Hey, That’s Me!
I recognized the news sportscaster on the evening news as a high school classmate of mine. Fifteen years had passed since we played in the band together as freshmen, and I dusted off the old school yearbook to see what Scott looked like then. I hadn’t looked at the yearbook since I packed it way when I left for college, so I spent an evening paging through it.
One picture caught my eye. It was a club picture, and I couldn’t figure out why that group of people should arrest my attention. I stared at it; I tried to identify the long-forgotten schoolmates; then I realized who the kid with the big glasses in the front row was. “Hey, that’s me!”
After I recognized myself, I looked at myself critically, the intervening years allowing objectivity. “Did I really wear my hair that long then? Did I actually wear that T-shirt to school, to have my picture taken? And was that blonde girl I had such a crush on that much taller than I was?” Yes, yes, and yes. The yearbook picture reminded me of things I had forgotten about myself, or things I had chosen not to notice.
We have all had that experience, of recognizing ourselves in old pictures as if we were someone else, of seeing ourselves through new eyes. We also have that experience when we read biblical texts. We see the men and women who look out of the old stories at us, wondering why we feel such a bond with them, and then we realize, “Hey, that’s me! That person acts and thinks just the way I do.”
The most dramatic and revealing portraits the Bible paints are those in the stories of Jesus’ betrayal and death. The characters in the Passion stories react to Jesus in such typically human ways that we see ourselves time after time. The people in these stories love Jesus, and they hate Him; they cheer for Him, and they scream for His death; they are saved by Jesus, and they are disappointed by Jesus.
Some call Jesus a king and believe it, some call Him a king to make fun. Some hope he has come to lead a revolution, and some fear He has come to lead a revolution. What Christ’s Passion means to us depends on where we see ourselves in the narratives. Who in the text makes us say, “Hey, that’s me”?
Maybe it’s the disciples. In Jesus’ hour of crisis, He went up to Gethsemane to pray, to wait, to sweat blood. He took Peter and James and John along to watch and pray with Him. And what did they do? They fell asleep.
Then, when Jesus was on trial for his life, Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus. And of Jesus’ disciples, Judas is most notorious for having betrayed Jesus to His enemies.
Do we recognize ourselves in Peter, or James and John, or Judas? Surely we have all betrayed Jesus. We have humiliated Him and embarrassed Him by our actions; we have brought His will to failure instead of to fulfillment. And surely we have denied Jesus. We go along with the world and with our neighbors instead of with Jesus, to save ourselves the inconvenience of being identified as His disciples.
And surely we have acted like the three disciples who went to sleep when Jesus needed them most. We let Jesus down when He needs our help, by not caring enough to watch and work with Him.
Or maybe we see ourselves in the crowd that followed Jesus in Jerusalem during His last week. On Palm Sunday they cheered and praised Him, claimed Him as their king, spread palms and garments in the dust at His feet. Why? Because He was mighty, and they believed He was going to do wonderful things for them.
When we run into the crowd again on Thursday night, they are shouting, “Crucify him! Kill the bum!” Why? Because they realized he wasn’t planning to glorify their nation. He was calling them to repent, to renounce the world.
Do you love Jesus because you expect Him to make you happy or successful? On a television episode of “St. Elsewhere,” Dr. Victor Ehrlich decided he wanted to become religious, but he was baffled by the variety of religions in the world. He couldn’t decide which faith to profess. Someone asked him, “Just what are you looking for in a religion?” He answered, “Whatever is in it for me.”
How many of us are Christians for that same reason — because of what’s in it for us, rather than because Jesus called us to take up our crosses and follow Him? Do we want thrills, excitement, prosperity, and glory from God? Jesus offers us a cross, and calls us to die to the world.
Maybe we identify with Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus’ cross for Him. Jesus has called us to continue His redemptive work, and when we take Jesus’ burden on our shoulders, we accept the burdens of sin and suffering of all people in the world. We lift high the cross of Christ to proclaim His love to the world, but we must also be willing to submit our lives to the power of the cross. Our only glory is to be nailed with Christ to His cross.
We can identify ourselves finally with Jesus, because He identifies Himself with us. Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
Jesus was born as one of us so He could die as one of us. It is our scorn and sin and pain that sent Jesus to His death. He willingly assumed the fear, the sorrow, the guilt, the doubt, the loneliness that mark our lives.
In the Middle Ages, great plagues swept over Europe from time to time. Millions of people died all over the continent; bodies were piled by the roadside and burned. People lived in horror of sudden sickness and death. They were afraid to care for the sick and dying; families would even lock their own children out of their homes if they showed signs of getting sick.
The only refuge for the sick was in monasteries, where the monks had given their lives to Jesus and were willing to risk death in His service. In the German town of Isenheim, there was a monastery of the order of St. Anthony, where monks cared for victims of plague, leprosy, and syphilis.
In the fifteenth century, Matthias Grunewald created an altarpiece for the monastery chapel, a piece that has been called the greatest monument of German art. The innermost panel of the painting shows St. Anthony, the patron of the order, battling the demons that torment him. One of his tormentors is covered with grotesque sores, suggesting the sores that afflicted the patients who came to the monastery to be healed or to die.
In this scene, Grunewald inscribed the cry Anthony uttered in his temptation: “Where were you, good Jesus? Where were you? Why did you not come to dress my wounds?” Anthony spoke for all who came to the monastery chapel for refuge.
On the outer panel of the altarpiece, Grunewald painted the crucifixion. The figure of Christ towers over the watchers, contorted with pain. His arms are stretched and out of joint; His fingers claw at the heavens; His broken feet twist around the nail that pierces them. The thorns and scourging have pocked His body with bloody sores; the color of death is in His flesh.
Grunewald’s portrayal of the tortured Savior answered St. Anthony’s cry, and the cry of the plague sufferers: “Where were you in our suffering, good Jesus?” “He was suffering with you.”
Jesus’ death binds us to Him, encompasses our whole lives. The story of Jesus’ death is the story of our death: our death to sin, our death to the world, our death to death itself. We see Jesus and say, “That is me.” His death is my death. His suffering is my suffering. His resurrection is also my resurrection, His righteousness is my righteousness, and His eternal life is my eternal life. (JPR)
April 3, 1988
The Truth of the Resurrection
Christmas and Easter are two of the most joyous times in the Christian year: Christmas because of Christ’s birth; Easter because of His resurrection. Each is meaningless without the other.
Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Christ. As Philip Schaff observed: “The resurrection is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion in all of history.”
The resurrection was the rallying point of the early church; the focus of its preaching from Pentecost on. The Easter event was the centerpiece of her message. Observe several elements of the Easter drama.
I. The Empty Tomb
Notice the sequence of events: first, the women come early, see the stone displaced, and return to the disciples, fearing grave robbers had taken Jesus’ body. John and Peter go running to the tomb, and John arrives first. Verse 5 says he saw; he observed or noticed, like peeking in from the outside. When Peter arrives he rushed in (v. 6-7) and seeth; that’s a different word than used in verse 5, meaning he studied or carefully evaluated the scene. He analyzed the wrappings — why would they be so neatly left behind if the body had been taken by grave robbers?
Then John enters, and verse 8 notes he saw; here’s a third word. This one means he understood; something “clicked” — like when a math problem suddenly makes sense. He believed!
John was the first to recognize the evidence of the empty tomb. Soon Peter and other Christians would proclaim the truth of that empty tomb — even at Pentecost. In Acts 2:22-24, Peter points an accusing finger at the religious leaders. Why didn’t they interrupt? Because they were stunned by the evidence of the empty tomb.
Historian Arnold Toynbee once commented, “If there was one thing that would have shut up the church, it was the corpse of that Jew.” Imagine Peter preaching, when suddenly the elders carry out the dead body of Jesus; Christianity would have disappeared. But the empty tomb was a compelling proof that He had risen.
II. The Risen Lord
Christ did not leave them to rely on the empty tomb alone; He appeared to them at least thirteen times. These appearances affirmed their trust in His resurrection. He walked with them, talked, ate, touched. Paul says He appeared to five hundred at once — most were still available at the time Paul wrote to bear witness. They proclaimed the resurrection because they had seen for themselves (Acts 2:32).
The authorities could not answer the evidence: an empty tomb, and witnesses abounded who had seen Christ alive again! Yet there was a third evidence:
III. The Transformed Disciples
One has only to compare disciples from Good Friday to Pentecost to see the difference.
When Jesus was arrested, His disciples scattered. Peter denied his Lord three times. After the crucifixion they gathered in hiding like frightened puppies. Hardly a menacing group. Yet at Pentecost these same people boldly confronted people with their crime and, in the days ahead, ignored jail, beatings and endured death to spread the good news. Why? Because they had seen the risen Lord and been filled with His power.
After the crucifixion they were ready to go back to their former lives; they would resume fishing, go back to their work. They accepted defeat — they thought the grand adventure was over.
Men can be full of defeat and despair — and only the power of Christ can give lasting hope. In time, there was no reason for despair. They were new men — transformed, changed. Why? Because Christ arose and filled them with power.
If you hand me a copy of Hamlet and tell me to write like Shakespeare, it would be useless; I cannot. There’s also no use in handing me a New Testament and telling me to live like Jesus.
But if somehow the spirit of Shakespeare could live in me, perhaps I could write like him. And if somehow the spirit of Jesus could live in me, perhaps I could live like Him. That’s the miracle of the resurrection: He’s alive and living in me! His power is available to anyone who yields himself to it.
There’s another reason the disciples were transformed: they were forgiven. He forgave them for their doubts, cowardice, denials.
That’s also the miracle of the resurrection for you and me: we, too, can experience God’s forgiveness. That’s why Easter is a celebration. (JMD)
April 10, 1988
A Genuine Love Story
(1 John 1-2:2)
If you had to classify me in a category I suppose it would be as a romantic. I enjoy the fanciful, visionary, quixotic. I go with my heart rather than my head at times. I’m in love with the idea of love.
Sometimes I forget that true, genuine love must be tough, honest, and rugged. John writes a love story that’s genuine in character. It involves more than mere sentimentality. This love story is about God’s love.
I. This is a Love Story with a Personal Touch (v. 1)
The telephone commercials tell us to “Reach out and touch someone.” That’s what God has done and He accomplished it by the cross.
John knew the personal touch of Jesus. E. F. Palmer penned: “Whatever the Word of Life is, one thing is clear to us from John: The Word of Life can be known and experienced by people. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Why Jesus came into this world of ours — people!”
Christ revolutionized John. So what John knew by his own experience was the eternal Word incarnate. Christ was no phantom of the spiritual psyche — He was Jesus of Nazareth who touched John’s life.
He’s waiting to do the same to our lives. The question becomes: “Will I let Him?”
II. This is a Love Story with Open Communication (v. 5-8)
Communication involves getting across an idea. My father used to do that with his eyes. I knew I’d better quiet down, or stop whatever I was doing. Dad had a knack at nonverbal communication.
God — in His love — wants to communicate with us. Stop for a moment and meditate on that thought. The Creator of the universe — all powerful, all wise, all perfect — wants to talk with me! That blows my circuits!
The crucifixion breaks down the barriers — the curtains in our personal Temples — and we now have open access to Him. He has given us His Word … to touch and feel and read. He has given us His Son … to pour our hearts’ deepest hurts and longings out … He has given us His Spirit … to empower us to live victoriously.
III. This is a Love Story with Forgiveness (v. 3,9;2:1-2)
A little boy once defined forgiveness: “It is the scent that flowers give when they are trampled on!”
A busy judge was about to rebuke a poorly-clad and trembling soldier who had entered his office, when he recognized the handwriting of his own son in the letter he extended. It read like this:
“Dear Father: The bearer of this is a soldier friend, discharged from the hospital, going home to die. Assist him in any way you can for Charlie’s sake.”
All the tender feelings of the father’s heart gushed out. He let him sleep in Charlie’s bed and clothed and supplied him with every comfort, for the sake of his own dear boy.
What will not God, the loving heavenly Father, do for His dear Son when He presents His pierced hands, and pierced feet, and pierced side, and precious blood, and says, “Father, they confess their sins, for my sake forgive them.” (DGK)
April 17, 1988
The Development of Love
(1 John 3:1-7)
Adolphe Monod, the famous French evangelical preacher who died in 1856, said shortly before his death: “I have strength for nothing more than to think about the love of God; He has loved us — that is the whole of dogmatics; let us love Him — that is the sum total of the ethics of the gospel.”
I. Love Describes God (v. 1-2)
God loves us so much that we are allowed to be called His children. William Barclay noted, “Fatherhood describes an intimate, loving, continuous relationship in which father and child grow closer to each other daily. In the sense of paternity all men are children of God, but in the sense of fatherhood men are only children of God, when God makes His gracious approach to them, and when they respond.”
God’s love is not simply exhibited towards believers, but imparted to them. “The divine love, as it were, is infused into them, the source of divine life,” explained Westcott.
II. Love Develops Hope (v. 3)
Much of the world lives in hopelessness. Tragedy, starvation, drought, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, drunkenness, poverty, ignorance: all are part of the human vocabulary of hopelessness. None of us has gone unscathed by periods of hopelessness. Yet out of the eternal onto the pages of history, God Himself steps out in the flesh and we call Him Jesus. He brings hope to the world. When all else fails, Jesus is there. Even in our darkest hours, God is with us.
III. Love Defines Transgression (v. 4-7)
When we look at God’s divine love for us and then violate that love by sinning, we defy God and all that He stands for. How can we be counted as His if we violate and reject His love?
Sin is not an arbitrary conception. It is the assertion of our selfish will against divine authority. If we sin we not only break an isolated detail of the law, we break the whole law which Jesus was created to fulfill. So not only does sin violate the laws of man’s being — that is, his relation with God, himself, and others –but it violates Christ’s mission.
Christ’s mission was and is to take away sin. Sin is utterly alien to faith. Every part of His historical life — His birth, His growth, His ministry, His passion, His resurrection, and His ascension — was directed at the destruction of sin. The redemption and the atonement were wrought out of His living as well as His dying.
Thus, anything that defies His love defines sin and transgression. (DGK)
April 24, 1988
The Marks of His Presence
There was no uncertainty in the minds of those who had summoned Peter and John before them. They had called men whom they truly believed were rabble rousers: ignorant, misguided men.
Instead they saw men of spiritual stature. They knew it instantly. They saw two men, yet they were keenly aware of another Presence. It filled the room; it spoke to their consciences.
Those who have the presence of God are recognizable by the marks it leaves upon our lives.
I. A Mark of a Christian is Faith
Faith is not bracketed with doubt. It does not run off into the fringes of a hundred questions. It is certain.
Faith is the conviction that God is vitally real in us. We carry Him with us wherever we go.
The writer of Ephesians said, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” We just cannot get away from Christ. He will give us the victory.
John L. Bird, writing in his commentary on the book of James, says, “When I was in the north of England some years ago, I was shown an establishment where ex-servicemen were busy in the art of polishing diamonds. Each held the rough diamond in an arm that fixed to a phonograph, and then pressed it down in a revolving disc which had been impregnated with diamond dust. The pressure of the wheel upon the rough diamond resulted in its being polished. Then it was turned and another facet was polished. The longer the diamond was held upon the wheel, the more brilliant did its luster become.
“As we are willing to be held upon the wheel of trial and endurance, our hardness gives place to gentleness, our boasting to humility, our grumbling to gratitude, and our stubbornness to joyful submission to God’s will.”
II. A Mark of a Christian is a Serene Mind
We think that faith should keep the tidal waves from our shores, the storms from blowing through our lives, and hurt and sorrow and death from crossing the threshold to our hearts. Faith does not promise to keep us from difficulties; but it does keep us steady in such times of trial.
Of course we cannot live blindly, without forethought, concern, and apprehension. We must learn — even if it does take a long time — that fear deprives us of sound judgments and worry brings us to the point of emotional illness. We must put our trust in Jesus.
There is something strangely overpowering and humbling when we meet serenity in our friends. We go to comfort someone and we ourselves are comforted; to give strength and come away strengthened; to enlarge their faith and find our own strength deepened.
III. A Mark of a Christian is Saving Grace
The most treasured knowledge that we Christians have is of God’s mercy toward us. There is a peace that comes from a sense of God’s grace and forgiveness.
While we were moving once, my father-in-law and I were carrying a cabinet. He went to turn around and when he did, the cabinet fell from his hands and cut a big gash in my right hand. I still have that scar and every once-in-a-while I flinch when I look at it because I remember how it hurt. The scars of life are like that, but God will forgive those sins.
As Arnold Lowe so aptly put it, “There is something which closes the door on yesterday, wipes out the last shred of the old pattern, and works in us as though darker things had never been: the grace of God. How restoring is this knowledge of the grace and forgiveness of God.”
Many people have a distinguishing birth mark, by which they can be identified. How soon can folks recognize you as a Christian by your marks? (DGK)
May 1, 1988
Steps to an Effective Witness
There are some distorted views of personal evangelism that have been created over the years. Some well-meaning Christians seem to feel that only a high-pressure, Bible-banging presentation of the gospel will be effective.
As with most areas of the Christian life, the New Testament provides excellent models of a personal witness. In our text, we see Philip — one of the great missionaries of the early church — sharing the gospel with a government official returning to Ethiopia from Jerusalem. It is possible the man was a Jew by birth, but more likely he was a god-fearer — a Gentile who adhered to the Jewish faith without becoming a full proselyte (which would have been rejected because of his castration).
As Philip deals with the Ethiopian eunuch, he provides an excellent model of the steps to an effective witness.
I. An Effective Witness Follows the Leadership of the Spirit
Philip was directed to the Ethiopian by the leadership of God’s Spirit (v. 26; “Angel of the Lord” and “Spirit” are used interchangeably through this text). Once present, the Spirit gave Philip additional guidance (v. 29).
One of the best definitions of personal evangelism I’ve heard is this: “Share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.” One of the key ideas is relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. You and I can never lead a person to Christ; we can only share the gospel and allow the Spirit of God to draw them to Christ.
A young salesman was disappointed over losing a big sale. As he talked afterward with the sales manager he excused himself: “I guess you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” The manager responded: “Son, your job is not to make him drink; it’s to make him thirsty.”
That is also true with our witness. Our example and our verbal witness can help create a thirst for the gospel; the Holy Spirit alone can quench the thirst.
II. An Effective Witness Meets People Where They Are
As Philip approaches the Ethiopian, he finds him reading aloud from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, one of the “Servant Songs” (v. 30). Philip meets him at that point and moves the conversation toward the way in which Christ fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy.
The most effective witness meets people where they are — in the normal patterns of life — and points them to Jesus.
III. An Effective Witness Proclaims Christ
Philip told the Ethiopian “the good news about Jesus” (v. 35). Unless our witness points to Christ as the source of life and hope, it is meaningless.
Though the Ethiopian respected the Jewish faith and studied the Scriptures, his physical condition precluded his full participation in the congregation of Israel (Deut. 23:1). Through Christ, however, this man could become part of God’s New Israel.
IV. An Effective Witness Leads to Decision
The book of Acts is silent concerning the teaching Philip offered. It is clear that it included some direction about a response to Christ’s call, for when they pass by water the Ethiopian suggests he follow Christ in baptism then and there.
Over and over, Christ called people to decision. As we share the good news of Jesus, let us not be fearful to invite persons to respond to that good news through commitment to Him. (JMD)
May 8, 1988
Removing the Barriers
Peter and his associates had come to Caesarea in response to a divine vision. As they shared this message of inclusiveness with one another and their Gentile hosts, a remarkable scene unfolded before their eyes. Notice first:
I. A Divine Confirmation
God confirms the message of Peter’s vision — that Gentiles as well as Jews could become part of Christ’s family. It took a miraculous sign of this nature to persuade the Jewish Christians that God’s grace was inclusive of all persons.
The story is told of the Duke of Wellington that, as he knelt at the altar to pray, a dirty, ill-clad man came and knelt beside him. One of the Duke’s aides stepped forward to move the man aside, but the Duke lifted his hand to stop the aide, saying, “Here, we are all equal.”
Each of us is equally free to respond to God’s grace and receive redemption through Christ.
II. A Direct Command
(vv. 47-48a) The confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s presence led to Peter’s command that Cornelius and his household be baptized — thus making them full participants in the church.
How sad that, all too often, churches as well as individual Christians can resist the leadership of God. For a variety of reasons — prejudice, tradition, lack of understanding — churches sometimes refuse to reach out in love to those who are different.
The challenge of Christ to His church is to reach out with open arms to all persons everywhere.
III. A Desired Commitment
(v. 48b) They asked Peter to remain with them for some time. Why would they do that? Most likely so that Peter might spend time discipling them.
The Christian life is a continuing process of growth and development. These young Gentile believers already realized how important it was for them to deepen their faith. It is no less important for us. (JMD)
May 15, 1988
God’s Great Gifts
Parents love to give gifts to their children. So does God.
Jesus was preparing for His own death, but was still concerned for His disciples. He prayed for some wonderful gifts for them and for us — to give meaning for today and hope for tomorrow.
I. Jesus Gives Protection (v. 11-15)
While on earth, Jesus protected His disciples but time was growing short, and soon He would be gone. He knew they still needed protection.
We face a great enemy: the evil one, tempter, serpent, prince of this world, a liar, a murderer, the wicked one, the ruler of darkness. Jesus prays that God will protect us from Satan, who is ever on the prowl against the child of God. He often succeeds because we try to fight him in our own power, not God’s — like facing a wild animal unarmed. Only one is stronger than Satan — and He has conquered him already on a cross. We must appropriate God’s power.
II. Jesus Gives Joy (v. 13)
Christ brings a joy to our hearts that is not artificial, but is the very joy of God fulfilled in our lives.
What does that mean? Moment by moment contact with God; the kind of relationship we see in Jesus talking to His Father — “Abba” (daddy). Paul had that kind of joy. Paul was imprisoned as he wrote the book of Philippians, but in 104 verses, the word “joy” is found eighteen times.
The world knows little joy — the kind that strengthens, uplifts, lasts. The world’s version of joy produces broken lives and homes, misery, and the inner longing for something more. True joy is found only in the Creator of life. That is how we receive a supernatural joy that cannot be known apart from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
III. Jesus Gives Mission (v. 15-18)
We are here for a purpose — to make Christ real in daily life. The incarnation is the miracle by which God became one of us. That is indeed the greatest miracle of history — that God loves us enough to become one of us, to suffer and die for us.
Christ came into daily life and remains here as we allow Him to be incarnated in us — made real in us.
He doesn’t pray that He be taken out of the world — He says in, not out. It is in daily life that we must live our faith. We are saved, not for escape, but victory; not to be withdrawn from life, but to equip us for life; not to release us from problems, but to offer a way to solve our problems.
As Jesus came for a purpose, He sends us into the world for a purpose. (JMD)
May 22, 1988
When the Spirit Comes
Because weather conditions were often unfavorable during the Feast of Passover, it was more common for Jews outside of Palestine to delay their pilgrimage to Jerusalem until the Feast of Pentecost. As a result, Pentecost came to be the second most important event on the Jewish calendar, after Passover.
So Pentecost was a time when Jerusalem was filled with Jews from throughout the Roman world. It was this day, as that earliest band of Christian disciples were gathered together, that God chose to send the Holy Spirit to indwell each believer.
Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Church was filled with new capabilities for service.
I. When the Spirit Comes, There is Power
What an amazing sight that must have been to a marketplace filled with Jews from around the world. Each of them was hearing the Gospel in his own language — and not by means of a group of scholars, but from a rag-tag band of fishermen, tax collectors and the like.
Because the Spirit dwells within us, we have power to do things we could never do alone. Those earliest believers knew Aramaic and perhaps a bit of Greek, but here they were speaking fluently in dozens of languages.
The power of God is available to be used in your life and mine.
II. When the Spirit Comes, There is Proclamation
There is a certain sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit in a life: the Spirit always seeks to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.
Here is Peter, who only days before was guilty of denying his Lord three times. Now, after the Holy Spirit comes to fill his life, Peter is a bold preacher of the Gospel.
The Spirit is working in each of our lives to let Jesus out — out to a world in need; out to lost men and women; out to every person for whom Christ died. Will you allow your life to be used as an instrument of proclamation?
III. When the Spirit Comes, There is Response
Look to verse 41 and observe the response: 3,000 people entered the church.
You and I can never persuade a person to come to Christ — only the Spirit of God can do that. But if we will be faithful in sharing our faith with others, the Spirit will reach out to touch hearts and lives and draw them to Jesus. (JMD)
May 29, 1988
How God Chooses Leaders
(1 Samuel 16:1-13)
As we move through the presidential primary season, suppose we had a new candidate enter the campaign. He never attended college, he’s ugly, and he’s already lost an election to the U.S. Senate. His party has never won a presidential election.
How absurd to think such a person could be elected President in 1988! Of course, the candidate is Abraham Lincoln — but the reality of politics in our day is that Lincoln could not be elected. He’s just not right for television.
When Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel, he had certain characteristics in mind for what the new king would be like. Samuel learned, however, that God has a different way of choosing His leaders.
I. God Is Not Concerned with Outward Appearance
One of the accepted rules of politics in the 1980’s is that the candidate be attractive and telegenic. He or she must “look good” on television to be considered a viable candidate.
It is human to judge people by their outward appearance. That’s what Samuel did — he looked at Jesse’s tall, handsome sons and assumed one of them must be God’s choice.
As Alan Redpath observes: “Picture in your mind the seven sons of Jesse standing there; apparently they were magnificent specimens of humanity. In the Bible, seven is always the number of perfection. These sons of Jesse seem to me to picture the perfection of the flesh, but the perfection of the flesh is always rejected in heaven.” That is because
II. God Judges by What’s in the Heart
(v. 7) God is not concerned with what His servants look like, but with what they are inside. He knew that David was “a man after God’s own heart.”
That is comforting to me, knowing that you don’t have to look like Robert Redford or Raquel Welch to be used by God. The key question is: Do you love Christ? Does your heart find its rest in God? Does your heart hunger for the things of God?
In Psalm 57:7, David said, “My heart is fixed, Oh God, my heart is fixed.” David’s heart was set on God and His will — that’s why God was able to use David for service in the Kingdom of God.
Will you offer your heart to God, that He might use you to accomplish great things in His service? (JMD)
Outlines in this issue are provided by John P. Rossing, Pastor of Lutheran Church, Tucker, GA: Deri G. Keefer, Pastor of Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three Rivers, MI; and Michael Duduit, Editor of Preaching.