Posts Tagged ‘Belief in Christ’

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Matthew 20:1-16 – WHAT IS JESUS TRYING TO TELL ME?

I love the parable of the Landowner and the Vineyard Workers. Jesus likens the kingdom of heaven to the generosity of a landowner who hires laborers at various times during the day. At 6 am He hires people to work in His vineyard for a day’s wage. He hires additional people at 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and again at 5 p.m., telling each of these groups that He will give them “whatever is right.” and then pays the last hired with the same wage as those hired first. Absurd! Economy irresponsible! Incredibly generous! Unfair? Since this is a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, what can I learn?

1. THE LANDOWNER NEVER STOPS SEARCHING FOR THOSE WHO WILL SERVE HIM IN THE VINEYARD. He comes repeatedly to the marketplace, all through the day, and at the end of the day gives each one a full days wage.

God never stops searching for those who desire to believe in His Sonserve Him and receive His gift of eternal life. He found me and gave me the opportunity to receive eternal life.

John 15:16 (NLT) says, You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, 

2. THE LANDOWNER FULFILLS HIS AGREEMENT WITH THE INITIAL WORKERS TO PAY A FULL DAY’S WAGE

God keeps His promises. He has promised Eternal Life to those who give their lives to Christ.

Numbers 23:19 (NLT) says, God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?

Acts 16:31 (NLT) says, Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, …” 

3. THE DAY WORKERS WAITED AT THE MARKETPLACE READY AND WILLING TO WORK

God chose me because He knew I was willing to come. 

John 3:16 (NLT) says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 

4. THE DAY WORKERS RECOGNISE THAT THEY ARE DESTITUTE WITHOUT THE LANDOWNER

They agree to serve the Landowner knowing He will do what is right. Without Him, they are destitute.

We are destitute spiritually without ChristJesus offered the rich young ruler eternal life but he turned away from Him. Jesus then told this parable about those who served Him who recognize that they are poor without Him. We come to God recognizing the inadequacy of our own resources for life and eternity.

John 15:5 (NLT) says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.

Romans 5:6 (NLT) says, When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.

5. THE WORKERS WHO CAME THROUGHOUT THE DAY TRUSTED THE LANDOWNER

They did not know how much they would receive but they worked for Him anyway.

We come to Christ to serve Him, not simply to get our needs met. We come under His authority. And what we receive goes way beyond what we deserve.

In Joshua 24:15 (NLT) Joshua challenges people to choose who they will serve. He said, But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

Psalm 34:22 (NLT) says But the Lord will redeem those who serve Him. No one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned.

Matthew 9:37-38 (NLT) says, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into his fields.”

6. NONE OF THE WORKERS DESERVED ANYTHING FROM THE LANDOWNER

Not those who worked a full day or those who worked for only an hour. It was only by the grace of the Landowner that they were given anything, since it all belonged to Him.

God gives us that which we do not earn, work for or deserve. Eternal life is a free gift. Serving God is a given for every Christian. Eternal life was paid for by Christ, not us, and given to us as a free gift.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says, God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

7. THE WORKERS WHO CAME FIRST WERE NO MORE IMPORTANT THAN THOSE WHO CAME LAST

Denarii

Denarius © Created by Ross Cochrane using Blender Cycles

My service to Christ is no less important than others who may be famous or have more money or have more influence than I do. Eternal life is not dependent on whether I’m better than someone else in earthly terms. I have the privilege of serving Christ in the best way I can and even then I need His help.

Ephesians 2:9 (NLT) says Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

8. THE WORKERS WHO WORKED A FULL DAY WANTED MORE THAN THEY RECEIVEDeven though they received what they had been promised. They wanted to be paid based on comparison with others.

I can trust God for my provision.

Whether I have a lot of money in the bank or not, it’s easy to be more concerned or even anxious with what I have or do not have than in trusting in God for my finances and for my daily provision. It’s easy to compare what I have with others.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT) reminds me that “…true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So, if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 

The rich young ruler went away sorrowful and without eternal life because he wasn’t willing to give his riches away. The poor day workers received a full days wage, more than they expected because they were willing to receive whatever was right from the Landowner and come under His authority and serve Him.

Jesus said, “… I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

What an amazing perspective for life.

Pastor Ross

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Galatians 3:28-29 – FREEDOM FROM THE ENEMY WITHIN

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

The Prison Within. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFiles.com, FilterForge.organd Paint.net.

He is a little man with an enormous smile and such wise, almond shaped, sad eyes. His unkempt hair makes him Einstein-like in appearance. His beard troubles his face, defining his features making this fragile soul appear more secure.

As a cadet in 1939 Raoul was subjected to anti-semitism in Poland. His discouragement and hurt went deep and he made a decision never to call himself Polish again. He joined a youth Zionist organization.

John 1:10-11 (NLT) says Jesus was familiar with discrimination and rejection. “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him.” In Luke 22:37 (NLT) says that prophetically “He was counted among the rebels.” 

As World War 2 loomed, Jews were placed in an internment camp. But Raoul escaped. Many of his friends who remained would die during the holocaust as the German army advanced. Thinking he was safe after liberation on 22 January 1945, and still refusing to call himself Polish, Raoul was again imprisoned for saying he was a Jew, this time by the Russians.

Now Raoul, at the age of 91, resides in an Aged Care Facility. He has dementia. Once again there are locked doors which remind him of the internment camps during WW2 and he dreams of escaping, just as he escaped the holocaust. He says that in the internment camps at least he had hope of freedom and now he refuses to resign himself to a life behind locked doors.

In our conversation always seems to revolve around his imprisonment. I try to help Raoul accept his accommodation as his home. One day as we were talking about being imprisoned, I told Raoul that it appeared to me that he was truly imprisoned, but not because of the locked doors. When he inquired as to how this could be, I said that he was not free on the inside. He had real difficulty with the concept of inner freedom.

Jesus spoke of imprisonment and freedom on the inside to a Jewish audience in John 8:32-47 (NLT). He said “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Romans 8:2 (NLT) says “And because you belong to Him (Jesus), the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” 

Knowing the power of forgiveness and inward freedom from the tyranny of sin, when Paul spent time in a Roman prison he was able to say, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NASB). In Philippians 4:11-13 (NASB) he says “… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

True freedom is not freedom from authority. It comes when we change allegiances to the One who has designed us. 1 Peter 2:16 (NLT) says “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” Romans 6:17-18 (NLT) says “Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.”

Raoul and I often talk about the differences between Jews and Gentiles, but for followers of Christ “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you” Galatians 3:28-29 (NLT). Colossians 3:11 (NLT) says “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us.” 

In Acts 26:22-23 (NLT) it is clear that this message of the Messiah is extended to all who will receive Him. “I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen — that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to JEWS AND GENTILES alike.” 

In Acts 3:12-26 (NLT) at Pentecost Peter addressed a crowd of people who have gathered in Jerusalem from all over the ancient world, “… Repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. … For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants ALL the families on earth will be blessed….’” Acts 4:11-12 (NLT) goes on to say “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:19-20 – WHY DON’T I HAVE ENOUGH FAITH?

Mustard Seed Faith

Mustard Seed Faith

Why are some people healed and others not healed? Is it my faith that is deficient? Jesus is asked a similar question by His disciples when they had not been able to heal a little boy. In Matthew 17:19-20 (NLT) they ask “Why couldn’t we cast out that demon?” They took the responsibility for it and they were willing to learn.

Jesus goes on to say “YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”

Jesus is clear. YOU don’t have ENOUGH FAITH. No escaping this. They were responsible, and healing the boy was dependent on them having enough faith. They didn’t have it. How can the disciples, who travelled with Jesus and saw so many miracles, not even have mustard seed sized faith? How could their faith be lacking; so scarce, meagre and skimpy; so weak and unequal to the task? What hope do I have? What kind of faith is mustard seed faith?

Whatever kind of faith they had, it didn’t work. Was it faulty faith; flawed and defective? Faith so damaged and inadequate for the task that it couldn’t complete anything it tried; so wanting and insufficient that it did no good?

Jesus faith was overflowing and rich, strong and sufficient to heal the young boy. His was faultless faith, but their faith was band-aid faith at best, cosmetic, feeble faith, impotent to act, incapable of making a difference. Their faith was poor and undernourished, skin and bone faith; anorexic faith. Too weak to be effective? Was it the argument with the Scribes that diseased their faith with sin? Were they in need of healing themselves?

Is faith just optimism draped in impotence? Jesus faith is positive and powerful? Is their faith a bonsai faith, kept small and so stunted that it is inept; dwarfed by the enormity of circumstances that are in need of a miracle? How could this be? Midget faith is not mustard seed faith!

Is faith fatalism wrapped with acquiescence? Someone said “some mountains are moved. Others we just have to climb.” Some things can’t be changed? Jesus faith didn’t accept this. Mustard seed faith is faith that never gives up at the first obstacle. It persists in prayer and trust in God until it sees mountains moved; difficulties decimated, healing realised. Mustard Seed Faith inspires me to persist because it sees heaven’s perfect perspective, and refuses to accept earth’s imperfect problems. Jesus Faith is not dependent on circumstances but circumstances are changed by His faith. He draws on heaven’s resources to change earth’s conditions.

What made the disciples faith try to run on empty? Why was there no spiritual energy left in the tank? Why couldn’t they just gather around in Pentecostal Power and shout until the demon was removed?

For the disciples the dispute with the scribes was a massive stumbling block, the father’s request to cast the demon from his son seemed an enormous mountain. The doubt they experienced was huge. The world was a threatening experience of demons and arguments and a crowd that could be gathering to stone them if they didn’t succeed with a miracle. They were angry, fearful, doubting and helpless.

Jesus appears to be reminding His disciples of an important truth, YOU DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH. YOU don’t have enough, but I have more than enough to go around.” Faith is faith because of Him in whom we believe. Our faith is appropriated through relationship with Christ. It is HIS faith and faithfulness that we draw upon. Even when we appropriate a mustard seed sized portion of faith from Jesus it will still move mountains. We can choose our falling-short, feeble, band-aid, bonsai, low tide, empty tank kind of faith, or choose His all-powerful faithfulness.

He calls us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Not OUR system of perception but His. Look at the world through HIS eyes. I-once-was blind-but-now-I-see faith. Lean-not-on-my-own-understanding faith (Proverbs 3:5). “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” faith (Galatians 2:20 NASB). 

Mustard seed faith perceives my world from God’s viewpoint and uses that perspective to change my world. He invites me to be an instrument of God for change through faith in Him. 

PS Just received a phonecall to visit a lady who is very sick… She was unable to speak, but I shared the message about faith in Christ and she listened as I prayed for God’s healing grace and invited her to place her trust in Him. 

Pastor Ross

Part 13 – Matthew 12:38-42 – LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE!

Beyond the Trampoline

I fell through a trampoline once. It was totally unexpected! One minute I was airborne and the next I was standing on the ground, wearing the trampoline like a giant torn tutu, and all my helpful family could do was laugh at me! I mention this because my granddaughter, normally so cooperative, sent a very clear message to her parents the other day. She said “NO! I won’t go!” She had been playing on the trampoline with her cousins, laughing and having such a great time that when it was time to go home, she simply refused. She was more interested in having FUN than in OBEDIENCE. She was more interested in playing games than in the implications of a world that existed beyond jumping on a trampoline. I fully understand, although my experience with a trampoline was a little more traumatic.

No doubt the Pharisees and other people around Jesus in Matthew 12:39 are also surprised and discomfited when he calls them an “EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation” and affronted when He accuses them of “refusing to REPENT.” (Matthew 12:41-42). I mean this seems to be such a SWEEPING STATEMENT. Surely there is no need to be so CONFRONTING, so DEMANDING!

So what am I saying? Is Jesus trying to TAKE AWAY my fun? Give me the toys and the desires of my heart, Lord, but don’t demand anything from me,? How can a loving God be so judgmental and insistent? “After all I’m not a bad person. I am just having fun on my trampoline with my playmates and not bothering anyone. And I’m NOT GOING TO REPENT!” (Well, OK. Maybe not the bit about the trampoline, but you get the idea.)

Bumper sticker – “Jesus loves me just as I am, and He loves me too much to have me stay that way”. It’s not about taking away our fun. It’s about living life to the full. THE WORLD BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE. There comes a time when our rebellion and our wanting to play games with God demands REPENTANCE! John the Baptist preached the same message (see Matthew 3:2) and so did many others who paved the way for Christ.

DENIAL – “The world isn’t all that bad!” Have you followed world news lately or walked around a video shop? We have movies that justify homosexuality, adultery and murder as entertainment and world leaders who justify their corruption as a normal part of their governance. It would seem that an “EVIL AND ADULTEROUS generation” (Matthew 12:39) is actually quite a fitting description of our world. DENIAL – “I am not all that bad.” Have you read your Bible lately? Romans 3:23 (NLT) says “…everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” And I don’t see a whole lot of REPENTANCE taking place in the lives of our generation. Lots of denial. Very little repentance.

So what is this “REPENT FOR THE END IS NEAR!” T-shirt that Jesus seems to be wearing? What is this placard He is holding? It isn’t exactly a message that stirs my heart and makes me feel good. It’s UNCOMFORTABLE to be confronted with my sin, and sometimes I want Jesus to take a much SOFTER approach. Then again “REPENT PLEASE” isn’t going to cut it with me or in an evil world. Perhaps SEARED CONSCIENCES (1 Timothy 4:2) need the encouragement of ELECTRIC SHOCK treatment!

Paul seems to sum things up. When he preached at Athens in Acts 17:30-31 (NLT) he said “God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now He COMMANDS everyone everywhere to REPENT of their sins and TURN TO HIM. For He has set a day for JUDGING the world with JUSTICE by the man He has appointed, and He proved to everyone who this is by raising Him from the dead.”

When Peter preaches to a crowd at Pentecost in Acts 2:37-38 (NLT) they responded to the message. It says “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said …”What should we do?” Peter replied, “Each of you must REPENT of your sins, TURN to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received FORGIVENESS for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

Somehow Jesus’ message is clear. There’s LIFE BEYOND THE TRAMPOLINE! It’s meant to be lived to the full. The invitation to real life, abundant life is there before you. Jesus hands it to you. You open it up and you look down to what it will cost. It says “REPENT AND BELIEVE! TURN AND RECEIVE! LET ME DIRECT YOUR LIFE”. Am I willing to pay such a price? Now that’s the choice.

God bless you Church as you affirm the message of Christ and show the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8), the example of a life which is responsive to the touch of God, rich and full, giving hope and incentive for repentance for others in our evil and adulterous generation.

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Genesis 18:16-33 – THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

One Way

A person recently said to me as they were dying that the Bible was just a series of myths and stories, and if I want to, I can choose to live my life assuming that it is. I can choose to treat heaven like a GAME OF CHANCE and the Bible as something less than a sure thing. I can wager all my GOOD WORKS against the WORK OF CHRIST on the Cross. Even when my chips are down I can throw the DICE OF DEATH on the chance that I will win.

Or perhaps it’s the Roulette Wheel. As the marble dances on the roulette wheel, I am saying in effect

“I have not sinned to any great extent. Why should I repent and accept the work of Jesus Christ as He paid the penalty for my sin by dying on the Cross.”

I can place all I have on the highest number of GOOD WORKS that I can, but as the wheel spins I will inevitably LOSE EVERYTHING – my life and any chance of eternity with God. The only sure thing is that I will lose.

In John 14:5-7 (NLT) Jesus gives me the winning tip that I need if I am to STAKE MY LIFE on winning the incredible dividends of going to heaven. Jesus said this.

“… I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE CAN COME TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”

WANT ANOTHER TIP? Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it this way. It says

“For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favour) that you are saved (delivered from judgment) through (your) faith (in Christ and what He did on the Cross, paying the price for your sins). And this (deliverance from being judged) is not of yourselves (It is not of your own doing, or your own good works), but it is the gift of God; Not because of works (no matter how good you may be), lest any man should boast. (Heaven is not the result of what anyone can possibly DO, so no one can pride themselves on how good they are or take the credit of getting into heaven on the basis of their good works. It is entirely dependent on faith in the work of Christ.)”

The stakes are as high as they can get.

And a similar game is taking place in Genesis 18:20 (NLT) It says

“So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.”

Isn’t God omniscient? (all knowing). Why does He have to check things out first? It seems to me that when God appears to Abraham in the FORM OF A MAN (a Theophany) then He also uses HUMAN WAYS to communicate His plans. He shows to Abraham that He is not about to ACT OUT OF IGNORANCE. He doesn’t act on HEARSAY. This is not a game of chance. He EXAMINES THE FACTS PERSONALLY and ACTS JUSTLY (He is totally and absolutely fair in His decisions).

God’s grace and love have given the people of Sodom every opportunity to repent. They have even had the example and leadership of Lot in their midst. Now their evil has reached the point of no return and judgment is imminent. An outcry for justice, perhaps from those who were oppressed in Sodom, has risen to God and the only appropriate response is about to take place.

But did you catch the contrast. God comes personally to EXAMINE ABRAHAM’S RESPONSE to Him and finds BELIEF, evidenced by his SACRIFICE, HUMILITY, SERVICE AND WORSHIP and He declares Abraham RIGHTEOUS (Genesis 15:6). THE WINNER TAKES IT ALL!

God then comes personally to EXAMINE THE RESPONSE of the people of SODOM and finds total UNBELIEF evidenced by their wickedness, violence, perversion, the outcry of those oppressed and He DECLARES JUDGMENT upon them. YOU LOSE! GAME OVER!

2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 speaks about a time yet to come

“…when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with His mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from His glorious power.”

God bless you Church as you stake your life, not on chance, but on the assurance of the truth of God’s Word (a sure thing) and on your response to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

Acts 4:12 (NLT) says

“There is salvation in NO ONE ELSE! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:31 (NLT) says “…Believe in the Lord Jesus and YOU WILL BE SAVED,…”

We often miss out the next verses after John 3:16. Let me read it in it’s context. It actually says,

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His One and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world NOT TO JUDGE THE WORLD, but TO SAVE THE WORLD through Him. There is NO JUDGMENT against anyone who BELIEVES IN HIM. But anyone who does not believe in Him has ALREADY BEEN JUDGED for not believing in God’s One and only Son.”

Sobering thought! WINNER TAKES IT ALL. AND THE LOSER….? Well, the loser gambles his life on a false assumption that the Bible is only a myth.

Pastor Ross