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The Prodigal Brother

In the previous studies, we looked at the prodigal son and the prodigal’s father. The heart of the story is not about the son, but the love of the father. The parable of the prodigal was introduced by Jesus when the religious people of that culture criticized Him saying, “This man receives sinners and even eats with them!”

They were appalled by the concept of having fellowship with people of lesser character. As we discussed in an earlier message, in that culture, to sit down at the table with someone was to proclaim your acceptance of that person. No respectable leader would be caught speaking to a prostitute, thieving tax collector, or drunkard, much less would they dare to dine with them and acknowledge them as acceptable.

Instead of criticizing their judgmental attitudes, Jesus first explains how God cares enough about the sinner, that He would go out and seek to save those who are lost in their sins. Later, Jesus will begin to explain how the law condemns anyone who is born into a sinful nature, for not even the elite religious thinker can avoid sin. They may hide it from public view, but they cannot purify the sin inside.

In Matthew 23, Jesus was moved with compassion to rescue the masses from the burden placed upon them by religion. He condemned the heavy weight placed upon those deemed to be sinners and explained to them the true acceptance by God is to be humble. Through the scriptures, we understand that humility is recognizing we are all incapable of becoming righteous by our best efforts, and we then acknowledge all good is a gift from God. It is God’s righteousness, given to those who recognize they can do nothing, and then turn to Christ. The humble depends upon God’s gift of grace. The proud still thinks they can achieve goodness by making themselves perfect for God. The self-righteous has rejected the gift of grace, and is making themselves into a rival of Jesus by presenting their own works in the place of Jesus’ work.

The law was given to reveal to man the perfect standard of good. Since Adam’s fall, man has looked to himself for good. He still believes the lie, “You can be like God to know good and evil.” It is in human nature to fashion rules into something we can keep. For this reason, God gave the law. Man has always tried to reshape the law into something self-affirming, but God is constantly reminding man that if we fail to keep the whole law, we are guilty. If we fail in one point, we are guilty of the whole law. Therefore, there are two things you should know about the law. It is the standard of perfection based on God’s character. It is also the revelation that you cannot find perfection in yourself. It is intended to drive you away from trusting in your works so you are forced to look to the cross.

Religion can spruce up the outward appearance. Anyone can present a perfect façade to the world and other religious people, but the most religious and the most morally bankrupt have the same problem. They have a rotten sinful nature, and though some may mask it better than others, at our core, we all are in the same position. This is why Jesus said, Matthew 23:27-28

27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

The very people who were condemning the riffraff of society had the same problem. You can paint a tomb white, but it doesn’t change what is on the inside. Those who are looking at the outer shell will be impressed. Those who are decorating their outer appearance can give the pretense of perfection, but just below the surface is rottenness and corruption. We are all in the same boat.

But the good news is that it doesn’t matter. As we have discussed before, when we trust in Christ, we have the promise that the Holy Spirit circumcises (or cuts away) our old inner rottenness, and replaces it with a new nature, born after the Spirit. It is born of God, abides in God, and is a partaker of God’s divine nature. From this point on, the problem is no longer our inner corruption, but remaining in the mindset of the outer flesh.

The problem with religion is that it blinds the self-righteous to their need, and blinds the immoral of their deliverance. I say ‘immoral’, but the truth is that every person has the same heart. Some sins are just more socially acceptable or easier to mask than others. Let’s illustrate this with the story of the airplane pushers.

A certain village was settled in a valley encircled by a massive mountain range. Their forefathers had been banished to this place and they still lived in extreme poverty. The limited resources made every day a fight for survival. No one had ever successfully crossed the mountain ridges to discover what was on the other side. Generations ago, their forefathers wrote of a land of abundance, but they had no way to reach it.

One day the Lord spoke to a man and gave him a message for the village. The people were to build an airplane according to specific instructions. If they trusted and obeyed, they would soon discover God’s promise of a land with every need met. No one knew what an airplane was, but it was the only hope of escaping this place. The man carrying God’s instructions assured the people God’s plan was perfect, even if they didn’t understand. These impoverished people rejoiced at this word and began constructing the airplane.

Though they didn’t understand, they built it according to God’s message, and soon they had a plane at the foot of the mountain. The base of the mountain was a gentle slope, but the higher the mountain went, the steeper and more rugged the terrain. Soon the Lord spoke again and instructed them to take the plane over the mountain. The strongest men were placed at each wing, and the rest pushed from behind. Then the journey began. For a while, things went fine. It was tiring, but the plane moved steadily up the rising slope of the mountain. But then they reached the first cliff.

The people reasoned out a new plan. They roped the plane, and after many struggles, they pulled the plane over the first small cliff. They pushed the craft along until they reached the next cliff. It was higher and steeper than the one before. With great effort, they tried to scale the cliff with the plane, but failed. They regrouped and came up with a new plan. They would disassembled the plane, climb the cliff, and reassemble it again.

Some argued against this plan. Their instructions was to take the plane up the mountain, not pieces of the plane. They had to stick with the original word. The disagreement became so great, the village divided. The majority sided with disassembling, and those holding to the original plan were left without a plane, so they built their own airplane.

Those who carried the pieces scaled this cliff with great effort, only to find the next cliff was higher and steeper still. What’s more is they were barely started on their journey. It was clear that the only way to make it would be to do the best they could. They reasoned that if they could get one piece to the top of the mountain, God would honor their efforts and reward them. They would focus on getting the most important piece to the top.

The people began arguing over which was the most important. When they could not agree, they divided again. Those who thought the wings were what God wanted called themselves the wing nuts, and they focused on carrying their valued piece. The holy rollers said the wheels were most important. The visionaries took the windows. Each group set out to get their piece to the top.

Those with the lightest pieces made fast progress. The strongest among them soon climbed the highest. Everyone began to bog down as the mountain became more treacherous. The complete plane crowd made no progress, but they kept trying and repairing their plane. God would be pleased because they were the most faithful to the original instruction. Each group looked down at those below and were sure God would honor them because of how much more progress they had made than others. Each group began measuring themselves against those below, and obedience was based on how much better they were than others instead of the impossible task of climbing the mountain.

The weaker among them became frustrated and gave up completely. They returned to the valley, and were considered as outcasts. As they looked back to the mountain, from a distance the highest achievers looked no different than those at the lowest cliffs. No one was even a fraction up the mountain, so why bother?

One day a man showed up in the village. He told them it was impossible to get the plane to the top of the mountain, and it was never in their power to do so. God never intended for the people to carry the airplane. Those who had made it the highest hated the words of this man. Their identity was now wrapped up in how much better they were doing than other groups, and especially the mere valley dwellers.

The man readied the plane and invited any who would come to enter the plane. He claimed he could use the wind to lift the airplane and guide it over the mountain. All they had to do was get inside and rest.

“That’s preposterous,” the elite of the village cried. They condemned anyone who would trust in this ridiculous doctrine. God instructed them to take the plane over the mountain. They could not accept that taking the plane was to get in it, and not to bear it on their backs. Besides, how could God measure their worthiness if their efforts meant nothing?

They scoffed at the idea that the wind could have the power to safely lift this plane. They had seen evidence of the wind many times. Sometimes it knocked things over. Sometimes it turned the windmill. One nutcase even built wings for his arms and flapped around like a fool. He never left the ground and no one had flown with the power of the wind.

Those who believed, climbed in the plane and were amazed that this mass of material could fly. The wind was able to use the wings to create lift? The power was in the wind, and not in the plane itself? The mechanics of the plane only served to receive the wind? Their limited understanding couldn’t comprehend how this was possible, but they rejoiced when the mountains that had been their prison for so many years drifted powerlessly under them as the plane carried them to the promise God had given them.

Their best efforts had been worthless, but now they also realized their weaknesses and limitations were irrelevant. Once they were carried by the wind, the mountain that once imprisoned them had no power at all.

This mindset is why God’s people could not comprehend the message of Christ. Those who compared their success against those who appeared weaker scoffed at the gospel, for it said they were all hopelessly imprisoned by the law. Those who saw the impossibility of climbing the mountain of holiness and perfection rejoiced at the gospel message.

You mean to tell me that nothing is about what I do for God? It’s not about me fulfilling the perfect standard of the law? The law only served to reveal to all of us the impossibility of measuring up to God’s nature. Even today, those who look at their accomplishments by comparing themselves to those with greater limitations will feel self-righteous, and their identity is wrapped up in self-glorification. But if we turn and look at the mountain, the cliffs of human limitations, sin, and our nature that weighs us down, we will understand why religion cannot please God. When we look at others, we might feel proud. When we look at our own weaknesses, we might feel defeat. But when we look at Christ, we discover that our works are irrelevant. Our sins are irrelevant. Our limitations are irrelevant. We are trusting in His works, His power, and His strength.

This is what the prodigal son discovered. When he turned to his father, he was focused on his defeat, but the father revealed to him that all his sins and failures were irrelevant. All he had to do was turn away from what was worthless and enter into the fellowship of agape love. Yet his brother wasn’t focused on the love of the father either. He was looking at himself and comparing his works to his brother’s failures. Look at Luke 15:25-32

25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 "And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 "So he answered and said to his father, `Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 `But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 "And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
32 `It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"

Which of these brothers were denied love or fellowship? Neither. The son who fell into sin allowed the world to rob him of experiencing love, but once he turned back, he found that the only thing between him and the father’s love was his rejection of that love.

The brother who didn’t fall into sin also missed fellowship. Because he counted his brother as unworthy, he refused to participate. Yet the father refused to cast his brother out of the party just because the older brother put that condition in place. The self-righteous brother withdrew because he thought his younger brother was unworthy. Yet it was he who missed the joy of fellowship, not the brother who returned from sin.

This is you and I when we deem someone a sinner to be shunned. We are all in the same boat. My sins may not be as blatant as the outcast of society, but we both have a sin nature. We both are incapable of becoming righteous. We both are incapable of fulfilling the law.

Human nature is masterful at self-deception. When we see the law, we shape it into something we can keep, and then we convince ourselves we are righteous. I go to church, but they don’t. Yet is my heart in worship of who God is and what He has done for me? If not, I might as well not be here. I’m not doing God a service by being here. If I am in a spirit of worship, then I am also in a humble spirit of receiving from God. I then understand I am only righteous because He has given me His righteousness. The only difference between me and the one I deem as a sinner is that they have not yet discovered God’s gift of righteousness. They become righteous the same way I did – by grace through faith. It is a gift of God not of works so I cannot boast.

We recreate many laws in order to create a standard by which we can feel as if we’re measuring up, but that’s mere religion and will not be honored by God. I’ll give an example. Some claim that unless we keep the Sabbath, we are guilty of violating God’s law. The Sabbath is Saturday. Yet these people don’t keep the Sabbath? Do they travel to church? Do they get their kids ready? Do they cook, set the table, clean up, or do any chore or work in any way? The law of the Sabbath is to do no work – at all. Don’t buy, sell, or exert yourself in any way. Not only can you not work, but it is also a violation of the Sabbath to allow a stranger with you to work. That includes supporting businesses or allowing someone else to do the work for you. Oh, and don’t buy or sell on the Sabbath.

Yet we have shaped the Sabbath into something we can keep, and then we feel justified for keeping our version of the law. We are breaking the Sabbath and then placing ourselves above God by rewriting the law to fit our culture and lifestyle. It’s not just us. Jesus said to the law-abiding Jews, “Moses gave you the law, but none of you keep the law.” And no one disputed Him because deep down they knew they were guilty, though they tried to cover their sin with human effort.

Yet the word Sabbath means rest. That’s why Jesus said, “Come to Me and I will give you rest.” It’s also why the Bible says, “We who have believed do enter that rest.”

If you are in Christ, you are a Sabbath keeper, for He is that rest. If you are in Christ, you have kept the law, for the Bible says in Romans 8:3-4

3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,
4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Just in case you may misunderstand the wording here, let’s bring in Romans 8:9

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

If you are in Christ, you are a fulfiller of the law. The law is fulfilled by faith. Your faith is to trust in Christ, who fulfilled the law, and you trust in His gift of grace, which blesses you as though you have kept the law. It’s all about trusting in Christ.

The message of the prodigal is all about the love of God, your Heavenly Father, given to you. God does not love you because of what you do or don’t do. He loves you for who you are because of who He is. God is love, and He loves you because that is His nature. He invites you into His agape fellowship because He is glorified when you receive His goodness. And then He blesses you for receiving grace.

Back to the story of our airplane pushers. When they landed in the land of promise, some who had made the most progress on the mountain were stuck in that mindset. They met together and discussed how much God had been pleased with their work on the other side, and to receive the greater blessing, they had to show God how much they were willing to do for Him. So they began climbing the mountain from the other side. They persuaded others to follow them.

When they felt beaten and famished, it must be that God was not pleased. They had to be strong enough to conquer this mountain. Now they had God’s strength, so they would use it to defeat the mountain.

As the Restoration of Mountain Climbers grew in popularity, others began climbing with them. Again people began feeling defeated and falling away. They were shunned, just as they had been on the other side. Someone came to the group and said, “Turn around and look. All you need has already been given,” but they were scorned and counted as offenders. Even in the land of plenty, many lived as though they were on the other side. The same mountain that defeated them before, continued to defeat them. They couldn’t understand why God wasn’t blessing them to climb. Some enjoyed the promise and lived by faith in what they had been given. Others returned to the self-righteous mindset and lived as though they had never been delivered.

The truth is that God will never bless you to accomplish for Him what He has already accomplished for you. Even a Christian, if he or she returns to the law, will live as someone under the impossible burden of the law. They will be tempted to reject others because they are again looking at themselves instead of the giver of all things.

If we look to anything other than faith in Christ, we are under a burden not intended for us. We are also blind to the love of God. The Bible says that when people read the law as their focus for obedience, the veil is placed over their hearts. That veil is only taken away in Christ. While under the veil, the only measurement we have is our works and the sins of others. Both are false measurements.

The prodigal son could not receive love because he was focused on the false promises of sin. The prodigal brother could not receive love because he was focused on his false righteousness and refused to be in the fellowship of those he deemed unworthy of love. Yet he was rejecting the Father’s love just as much as his brother did. Unfortunately, it’s easier to recognize our weaknesses when we fall to sin than when we fall for religion.

Regardless of which side you are on, God’s love does not change. He pleads with the prodigal sinner, and the religious sinner. Any who will come will rejoice in the fellowship of God’s love.

Eddie Snipes 2014
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Prodigal’s Father

Last week we discussed the prodigal son, and how he believed his sins drove him away from his father’s love. However, his failures revealed the depth of his father’s love in a way that he could not understand until he had nothing but failure to offer him.

In the same way, we don’t understand the depths of God’s love for us until we begin to understand that we have nothing to offer God but sin. In the flesh, even our righteous acts are sin, for as Jesus said, everything that is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is of the Spirit. The works of the flesh cannot produce anything of the Spirit.

When we begin to grasp this truth is when we begin to understand that God doesn’t love us based on what we have done or not done, but based on who He is. God loves you because He is love, and the only barrier God has established is our faith in His word of promise.

Let’s begin studying this truth by looking at love by comparing the Old Testament to the New. The unveiling of our need began when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation in the garden. It began with questioning God’s love. Genesis 3:5

"For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

How subtle temptation can be. Man already had the knowledge of good. The only thing he lacked was the knowledge of sin. Before sin entered, man was God-conscious and only saw the good coming from the Lord. Once he stepped into sin, Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened, and though nothing in life had changed at this point, they became ashamed. They were ashamed because they now looked for good in themselves instead of receiving the righteousness of God. From the beginning, it has always been God’s intention to be our righteousness instead of demanding righteousness.

Once man set out on a quest to make himself good by human effort, the law began to take shape. In the beginning, there was only one law – don’t eat of the tree. Once the tree was taken away, man was in sin, but incapable of understanding his inability to be righteous outside of God. The Bible says that where there is no law, sin is not imputed. In order to reveal to man that good only comes from above, God began unveiling the law in order to drive mankind into the knowledge of sin outside of Him. The Law cannot make us good, it can only reveal our sin. Look at Romans 7:9-10, 12-14

9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.

12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
13 Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Let’s look at how the law was introduced, how it drives us to the knowledge we are sinful by nature and cannot become unsinful, and then see how God uses our weakness to reveal His love. In order to reveal the power of His love, God first based the Old Testament law on our love. Look at Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

The law was based upon the command to love God with all – not part – of our life. All your mind. All your heart. All your strength. If you fail to give God everything, you are guilty of breaking the law. The nation of Israel was put under the law, and they could not keep it. They began to shape the law into their culture, and then they strove to accomplish it through a never-ending expansion of the law. The question has always been, “Are you doing enough? Are you loving God enough?”

When the lawyers asked Jesus which was the greatest commandments, He quoted the above passage, but He used the word ‘agape’, which is the love of God. Man’s love is ‘philia’, or friendship love. Philia love is dependent upon receiving. Philia love dies or weakens when it is not returned, but agape is the unconditional love of God. Take time to read 1 Corinthians 13. This explains agape love – it seeks not its own, is not provoked, rejoices in truth, endures all things, and so on. It is beyond human capability to fulfill this. What’s more, is that if you do good deeds, and do not have agape love, your good works profit nothing. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:3

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Agape cannot be earned, nor can it be produced. Either our works are produced by God’s agape love, or they are worthless. Even our good deeds are mere acts of the flesh. This is why Isaiah 64:6 says that all our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s sight.

This is what those focused on the law could not comprehend. This is why grace was a threat to the religious community at the birth of the church, and why trusting in grace is viewed as a threat today. No one wants to believe that their works profit nothing. Yet once we understand the love of God, we discover this doesn’t matter, for by faith we receive the greater blessing than what we were trying to earn before.

When Jesus quoted the law, it was always to reveal to those who trusted in their works the reality of their guilt. To the Pharisee who thought they were keeping the law, Jesus dismantled all their works. They brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus knowing He would not condemn her. They said, “She was caught in the very act. The law says she must die, but what do you say?”

Jesus stooped down and began writing in the dirt. I imagine he was writing the secret sins He knew they were guilty of. Lust, greed, hatred. Perhaps He wrote the command to love God with all our soul, heart, and strength. Then underlined the word ‘all’. Why is Jesus writing these things, they wondered. Then they demanded, “The law says she must be stoned. What do you say?” The law had already condemned this woman, now those who trusted in the law thought the law could also condemn grace. But the reverse was true.

Jesus stood up and said, “Whichever among you is without guilt, let him be the first to cast a stone.” Then He returned to highlighting their sins in the dirt. One by one, they dropped their stones in frustration and walked away.

Under the law, we are all guilty. And if you look to your works or righteousness – or anything from yourself, you will find guilt instead of righteousness. And that is the purpose of the law. Look at Romans 3:19-20

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The law was intended to show you are guilty because God wants you to understand that you are loved, not because you do good works. Not because of the sins you manage to avoid. Nor does God deny you because of your sins or lack of good works. God doesn’t love you because of what you do or don’t do. God loves you because He is love. God defeated sin for you in order to reveal that nothing can stand between you and the love of God. Nothing but your refusal of His love. People refuse God’s love because they either don’t believe God loves them because of their failures, or because they believe they can earn His love by human success. But the law never produces righteousness. It only reveals whether a person is already righteous by nature.

After the incident with the woman condemned by the law, Jesus began revealing how they are also under condemnation. He said, “You have heard it taught that if a woman leaves her husband for another, she has committed adultery. But I tell you, if you even look at a woman to lust after her, you have already committed adultery in your heart.”

To those who boasted of their righteousness, Jesus revealed their sin. The rich young ruler who said he loved his neighbor as himself was instructed to sell everything he had and give it to his poor neighbors. To those who condemned murderers, Jesus said that hatred in the heart makes you a murderer. To the person who condemns the thieving tax collectors, the Bible says that greed is equal to thievery. To the one who condemns idolaters, loving wealth is idolatry. Every sin we can observe is already in our own hearts, even if pride blinds us to its reality. Pride blinds us to our guilt, but the law reveals our condemnation. A condemnation that is removed in Christ.

Do you love God with everything? Every thought is based on love for Him? Every action is out of a love for Him? Everything in our heart is grounded in love for God? Our love for our neighbor is so great that we give from our own table to them?

Anyone who trusts in the law or believes they are keeping the law is deceiving themselves. Anyone who thinks they love God enough is living a lie.

That’s the bad news of the law. But the good news is that Jesus fulfilled the law for us to give us God’s favor, bore the penalty of sin for us to take it out of the way, and gives us birth into new life by the Spirit whose life is from God.

The Old Testament law is, do you love God enough. The New Testament says, “It’s not about your love at all. It’s about His love.” Look at 1 John 4:16-19

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.

It was never about our love. It has always been about God’s love. In the beginning, man enjoyed fellowship with God until his focus was turned to himself. Remember the account of the tower of Babel? Their goal was to build a tower to heaven. Man’s goal has always been to make himself good, yet every good and perfect gift comes from God, not from man. The law reveals to you and I that our efforts can never be good enough, and it doesn’t matter. Our failure reveals God’s love.

The law was never about man. It has always been about God. The law unveils God’s perfect character and nature, and it unveils our inability to be perfect or attain to God’s standard of perfection – a standard that has always been about God. Now we see the promise, it isn’t about your love for God, but His love for you. God couldn’t have made this clearer than 1 John 4:10

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

It’s not that you love God, it’s that you know and believe in the love God has for you. That is the message of the prodigal son. It wasn’t about the son’s love. It was that the son could not comprehend the love of the father until he had nothing but failure to give to his father. It was then that he discovered the father loved him only because he was his child, and because that was the father’s nature. It was never about the son. It was about the father’s love for the son.

This is you. You are the focus of God’s love. He loves you because you are His child, and His love transforms you. But that transformation cannot take place until you come to the end of yourself – the point where you stop looking to you and begin to know and believe in His love for you.

You see this in the disciples of Jesus. Peter boasted of his love for Jesus. He proclaimed his willingness to fight for Jesus, die for Jesus, and affirmed that he would never forsake Jesus – even if all these others do. Who was the only disciple to deny Jesus? It was the one trusting in himself and his own love for God.

All the others forsook Jesus and fled for their lives – except one. John went to the palace with the crowd arresting Jesus. He is the one who helped Peter get into the courtyard where Jesus was being tried. He was the only disciple at the crucifixion. He was the one Jesus spoke to from the cross when Jesus delivered His mother into John’s care so she would not have to watch Him die. Now look at how the Bible describes John in these passages?

John 13:23

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

John 20:2

Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him."

John 21:7

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!"

John 21:20

Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following,

Do you notice anything unusual about the disciple Jesus loved? Have you noticed this only appears in the gospel of John? John is called the disciple whom Jesus loved, but this only appears in John’s own writing. John endured because he understood the love of Christ for him. Never does he boast about his love for Jesus. In John’s latter years, he writes to the church and says, “It’s not that we love God, but that He first loved us.” Following this he says, “We have known and believed in the love He has for us.”

From here we have the promise that perfect love casts out fear. No fear can abide in the heart that is receiving perfect love. Human love can never be perfect. Perfect love is God’s love received into our hearts. When you understand that you are the disciple God loves, you will begin walking in confidence. Fear is forced out of your life, for the disciple God loves has no fear of judgment, but has confidence – even in the day of judgment. God loves you so much that He was punished for your sins. Someone who lives in that kind of love could never fear judgment.

There is no fear in life, for God has promised that He has worked out all things for your good – this includes now and in the future. If you know and believe in the love God has for you, and His love has already prepared the way, how can you fear anything this life can throw at you? Look now at Daniel 10:19

And he said, "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!" So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."

You are God’s greatly beloved. God’s beloved has no fear, but peace. And where does strength come from? God strengthens you and it is by His grace we stand. Don’t believe the lie that Jesus loves you and defends you to the Father. Indeed Jesus is our advocate, but He defends us when the accuser tries to condemn us with the law. Your Heavenly Father loves you and you must know and believe in His love. Look at the words of Jesus in John 16:26-27

26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;
27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

You and I are in that day. He is referring to the day when our redemption was complete in Christ. The barrier of the law was removed, sin was taken out of the way, and now the love of God is unveiled in all its glory. When we fall into a humanistic religious mindset, we falsely think God is pleased based on what we do for Him. Not so. Let’s wrap up with Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

All of this is based on knowing and believing in the love God has for you. Have faith in His love for you. Many children go through rebellious attitudes during the transition from childhood to adulthood. During the dark years of adolescence, children doubt their parent’s love. I’ve heard children say, “My parents hate me,” when I know for certain that youth’s parent would give up everything for their child’s good. They work to provide every necessity, education, and gifts. Yet if a child disbelieves in their parent’s love, they will live life under a false ideology and their own perception becomes a reality in their lives.

We do the same with God. He has done everything to unveil His love for us, yet if we place ourselves under the perception of condemnation, we’ll live under condemnation, doubt, and frustration. We can live as a child who has an unpleasable father and never experience the love given to us.

During Jesus’ last prayer, He said the following in John 17:22-23

22 "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:
23 "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Your heavenly Father loves you just as much as He loves Jesus. You have the glory of God resting upon you, but you can live as a condemned man or woman. Or you can walk in God’s strength and trust in His love.

Know and believe in the love your Father in Heaven has for you. If there is one truth that will transform you into the victorious Christian life, it is this. Once you begin to believe in God’s unconditional love, you will begin walking as a child of the Kingdom. Once you understand you are loved, not because of your own abilities, but because God delights in you solely because you are His beloved child, you will experience a life of love. And God’s agape love transforms lives because it is the power of God within you.

Abide in God’s love. Know and believe in the love He has for you. In this rests all the promises of the life we have been given. It’s all a gift of God’s love for you. You are the disciple God loves!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

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The Prodigal Son

For the next three weeks, we are going to study the parable of the prodigal son. We call it the prodigal son, but it’s more than just a story about a wayward son. It’s one of the richest illustrations ever told. It’s about a son whose life was changed by the love of his father, and a brother who didn’t understand grace.

We are going to study this story from all three perspectives, that of the son, the father, and the brother. Let’s begin by reading the entire illustration from Luke 15:11-32

11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons.
12 "And the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
13 "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14 "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
15 "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16 "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 "But when he came to himself, he said, `How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18 `I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19 "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’
20 "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21 "And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 "But the father said to his servants, `Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23 `And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24 `for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
27 "And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him.
29 "So he answered and said to his father, `Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.
30 `But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 "And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.
32 `It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’"

Prodigal Son

You and I are either the prodigal, or the brother. Keep in mind that Jesus told this parable in response to those who criticized him for showing acceptance of prostitutes, drunkards, tax collectors, and other sinful people that the religious community shunned as unworthy of God’s acceptance.

In the ancient Jewish culture, to dine with someone is a declaration of acceptance. No Jew would ever dine with someone they didn’t consider respectable and acceptable. Do you remember the story of Jesus and the woman at the well? When Jesus asked her to draw out water for Him, she was shocked. No Jew would dare speak to a Samaritan. They were considered polluted people. They would not even acknowledge their presence, and certainly wouldn’t stoop so low as to ask one for help. Jesus not only spoke to this woman, but He spent two days with the Samaritans, dining with them and teaching them.

If you want to understand the heart of the Father, look at Jesus. We like to separate the Father and the Son as though the Father is angry and the Son appeases Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Father sent the Son and the Spirit empowered Him to perform miracles, teach, and fulfill the mission He came to accomplish. The Bible says that Jesus, though He existed in the form of God, veiled His glory and took upon Himself the form of a bondservant, and came in the likeness of sinful flesh.

The power of Christ was veiled for His earthly ministry, and His power on earth was the same power we have on earth – the ministry of the Spirit. This is why the Bible speaks of Christ this way in Luke 4:18-19

18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD."

This is also why Jesus said in John 14:12-13

12 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
13 "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

God is not a seething angry judge. Wrath is against sin, not against you. When Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of God, judgment was satisfied and we now have absolute confidence in the Father’s love toward us. Look at 1 John 4:17-19

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
19 We love Him because He first loved us.

You are not of fear, but of confidence. Your confidence should not be in yourself, or you will never have confidence. In Christ, the Bible says we have been given the adoption of God as sons. Until we became children of God, we could not have confidence. If a servant rebels, what happens? He will not be treated as a son, but as an offender. Yet we are not servants, but sons. Both men and women are sons of God.

Have you ever noticed how the Bible always talks about us as sons of God? We are sons of the inheritance? In the ancient culture when the Bible was written, women didn’t inherited the possessions of their father. They married into the inheritance of their husbands, but unless there were no sons, they did not inherit the estate of their family.

Though men and women have different gifts and callings in scripture, they both have the same inheritance, for the Bible says that in Christ there is neither male nor female, bond or free, Jew or Gentile. We are all one in Christ. When it comes to our lives in the flesh, we are male and female, but when it comes to the inheritance, we are all counted as sons. All who are of faith are counted as sons – there is no difference. There aren’t kings and queens in God’s kingdom. There are kings and priests – and we are blessed through faith and not gender.

Also absent from the kingdom is slave verses master. In the biblical culture, slavery was not a racial ideology as we think of in light of the 17-1800s. Slavery was the solution to bankruptcy. When someone borrowed money, but were unable to pay it back, they paid the debt through servitude. When borrowing money, the servitude would have been agreed upon before a loan was made.

In God’s kingdom, we are not slaves, for the debt has been paid through Christ. A son can never become a slave, even if he squanders his inheritance. Do you think the prodigal son understood his father’s love?

This immature young man had no concept of the value of his father’s love. Jesus uses this illustration to shock the hearers who didn’t understand God’s love. So he used a rebellious man’s love for money to drive the point hard. A son could not inherit the father’s wealth until after his death. Therefore, this young man is saying, “I wish you were dead. But since you don’t look like you are dying, I want you to just get out of the way and give me what I’ll get if you were dead.”

All the father had to say was, “No.” The young man would have had to stay, but this father understood that forced obedience was not valuable. He divided the inheritance and gave all he had to both his sons. The younger son probably sold off the cattle and goods, then took the money and said, “I’m out of here.” He left without caring how much his father loved him.

It was probably years that he was gone. He partied hard, and everyone is a friend to the big spender. Once the money was gone, the lad had to begin earning his keep. But life threw him a curve. A famine hit the land. In order to create a famine, there would have to be several years with no rain. No crops in the field meant no one was hiring laborers. The only job this man could find was helping a pig farmer.

You need to understand how low this job would have been to a Jewish man. The most vile creature on earth was a pig. Jews would never eat or even touch a pig. Not only that, but they considered themselves unclean if they touched anything or anyone who had come in contact with a pig. In an act of pure desperation, this man took the worst job imaginable.

The famine continued, and the young man grew so desperate that he not only worked in the pig sty, he also began eating the refuse thrown to the pigs. The food not fit for human consumption was the only thing he had available.

While choking down this vile slop, he finally realized he was as low as anyone could go. No friends. No money. No shelter. No food. Even the slaves back home had food, clothing, and shelter. He then rehearsed a speech that he would give to his father and headed home.

Do you think this young man had perfect love? Did he trust in his father’s love? Did he have any comprehension of how much his father loved him? No to all of the above. When he was at home, he wasn’t looking at his father. He was looking at the desire of temptation. After pursuing what he thought would bring fulfillment, he inherited the consequences of his life’s choices.

Do you think he was focused on the father’s love when he came to himself? No. He was still thinking about himself and his desperate situation. He didn’t think his father could love him. He looked at his sins, life’s choices, and the consequences of his own actions. He was certain that his sin had driven him away from his father. He would beg to become a slave just to survive.

How many sins did the father make his son recount before forgiving him? None. Did the father withhold love from the son? No. He loved him even while he was living in debauchery. The father knew the son could never understand his love until his son came to the end of himself. The love of the father never changed. The only thing that changed was that his son could never understand how much dad loved him until he had nothing in his life worthy of love.

Many of you are the prodigal son, or have been there. I have been there. In the past, I thought my sins were driving me away from God, but I discovered they were driving me to Him.

It was not until I had nothing to offer God but sin that I discovered God doesn’t love me because of who I am, but because of who He is. It isn’t until we understand that all we have to give to God is our sin that we can then understand that everything is about His love and not our efforts.

The prodigal son illustration was given because the people who thought of themselves as good were looking at Jesus and saying, “Why are you accepting these people who are bad?”

It isn’t until we understand that we have nothing good to give God that we can begin to comprehend the depth of God’s love.

The son practiced his rehearsed speech, and when he came to his father, something unexpected happened. While he was a long way off, the father ran to meet him. Before he could say a word, the father embraced him and began kissing him. A little is lost in translation here. There are two words used for ‘kiss’ in the New Testament. One means a fraternal kiss, or the common kiss on the cheek used in many cultures. The other means to kiss repeatedly. A good example of both usages is found when a woman known for her sinful lifestyle came when Jesus was dining at a Pharisee’s house. People were amazed that Jesus allowed this sinful woman to wash His feet with her tears. It was vile to be touched by such a woman.

Jesus explained how that someone with little sin doesn’t recognize the love of God, but a person who is hopelessly in debt to sin loves much because they are loved much. When they recognize the depth of the love of God, they recognize how much of a treasure they have been given. In this interaction, Jesus says the following in Luke 7:45

You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.

The first usage of the word ‘kiss’ is ‘philema’, which is a sign of respect and acceptance. It’s a fraternal kiss on each cheek. The second usage of the word kiss is the Greek word ‘kataphileo’, which is the act of continually kissing someone. It is to kiss again, and again, and again, and again.

I once saw a mother whose child was rescued from a well. The rescue was televised. She didn’t know if her son was alive or dead until a rescuer went down the shaft and came up with the child, safe and sound. She embraced him and kissed him over and over. This is what kataphileo is communicating, and it’s the word used in the prodigal son.

Before the son could say a word, the father embraced him with a bear hug and kissed him again, and again, and again, and again. Then they wept together until the son could speak. Then while the son is saying, “I have sinned,” the father is commanding the servants to put good sandals on his feet. While the son is saying, “I am not worthy to be called your son,” the father is crying out, “Bring the best robe for my son. Put the family ring on his finger.”

Was the son worthy? No. And that’s the point. It wasn’t about his worthiness, but about the father’s love.

Your faith is not about your worthiness. It isn’t about your sin, or ability to not sin. It’s not about your righteousness or works. It is about the father’s love for you. If you could be worthy, you miss the greatness of God’s love. It is when you have blown it to the point where you know you smell like you’ve been in a pig sty, you’ve been driven to despair by your sins, that is when you can understand the love of God.

God loves you because God is love. Your sins, failures, and weaknesses do not drive you away from God. They drive you to the reality of His love for you. It is only then that you are able to understand how much God loves you. When you understand that all you have to give God is filthy rags, that is when you will see God joyfully take away your rags and give you the robe of righteousness.

The sad reality is that we rarely can grasp how much we are loved until we have failed so miserably that we can no longer deceive ourselves into thinking we can please God by anything other than faith. Let’s wrap up this portion of study with Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

It’s not works, righteousness, moral excellence, or religious activities that pleases God. It is faith. Faith says, “I know and believe in the love God has for me.” Faith says, “I am righteous because I am receive the righteousness of Christ.” Faith understands that all I can give God is my sins and failures, and He gladly gives me His goodness and righteousness. Faith is to believe in God’s grace, not our abilities or lack thereof. Faith reveals that my sin is not God’s barrier, and it isn’t sin that overthrows grace, but grace that overthrows sin.

Faith says, “It’s not about me, but it’s about Christ. It’s about His work given to me as a gift of God’s love.”

God transforms you through His power and gifts of love. You don’t make yourself acceptable to God. You are accepted in Christ, and it’s God’s job to transform you into His likeness. The more you learn to trust in God’s love, the more His love forces out of your life the things that hinder you.

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

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The Peninsula Experience

One of the great injustices the church does to its members is teaching that problems are not part of the life of faith. I’ve heard some say that if you have problems in your life, it is either a lack of faith or the judgment against your sin. This is false. Consider the promise of Psalm 34:19

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Notice, the Bible says ‘afflictions of the righteous’, not of the sinner. Even Jesus alluded to this when He said, “He that bears fruit will be pruned that he may bear more fruit.”

Your troubles are not the evidence of God’s anger. Nor is the lack of trouble the evidence of God’s favor. How many billionaires are great men of faith? The rich are rarely men focused on godliness. God directs our lives according to His will. Some will indeed have abundance and some will have the greater blessing of being God dependent. I say ‘greater blessing’ because the one who has to trust has the opportunity to grow in faith as part of their daily life.

When the church associates material wealth and a lifestyle of ease with spiritual maturity, they are depriving those whom God is refining, and they are denying the work of God. In the Old Testament, Job went through a time of intense testing. His spiritual friends came to comfort him, but ended up piling a greater burden upon Job. They said, “God would never do this to anyone who doesn’t have sin in his life.” In the end, God said that Job spoke the truth, and his friends spoke falsely – even though one of them said their words to Job came from the Lord.

The human intellect associates good with karma. If I do good deeds or act righteously, good things will happen. The world believes in karma, as do many in the church. We call it blessing, but our belief system is mirroring the world.

Because the church believes hardship is the evidence of faithlessness, people are taught to resist instead of embracing our circumstances through faith. None of us want hard times, yet the man or woman grounded in faith fully believes the promise, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

When you struggle, God is with you. You may have been taught that God is with you during times of blessing, but God is with you during the times you struggle as well. In fact, you will experience God’s presence greater during affliction, unless you believe He is angry and you withdraw from Him. Take encouragement from 1 Peter 4:12-13

12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

Don’t think something strange is happening when you find yourself in the fire. Rejoice, for God is working to reveal His glory in you!

Does God want you to be blessed and thrive in this life? Yes, but not at the expense of the true richness of our eternal life. God doesn’t want you to miss the eternal fruit of your new life for the fading pleasure of this life. Remember Jesus’ words, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you His Kingdom.” This is fully received through a life of faith. It is not received through the flesh. God refreshes you by the quiet waters and green pastures, but then takes you through the valley of testing. And there is a reason for the testing.

Abraham was promised many things that would prove God’s power on his behalf, but when it came to the reward, Abraham was told, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” It was after Abraham learned to walk by faith that the promises became reality. Yet his investment was not merely in this passing life, but in the life to come.

God’s purpose is to shake loose the things that are temporal so that which is eternal may remain and become our focus. God will wean you off of any trust you have in any thing, person, or selfish belief that draws you away from Him. God doesn’t want you to trust in things. God doesn’t want your confidence to be in people. God doesn’t want you to be dependent upon emotions. When these things become blockades for spiritual growth, God will shake them loose. And if we are taught to reject this work, we will be stuck in the perpetual loop of frustration. The frustration is because our faith is dependent upon the things of the flesh instead of our life in His Spirit.

There will be times when God will put us on the peninsula of despair so we will find hope in nothing other than Him. A peninsula is a land mass that protrudes into the water so it stands alone. Let’s take a look at a few examples from scripture.

The strongest example is when God delivered a faithless people from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. We looked at the exodus last week when we studied the unveiling of the Passover. Ten plagues broke the will of Pharaoh. The final plague was the death that fell on any family not under the blood. Once the first born children died, the Egyptians thrust Israel out of the land. They were suddenly free.

Instead of leading them to safety, God led them to a peninsula a few miles outside of Egypt. When Pharaoh pondered this, he raged against these ex-slaves. Let’s pick up the story from Exodus 14:8-13

8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; and the children of Israel went out with boldness.
9 So the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and overtook them camping by the sea beside Pi Hahiroth, before Baal Zephon.
10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the LORD.
11 Then they said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt?
12 "Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying,`Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness."
13 And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.

What did the people do to deserve their desperate circumstances? Nothing. They obeyed and followed the Lord’s command. They had a moment of freedom, but in a flash, it turned to despair. They heard a rumbling sound in the distance, turned, and saw the land filled with horsemen, chariots, and sword bearing soldiers. They were not merely coming to recapture the slaves. They were going to annihilate them. Behind the people was a sea of water. On both sides, more water. There was nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide. They were helpless and defenseless.

This is exactly what God wanted them to experience. God wanted them to be defenseless. He wanted them to be helpless. He wanted them to have no way of escape. God stripped away everything they could lean on so that there were only two possibilities – death or deliverance from God.

This is exactly what God is doing when your life ends up in a quandary. Our natural human reaction is to escape and use our own resources to get out of trouble and find success. God leads, but at the first sign of trouble, we abandon His leading and fall back to our own ways and trust in ourselves, our resources, or other people. When we do so, we are robbing ourselves of the greatness of God’s power in our lives. Knowing that we are incapable of walking by faith without being forced to do so, there will be times when God will strip everything away so He alone is our way of escape. Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

I’m going to challenge the way most people view this passage. The word ‘temptation’ does not only mean the temptation to sin. The Greek word we translate into tempt means, testing, trial, or to prove our feelings or judgments. It can be us being tested by our flesh as it attempts to draw us into sin, but this is not the limit of this passage. Sometimes we are tempted to fall back into trusting in human effort. Sometimes we are tried by our circumstances. Or tested to reveal where our faith lies.

Here is another truth. The way of escape is through Him. God is not promising that our flesh will have the power to resist, or that we will be victorious through human effort. The Bible is not saying we will be able to bear this by our own strength. We are commanded to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might – not be strong for the Lord with the power of our might.

Sometimes the way of escape is through the defeat of the flesh. When we are broken of self-reliance, our human effort may have been defeated, but our escape is then revealed through the Lord’s mercies. Mercies we cannot comprehend until we stand before Him broken, with nothing to offer but our shattered hope. Then God takes away the worthless hope and replaces it with true hope. Unfortunately, I can’t recognize how worthless my hope in my own abilities or righteousness truly is until it is broken and in ruins. Then the broken pieces lose value, but God comes to us with a restoration that wasn’t possible until we became broken enough to let go of human hope.

I’m going to use an illustration I’ve used a few times, but is important enough to repeat. Key truths are often repeated in scripture because we need to be constantly reminded. Peter understood this, which is why he said, “I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things.” Our faith is constantly being challenged; therefore, important doctrines must be reinforced regularly.

Peter, or as Jesus called him, Simon, was self-confident and self-reliant. He’s about to experience the greatest defeat of his life, and Jesus prepares him with an interesting instruction. Look at Luke 22:31-32

31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
32 "But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Peter is about to fail, and fail badly, but his faith will not. His faith is given to him by God, and Jesus is promising that he will return from his fall. Satan wants to grind Peter into destruction, but this won’t be possible, for God is preserving him. Not only that, God is about to use Satan to prepare Peter for a life of faith that can never again be shaken.

From the human way of thinking, the above is a contradiction. Your faith won’t fail, and when you return to Me? Why would Peter have to return to Jesus if his faith doesn’t fail? It isn’t Peter’s faith that is about to fail; it’s his flesh. All his confidence is about to be stripped away, and he will crumble in utter defeat. From his perspective, his life is ruined, but from God’s perspective, the worthless part of Peter’s life has been shaken loose so he can now discover the gift of faith that can never be shaken. Peter now stands by faith in himself, his righteousness, and his own love for Jesus. In a few days, Peter will be restored with faith in Christ, stand upon the righteousness of God, and he’ll discover the love of God that can do what his own love could never do.

Most of us know what happens next. When Jesus is arrested, Peter first tries to defend Him by attacking the servant of the High Priest and cutting off his ear. He is rebuked by Jesus and then Christ heals the servant’s ear. All the disciples flee and some follow Jesus from a distance.

Peter makes it into the courtyard where Jesus is being tried, and then a servant girl comes up and says, “Aren’t you one of His disciples?” Think about the position Peter is now in. He attacked the servant of one of the highest rulers in Israel – a crime punishable by death. Now he’s trying to keep anyone from recognizing him, so he denies he knows Jesus. The man who a few hours ago declared confidently, “Though all will forsake you, I will never deny or forsake you. I would die before I would deny you,” is now saying he never met Jesus.

He puts as much distance as possible between himself and the girl, but Satan is stirring her to pursue him. She comes up again, this time inciting others. Someone else joined in, “You must be one of Jesus’ disciples. You sound like a Galilean.” Peter denied and withdrew again.

This nuisance of a girl came up a third time, “This man is one of Jesus’ disciples.” Then someone else from the crowd looked over. He was in the party that arrested Jesus. He gave Peter a suspicious stare and said, “You are one of them. Didn’t I see you in the garden?”

Panic surged through Peter. Someone now could identify him as the one who drew the sword against the servant of the priest. Time to take desperate measures. “I tell you, I have never met the man. May God curse me with death if I have ever met that man!” The Bible says Peter began calling down curses upon himself to prove he wasn’t a disciple. At that moment, the rooster crowed, and the words of Jesus came to mind. That is when Peter’s confidence, self-identity, and hope imploded upon himself. He walked out and wept bitterly. That word ‘bitterly’ tells us that Peter was completely defeated. He failed, seethed against himself, and agonized over his own stupidity and failure.

Where was the way of escape that Jesus promised? From the human perspective, Peter had to endure more than he could take. Indeed he did. Peter wasn’t supposed to escape. The only way Peter could escape his own self-focus was to have it crushed. Look at his words in Mark 14:30-31

30 Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times."
31 But he spoke more vehemently, "If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And they all said likewise.

The disciple is rebuking his Master? Foolish? Yes, but you and I have the same attitude in us. We can’t believe that our good is worthless. We can’t believe that human faith is contrary to the faith God measures to us. We can’t believe that we can’t please God by what we do or don’t do. We naturally fall into self-righteousness and self-sustaining behaviors.

Why didn’t the other apostles have to be broken this way? Merely being helpless to protect Jesus was all the breaking they needed, but Peter was strong in himself and was unbreakable without being broken by Satan. God ordained the circumstances that would crush Peter’s spirit. From the human perspective, this seems tragic, but the truth is that God loved Peter enough to not leave him in self-reliance.

What appeared tragic for a moment gave birth to a victory that would last a lifetime. In forty days, this man who cowered in the courtyard would be boldly proclaiming, “This Jesus, whom you crucified, is both Lord and Christ.” And he would be proclaiming it among the very people who had the power to crucify him. But he could never be that man until everything of the flesh was shaken loose.

A broken Peter stood with Jesus by the seashore while Jesus restored him. Peter thought his failure destroyed his ministry and place in God’s plan, but the truth is that Peter was unusable until he reached that point. Satan’s sifting was God’s tool of preparation, and he had the promise of Jesus, “Your faith will not fail.” Once he was restored, he then remembered the words of Jesus, “When you have returned, strengthen your brethren.”

What? The man who had the worst failure was now the one called upon to become a strengthener of the brethren?

This is you. This is me. God leads us gently through His word, but there are areas in our life where we are stubborn and hardened against the way of life. This is when God leads us onto the peninsula of despair. When you find yourself in distress, stop looking at yourself. Stop looking at your circumstances. Stop saying, “Why God,” and start asking, “What God? What are you doing in my life?” Consider the words of Jesus about Himself in Luke 20:17-18

17 Then He looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written:`The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone ‘?
18 "Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

This sounds harsh unless we look at it from the eternal perspective. When I fall upon Christ, I’m broken from my own strength and He becomes my Rock and strength. When I resist the Spirit’s work, the hardness of my life in the flesh is ground away – not because God is judging me, but because God sees the end result. He crushes the things in my life that prevent me from experiencing true life. The only pain comes through my will that clings to what is harmful. God doesn’t want me to labor for this passing life. God doesn’t want me to trust in my own righteousness – a righteousness that cannot produce eternal fruit. God wants me to inherit His kingdom.

God will put you into a place where you can find hope in Him alone. That is when we either swim against the tide driving us back to the peninsula, or we stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.

And remember this, the coral bridge that rests even today many feet below the water’s surface was prepared when God designed creation. It was hidden for thousands of years, only to be revealed when God unveiled His plan. And that would not come until a helpless people had no hope other than to cry out to God while on the peninsula. When the people had no hope other than God, the Lord said, “Take a good look at your enemies. You will never see them again.”

Is the sifting of Satan’s hands our judgment? No! It is God preparing us to see His plan emerge from a place where human eyes cannot see. God’s call is to first take our eyes off our problems, circumstances, and ourselves and place our eyes upon Him. Once our eyes of faith have been opened, God then says, “Take a good look at your problem. You will never see it again.” That is when you are delivered from your harmful habits, sins, or hardships. These things are not God’s judgment. These things do not drive us out of God’s love. These are the siftings that shakes away confidence in anything but the Lord, and then God’s deliverance is unveiled, and you will walk in the Spirit through God’s deliverance.

Your sin is not God’s barrier. Your failure is not God’s limitation. Your efforts and skills are not God’s provision. It is all by Him and is the evidence of His power and love toward you.

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987


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Yes, Virginia, Grace is Hyper!

I’m surprised at how many people have such a strong opposition to grace. One man gave me the warning of Luke 6:26, “Woe when all men speak well of you.” He then said, “This is the evidence you are a deceiver and a false prophet.”

Based on the response to grace, I’m in safe company. I get bombarded with criticism, and an occasional word of encouragement sprinkles in from time to time. From what I can see, those who are quoting Luke 6:26 are the ones being spoken well of, for preaching righteousness by human effort is widely accepted. The Apostle Paul said it best when he explained how persecution stops when the law is preached, for “then the offense of the cross has ceased.” When you take the works of righteousness out of man’s hands and say all good is a gift of God’s grace or it is a work of the flesh, that is when religion gets offended.

There are many well-meaning Christians that are creating divisions in the church. They preach division by labeling anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the boundaries of their denominational lines as a heretic or false teacher. A few weeks ago someone sent me an article titled ‘Six People who should be removed from Evangelicalism’. Is this the message of the gospel? As of this writing, there are over 33,000 denominations and sub-denominations in the world today.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know you are My disciples, by your love (agape) for one another.” My friend, this is the reason for the decline of the church. It isn’t ‘those heretics’, it is the fact that with the absence of love for the brethren, the world has no way of seeing Christ in the church. When we see misunderstandings of doctrine, instead of taking to heart the example of Aquila and Priscilla and nurturing people into the way of truth, we take the hammer of judgmentalism and smash them over the head.

When these two mature believers heard Apollos teaching, they recognized mistakes in his teaching, but they also recognized his love for God. Instead of publicly skewering him, the Bible says, “They took him aside and expounded the way of God more accurately.” A little is lost in translation. The word ‘took’ is the Greek word ‘proslambano’, which means to take someone as a companion. They didn’t merely rebuke him or straighten him out. They welcomed him into their fellowship and extended agape love to him, and through the relationship, they nurtured him into a deeper understanding.

Apollos is mentioned ten different times in the New Testament. He became an influential missionary who crossed paths with the Apostle Paul and worked to establish the church throughout the Roman Empire. What would have happened if they rebuked Apollos or wrote to the churches that he should be expelled from fellowship because he had a flaws in his doctrine?

Here is another thought to ponder. Think about the most influential Christians throughout history. How many people who shot down others were instrumental in establishing the church or being used mightily of God? I’ll ask another question. Which person is more usable by God – someone who is abiding in the love of God (agape) but has weak doctrine, or a learned theologian who picks off heretics? Which one demonstrates the love of Christ to the world? Which one will the world look at and say, “Now that person is a disciple of Christ?”

I also once thought defending the faith from every form of error was the most important part of teaching. I once had thousands of pages of apologetics on my website (exchangedlife.com) but a few years back I wiped it all away and started over. Apologetics is a term meant to call ourselves a defender of the faith.

I was compelled to start from scratch when I began to understand how little I knew. Each new discovery in the word did two things. It unveiled a new world of truth to explore, and it revealed how little I had previously understood. New misunderstandings are dispelled every time I discover a new depth of truth. If I now see how many things I had wrong (and only God knows how many new discoveries will make my current beliefs appear foolish) how can I stand in condemnation because my fellow believer has things wrong? Do I deserve God’s patience with my limited understanding, but now I refuse to show that same patience to others? The evidence of our faith is NOT pointing out every error in others and demanding they submit to our beliefs.

Let me digress for a moment. Nowhere does the Bible call us defenders of the faith. God needs no defenders. Once we have to defend God or make ourselves protectors of His truth, we are already outside of true faith. He is our defender, and His truth has no rivals. Each time the word ‘defense’ or ‘apologia’ is used in scripture, it is us defending the reason for our hope. It is never given as a justification for attacking fellow believers. Nine times ‘defense’ is used in the New Testament. Not one time is it associated with anything other than someone defending their own hope in faith. Never is it used to assault someone in the name of God. There is a place for apologetics, but any apologia that does not give reason for our hope is an act of the flesh.

What’s more, the way to expound the way more accurately is not to rebuke or correct. It is to build companionship based on a mutual faith, exercising agape love to each other, and through fellowship, we can freely challenge each other and be challenged in the spirit of love. If a friend comes up and says, “I’m not sure if I agree with what you said,” we can sit down at a coffee shop and explore the scriptures and each other’s perspective. However, if I go up to someone I have not bothered to establish a companionship with and say I don’t agree with them, what will happen? They will be defensive, and I’m more likely to get conflict than showing them the way more perfectly.

The real failure is not in their doctrine, but in the fact that I have not bothered to create a companionship with my fellow believer. Until agape reigns, correction will always appear to be criticism. This is what is happening with the anti-grace movement. They call themselves defenders of grace from the hyper-grace movement, but as we’ll discuss shortly, you can’t believe in God’s grace too much.

Certainly there are people with misunderstandings of grace. There are non-Christians who use grace to justify their sins, just as they used other methods of self-justification before knowing about grace. There are fleshly minded Christians who will twist grace into justification of the flesh as well. But they were already in the flesh, and it isn’t grace that led them into error. The fleshly mind always seeks to manipulate truth for self-justification. As with all doctrines, grace without faith is an act of the flesh. We shouldn’t be surprised when the fleshly mind attempts to conform biblical truth into the ways of the flesh. We know that grace is only within faith, but this doesn’t keep people outside of faith from trying to manipulate it. But does this disprove grace? Or make it hyper? What about other biblical principles. The Apostle Peter said unlearned men would twist scriptures for their own destruction – but this doesn’t discredit the scriptures.

Jesus never showed hostility toward those who were ignorant, or even to those who were in sin. The only time Jesus dismantled religion was when people erected faith in their own self-righteousness. Grace always triumphs over sin. Self-righteousness always nullifies grace – God’s promises.

Why is grace the only thing the church establishment is openly hostile toward? People misuse scriptures and abuse the Bible in many ways, but it is only of grace that it is said, “We must keep it within boundaries.” It’s just as it was said in the 1st century. The religious community that began looking to Christ had no problems with faith – until faith called them to stop trusting in their own works. Then it became a threat. That’s why the Jewish church hated Paul. The other Apostles received him and called his writings ‘scripture’, but the community that believed in Jesus plus human effort (in their case the law), called grace heresy.

The organized church has no problem believing Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Resistance comes when you say, “The Christian life is lived by grace through faith. Everything is a gift of God and not of works so no one can boast.” That’s when conflict arises, but the Christian life is lived the same way it is entered – by grace through faith. If you take grace away, it becomes faith in human effort. If you take faith away, grace becomes a superstition of a flesh-focused religion. The Bible rebukes the Galatian church for leaving faith and turning back to human effort by saying, “Are you so foolish, having begun by faith, do you now think you are made perfect by works of the flesh?”

Grace IS hyper, for God called it so. Romans 5:20 says, where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. ‘Sin abounds’ uses the word ‘pleonazo’, which means increase or have abundance. It’s where we get our English word ‘plenty’. The second part of this passage says ‘grace much more abounds’. That word is huperperisseuo, which means abound beyond measure, abound exceeding, or to overflow into excess. It’s where we get our word hyperactive.

The concept is that sin cannot stand in the presence of grace, for God’s grace is so excessive, it overruns and drives sin out. When a sinner hears the gospel and receives Christ, what happens? God’s grace is poured upon him / her, sin is driven out, the flesh nature is cut away and driven out, and a new nature born of God fills the heart of the person. Is this hyper grace? You bet it is! So what happens to take people out of that joyful reception of grace and into a life struggling against sin again? Grace is replaced with human effort – which often comes in the form of church law. They began by looking to Christ and found victory, but they took their eyes off of Christ and returned it back to self. The very self that could do nothing before has now become that person’s dependence again. And we wonder why the Christian life is so hard.

The only person who can find true victory is the one who realizes self can’t do anything, it’s all of Christ. The church condemns their audacity to do nothing but receive grace, but those condemning them have no victory. They hide their weakness behind a façade, but when you really get to know people, even the best among us is in the same position. We all have weaknesses and struggles. Weaknesses defeat those trusting in human effort, but weakness becomes the glory of those who understand that God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses.

Victory emerges as we recognize that our weakness is designed into humanity so we can learn to receive the power of God. Your weakness is God’s gift. Weakness opens our eyes to the provision of God’s grace. It is through weakness that we receive His power of grace. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9) The only way this can’t happen is if we refuse to allow grace to flow. And the promise is nullified through the law (See Galatians 5:4).

Hypergrace condemners cannot comprehend the power of God because they are making Christ of no effect. (Romans 4:14) Then those who are putting their trust fully in Christ are experiencing abounding grace, and the church is condemning them and trying to draw them back into a legal system the human mind can comprehend.

Let’s ponder a few more questions. Is it possible to trust God too much? Is grace limited? If God has said He would give us more than we can think or ask, and others are saying, “Whoa. You are carrying this grace thing too far,” whose words will we trust?

I was saved at 13. I was already in very serious sin. From 13 to 32, I tried to live by the rules. I never felt free, never escaped condemnation, and my sins never lost their grip. They ruled my life – even though I tried with all my might to put myself under the guard of what I thought was Christianity. When I began to discover grace, I stopped condemning myself. I stopped worrying about my sins. I stopped focusing on my failures. I began learning how to focus on Christ and the promises of His gifts of grace through faith. My sins could not be defeated with my best efforts, and even after committing myself to obey, sin still ruled me. Yet under grace, without trying or focusing on my failures, the sins that were once undefeatable fell from my life and became irrelevant. Without my effort, they became valueless to me and I stopped desiring the things that led me into sin.

If grace is a threat to Christianity, why are so many people obeying the Christianized law failing to see victory? Why are people like me being given victory? Because God does not want you and I to defeat sin. He wants us to experience deliverance and victory as a gift of God through the power of the Spirit so we cannot boast. At least we can’t boast in anything but the Lord. It’s all about God’s glory. Self-victory is my glory. Grace only points to the glory of God.

Just because someone does not understand grace does not mean we should doubt it. Legalists don’t understand it. Those pursuing the lusts of the flesh don’t understand it. It can only be understood through faith – for God opens our eyes as we learn to trust enough to receive. This is the victory that overcomes the world – our faith. Not our efforts. Not our resistance to sin. Not our works. It’s all about faith. You are saved by and must now live by grace through faith. It is a gift of God, not of works or human effort so no one can boast. When you trust in grace, God is glorified!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

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Book Signing on Saturday 6/7/14

Hiram Bookstoreclip_image004[4]

Grand Reopening

Sat., June 7th 11:30-3:30

Guest Authors … Ribbon cutting

Light Refreshments from Jim and Nicks and Buffalos

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Door Prizes by Cheeseburger Bobby’s Yogli Mogli, and Applebees Search our shelves for hidden gift certificates.

 

For info, call the Hiram Bookstore770-943-0571

5077 Jimmy Lee Smith Pkwy Hiram, GA 30141

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The Celebration of Communion

The single greatest event in the church is the crucifixion of Jesus. While the resurrection gave us justification, the crucifixion removed the barriers that prevent us from fully experiencing the love of God. The church is very good at celebrating the resurrection, but Jesus commanded us to continuously proclaim His death.

Many evangelicals neglect this important command, and the biggest reason is unfounded fear based on a misunderstanding of scripture. Let’s begin this study by examining this scripture. 1 Corinthians 11:17-32

17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

Many translations use the word ‘unworthily’ instead of ‘in an unworthy manner’. Though the vernacular during the era of the translators may have been consistent to the intent of the scriptures, our modern vernacular misunderstands this as if we are being proclaimed unworthy instead of our actions being unworthy. The Greek word is anaxios, which is accurately translated as ‘unworthy manner’. Yet even if the wording might appear to be unclear, the context around this phrase should clarify any misconceptions. We sometimes take things out of context, so the meaning gets lost in our assumptions.

The Apostle Paul begins this instruction by scolding the church. “You are not coming together for the better, but for the worse,” again directing our attention to the method and not the individual’s spiritual condition. The people had turned this remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice into a party of indulgence.

The church is reminded of how this commandment had been originally delivered. Notice, they were not merely eating the bread and drinking the wine of communion. In the Corinthian church, what should have been a celebration of Christ instead had become a runaway festival of human glory. One person ate a banquet, another was drunken, and the poorest among them had nothing.

In the late 1700s, a similar example emerged in the European church. To raise money, the church allowed parishioners to purchase the pews they sat in. It wasn’t long before people started decorating their own pews. One would deck out their family pew, and another would one-up them. Soon it became a status symbol of wealth, each person beaconing their own glory to the church by the lavishness of their pew. The church began discouraging the practice once the richest pew-owners began encasing themselves in decorative boxes to be separate from the lower status parishioners.

This same spirit exists today. Churches beacon their success through architecture and lavish buildings. Members present things that separate themselves from others, whether that be images of wealth, denominationalism, or pride in their knowledge and self-righteousness. What is supposed to be the communion of the saints at a common table focused on the Lord has been perverted into a call for divisions.

Churches deny communion to those who are in Christ but not of their particular sect. Christians separate themselves from the communion table when other believers in Christ are not of their particular label of Christianity. Communion is the one time we are commanded to put everything else aside and focus on Christ alone. Unfortunately, religion has divided the table of fellowship and excluded those who belong to Christ. This is sin and is why the Bible says, “I praise you not,” and then condemns us for breaking into factions within the church.

There is one body, one Lord, and one salvation. (See Ephesians 4:4-6) Anyone who is in Christ is in the communion of the saints – even if people within the various church sects don’t acknowledge this truth. They may be well meaning, but if anyone is supporting division, they are under the warning of the above scripture.

This is what was occurring in the church of Corinth. They were turning their tables into banquet halls. One displayed his feast, one had the party table where the group became drunk, and the poorest among them were left out of the picture. The poor people were watching others feast and probably wondered why God was not including them, but the truth is that God wasn’t in this indulgence at all. While the members were boasting about their own glory, they were shaming the cross and true faith was pushed aside for self-glorifying religion.

It is at this point that the warning is given. “I praise you not!” This is not the Lord ’s Supper. It’s a carnally minded festival. After rebuking this sham of a practice, Paul returns their focus to what had already been delivered to them, and they are reminded to take the bread and cup with a focus on Christ. Then they are commanded, “Examine yourselves.”

This self-examination is not the command to see if we are sin-free and worthy to take the Lord’s Supper. It is a command to examine our actions to see if we are conducting ourselves in a way that honors or dishonors Christ’s sacrifice. Examine yourself is not a command to see if you have sin that makes you unworthy. You are worthy because Christ has made you worthy! Let’s take a moment to look at the meaninglessness of our ideas of worthiness. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Why was Paul worthy? It’s a trick question. He could never become worthy. He is called by God because of God’s grace. Not only does God’s grace place Paul within the center of God’s perfect will, it also becomes the force within him to do good works. God produced good works as Paul focused on Christ.

The same is true for you. You can never become worthy. Let me reiterate that for emphasis: you will never be worthy enough to earn the right to partake of the Lord’s Supper. You are a partaker of Christ because of God’s grace alone! If you have any doubts on this, let’s look at what the Bible calls sin.

  • To know good and not do it is a sin.
  • To disobey God willfully or ignorantly is a sin.
  • To lust in our heart is equal to adultery.
  • To be angry without a godly cause is sin.
  • Even if we have a godly cause, if anger produces an outburst of wrath, it is sin.
  • To hate is equivalent to murder.
  • To speak against of person in a position of authority, political or otherwise, is rebellion against God and is sin.
  • To fail to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength is a sin. That is all, not most. Any failure to love is sin.
  • To fail to love your neighbor as yourself is sin. Do you have anyone in your town that has less than you do?
  • To fail to pray for someone is a sin.
  • Anything not of faith is a sin. Do you act 100% in faith 100% of the time?

Now examine yourself. Can you identify every sin you have committed and confess them and be declared worthy? If you think you can, I need to remind you that self-righteousness and pride are sins.

Do you see the problem with the false doctrine of having to become worthy in order to partake of communion? 99% of your sins will never be acknowledged. 98% of those are because you don’t even recognize the areas in your life where sin exists. The Bible says that the person viewing life through the natural mind will always be in sin. Only when we are in the Spirit do we have life and peace. It’s all about faith. And that is exactly what the Lord ’s Supper is all about.

It isn’t about your ability to confess your way into perfection. It is about Christ’s work that has set you free from the law of sin and death. You are celebrating His victory over sin, and you are declared worthy because of your faith in Him. Nothing else can make you worthy. If you are putting your trust in your ability to confess your sins, you are hopeless indeed. The best you can do is deceive yourself into thinking you have made things right. However, the life in the Spirit by faith in Christ is always right with God.

Examine yourself. Are you focused on anything other than Christ? Are you trusting in your righteousness, or His righteousness given to you? It is not a man-centered philosophy. It is a faith-centered trust in Christ.

Let’s take a moment to look at the Bible’s unveiling of communion. It began in Exodus 12:21-23

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.
22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.
23 “For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.

This is where the Passover celebration came from. The angel of judgment passed through the land and not one person was judged based on their merits or sins. The most noble among them were doomed if they were not under the blood. The vilest among them were saved, if they were under the blood. This is why the Bible calls Jesus the Lamb of God. He is the Passover, but this was not revealed until His birth 2000 years ago. Once Jesus became the Passover Lamb, it became a sin to perform the Old Testament sacrifices. He is the only sacrifice. All that came before Him were merely proclaiming His coming death. Now we take the communion celebration to proclaim the death He accomplished.

Even in this Old Testament ordinance, we see the cross. The blood on the doorpost and the top of the door is the cross. To strike the doorposts is foretelling of His hands that would be nailed and would bleed. The top of the door is the crown of thorns that bloodied His brow. Jesus even called Himself the door of salvation. And none of this would be understood for another two millennia.

The Old Testament is filled with foreshadows of Christ. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and gave the wine and bread of communion, for He was the priest of the Most High God. Now Jesus, the High Priest of our confession brings us the bread and wine of His sacrifice. Though God revealed it in both the Old and New Testaments, no one could understand until God revealed it at the crucifixion, and through the Spirit opening the eyes of our heart. Look now at John 6:51-60

51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
54 “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
58 “This is the bread which came down from heaven– not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

We have the perspective of history, but the disciples did not. Many of Jesus’ followers turned their backs on Him at this teaching. It was a hard saying. You also will find many things hard to understand, but those who understand that He is their life will not allow this to discourage them.

The day was coming when even those who said, “It’s a hard saying,” would understand. Yet only those who had faith to stay with Him received the blessing of witnessing His resurrection and being part of His first calling. When Jesus said, “Will you also go away?” Peter said, “Where shall we go? Only You have the words of life.”

Peter had no clue what Jesus was talking about, yet because he knew the word was true, he walked in faith until the time when God would open his eyes to see the truth. Even though Peter was overtaken by his flesh and even denied Jesus three times, God did not allow Peter to fail. And that is a message that should give you comfort. Even if you fall, God is able to make you stand. Just believe on Christ, trust His word, and rely on His power.

Your sins are not God’s barrier. Those are part of the body of flesh you are learning to leave behind. Don’t trust in your ability to remain sin-free. Your flesh is never sin-free. There are just blind spots where you can’t recognize your faults, but in God’s eyes, you are faultless if you are in Christ. You are worthy because, by the grace of God, I am what I am. By the grace of God, you are what you are. He has made you stand, and it is by His grace alone that you stand.

Don’t be faithless, but believe. Let’s look at our celebration in Luke 22:19-20

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

When you take the bread, reflect on the gift of Christ. His body was broken for your sins. The wrath against all your sin was laid upon Him. You are not partaking of condemnation, you are partaking of life! As Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” When you take this bread, you are proclaiming your trust in His death and the gift of life He provided to you.

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

When you take this cup, it is your declaration of faith in His forgiveness for your sins. It is the proclamation that His blood purchased your life. It is your trust in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was condemnation, but now you are trusting in the new Covenant purchased for you. It’s all about His gift of love, and nothing is dependent upon you. The only thing God requires is that you believe on Christ. Put your trust in His atoning blood, and celebrate His death for your life. This was shed for you!

Let us remember and celebrate the Lord’s death until He comes. This celebration is in remembrance of His gift. His death is your gift of life. May the Lord bless you as you trust in Him!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

 

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