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Can Jesus See Your Faith?

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Can Jesus See Your Faith?

David Sproule

In Mark 2, we find one of the most exciting and vivid stories in the New Testament.  Jesus was preaching in Capernaum, “and it was heard that He was in the house.  Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door” (Mark 2:1-2).  Four men carried a paralytic to the house, but “they could not come near Him because of the crowd” (2:3-4), so “they uncovered the roof where [Jesus] was.”  Can you imagine seeing that from inside the house?  “So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying” (2:4).  The Bible says in the next verse that “Jesus saw their faith” (2:5).

What does that mean?  Isn’t faith something in a person’s heart?  Does that mean that Jesus was looking into their hearts to see their faith?  Not necessarily.  It is certainly possible (see John 2:24-25), but we also know that faith is something which God teaches that we “show” to others through our “works” (Jas. 2:17-18).  So, when “Jesus saw their faith,” He saw four men at work on behalf of their friend, and the paralytic was blessed by Jesus as a result of the faith of his friends.

So here’s the question—Does Jesus see your faith?  And when He sees your faith, what does He see?

Does Jesus see your faith in teaching the gospel to others?  “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas. 2:17).  You may have faith in the gospel.  You may have faith in the need to take the gospel to lost souls (Mark 16:15).  But, if your mental belief is not put into action with actual works of teaching the gospel, then your faith is dead.

Does Jesus see your faith in serving your brothers and sisters in Christ?  “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:20).  You may have faith in the value of the church.  You may have faith in the need do good especially to brethren (Gal. 6:10).  But, if your mental belief is not put into action with actual works of encouraging and serving the brethren, then your faith is dead.

Does Jesus see your faith in worshiping God every week?  “Faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26).  You may have faith in the blessing of regular worship.  You may have faith in the need to prioritize and enjoy assembling with the church and worshiping God every week (Matt. 4:10; 6:33).  But, if your mental belief is not put into action with actual and faithful attendance and participation in worshiping God, then your faith is dead.

Jesus saw their faith!  What did He see in their faith?  What does He see when He sees your faith?

Reviving Stones – Supplication (Neh. 1)

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Reviving Stones – Supplication (Neh. 1)

Wade Webster

Every chapter in Nehemiah gives us a stone that must be revived in the Lord’s work. The stone in the first chapter is supplication. Almost the whole chapter is a prayer or a supplication (all but three verses). You might see the word supply in the word supplication (Phil. 4:19). Nehemiah was asking God to supply him with mercy in the sight of the king. We read, “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer” (Neh. 1:11). Please consider six characteristics of Nehemiah’s supplication.

He Prayed Compassionately- Nehemiah was comfortable where he was. He had everything he needed and then some. When he heard of the condition of those remaining in Jerusalem, he sat down, wept, mourned for many days, fasted and prayed. His heart went out to them. Their pain was in his heart. Though Nehemiah was miles away from them physically, he was with them emotionally. I am reminded of the words of Ezekiel: “Then I came to them of the captivity at Telabib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days” (Ezek. 3:15). It does us good to sit where others sit. It does us good to sit with others at the hospital and at the funeral home.

He Prayed Reverently - Nehemiah understood who God was and who he was. He knew that God was a great and awesome God (Neh. 1:5). He knew that God was to be had in reverence by all those about him (Psa. 89:7) and to be feared above all gods (Psa. 96:4-5). He knew that he and his people had sinned. He knew that they had not kept God’s commandments (Neh. 1:6-7). He knew that God was a holy God and that he and his people had been unholy. Therefore, he approached God with great reverence and fear.

He Prayed Continually - When Nehemiah heard about the condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, he wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed many days (Neh. 1:4). He didn’t pray just one prayer or just one day and stop. He prayed day after day and night after night. We read, “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned” (Neh. 1:6). No doubt, the Bible student is reminded of Anna. Luke records, “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Lk. 2:36-37). What a wonderful thing to be known for! Sadly, some of us might be known for a lack of prayer instead of a life of prayer (1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12; Acts 2:42).

He Prayed Humbly - At least two times, Nehemiah used the word please (Neh. 1:6, 11). He wasn’t making demands of God. He was asking. He repeatedly described himself and his people as God’s servants (Neh. 1:6, 11). They were sinners in need of grace and lawbreakers in need of mercy(Psa. 34:18; 51:17; Isa. 57:15; 66:2). Likely, the Bible student is reminded of the praying publican who wouldn’t live up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast begging for mercy (Lk. 18:9-14).

He Prayed Confidently - Nehemiah knew God’s promises. He knew the punishment that God had promised for disobedience and the restoration that God had promised for repentance. We read, “Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there” (Neh. 1:8-9). Nehemiah was confident that God would keep His promises and answer the prayers of His people (1 John 5:14-15; Jam. 1:5-7; 1 Tim. 2:8).

He Prayed Specifically - Nehemiah didn’t just pray for God to prosper him. He prayed for God to prosper him in the sight of one man - the king. The king was the only one who could give him permission to return. Nehemiah further prayed for God to do it on that day. Nehemiah wanted God to soften the heart of a specific man on a specific day. We read, “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer” (Neh. 1:11). Although the opportunity to make his request wouldn’t present itself immediately, it would eventually come (Neh. 2:1-4). Perhaps, God began softening the king’s heart that day and continued to do so until the time was right for Nehemiah to make his petition.

If we are going to revive the Lord’s work where we are, we must begin with prayers asking for God’s blessings. With God’s help, nothing can stop us (Rom. 8:31). Without God’s help, our labor will be in vain (Psa. 127:1).

Does It Matter What Order?

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Does It Matter What Order?

David Sproule

Would you say that doing things in the right order matters?  Or as long as you complete all of the steps, does it matter in what order you did them?

Have you ever assembled a bicycle?  Have you ever purchased a piece of furniture from IKEA?  Have you ever built a 3,000-piece LEGO set?  If so, does it matter in what order you assemble these things?  You probably know from experience that if you put together any of these things out of order that it does not end up like it should and you usually have to start over.  The order matters!

Have you ever been to someone’s house when they feed everyone grilled hamburgers?  Did they put the ground beef on the bun before or after grilling the meat?  Did they put the raw beef directly on the bun or the grilled beef on the bun?  The order matters!

What about with God?  Does the order matter?  An example that comes up often today is this—as long as I’ve been baptized at some point, does it really matter when?

Consider one Biblical example.  In Joshua 6, God gave the order for taking the city of Jericho.  First, march around the city once a day for six days (6:3).  Second, in the march, the priests shall go before the ark (6:4).  Third, march around the city seven times on the seventh day and the priests shall then blow the trumpets (6:4).  Fourth, after the sound of the trumpet, the people shall shout (6:5).  Fifth, when all of this is done, the wall of the city will fall down (6:5).  Did it matter if God’s people followed His order in this?  Or, as long as they did each of the steps, would it matter in what order they did them?

You know that God’s order matters.  God told Saul to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16).  The arising was to take place before the baptizing, and the baptizing took place before the washing away of sins.  God said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).  The believing is to take place before the baptizing, and the baptizing is to take place before the saving.  God said, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).  The repentance is to take place before the baptizing, and the baptizing is to take place before the remission.  The order matters!  If it does not, why did God give it an order?

In Acts 19, there were twelve men who had already been baptized, but their faith was in a Jesus who was still to come, when in fact, Jesus had already come.  The order (i.e., direction) of their faith mattered, therefore, the order of their baptism mattered also, so they were baptized properly.

God’s order matters!  One must believe Jesus is God’s Son, repent of sins, confess faith in Jesus Christ and then be baptized in order to be saved.  Have you followed God’s order?

Kindling Fires In Vain

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Kindling Fires In Vain

Wade Webster

As you know, fires were kindled to worship God in the Old Testament.  In Exodus, we read, “You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram; and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar. Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head. And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram” (Exodus 29:15-19).  However, sometimes fires were kindled  in vain.  In Malachi, we read, “Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you,” Says the LORD of hosts, “Nor will I accept an offering from your hands” (Mal. 1:10). Malachi gives us five reasons why they were kindling fires on the altar in vain.

First, they were kindling fires in vain because they were giving God the leftovers.  They were offering the lame, the sick, the blind, the stolen, and the blemished to God.  We read, “A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’ “You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, “In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:6-8).  God is a great God.  He deserves the first fruits of all that we have (Mt. 6:33). 

Second, they were kindling fires in vain because their hearts were not in it.  Malachi records, “You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the LORD of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the LORD” (Malachi 1:13). As you recall, Jesus dealt with the same thing in His day.  We read, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:’ These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Matthew 15:7-9). We must not merely go through the motions. We must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

Third, they were kindling fires in vain because they were not listening to God’s word. We read, “And now, O priests, this commandment is for you. If you will not hear, And if you will not take it to heart, To give glory to My name,” Says the LORD of hosts, “I will send a curse upon you, And I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have cursed them already, Because you do not take it to heart” (Malachi 2:1-2).  If we refuse to hear God, He will refuse to hear us.  In Proverbs, we read, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9).

Fourth, they were kindling fires in vain because they were living hypocritical lives.  We read, “Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD’s holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god. May the LORD cut off from the tents of Jacob The man who does this, being awake and aware, Yet who brings an offering to the LORD of hosts!” (Malachi 2:11-12). Malachi’s brethren were awake and aware of what God’s law said about marrying those of other nations, but they did it anyway.  Although they sinned willfully, they continued bringing their sacrifices expecting God to receive them.  He would not.  To obey is better than to sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22).  We cannot sin willfully and still worship acceptably.

Fifth, they were kindling fires in vain because they were mistreating their wives.  We read, “And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:13-16).  In like manner, Peter wrote, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).  Mistreating our mates will get us in trouble with the One who instituted marriage, witnessed the vows being exchanged, and made the couple one.

Although we don’t kindle a literal fire on a literal altar today, we must still avoid these five things.  If we are guilty of one or all of these things, they will make our worship vain.

The Blood of Jesus Speaks Better Things

Saturday, February 04, 2023

The Blood of Jesus Speaks Better Things

Wade Webster

When Abel was murdered by his brother Cain, His righteous blood cried out to God (Gen. 4:10; cf. Mt. 23:35).  Thousands of years later, when Jesus was murdered by His brethren (Acts 2:23), His righteous blood also cried out to God. Continuing his emphasis on better things (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6; 9:23), the Hebrew writer declared that the blood of Jesus speaks better things than the blood of Abel.  “And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:24). Of course, it should be noted that the blood of Jesus was better in every way. Abel’s blood didn’t have the power to redeem anyone.  However, Jesus’ blood has the power to redeem all men.  In this lesson, we want to compare the declarations of Abel’s blood with the declarations of Christ’s blood.  It should be noted that we are not told exactly what the blood of Abel or the blood of Jesus declared.  However, there are some conclusions that seem reasonable.

Abel’s Blood Cried For Punishment/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Forgiveness

Abel’s blood must have cried for Cain to be punished.  Under the Old Testament, God prescribed punishment for those who shed innocent blood.  We read, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen. 9:6).

The blood of Jesus cried for forgiveness.  As Jesus was dying on the cross, he declared, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Lk. 23:34). This forgiveness was possible through His blood.  In instituting His memorial supper, He declared, “For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:28).  Later, Paul declared, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Abel’s Blood Cried For Separation/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Reconciliation

Abel’s blood must have cried for Cain to be cut off.  As you know, a part of Cain’s punishment was for him to be a fugitive and a vagabond (Gen. 4:12).                

The blood of Jesus cried for reconciliation. The Hebrew writer declared, “Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Heb. 2:17).  In like manner, in Romans, we read, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:8-10; cf. Eph. 2:13; Col. 1:20).

Abel’s Blood Cried For A Curse/Jesus’ Blood Cried For A Blessing

Abel’s blood must have called for Cain to be cursed. A part of Cain’s punishment was for him to be cursed from the earth.  “And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand” (Gen. 4:11).

The blood of Jesus cried for a blessing. On the cross, Jesus did not revile or threaten his persecutors.  Peter wrote, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again ; when he suffered , he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:  (1 Pet. 2:21-23). Jesus became a curse for us.  Paul wrote, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). 

Abel’s Blood Cried For Death/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Life

Abel’s blood must have called for Cain to be put to death. As already noted, those who shed innocent blood were to be put to death (Gen. 9:6).

The blood of Jesus cried for life. Jesus came to give man life.  Jesus declared, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).  Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).  John wrote,  “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12).  Jesus tasted death for us.  In Hebrews, we read, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Abel’s Blood Cried For Justice/Jesus’ Blood Cried For Grace

Abel’s blood must have called for justice. Judgment and justice are the habitation of God’s throne (Psa. 89:14).

The blood of Jesus cried for grace.  Paul wrote, “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:7-8).  In Romans, he declared, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

The blood of Abel spoke some good things. However, I believe that you will agree with the writer of Hebrews that the blood of Jesus speaks better things.

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