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling–calling, ‘O sinner, come home!”
God is still lovingly, compassionately reaching out in power to bring the lost to Him. His love is not dead. It is alive and fresh, reaching you and me.
In the Holy Land, fresh water comes from a brook and fills the Sea of Galilee. This body of water has always been fruitful in fish. And then the Sea of Galilee takes that water and gives it to the Jordan River. That famous river uses its water to turn the desert into a rose and make it the land of milk and honey.
But the Jordan River ends in another sea to the south which is called the Dead Sea. And it is exactly that: a dead sea. The reason it is totally dead is that it has no outlet. It takes the water in but doesn’t give any away! As a result, nothing lives in the Dead Sea.
Do you know what God’s outlet is my friend? You and me–together we are the outlet of His holy love. He just keeps on giving.
Love is a sheltering tree. Hosea knew how wide the branches were, for he knew God. His desire was that the Israelites might know God’s compassionate love. Spanning the galazy of time God wants us to know that His love is available to us. (DGK)
The Blessings of God
God’s people had been living on the dark side of life for a long time. They had failed, felt frustrated, knew fear and were engulfed in a mood of despair.
When Abraham Lincoln was seven years old, his family was forced out of their home because of a legal technicality. He had to work to help support them.
At age nine his beloved mother died.
At twenty-two, he lost his clerking job. He wanted to be a lawyer, but his education was insufficient.
A year later, he went into partnership with a fellow who died three years later leaving him holding a huge debt.
At age twenty-eight he asked his sweetheart of 48 months to marry him and she refused. His world seemingly collapsed.
After two unsuccessful attempts at a political career, he won the third time. Two years later he ran again and failed to be re-elected.
At 41 his marriage was unhappy and full of misery, then his four-year-old son died.
The next year he was rejected for land officer.
He ran for the Senate at forty-five, and lost.
Two years later, he was defeated for nomination for Vice-President.
At age 49, he ran for the Senate again … lost again.
His peers ridiculed him and juried him.
At age 51 he was elected President of the United States at a fragile time of history. He was the glue. Cut down in what we would consider the prime of life, one of his former detractors said of him, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen … (and) now he belongs to the ages.”
The people of God came from defeat to victory so that they too would belong to the ages! They were to receive a blessing from God. The dictionary defines “blessing” as, “that which makes happy or prosperous.”
Joel demonstrates the change from sadness to joy. There is a sense of grateful adoration graphically symbolized by “abundant rain,” “threshing floors … full of grain,” and “eat in plenty and be satisfied.”
I. The Blessing of Abundance, (v. 23)
Some of my folks lived in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years earlier in this century. The Dust Bowl was not a college football game, but a life and death struggle against nature. The heavens forgot to spill moisture on the parched ground and for a long time everything dried up. The winds of Oklahoma added their dreaded presence, and the people suffered. How fantastic they felt when rain once again came to the dry ground. They must have felt like the people in Joel’s day.
“Showers of blessing, Showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops round us are falling, But for the showers we plead.”
What is needed is an abundance of mercy, love, righteousness, kindness, goodness, smiles, peace; these things will fill our land with rejoicing and gladness.
II. The Blessing of Restoration (v. 24-25)
Several years ago my wife and father-in-law found an antique piece of furniture. I thought it ugly, they saw something in it I couldn’t. Many days of hand rubbing and paint stripper revealed a beautiful piece of woodwork. They stripped several layers of paint off, restored that lovely item to its original beauty and stained it with clear finish. What I thought was ugly has now become a favorite cabinet desk for all to view.
Israel had lost its former glow and glory. Sins of all kinds had created a time of spiritual devastation. But Joel catches a vision–a wonderful work of God’s grace was about to happen. The people would come in repentance and God would restore them. Metaphorically and literally he would restore their dry land and dry spirits with His rain so that their crops would grow and the threshing floors would be full of grain and vats would overflow with wine and oil.
God wants to do that to people in 1986 who have dried up spiritually, who have become scarred and worn. He wants to restore our finish!
III. The Blessing of Support (v. 26-27)
God lays claim to the people and pledges His support and help. These had been dark days. Days of despair and a sense of hopelessness. I imagine the people lost their trust in God … feeling He had let them down. How ironic that when we let God down we think it’s He who has let us down.
They needed to know that the God of the universe was their God. He would supply support and help if they would repent and trust.
A ship was in the Atlantic Ocean when a terrible storm developed. The ship seemed ready to be split at the seams as the storm lasted for days.
One night the storm reached its peak and panic broke out. Suddenly the captain of the vessel came in, closing the door behind him. He began to tell the panic-driven passengers about the ship’s history–that it had endured far worse storms than the one they currently were going through.
He began to describe the thickness of the metal plates and the way the beams were tied together. After he finished describing the ship and the storms it had gone through, the captain said in a strong confident voice, “So, we will trust this good ship through.” Everyone felt at peace.
The Israelites needed to learn that lesson, and so do we. Our God is God! He will bring us through those dry spots of life.
IV. The Blessing of His Spirit. (v. 28-30)
There was to come a deeper gift of God’s grace … Yahweh’s presence.
There was coming a day, Joel predicted, when God’s Holy Spirit would be released for all men, of all ages, of all places, for all time. He would come and cleanse the hearts of needy people. Distinctions of age, sex, and social classes would be swept away in this common spiritual filling.
A holy lifestyle would become the standard of God’s people, rather than the exception. God would supernaturally pour out His Spirit upon all who were open channels. He would baptize them in the spirit that they could be working vessels to build His kingdom. His baptism of Holy Fire would be evidenced by Holy Love.
Oh, how the church needs that outpouring today!
Is your ground desperately dry today? It need not be, for our God wants to rain down His cool refreshing shower of blessings. (DGK)
Stir Up the Gift
(11 Timothy 1:1-14)
A magazine article described the work of a stonecutter who has no apprentices. He does beautiful, intricate work, but he is aging and has no young person to whom he can pass on his knowledge and skills. They will die with him.
Paul is in a Roman prison preparing for death as he writes a beautiful letter to his young apprentice in the faith, Timothy. As he communicates his last message to this young brother, his central message is to “stir up the gift that is in you.” The RSV translates it “rekindle.” It is a picture of kindling, slumbering ashes into a flame.
The gift Paul cites is not unique to Timothy. All of us, as ministers of Christ, share in the challenge to stir up the gift within our own lives.
I. God Has Given Us The Gift Of Power
Knowing Timothy faced a tremendous challenge, Paul reassured him that God would supply power. How did the power come? (Acts 4:13) From being with Jesus.
Although the short-term energy crisis of recent years has drifted from our memories as we enjoy low oil prices, the long-term energy situation still holds real dangers. Yet our supply of spiritual power is limitless, if we will only stir up the gift of power God has already placed within us.
II. God Has Given Us The Gift Of Love
Power must not be used in isolation, but only in the context of love. Timothy can’t minister effectively without love for the people he serves.
So it is with the people of God. We must love the brethren if we are to know Christ’s fulness.
A missionary observed two lepers, one without hands, the other without feet. The one without hands bore the other on his back; he dropped seeds into the ground, then waited as his partner pressed them into the ground with his foot. Together they accomplished their task. So it should be among Christians: carrying each others’ burdens, easing pains, serving together.
The more we love Christ, the more we love each other. Let’s stir up the gift of love among us.
III. God Has Given Us The Gift Of Self-Control
“Sound mind” can be translated “self-control/discipline.” Literally, it conveys the idea of strength in the face of opposition or persecution. As Christians, we must be willing to share Christ’s cross.
In another sense, self-control means handing the reins of our lives over to Christ–allowing Him to control our lives. Though we may like the idea of the song, “I Did It My Way,” that’s just the opposite of Christian faith. We are called to “do it His way” under submission to the Lordship of Christ.
To say, “I am crucified with Christ” is to move self out of the center of our lives and put Christ there. In ancient days, a conqueror of a territory raised his banner over it as a symbol of his sovereignty. Will you stir up the gift within you by raising the banner of Christ in your life? (JMD)
More Than Healing
Talking with a furloughed missionary who worked in a leprosarium, she described the horror of leprosy. Noses, finger’s legs, arms–any part of the body could disintegrate because of the disease. Even with modern technology and medicines it is still dreaded. Imagine the utter frustration and desperation of people without such help in a superstitious society.
The lepers were required by law to have no contact with society, friends, relatives, children, spouses, parents–except by voice. The legal requirement was to stay out of people’s way by 100 paces. Monotony, boredom, pain and deprivation were the agenda for their day.
Perhaps an excited relative or friend told them of a miracle worker from Galilee named Jesus. If He were ever to pass their direction it might be their opportunity for healing.
Their day came! Jesus, passing between Samaria and Galilee, on his way to Jerusalem, enters a village near which the lepers camped. Seizing their opportunity, they began calling to Christ for help. What a pathetic, heart-wrenching sight. It might be their only opportunity to ever be near Jesus. They couldn’t miss this chance for healing and restoration.
Christ heard and acted upon their request. Without mentioning that they were cured or cleansed He simply says: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (v. 14, RSV) The priests acted as health inspectors and would be able to give them a clean bill of health so they could return to the mainstream of society. The word wasn’t spoken, but the deed was accomplished–and these lepers knew it. Quickly they were off. They would be back home with family and friends by nightfall; that’s all they could think about. Not even the Giver of health was thought about. Only the Samaritan came back to thank Christ.
I. The Need of Healing (v. 11-13)
There was no question about their need of healing. All one had to do was look at them. Leprosy divided individuals–cut them off–from loved ones and society itself.
We are also in need of healing, even more so than the 10 lepers.
II. The Mercy of Healing (v. 14)
The term mercy has been translated as “compassion in action.” Jesus, seeing their plight, immediately responds to their needs in mercy. He demonstrated His love for them.
His mercy still does that today! His changeless steadfast love still reacts. He sees me in my awful, sinful condition and responds with His merciful love by reaching out to me. I can feel and know that healing has taken place.
III. The Gratitude of Healing (v. 15-19)
The ten lepers implicitly believed in Christ’s healing power. They were cured of the dreaded disease. Their common bond of leprosy was gone, but the rightful object of praise was forgotten. The excitement over the event overshadowed the source–Jesus.
One of the group, an unnamed Samaritan, turned back to offer his humble thanks to His deliverer. The other nine forgot to be grateful in their enthusiasm.
The nine are so much like us. They were plunged once again into the varied distractions of everyday life–into business, pleasure, family.
Showing God gratitude comes in a variety of ways: through vocal praise … through the attitude of thanksgiving … through recognition of the truth … through the acknowledgement of God’s majesty and will … through repentance and turning to God … through trust in God’s wonderful promises.
Which are we like–the nine who lost sight of the healer or the Samaritan who knew where his healing originated? How have we expressed our gratitude for His healing of our souls?
“Gratitude,” someone said, “is the memory of the heart.” How’s your memory? (DGK)
A Word for the Times
(II Timothy 3:74-4:5)
There was a Mexican village called “Infierno”–literally, Hell. The villagers sought to live up to the name. One day some villagers received Bibles from a traveling missionary, and they began to read of God’s love for them. Lives were changed; where before there were no churches, today the region has 4 churches and 15 missions. They even changed the name of the village to “Paradiso”–Paradise. All because of the power of the Word of God.
The Bible is a book for all places and all times.
I. The Bible Is A Word From Yesterday
The Scriptures are a miracle of survival through the centuries. Kings and generals have tried to destroy it, but each has failed. Three hundred years after Christ, the emperor Diocletian decreed all Bibles be destroyed. Over a burned manuscript he said, “the name of Christian is extinguished.” Just a decade later, the next emperor, Constantine, himself became a Christian.
The Bible tells us of God’s dealings with men and women of the past. The lessons we learn from their lives have an amazing relevance to our own lives. The Word from yesterday is not limited to the past, however.
II. The Bible Is A Word For Today
Why is the Bible so relevant?
1. Because it comes from God (v. 16). It is inspired–“God breathed His life and truth into it.”
2. Because it is a guide for living (vv. 16-17). Have you ever tried to put a new toy together on Christmas Eve? As hard as it is with directions, imagine doing it without them. The Scriptures offer direction for our lives; and the wonderful thing is, they come right from the manufacturer, who knows us exactly as we are.
3. Because it tells you how to know Christ (v. 15). There is no greater need than to come to a personal relationship with Christ. Nothing could be more relevant!
III. The Bible Is A Word For Tomorrow
1. Because it provides hope. The message of Scripture is that life is not hopeless, but has purpose and meaning.
2. Because it promises victory. Ever feel that only the bad guys win? Why do the evil prosper? The Bible says that evil’s strength is only temporary; that the power of evil was defeated once and for all at the cross of Jesus. History has turned toward Him! Our task is to be faithful until then.
3. Because it assures us we will be with Christ. The day is coming when we will enter His presence. As the song says: “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.” What a wonderful promise! What a precious book! (JMD)
The Attitude of Prayer
The word “parable” means “comparison.” Christ uses this parable as a tool of instruction for his foes-the Pharisees. He wanted to drive home to them that the essence of prayer is not a parade, but one’s attitude.
I. The Attitude of Prayer Involves Persistent Faith
In the eyes of the Pharisee, the publican was a contemptible creature. He saw little value in him. Yet the publican’s prayer had a deeper understanding of God than that of the Pharisee. The publican caught the vision of the “who” of God. The Pharisee only envisioned God in his mind, not in his heart.
In the parable the publican calls out: “God have mercy on me!” He understood that faith becomes possessive. I do not worship or talk to an immoveable, unthinking, uncaring object, or to a creative idea, but to the one who created everything, including me. It is to Him I hold persistently, tenaciously, resolutely, stubbornly.
II. The Attitude of Prayer Involves a Right Outlook
My attitude, when I talk to God, will help determine my actions and reactions toward things life delivers to me.
“The colorful, 19th century showman and gifted violinist Nicolo Paganini was standing before a packed house, playing through a difficult piece of music. A full orchestra surrounded him with magnificent support. Suddenly one string on his violin snapped and hung gloriously down from his instrument. Beads of perspiration popped out on his forehead. He frowned but continued to play, improvising beautifully.
“To the conductor’s surprise, a second string broke. And shortly thereafter a third. Now there were three limp strings dangling from Paganini’s violin as the master performer completed the difficult composition on the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and filled the hall with shouts and screams, “Bravo! Bravo!” As the applause died down, the violinist asked the people to sit back down. Even though they knew there was no way they could expect an encore, they quietly sank back into their seats.
He held the violin high for every one to see. He nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and then he turned back to the crowd, and with a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and shouted “Paganini … and one string!” After that he placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played the final piece on one string as the audience (and the conductor) shook their heads in silent amazement. “Paganini … and one string!”
What an outlook! Prayer helps my attitude. I must tap into the mind, the will and heart of God. Prayer accomplishes the task. Prayer leads me to a positive attitude toward life.
III. The Attitude of Prayer Humbles Me and Envisions God’s Mercy
When I acknowledge my sinfulness He will extend mercy. He will be kind and gracious to me. (I John 1:9)
Paul in Romans 4:7-8 quotes the Psalmist by saying: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:1-2, RSV)
At forgiveness comes justification. He judiciously declares me right before Him. Not by my strength or righteousness, but by the blood of Christ I am declared. The publican understood that nothing he did would make him right; only God was capable of that. And prayer leads us there.
Our past, present and final victory comes by the One with whom I am on speaking terms: Christ. (DGK)
Outlines for this issue were written by Derl G. Keefer, Pastor of Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three Rivers, Mich., and by Michael Duduit, Editor of Preaching.