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11-November

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Suggested Preaching Program for

November

•   Sunday Mornings and Evenings

The sermons for the morning and evening Services this month carry a dual emphasis. They encourage the church to have compassionate concern for unbelievers, and they encourage unbelievers to make a faith response to our Lord Jesus Christ.

•   Wednesday Evenings

Many things are involved in a sincere attempt to respond to our Lord’s invitation “Follow Me.” The way in which we respond will determine both our success and our joy as the children and servants of God. He will lead us in many ways and to many different places if we follow his guidance.

Sunday Morning, November 1

Title: Sleeping in the Harvest Season

Text: “He that gathereth in summer is a wise son: but he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame” (Prov. 10:5).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35 – 38

Hymns:  “Praise Him, Praise Him,” Crosby

              “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Brown

              “Bringing in the Sheaves,” Shaw

Offertory Prayer: Holy Father, today we thank you for all of those whom you used to bring us the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Savior. Today we offer ourselves as communicators of the old, old story that others might come to experience your love and mercy. Accept and bless these tithes and offerings to the furtherance of the telling of the story of Jesus and your love. Amen.

Introduction

Many parts of the world enjoy a continuous harvest season. One can visit southern Florida, portions of the Rio Grande Valley, Southern California, or other tropical areas and discover a continuous process of sowing and reaping. An orange tree is a case in point. An orange tree may have blossoms that will produce oranges while at the same time it contains small oranges, half-grown oranges, and fully ripe oranges. The orange tree presents a parable of the fact that as Christians we have a continuous harvest season in the spiritual realm. There is never a time when one can say that due to bad weather or to the season of the year it is impossible to labor in the spiritual harvest fields.

While the church should pray and labor and live in anticipation of reaping a spiritual harvest from week to week, it is true also that many churches set aside specific times in the year to concentrate on reaping a harvest of souls for the glory of God. Other churches have abandoned this method for what is called a perennial program of evangelism. It would seem to me that it is not a case of either/or but a matter of both/and. We need to use every legitimate means and method to bring people into a conversion experience with Jesus Christ.

When Jesus saw the multitudes scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd, he was moved with compassion toward them and said to his disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37 – 38). When Jesus saw the Samaritans coming out of the city of Sychar, he said to his disciples, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (John 4:35). One of the greatest needs of each modern-day church is to recognize that it is located right in the center of a spiritual harvest field where people are threatened with eternal death and separation from the God of grace unless laborers — individual believers, personal followers of Jesus Christ — go out among these people with the story of God’s love and of his desire to save.

The words of the text speak words of commendation and words of warning. It declares that he who labors in the time of harvest is indeed a wise son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son that causeth shame. Are you bringing shame to the heart of your heavenly Father? Are you relating yourself to those about you in a manner that should bring shame to your own heart?

I. The harvest must be reaped when it is ripe.

      A. Seed time and harvest. It is a law of nature that before there can be a harvest there must be a time of sowing and cultivation. Farmers will plow up and pulverize the soil. They will then plant the seed. Proper care will be given to the cultivation of the crops in order to reap an abundant harvest in the fall. The church, through each of its members, should be in a continuous process of sowing the seed of divine truth in the hearts and minds of men, women, and children. Careful and continuous efforts need to be put forth to cultivate the confidence and the friendship of these so that in due time, as the Holy Spirit works conviction into the heart, they can be ready for the harvest.

      Those who have had experience in attempting to lead people to trust Jesus Christ as Savior have discovered that it takes a long time for some people to become what some have called “ripe prospects” for conversion. To attempt to persuade one of these to make a profession of faith before he or she is prepared in both mind and heart is to experience the same result that a farmer would experience if he tried to harvest his corn while it was still green or to pick his cotton before the bolls opened or to gather peaches while they were still hard and green.

      B. The harvesttime. While it is true that there is a time to sow and a time to cultivate, there is also a time to reap. To neglect the harvest in the time of reaping is to waste all of the previous effort put forth. It is a law of nature that fruit or grain or vegetables must be harvested when they are ripe or mature. Cotton will lose its weight and color and quality if it is not picked at the proper time. Corn will fall over and rot if it is not harvested before the winter winds and rain come. The golden yellow wheat fields will turn white and will soon rot if not harvested. Peaches, apples, berries, and grapes will fall off from the tree or vine and rot on the ground if they are not harvested. It is also a spiritual law that the souls of men will perish in unbelief unless someone gives to them the message of God’s redeeming love and his desire to save.

      C. The harvesttime is now. We must not be guilty of saying, “There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest” (John 4:35). While there may be some to whom we have been witnessing that are not yet ready, or ripe, this does not mean that there are not some who are just waiting for someone to encourage them to relate themselves to God in repentance and faith.

      A study of the life of Jesus would reveal that he urged upon both himself and his disciples the urgency of the present (John 9:4). Never did Jesus encourage either his followers or those who were considering becoming his followers to wait until tomorrow.

      The apostle Paul was ready to preach the gospel at every opportunity, for he recognized that people are lost now and need a Savior (Rom. 1:15). In words that have often been quoted to the unsaved as an encouragement to trust Christ in the present, Paul was actually seeking to persuade the church to engage in redemptive activity. He said, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” He is thus declaring that God is ready right now to save those who will come to him through faith in Jesus Christ. These words were actually intended to encourage the Christians at Corinth to get out in the harvest fields and do their work as laborers for the Lord.

II. Sleeping in the harvesttime results in shame.

The words of the text contain a stinging rebuke for the farmer’s son who would idly and carelessly sleep away his day of opportunity during the harvest season. These words contain a stinging rebuke, not only for the average church member, but also for many of us pastors.

      A. Shame to the father. As good farmers would be ashamed of a son who idled his time away during the harvest season and let the crops waste, so we must bring shame to the heart of our heavenly Father when we spend our days in idleness. Perhaps some of us are like Jonah who slept the sleep of disobedience when he should have been on his way toward Nineveh (Jonah 1:5). Perhaps some of us are sleeping the sleep of weariness or indifference like Peter and the other apostles on the night before our Lord was crucified (Matt. 26:39 – 45).

      B. Shame to the son. The son of a farmer should be ashamed of his conduct if he sleeps through the time of harvest. We as individual church members, the Lord’s labor force, should be ashamed of our conduct if we are asleep on the job as far as witnessing to the unsaved is concerned.

      A missionary in a South American country entered a city of considerable size with the knowledge that there was no known evangelical congregation in the entire city. As he drove down the street, he was shamed by the signs in the windows advertising American products. He felt pain in his heart as he considered that people selling their products had arrived in the city before missionaries. Someone had been asleep on the job.

III. How can we know when we are asleep spiritually?

One can be asleep and not know it. There are many different theories as to what sleep is and why we sleep. It is recognized by all as one of the necessities of our continued existence. For one to want to sleep all of the time is unnatural and usually indicates a serious illness. Is it possible that some of us are suffering from spiritual sleeping sickness? Without attempting to explain the theory behind the nature or the necessity of sleep, we would simply affirm that when people are asleep, they do not respond to people around them.

      A. Those who are asleep do not use their eyes. Are you blind or asleep to the fact of God’s great love for all people? Are you blind or asleep to the fact that God wants to use you to communicate the message of his love to a lost and needy world? Are you blind or asleep to the fact that the unsaved about us need to know Jesus Christ more than they need anything else in the world?

      B. Those who are asleep do not use their ears. While it is true that a loud noise will normally awaken those who are asleep, some have adjusted themselves to going to sleep in the midst of much noise. Are you deaf, or are you asleep so that you cannot hear the distress calls of the unsaved about you?

      C. Those who are asleep are unresponsive to stimuli. They are in a state of unconsciousness where they are not alert to what is happening. Some of us may be making little response to our personal responsibility to be witnesses. We seem to be unconscious of the dangers to which the unsaved are exposed. We seem to be unconvinced of the power of the gospel. We seem to be unmoved by the greatness of God’s love for the unsaved about us. Paul wrote to the Ephesians a message that speaks to us today: “Awake thou that sleepest” (Eph. 5:14).

Conclusion

There is no question that the church should awaken from its sleep and go to work in the harvest fields that are white unto harvest. All of us must confess that we have been guilty of sleeping on the job. Soldiers have been court-martialed for going to sleep at their post of duty. Ours also has been a serious offense.

We would also say to those among us who continue to neglect to trust Jesus Christ as Savior, “Awake thou that sleepest.” You need to awake to your sinful condition and to your need for forgiveness. You need to awake to the certain fact of coming judgment if you continue to neglect to make peace with God. You need to awake to the provisions of God’s mercy revealed through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. You need to awake and recognize that the simple way of salvation is through faith in this Christ who conquered death and the grave and who stands at your heart’s door knocking for entrance. He will give you life and light and love if you will let him come into your heart.

Sunday Evening, November 1

Title: Why Do They Wait?

Text: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Introduction

Most of us are guilty at least to some degree of putting off until tomorrow the decision or the task that should be taken care of today. Too often tomorrow is next week and next week is next month. This tendency to delay is harmful in every area of life.

The debtor who keeps saying, “I will put forth a serious effort to pay my debts,” stands in danger of destroying his credit rating. The sick person who keeps saying, “Tomorrow I will see my physician” may soon find herself in the cemetery. The young person who continues to put off advanced training beyond high school is in danger of finding himself past forty with no skills to secure a good job. The parent who neglects to discipline a child faces the possibility of having her heart broken by a juvenile delinquent.

Both Christians and non-Christians cannot escape the consequences if they develop and follow a policy of delay or postponement. Have you ever wondered why people delay their decision to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? They offer many excuses, but seldom if ever do they give a reason why they have delayed. It would be profitable for both believer and unbeliever to note the reasons why the unsaved delay their coming to Jesus Christ.

I. The unsaved are often unaware of their lost condition.

Pride encourages people to refuse to admit that they are sinners in need of the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God. They look around and see so many people living on a lower level than themselves that they congratulate themselves and reason that they are bound to have a better chance of being accepted by God than others have.

This lack of an awareness of their sinfulness is due largely to the fact that they have measured themselves by others rather than considering themselves in comparison with the holiness and righteousness of God.

Conviction of sin is produced by the Holy Spirit as people hear the gospel and are led to compare their lives with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

II. The unsaved have been blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4).

Both the saved and unsaved are often unaware of this work of Satan. It is his evil purpose to place a blindfold on the minds of the unsaved to prevent them from responding to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:3 – 4).

      A. The sinfulness of sin. Satan always presents sin dressed up in pretty colors. Sin always promises profit or pleasure. Few recognize that in addition to being an act of self-destruction, sin is an act of rebellion against God.

      B. The penalty of sin. From the beginning of human history the Evil One has tried to convince people that they can sin and not suffer. Scripture and history prove that you can no more sin without reaping its penalty than you can run away from your shadow under the noon sun, yet Satan has blinded the minds of the unsaved to believe that they can live a life of sin without reaping its penalty (Rom. 6:23).

      C. The joy of being a Christian. By every available tool, satanic forces create the impression that God is a “party pooper” and that to become a Christian one must wear a sad, long face and experience no joy in living. This is a lie that has been accepted century after century, particularly by the young.

      D. The way of salvation. Many substitutes have been offered for the simple way of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. People have been led to believe that by creed, conduct, or contribution they can gain God’s favor.

III. The lack of concern on the part of the church.

One of the most painful truths that the Christian should face is that many unsaved people have delayed trusting Jesus Christ because no one has become compassionately concerned for their salvation on an individual basis.

It is one thing to be concerned about the salvation of a lost world. It is infinitely more practical and productive for us to be vitally concerned about the individual with whom we work or with whom we play. Experience and observation reveal that compassionate concern is blessed by God to bring about the salvation of lost people.

Have you been interested in one particular individual, one particular unsaved person, to the extent that you would mention his or her name in prayer before the throne of God’s grace each day for a single month? Have you been concerned to the extent that you have given a verbal expression to an unsaved person on as many as three different occasions? Are you deliberately and continually seeking to cultivate the friendship of those who do not know Jesus Christ in order that you might share your faith with them and introduce them to your Savior? Every pastor has observed both in his own experience and in the experience of those in his church that when persistent concern is manifested wisely for the salvation of the unsaved, the overwhelming majority of the individuals involved will eventually become Christians.

IV. What is your excuse?

      A. Do you love sin with the pleasures that it offers to the extent that you want to live on the level of the sensual? Do you really want to live on the animal level and never rise up to live on the spiritual level as a child of God? People are made in the image of God. They have the capacity for fellowship with God. To fail to recognize this and respond to it is to deprive oneself of the highest possible manhood or womanhood. To delay coming to Jesus Christ is to degrade yourself and prevent yourself from experiencing the best that life can offer.

      B. Are you afraid of failure? This can be wholesome rather than destructive. The truth is that you will fail to be genuinely Christian unless you trust Jesus Christ for success even as you would trust him for the salvation of your soul. You must trust him day by day to prevent you from failing and to enable you to achieve success as a child and as a servant of God.

      C. Is your excuse the grip of a degrading habit that you have been unable to cast off? Then come to Jesus and trust him to come into your life and assist you with breaking this habit. Nowhere does Scripture teach that you must make yourself worthy before you can come to Christ. The Scriptures actually teach that Jesus not only died to save us from the penalty of sin but came to deliver us from the tyranny of sin in this life (Gal. 1:4).

      D. Is your excuse the failure of so many professing Christians? You should be aware of two things at this point. There is a vast difference between a hypocrite and a failure. A hypocrite is one who deliberately wears a false face with the intention of deceiving. There are few of these in the church. Many in the church do fail to be genuinely Christian just as many students in school fail to make straight A’s — but they are still students. The second thing that you should keep in mind is that it is a part of the strategy of Satan to place some of his servants in the church with the deliberate purpose of deceiving and causing some to stumble. The parable of the tares among the wheat illustrates this fact (Matt. 13:24 – 28).

Conclusion

We should never arrive at a decision concerning what we should be on the basis of the faults or mistakes of others. We need to use the highest part of our intellect and ask ourselves, “What should I do?” To neglect, delay, or postpone coming to Jesus Christ can be the greatest mistake of your lifetime for both time and eternity.

Today you have both time and opportunity to make the wise decision concerning Christ. With sincere decisiveness come to him now.

Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Charlotte Elliott

Wednesday Evening, November 4

Title: Follow Me in Personal Spiritual Growth

Text: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Introduction

On at least three different occasions our Lord described discipleship in terms of following. He invited the fishermen to follow him: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). He said to Matthew the publican, “Follow me” (9:9). Concerning the terms of discipleship, he said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

After his victory over death and the grave, Jesus spoke words to the apostle Peter designed to encourage him to focus his interest and energies on the single task of following. “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22). To follow Jesus sincerely is a task that only a believer would attempt. The sincere believer would naturally ask, “What does it really mean to follow Jesus?” To fully answer that question would require a lengthy volume. We shall consider some of the things that following Jesus involves tonight and during future Wednesday evening Services. Tonight we will see that if we really want to follow Jesus, we must develop a program for personal spiritual growth.

I. Luke’s gospel speaks repeatedly of the growth toward maturity and effectiveness on the part of the Savior.

      A. Jesus grew as a child. “The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).

          1. Jesus grew physically.

          2. Jesus grew spiritually.

          3. Jesus made progress mentally.

      B. Jesus continued to grow as a man. “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

II. A spiritual birth produces spiritual infants.

      A. Some have the mistaken idea that children of God are born full grown.

      B. In an experience of conversion, the new convert receives a twofold blessing: the forgiveness of sin and the gift of spiritual life. As a recipient of new life from above, as a partaker of the divine nature through the miracle of the new birth, the convert is now in a place where growth toward spiritual maturity is not only a possibility but an obligation.

      C. There are certain defects and imperfections in young children that growth and time alone can remove. So it is with the child of God.

      If both the saved and the unsaved alike could understand this, it would help a great deal to prevent new converts from being overly discouraged and even depressed by their personal failure to practice fully the new faith that they profess. Instead of being overcome with an attitude of defeatism, they would be more determined to succeed in the future. Older brothers and sisters in Christ would be less inclined to be critical of the imperfect steps and ineffective witness on the part of new converts who, in reality, are spiritual infants.

      Repeatedly converts are encouraged to put forth the efforts essential for spiritual growth. “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1 – 2; cf. 2 Peter 3:18).

      Both the church, composed of older spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, and the new convert have an obligation in the matter of spiritual growth.

III. The necessities for spiritual growth.

As earthly parents seek to make adequate preparations for the coming of a new baby, and as they seek to make ample provisions for the new baby, even so the heavenly Father has made adequate provisions for the growth of his children.

      A. Food has been provided by the heavenly Father. One of the first needs of newborns is nourishment, and the same is true for new converts.

      The truth of the Word of God is spoken of as both the meat and the milk by which children of God are to nourish the growth of their souls (1 Cor. 3:1 – 2; Heb. 5:12 – 14; 1 Peter 5:2).

      B. The opportunity to learn has been provided by the heavenly Father. Not only does the Word of God provide us with nourishment, but it is also the rule by which we are to receive both profitable instruction and necessary correction in the area of our attitudes, actions, and ambitions (2 Tim. 3:16 – 17).

      The only solid basis on which we can build our lives is to both hear and heed the words of him whom God hath appointed to be our infallible Teacher (Matt. 7:24 – 29).

      C. Spiritual shelter has been provided by the heavenly Father. What the home is to children, the fellowship of the church is to be to new converts. New converts must not neglect the privilege of regular public worship if they want to grow (Heb. 10:24 – 25). It is said concerning Jesus, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16). He did not neglect the opportunities for worship and study and fellowship that the synagogue provided as he grew toward maturity.

IV. The joys of personal growth.

      A. The growth of converts brings joy to the heart of the heavenly Father. As an earthly father delights to see his child grow and develop physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually, even so the heavenly Father rejoices to see us grow.

      B. Spiritual growth makes effective Service possible. An infant can only do the work of an infant. It is a tragedy beyond imagination for a full-grown man to be capable of doing only what a small child can do. It is also tragic for a convert to remain a spiritual infant and never develop vocational competency as a follower of Christ.

      C. Personal growth brings great personal satisfaction to the individual involved. When we were children, the evidence of growth brought great delight. The same is true concerning spiritual progress.

Conclusion

To seriously follow Jesus is to accept and follow a self-imposed discipline that will lead to spiritual maturity and effectiveness in Christian Service. Each of us can and should be making progress in that direction.

Sunday Morning, November 8

Title: Sin — A Fatal Malady in the Heart

Text: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:10 – 12

Hymns:  “Great Redeemer, We Adore Thee,” Harris

              “Blessed Redeemer,” Christiansen

              “There Is a Fountain,” Cowper

Offertory Prayer: Graciously, Father, you have given us your Son. We thank you for all of your blessings to us through him. You have given us your Holy Spirit to dwell within our hearts continuously, and we thank you for his continuing leadership. You have given us your Word to guide our thinking and to encourage us to walk in the way everlasting. You have given us the warmth and love of membership in your family. For these joys we are truly grateful. Today we bring our tithes and offerings and invoke your blessing upon them that they might be used both to spread the glad tidings of your love and to render ministries of mercy to those in need. We do this because we love you and because we want to help others to come to know you through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction

What is the matter with our world? All people who think realistically are in agreement that there is something the matter with it — something radically and tremendously wrong — and its condition does not seem to greatly improve. What is the root of our trouble?

Our world has been placed on the examining table, and the doctors have gathered around to examine the patient. These physicians, possessing super knowledge and unexcelled equipment seek to prescribe a corrective treatment for the malady that plagues the world. A flock of nurses attending with chart and pencil jot down the changing symptoms and chronicle every variation in temperature, respiration, and pulse. As each of these social and political, scientific and educational, military and diplomatic physicians makes his or her own independent diagnosis of the illness that plagues our world, the reports that come forth give us an interesting and bewildering story.

I. Superficial diagnoses.

      A. One physician would say our trouble is commercialism.

          1. The whole world has been commercialized, and this is the source of our degradation.

          2. The commercial devil must be cast out of our lives.

          3. When we look at Easter and Christmas and Mother’s Day, we can understand why some people feel that we are overly commercialized. High pressure advertising has not only made a contribution toward the high standard of living that we know, but it has also made a tremendous increase in anxiety and frustration because of our inability to secure all of the material things that are dangled before us.

      B. Another specialist asserts that our worst malady is sectionalism.

          1. One section of the population is arrayed against another section: the North against the South and the East against the West.

          2. One group is clamoring for privilege at the expense of another: blacks against whites, whites against blacks; labor against management, management against labor; rich against poor, poor against rich.

    Human selfishness will manifest itself in every area of life. It is seen in all countries and among all groups. No one is immune.

      C. Some experts declare that the deadly curse of the modern world is nationalism.

          1. On all sides one can notice a bloated, arrogant, exaltation of national honor and prestige.

          2. Unless this spirit of extreme nationalism can be controlled, the disasters ahead will be worse than those of the past. All doctors agree that the patient is horribly sick but cannot agree on the nature of the malady. Consequently, we hear of wars and rumors of war.

      It would be profitable for us to turn away from the confusions of the present and sit at the feet of an ancient thinker, the prophet Jeremiah. As a servant of the living Lord, he was a keen observer who saw through to the root cause of the malady that plagues our world. He observed the symptoms. He studied the patient, and after thorough examination, observation, and meditation, he arrived at a diagnosis: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). It was Jeremiah’s deep conviction that the human heart is sick, not slightly or temporarily sick, but dangerously and alarmingly sick. Jesus concurred with this by stating that “not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matt. 15:11).

II. The source of human woe is the heart diseased by sin.

      A. The prophet diagnosed sin as a heart condition. In its essence, sin is a heart direction away from God.

      B. The Bible reveals to us that this sick heart is a result of humankind’s rebellion against their Maker.

          1. People were made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26 – 27, 31).

          2. People were made for a life of fellowship with God (Gen. 3:8).

          3. People were made to engage in cooperative activity with God (Gen. 2:15).

          4. People were made to have dominion over the world (Gen. 1:28).

      C. Humans fell from their original state of innocence. God had given people the power to stand, but at the same time he left them free to fall (Gen. 2:17). The forbidden tree was a symbol. Adam’s partaking of the forbidden fruit was motivated by unbelief and doubt, disobedience and rebellion, selfish ambition and greed. This continues to be the attitude of people toward God. Every child of Adam continues to make the same fatal mistake.

      Adam by his own deliberate choice and action separated himself from God and in a very real sense shut himself away from God (Gen. 3:22).

      Adam lost some of the powers and privileges that belonged to him as he came from the hand of God (Gen. 3:24). Because people have separated themselves from God, their understanding has been darkened, their wills are rebellious, their affections have become corrupt, their souls are polluted, and their bodies have received death wounds.

III. The consequences of sin.

Jesus came into a world that was sorely damaged and defaced. Everywhere Jesus went he encountered people whose lives had been wrecked by one disastrous power — sin.

      A. Sin has separated people from God.

      B. Sin has broken the loving heart of God. In the parable of the waiting father, usually called the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus revealed the heartbreak of God over human waywardness. God eagerly yearns for the return of his wayward children. People will be saved from waste and ruin only if they return to the home of the heavenly Father through Christ.

      C. Sin has hardened the hearts of people. It has made them dishonest and untruthful. Sin has produced hypocrisy and sham. Sin has created an unbrotherly spirit and caused one race to be snobbish toward another and one class to be cruel to another. Sin has caused people to be stupid.

IV. Jesus Christ came to save people from this deadly disease of a sick heart.

The prophet Ezekiel revealed that God wants to give to his people new hearts: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezek. 36:26 – 27).

Jeremiah spoke of this in terms of a new covenant (Jer. 31:33 – 34). What people need is a new heart with the law of God written on that heart by the Spirit of God.

      A. This new heart, this new nature, this new birth, comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:57).

      B. This new birth is available to all who will receive Christ (John 3:16).

          1. It offers forgiveness.

          2. It offers the gift of eternal life.

Conclusion

The church should busy itself with the task of publishing the glad tidings of the gospel that people might receive new hearts and new natures. This is the only hope for our world.

As an individual, you need to make a response to Jesus Christ, for he and he alone can cure you from the disease of sin and give you the health of heaven both for now and for the hereafter.

Sunday Evening, November 8

Title: Let Him In

Text: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20).

Introduction

As strange as it may seem, the Christ was speaking these words either to the church of Laodicea or perhaps to all of the seven churches in Asia to whom these letters were addressed. We normally think of these words as picturing the efforts of Christ to enter the heart of the unsaved. Actually, they were spoken to groups of people who considered themselves to be his followers and part of his church.

Are we guilty also? Have we shut out Christ? How long has it been since he has been present in power and love to work his work within the fellowship of our church?

Many of those who consider themselves to be Jesus’ disciples are guilty of shutting him out of their lives. What place have you given him in your career? Did you seek his guidance in the choice of a vocation? Do you seek to glorify him in your daily work? Many left him out of their courtship and gave no consideration to him as they made their choice of a marriage partner. Many of these suffer great turmoil of mind and soul today because Christ was shut out. Students are often guilty of shutting Christ out of their classrooms by failing to recognize their opportunity to learn as a stewardship responsibility. Not only is your teacher interested in your academic achievement, but Jesus Christ expects you to study and to develop your full potential.

The tragedy is that many of us shut him out of areas of our lives without even recognizing our guilt. Some of us have restricted him to the Sunday morning Bible study or worship Service instead of recognizing that he wants to be our Companion throughout the entire week.

I. We often shut Jesus out of church.

The very thought of shutting anyone out of church is contradictory to the Christian conscience. Everyone everywhere should be welcome in the place dedicated to prayer and worship and proclamation of the gospel. It is strange but true that many congregations as a group and individuals in particular shut out the Christ. Do I hear you asking, “How do we shut Jesus out of our church?”

      A. We can shut out Jesus by a careless, nonchalant attitude. Without intending to be critical, it is easy to recognize that many people come to a worship Service with a rather careless, nonchalant attitude, somewhat similar to those who attend an athletic event. They come as spectators without any intention of participating. They drift in and out, more conscious of the people about them than they are of the God whom they should be worshiping.

      B. We can shut out Jesus by a critical spirit toward others. The very moment that we begin to be critical of others, we lose the attitude of reverent responsiveness that is always associated with worship. To look for and to be critical of the flaws and failures of others always contributes to an attitude of self-righteousness and pride. To be a habitual faultfinder without exception will rob us of the blessed awareness of the presence of the Savior.

      C. We can shut Jesus out of the church by irreverence. At this point, the average evangelical church could learn much from a typical Catholic worship Service. In most evangelical churches, there is a cultivated spirit of friendship that expresses itself in friendly greetings and conversations as the worshipers enter the place of worship. While recognizing warm friendship as an expression of Christian fellowship, we need to beware lest our concentration on greeting our friends and being aware of their presence cause us to miss the presence of him in whose name we meet together.

      Even public worship is a private and personal experience in which the individual worshiper enters into the presence of God and lets the living Christ enter into his heart. This experience is possible only when we concentrate reverently so as to let God become real to us.

      D. We can shut out Jesus by our lack of faith. Jesus promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). It would greatly assist us in our worship if we would come expecting the living Lord to be present in the Service. He is eternally present to meet the deepest needs in the lives of those who trust him and are willing to listen when he speaks through songs, Scripture, sermons, and fellowship.

      As a young person, one of my prime motives for regular church attendance was to have fellowship with my friends. I must confess that there were times when I went to church primarily because of my desire to be with a girlfriend. With this same attitude of expectancy and delight, we should go to church out of a sincere desire to experience the presence of the living Lord.

II. We can open the door and let Jesus in.

If we will let the living Christ come into our worship Services and be the guiding Light in our lives, he will have a profound and benevolent effect in many areas of our lives.

      A. Jesus will guide us in our choices with infallible leadership. He will guide us as we make the choices that largely determine our destiny. He will help the young in their choice of a career and in their choice of a marriage partner. He will assist the mature person with the decisions that must be made from week to week.

      B. Jesus will influence our conversations. At times all of us need a bridle on our tongues. The inspired writer tells us that we cannot domesticate the tongue so as to tame it and prevent it from doing harm (James 3:7 – 10). While we cannot tame the tongue, we can control it. One of the most effective ways of accomplishing this desired objective is to recognize that the living Lord is a listener to every conversation. To do this continuously will eliminate slander, gossip, and unkind words.

      C. Jesus will transform our conduct. A consciousness of the abiding presence of the living Lord will encourage us to think his thoughts and imitate his actions. We will never become Christian in our conduct until we become aware of his abiding presence. Paul explained the change that had taken place in his life as being the result of the presence of the living Christ in his heart: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

      D. Jesus will sensitize our conscience. There is much misunderstanding about the conscience. Some say that if people will follow their consciences, they will never go far wrong. This is a half-truth. The conscience does nothing more than say, “Do right.” The content of our consciences tells us what is right. The customs of the community, the teachings of parents, and in some instances the teachings of the church provide the content of the conscience. The only way we can trust our conscience is to let the Christ so dwell in our hearts and minds that he provides the content for our conscience. When we let him in to perform this function, a great change takes place.

      E. Jesus will enlarge our compassion. To associate with the living Christ is to discover his love for others and his desire to minister to their needs. To follow him is to discover the joy of giving and serving and meeting the needs of others. To allow Christ fully into one’s heart always enlarges the horizons of that person’s concern for his or her fellow humans.

III. Jesus wants to come in.

      A. Jesus wants to come into your church. Every worship Service can be a time in which you receive the counsel of the living Lord. In tenderness and love, he will complain concerning that which is destructive and hurtful to you and to others. He will offer correction in a manner that will encourage you if you will but listen and heed. He can speak words of forgiveness that can bring the joy of cleansing and relief from the burden and pain of guilt.

      B. Jesus wants to come into your heart. He does not want to stand on the outside and merely talk through the screen. Nor does he want to hurt or condemn you. He wants to bring the blessings of a loving Father into your life. He can do this only if you let him in as Savior and Lord, Teacher and Friend.

Conclusion

Let Jesus fully come into your heart. Give him the key to every area of life. Let him in eagerly, for to neglect or refuse to let him in is to impoverish your life. Let him in immediately, for you have waited too long already. You have missed too much of what he has for you.

Wednesday Evening, November 11

Title: Follow Me in Genuine Worship

Text: “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read” (Luke 4:16).

Introduction

In one of B. B. McKinney’s famous hymns, the chorus takes the form of a pledge:

Wherever He leads I’ll go,

Wherever He leads I’ll go,

I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,

Wherever He leads I’ll go.

Many sing this chorus without giving much thought to what they are saying. Others hesitate to sing these words because of their fear of where God might lead. There are some who sing these words without ever recognizing that God may want to lead them somewhere. Some would be surprised to learn that if they would really follow Jesus, one of the places to which he would lead them repeatedly would be the place of worship. The text states that “as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day.” By this we can assume that during all the years before our Lord began his public ministry, he was very consistent in his habits of both public and private worship.

I. What is worship?

Jesus insisted that worship was something infinitely more than being physically present in a place dedicated to God (John 4:21 – 24). One can be physically present in the temple and engage in ritual and forms of worship without having a true experience with God (Luke 18:10 – 12).

      A. Genuine worship is both an attitude and an activity. It is an attitude of reverent awe felt in the presence of the Holy God.

      B. Genuine worship is the adoration and appreciation of God as one contemplates and experiences his love, mercy, and grace.

      C. Genuine worship is an experience of communion in which the soul is in dialogue with the Eternal.

      D. Genuine worship is an experience in which the worshiper gives self to God and at the same time receives all that God has for him or her.

II. Benefits of worship.

      A. The believer who sincerely follows Jesus in worship will discover an increasing harmony between his or her will and the will of God. Harmony is what produces peace of mind and heart. When there is discord between one’s will and the will of God, a tempest will rage continuously in the soul.

      B. The believer who sincerely follows Jesus in worship will be blessed with a sense of security. As God becomes more real through repeated experiences of worship, fear will be dispelled and a calm serenity will possess the soul. An attitude of optimism will be more likely in the midst of the difficulties of the present and the uncertainties of the future.

      C. The believer who sincerely follows Jesus in worship will be delivered from the tyranny of the material. Through worship the believer will become convinced that the main purpose for living is not to accumulate material goods but that true security comes through faith in the goodness of God.

      D. The believer who sincerely follows Jesus in worship will discover solutions to his or her problems. It is interesting to note that our Savior resorted to prayer as he faced the selection of his apostles (Luke 6:12 – 13). When people misunderstood the spiritual nature of the kingdom, Jesus found it necessary to go apart for a worship experience in prayer (Matt. 14:23).

      As Jesus faced the awful prospect of setting his face toward Jerusalem and the burden of the cross, we read that he went up into a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). Jesus prayed in Gethsemane as he faced the prospect of the cross on the following day. Luke tells us, “There appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). Apart from following him in genuine worship, there is no solution to be found for the problems that are going to trouble us.

III. Aids to worship.

      A. The synagogue Services aided Jesus in worship. The worship Services of your church can greatly aid you in your efforts to have continuing experiences with the living God.

      B. The study of the Scriptures can greatly aid you in your efforts to worship if you will study them reverently and responsively, trusting the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the truth that your heart stands in need of from day to day (John 14:26; 16:13). Jesus was a diligent student of the Scriptures and stored away the great truths of God in his mind and heart. These verses of Scripture aided him immeasurably. His quotations of the Scriptures during his temptation experiences and while he suffered on the cross are cases in point.

      C. Listening to or singing the great hymns can aid your worship. It is said concerning our Lord that following the Passover feast and the institution of the Lord’s Supper, “when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (Matt. 26:30). From this we can assume that the singing of hymns was a vital part of the worship experience of our Lord and his disciples.

      D. Private worship had a prominent place in the habits of Jesus. Several passages tell of Jesus’ private prayer time. For example: “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed” (Luke 5:16). “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (6:12). The best preparation for effective public worship is private worship.

Conclusion

Before we can work effectively in the vineyard of our Lord, we must wait before him in worship. The responsibility of our work should compel us to worship. And our worship will motivate us and enable us to work and serve effectively.

Sunday Morning, November 15

Title: “Repent Ye, and Believe the Gospel”

Text: “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1 – 15

Hymns:  “O Worship the King,” Grant

              “I Will Arise and Go to Jesus,” Hart

              “I Am Resolved,” Hartsough

Offertory Prayer: Today, our Father, we sit at the feet of Jesus and hear him say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” We believe that our highest happiness and greatest joy and usefulness are to be found through the unselfish giving of ourselves to you and to others and in our giving of money to you. Help us also to remember to be givers in every area of life. Bless these tithes and offerings to the glory of your name and to the advancement of your kingdom. Amen.

Introduction

Jesus came into our world, which in reality is his world, to change both the minds and the ways of people. In his opening message, he announced the emphasis of his mission: “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

If we are to understand the mind and mission of Jesus, we must discover the meaning of this primary command, this initial invitation. To misunderstand at this point is to arrive at the wrong conclusion. It is very possible that the church has failed to be the dynamic force morally, socially, politically, and spiritually that our Lord intended it to be because of a colossal misunderstanding concerning repentance, which is the primary demand of the Christian faith. William Douglas Chamberlain contends that the church has not understood the words “Repent ye” in their profound, far-reaching, revolutionary significance. He declares that if the church is really to be the church, we must reexamine the New Testament and discover the revolutionary significance of this primary demand of our faith. Repentance is positive rather than negative. The call to repentance and faith is not primarily a threat. The demand for repentance is not a plea for remorseful thinking concerning sins and shortcomings committed in the past; instead, it is positive and forward looking and calls for an inward change of attitude that prepares one to participate in the wonderful work of God. While a godly sorrow for sin is involved, it is not primary.

I. The emphasis on repentance.

The word repent occurs fifty-six times in the New Testament. In thirty-four instances it occurs as a verb, and in twenty-two instances it occurs as a noun.

      A. The New Testament opens with a trumpet blast as we hear John the Baptist say, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). John, the forerunner of the Lord, was calling for a change of attitude on the part of the people toward God and toward life.

      B. Jesus began and concluded his ministry emphasizing repentance. “Repent ye, and believe the gospel” are the first words Mark records as falling from the lips of the Savior. In the conclusion of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Luke verbalizes the Great Commission in terms of the call for repentance and an offer of forgiveness: “[Jesus] said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:46 – 48).

      C. Jesus sent out the twelve apostles, and they went throughout the countryside “and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12).

      D. After Peter had explained the miraculous events taking place on the day of Pentecost and what God had done in and through Jesus, many were convinced that he was indeed the Christ. They cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The first word of Peter’s response was “repent.” This is the primary demand of genuine faith. It is a gracious invitation rather than a threat.

      E. In the seven letters of the risen Christ to the churches of Asia Minor there is a recurring call for repentance. Genuine repentance is not only the initial experience of the Christian life, it is to be a progressive and continuing experience as one discovers the mind of Jesus Christ and the will of God.

II. The implications of repentance.

By making repentance the primary demand of the Christian faith, Christ was calling for something other than a fear of punishment for sin. He was calling for something other than an emotional crisis involving remorse, shame, and sorrow because of sin. We all feel remorse when we experience the consequences of sin. But this remorse was not the thing Jesus considered important.

Jesus was calling for something more than acts of penance in which an individual would put forth an effort to make restitution for wrongs done either to God or one’s fellow man. Jesus was calling for something more than good resolutions and reformation. One can reform and be a good Pharisee.

In calling for repentance, Jesus was inviting people to reverse their thoughts. He was challenging them to make a complete change of their mental outlook and life design. The Lord was calling for an inward transformation of their basic ideas and objectives for life. In modern terminology he was saying, “You must change your attitude and outlook.” He was inviting them to bring their minds into harmony with the mind of God. The change in the thoughts toward God is primary. A change in conduct or behavior is the consequence of repentance. These will follow as day follows night once there has been an inward acceptance of the thoughts and ideas of God.

Isaiah the prophet said that the wicked ways of humans are the result of their unrighteous thoughts:

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:7 – 9)

A study of this invitation to repentance reveals that the only way people can come to God is by a change of attitude in which, with the help of God, they rise to where they seek to think the thoughts of God. Only as we think his thoughts can we live as he would have us.

Real repentance involves an inward change of attitude toward God, toward sin, toward self, and toward others.

      A. Repentance is a change of attitude toward God. It is possible as the unbeliever hears the good news about God that comes through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ God reveals himself as the unselfish God who seeks the fleeing and self-destructive sinner. Through Jesus Christ God offers the cleansing of forgiveness and the gift of eternal life.

      Through Jesus Christ, God reveals his love for us individually and personally. He reveals that he wants to be our loving Father. If people will respond to this good news about God in Jesus Christ with a change of attitude from distrust to trust, from rebellion to cooperation, from resentment to welcome, from hate to love, a tremendous transformation is sure to follow in their conduct.

      B. Repentance is a change of attitude about sin. Even God cannot save a person from sin without that person’s cooperation. The call to repentance is a challenge to recognize the evil, deadly, destructive nature of sin and to change the attitude concerning it from one of love to hate, from the practice of clinging to it to the practice of fleeing from it.

      What makes a thing sinful? Are the pleasures of sin something a capricious God would deny us because of divine selfishness? Many think this is the case. A study of that which God forbids will reveal in all instances that behind the divine prohibition there is a desire to prevent us from suffering the consequences of either an action or an attitude that is destructive by its very nature.

      C. Repentance involves a change of attitude toward self. People by nature consider themselves to be independent and self-sufficient. In pride and self-confidence they seek their own futures in their own ways without regard to God or to their fellow humans.

      In genuine repentance people accept the concept that they are made in the image and likeness of God; and in redemption they no longer belong to themselves. They accept the idea that they belong to God and that their lives should be lived so as to glorify God (1 Cor. 6:19 – 20).

      D. Repentance will reveal itself by a change of attitude toward others. Each individual will be recognized as one for whom Christ died, an object of God’s loving concern.

      Genuine repentance, the primary demand of our faith, cannot be limited to the initial experience of becoming a Christian. It must be a continuing experience in which we journey from the mind of the flesh to the mind of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote to the Romans of the necessity of the continuing renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:2). He also wrote to the Philippian Christians challenging them to let the mind of Jesus Christ be the objective of their heart’s desire (Phil. 2:5).

III. The invitation to repent.

      A. John the Baptist, speaking for God, invited people to repent. His words were not just a command; they were a gracious invitation.

      B. Jesus began and concluded his earthly ministry both commanding and inviting people to repent. His command to repent was not a threat so much as it was a gracious, loving invitation for people to change their attitude toward God.

      C. Jesus commissioned his church to occupy itself continually with the task of extending this gracious invitation to people to repent and believe the gospel.

      In obedience to this command, this worship Service is being conducted and this sermon is being proclaimed.

Conclusion

Jesus Christ, the sinless, stainless, spotless Son of God, died with his arms extended and hands nailed to a cross. Someone has rightfully surmised that the manner of his death was a symbol of the earnest appeal of God to the hearts of people to repent and believe the gospel. The appeal is to your heart today.

Sunday Evening, November 15

Title: The Gospel of God’s Presence

Text: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Scripture Reading: Philippians 2:5 – 16

Introduction

The Bible is full of the gospel! Many of us have accepted only a part of the gospel as the whole gospel, thus impoverishing our souls. We need to discover more and more of the gospel as time goes by. Paul stated the heart of the gospel in his epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:1 – 4). While the gospel centers in the mighty redemptive acts of Jesus Christ in which he died for our sins and arose triumphant over death, we must not limit the gospel to these two mighty events, for the gospel is the good news about God and his purpose for people through faith in Jesus Christ. There are many facets to the good news concerning God’s provisions for people. We need to study the Bible continually to discover more and more of the good news of God’s plan for our lives. Today let us discover “the gospel of God’s presence.”

Our text is located between two inspired words of exhortation and encouragement. Paul challenges the Philippian Christians to give God their undivided love and cooperation that they might fully experience his great salvation for them (Phil. 2:12). He follows our text with a challenge to avoid complaining and disputing among themselves. Between these two words of instruction, he makes an exciting statement about God.

I. God is introduced: “For it is God.”

      A. Paul had discovered in his own personal experience that God is love (Rom. 5:68).

      B. Paul had discovered that God deals with sinful people in terms of his own grace and mercy rather than in terms of people’s worth and merit (1 Tim. 1:1115). Paul believed with all his heart that the Creator, on the basis of his grace, was vitally concerned, not only with the well-being of humanity as a whole, but with individuals in particular. He reminds the Philippian Christians of this interest of their God.

II. God’s presence within: “For it is God ... in you.”

Paul reminds the followers of Christ in Philippi that the eternal God has entered into the heart to work his work of redemption.

      A. ImmanuelGod with us. The prophet Isaiah spoke of the day when the eternal God would clothe himself in human flesh and dwell in the midst of people (Isa. 7:14).

      John, the apostle, based his gospel on the belief that the eternal God had visited the earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John believed, as devout believers believe today, that in Jesus Christ people beheld the eternal God with a human face and in human form.

      B. The temple of God. Jesus spoke to his disciples of the coming of the Holy Spirit in terms that were beyond their power to comprehend at the time (John 14:16 – 18). He was describing that which God had planned for them following the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was to come in mighty power to carry forward that which Jesus had begun. Later Paul explained this to the Corinthians by telling them that the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in the heart of each believer. He asked them, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16).

      Paul was encouraging the Philippian Christians to recognize that their God was not an absentee God who dwelled in the distant somewhere. Actually, the eternal God was as close to them as their breath. In the person of Jesus Christ, he had dwelt with humans, but in the Holy Spirit he had come to dwell within the heart of believers.

III. God’s gracious activity: “For it is God which worketh.”

Paul had expressed the belief at the very beginning of his epistle that God was at work in the hearts of people with a gracious purpose. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Paul informs them that God has not completed his work in their lives when he forgives their sin and adopts them as his children.

      A. God is at work upon us. The loving Father is not satisfied with us as we are. He has noble plans for us and works to accomplish that plan.

      On one occasion Jesus said, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). From this we can assume that the Christ who served as a carpenter before he began his public ministry is concerned about building something significant with our lives.

      B. God is at work in the world about us. Sometimes we forget this, and sometimes we may find it difficult to believe, but the truth is that God works in many ways to accomplish his purpose within our lives.

IV. God’s method of work: “It is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do.”

The divine method of working his work within our heart and life is inward rather than external. It is designed to secure our voluntary cooperation, for God does not desire that we feel like slaves driven before a master.

      A. God works on the inside by filling us with a holy discontent with ourselves as we are. God reveals himself to us in one way or another that helps us to see our moral imperfections (Isa. 6:5; Luke 5:8).

      B. God works on the inside by giving us a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness (Ps. 42:12; Matt. 5:6). Deep within the soul of every person there is a hunger for God that nothing else can satisfy. This hunger has been described as “a God-shaped vacuum” that only God can fill.

      C. God works on the inside to assure us of the possibility of significant achievement. Paul believed that it is possible for the Christian to do anything and everything that God wants him to do. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me” (Phil. 4:13).

      D. God would encourage us to walk in the paths of righteousness, which not only bring inward satisfaction but also lead to significant Service to others.

V. God’s good purpose: “Both to will and to do his good pleasure.”

      A. Jesus lived his life utterly devoted to the will of God. Repeatedly, he was given indications of the divine approval. Particularly, this happened at the time of his baptism, at the time of his transfiguration, and again shortly before his crucifixion. His resurrection from the dead was the stamp of God’s approval on all that he ever achieved.

      B. In the parable of the talents Jesus taught that it was possible for each person to conduct himself or herself so as to receive the commendation of God (Matt. 25:2123).

      C. Paul faced the end of his earthly journey in the confidence that he had cooperated with the God who had been at work within his heart, and consequently a reward awaited him (2 Tim. 4:68).

Conclusion

God has not left us to live our Christian lives by our own ingenuity and effort. He has come to dwell within our hearts, and our task is to cooperate continuously with him as he works within us from day to day. He is not an absentee Savior who gives us instructions once a year. He dwells within our hearts continuously and has promised never to leave us or forsake us. May each of us respond to this gracious truth and take courage as we face the future.

Wednesday Evening, November 18

Title: Follow Me to the Mountainside for Study

Text: “Seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying…” (Matt. 5:12).

Introduction

Nicodemus the Pharisee had an interview with Jesus one night in which he said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2). Even Jesus’ enemies recognized him as a teacher who taught the way of God in truth without partiality (Matt. 22:16). One of the greatest needs of present-day Christianity is to recognize and respond to his authoritative message.

I. The lecture on the mountainside.

We commonly speak of the “Sermon on the Mount.” Actually, it was not a sermon; it was the lecture of an authoritative teacher who had come from heaven with a message for people.

In this lecture on the mountainside, the Master Teacher set forth the nature and characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom he had come to establish (Matt. 5:1 – 9). He described the influence of these subjects on the kingdom of God (vv. 10 – 19). He set forth in vivid detail illustrations of the conduct expected of those who became his followers, learners, students, or disciples (5:20 – 7:23).

In graphic terms he declared that one’s relationship or attitude to these teachings on the mountainside determined his destiny (Matt. 7:24 – 27). He described the destiny of the man who not only heard but heeded these authoritative teachings as like a wise man who built his house on the rock (vv. 24 – 25). The destiny of the hearer who sits on the mountainside and listens to his teachings but refuses or neglects to heed is likened to a foolish man who built his house on sand (vv. 26 – 27).

II. Truths to be learned.

This lecture on a mountainside contains dynamic truths that are relevant for life today. They must be learned with the mind if we are to be true followers of Jesus Christ.

      A. It was not a sermon to be enjoyed. Often a pastor will have members of the congregation say, “Pastor, I sure enjoyed the sermon.” The pastor never really knows what his members are saying when they speak in this manner. It could be that they were entertained. It could be that they were comforted. It could be that they felt complimented.

      B. Lessons to be learned. For students to become effective readers or writers, they must learn, not only the words of a vocabulary, but also the laws of grammar. For students to become effective accountants, they must learn not only the ten basic numerals, but also the laws of addition, division, multiplication, and subtraction, not to mention bookkeeping skills. For students to become accomplished pianists, they must recognize, not only a piano keyboard, but they must also learn musical scales, key signatures, sharps and flats, and a multiplicity of musical terminology. And at the same time, they must put in enough practice utilizing this information to produce a beautiful harmony.

      Even so, to be true followers of Jesus Christ, people must do more than just profess their faith and mouth pious platitudes and sentimental generalities about being religious. The word disciple and the word discipline are built on the same root. The word discipline does not mean to punish; it means to follow a course of instruction and training that “corrects, molds, strengthens, or perfects.” To be disciples of Jesus means that we must sit at his feet and learn what he taught and determine to practice in our own experience that which God would have us to do.

III. He opened his mouth and taught them.

William Barclay sought to describe Jesus as the Master Teacher. He said that the words that fell from Jesus’ lips were immediately arresting, universal in appeal, immediately intelligible, and permanently memorable. In his teaching methods, Jesus used the unforgettable epigram, the thought-provoking paradox, the vivid hyperbole, and penetrating humor, as well as parables (The Mind of Jesus [London: SCM, 1960], 96 – 102).

Jesus never presented his truths in an overbearing, dogmatic manner. He challenged people to think for themselves concerning the eternal verities. Perhaps the most important teaching method Jesus used was the influence of his own personality, for in infinite love he was a personification of his own teachings.

IV. How do you respond?

      A. You can let your mind be like the wayside upon which the seed fell and the birds came and devoured them (Matt. 13:4).

      B. You can make a shallow, superficial response to the teachings of Jesus and let them perish and die like the seeds that were sown in the shallow soil that covered underlying stones (Matt. 13:5, 2021).

      C. You can let the truths be crowded out and choked by the cares of the world and by the deceitfulness of riches (Matt. 13:7, 22).

      D. You can respond to the teachings of Jesus reverently, responsively, and regularly, and be like the seed that fell into the good ground that brought forth “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (Matt. 13:8, 23).

Conclusion

Follow Jesus to the mountainside classroom, sit at his feet, recognize his unique person, respond to his truths with a hungry heart, and be a diligent student. Then others will recognize you as a true disciple.

Sunday Morning, November 22

Title: The Faith That Saves

Text: “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:2021).

Scripture Reading: James 2:14 – 20

Hymns:  “The Solid Rock,” Mote

              “O for a Faith That Will Not Shrink,” Bathurst

              “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Luther

Offertory Prayer: Heavenly Father, the greatest need of our world is its need for you. There are areas of our world where the light of the miraculous gospel of Christ has never shone. Multitudes have never heard of your love and of your desire both to forgive and deliver from the tyranny of sin. Today we bring our offerings as an indication of our desire to support the work of missionaries. We dedicate ourselves afresh to being good witnesses for you in our own community. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Introduction

As Paul made his way toward Jerusalem, he enjoyed a conference with the leaders from the church at Ephesus. Among a number of things he did was to condense into capsule form the message he had preached, focusing particular attention on the human response that should be made to the gospel. He declared that he had not hesitated at the point of declaring to both Jews and Greeks the need for “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” In these terms he described the heart response that is necessary for a person to receive the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life.

In speaking of the need for people to repent, Paul was affirming the necessity of there being an inward change of the mind and will toward God, toward sin, toward self, and toward others.

Let us face the question of what kind of faith a person must have to experience salvation. Repeatedly the Bible speaks of the place that a person’s faith has in receiving salvation through Jesus Christ. For example:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16 – 17).

To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins (Acts 10:43).

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28).

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Gal. 2:16).

The faith that is referred to in these verses is more than intellectual assent to the existence of God, for James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” One can believe everything the Bible teaches and still be outside of the family of God. We read in the book of Acts about Simon the sorcerer. He believed and was baptized (Acts 8:13), yet later he tried to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit, and Peter said to him, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. . . . For I perceive that thou are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:21, 23). James inquires rhetorically concerning the value of a faith that produces no fruits: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” (James 2:14 NIV). Do you have the faith that saves?

I. The faith that saves is the faith that responds to the gospel (1 Cor. 15:14).

The gospel is something infinitely more than good advice. Primarily, it is good news concerning God that is communicated to us through Jesus Christ.

      A. Christ died on the cross for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3). He came to die. He lived to die.

      B. Christ rose again the third day (1 Cor. 5:4). Christ conquered death and the grave. He arose triumphant, revealing the reality of immortality. He is a living Savior who has walked down through the corridors of time to this present day. He confronts the heart of each person with God’s love as dramatically disclosed in his death on the cross. He offers people not only forgiveness for the past but also for the present and the future.

      The faith that saves is a faith that receives this news about God’s love for sinners and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

II. The faith that saves is the faith that surrenders to the will of God.

When Paul was confronted on the road to Damascus by the vision of the living Christ, he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” When he discovered that it was the living Christ, there arose from his heart the question, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:5 – 6). In this question he implied a surrender of his personal sovereignty to the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. He was making Jesus Christ the Lord of his life. In his epistle to the Roman Christians, Paul says that salvation comes to those who in their hearts believe and respond to the gospel to the extent that with their mouths they confess Jesus Christ as their Lord (Rom. 10:9).

III. The faith that saves causes one to stop sinful habits.

Sin is destructive and deadly. Even God himself cannot save people from their sin unless they decide to forsake evil and cry out to God for assistance to live the separated life.

      A. When Matthew the publican responded to the call to conversion, “he left all, rose up, and followed him” (Luke 5:28).

      B. Paul commended the Thessalonian Christians because they “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” A primary implication of baptism is that the new convert is now both disposed toward and determined to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

IV. The faith that saves is a faith that serves.

Our Scripture reading from James emphasizes that genuine faith will manifest itself in ministries of helpfulness and mercy toward the unfortunate (2:14 – 17). Jesus said that you would be able to tell the true from the false by their fruits (Matt. 7:16 – 20). Paul told the Ephesian Christians that the children of God have been created by God unto a life of good works (Eph. 2:10). This is true, for when people respond to the gospel with a genuine trusting faith, the miracle of the new birth takes place within their souls and they become a child of God with love and compassion and a desire to help others. It is said that Jesus “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). If you have a faith that does not motivate you to Service in the name of your Lord, then you need to reexamine the genuineness of that faith.

V. The faith that saves is a faith that satisfies.

To know Jesus Christ as a personal Savior, as life’s most wonderful Friend, and as heaven’s infallible Teacher is to enjoy a peace that passes all human understanding.

To be a Christian is much more than just believing that there is a God. To be a Christian is more than having a high code of ethical rules by which you conduct your life. To be a Christian is to be in a living relationship with Jesus Christ himself.

Conclusion

Do you have faith that saves? If you don’t, you can. The Bible does not speak about the quantity of the faith you must have to be saved. Rather, it focuses on the object of your faith. Are you willing to accept Jesus Christ to be all that the New Testament claims him to be? Can you give mental assent to the truth of what the New Testament declares concerning him? If so, then commit your life to him by faith, depending on him to do for you that which he has promised to do, and you will discover his presence and power at work in your own heart and life.

Sunday Evening, November 22

Title: What Is Your Life?

Text: “What is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

Introduction

For many years This Is Your Life was a popular television program. Celebrities were chosen as guests, and interesting events and achievements out of the life of the person being spotlighted were dramatized. You and I will probably never be spotlighted on a television program, but we would be wise to face the question, “What is your life?” There probably would be as many answers as there are persons, because each life is unique.

James asked his readers, “What is your life?” to emphasize the brevity of life and the urgent need for the guidance and help of God if we are to make our lives meaningful and productive.

I. “What is your life?”

It is a vapor.

      A. It is a vapor that appears for a little time. A vapor can be seen only briefly, for it evaporates and disappears.

      B. It vanishes away. The psalmist was grieved as he considered the brevity of the human life, but he rejoiced in the eternal nature of God’s mercy (Ps. 103:15 – 18).

II. “What is your life?”

It is a mystery.

      A. Life has been defined as the absence of death.

      B. Death has been defined as the absence of life. People stood in awe before the mystery of life.

III. “What is your life?”

It is the breath of God (Gen. 2:7). Apart from the breath of God, a human is but a pile of dust. Life is God’s gift to us. God is the Author and Giver of life.

IV. “What is your life?”

It is a trust from God. We must all give an account of our stewardship of the gift of life (Rom. 14:12).

The writer of Ecclesiastes, speaking from the viewpoint of common sense rather than from a heart filled with great faith, declared, “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:14).

V. “What is your life?”

It is an opportunity to serve. Our Lord understood and defined life in terms of an opportunity to minister to the needs of others: “Even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Those who would follow Jesus must accept his attitude and his ambition concerning the purpose of being.

Conclusion

What is your life? If you have not trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you do not have life (John 3:36). You have the capacity to receive the gift of everlasting life if you will but receive him. He is eager to bestow on you this gift if you will trust him as Savior and Lord: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10; 20:31).

Wednesday Evening, November 25

Title: Follow Me to the Secret Place of Prayer

Text: “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35).

Introduction

If we want to be true followers of Jesus Christ, we must follow him regularly to the secret place of private prayer and communion with God. Repeatedly the Scriptures tell us that he went apart, away from the crowd, to be alone with God: “It came to pass in those days, that he went out to a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12); “When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matt. 14:23); “He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed” (Luke 22:41).

If our Lord found it both necessary and profitable to enter the secret place of prayer, it would seem absolutely essential that we, his followers, would need to follow his example and want to imitate his actions.

I. Jesus sought the secret place for prayer.

      A. Jesus prayed during his baptism (Luke 3:21). For Jesus, prayer was more of a dialogue with God than a monologue in which he expressed his own personal wishes (cf. Luke 3:21 – 22; 9:28 – 31).

      B. Jesus went apart for prayer when people wanted him to set up an earthly kingdom rather than a spiritual kingdom (Matt. 14:2123). Evidently he needed divine strength and wisdom and assistance during a difficult time in his ministry.

      C. Jesus went to the secret place of prayer when he faced major decisions. He spent an entire night in prayer before choosing his apostles (Luke 6:12 – 13).

      D. From the loneliness of the cross the Savior prayed that his crucifiers might be forgiven (Luke 23:34). Although there were many in the vicinity at this time, he had entered the sanctuary of God’s presence in prayer to intercede for those who had nailed him to the cross.

      Shortly after praying this prayer for his crucifiers, Jesus prayed a prayer of committal for his own soul (Luke 23:46).

II. Jesus encourages us to find the secret place for prayer.

“Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closeit, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:6).

      A. Jesus assumed that the children of God would want to pray. The words of this verse are not phrased as a command. They are the expression of an assumption. Jesus assumed that we would hunger for fellowship and communion with our heavenly Father. He assumed that our desire for victory over sin and temptation and Satan would motivate us to seek the presence and power of our God. He assumed that our need for wisdom and grace to help in every time of need would pull us again and again into the throne room of our God and heavenly Father.

      B. Jesus suggested that we enter the closet and close the door. Did you take this verse very literally? Did you find it difficult to get in the closet in the first place? After entering the closet, did you find it difficult to close the door? If so, your interpretation of this verse was not as far from the truth that Jesus was seeking to impart as you might think.

          1. It is difficult to withdraw completely into a private place where you can enter into an unhindered experience of communion with God.

          2. It is difficult to close the door and shut out everything that would distract one’s concentration on God. Getting the door closed refers to the removal of all attitudes that are contradictory to the will of God and to the confessing and forsaking of all sins that are contrary to the will of God.

      For some of us it has been a long time since we have had an experience in the place of prayer in which God was very, very real and in which the divine will was made known, divine wisdom was bestowed, and divine power was imparted. The lack of these good gifts from the hand of the heavenly Father explains our ineffectiveness as modern Christians.

Conclusion

Do you have a secret place of prayer? Have you erected an altar where you regularly seek to enter into communion with the heavenly Father? One does not have to visit a mountaintop or a forest to find a secret place for prayer. The primary requisite is to have a deep desire for such a place and a determination to follow the example and the suggestion of Jesus as found in the words of our text.

Your private place of secret prayer can be any place where you seek to enter into the throne room of the heavenly Father. It could be the bedroom, the living room, the basement, or the attic. It could be in a majestic cathedral or in a simple chapel. It could even be in the very center of a large congregation of worshipers on Sunday morning if you would but bring your soul into tune with God’s will and listen with hearing ears, look with seeing eyes, and respond with a believing heart.

Sunday Morning, November 29

Title: How Can We Face Death?

Text: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55 RSV).

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:47 – 56

Hymns:  “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” Chisholm

              “It Is Well with My Soul,” Stafford

              “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Scriven

Offertory Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the bounty of your grace toward us. We thank you for blessings in the material realm. We thank you for blessings in the family. We thank you for your blessings on the work of our heads and hearts and hands. Accept our tithes and offerings as indications of our love and of our desire to share your love with a needy world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Introduction

The British Museum in London contains an exhibit of a body that has been preserved in a remarkable way. It is the body of a man dehydrated by the hot sands of Egypt in which he was buried. The body is in a crouching position, shaped like a question mark. It seems to me that this is a parable of death. Death is an enigma though it is common to all. It is as much a part of natural life as birth. Whether great or small, high or low, powerful or powerless, we all will die.

I. The Greek concept of death.

      A. The ancient Greeks examined the mystery of death and came up with an answer. They decided that humans are kin to the gods. Therefore, every person has a spark of divinity and is immortal.

      B. The Greeks believed that a human lives in a body, the body is matter, and all matter is evil; inside that evil body there lives a human soul and spirit that is good. Therefore, they saw humanity as a soul shut up in the cage of a body. They viewed death as liberation: when a person died, his soul was emancipated from his body and returned to the deity from which it came. The soul was then absorbed into that deity, like a drop of water returning to the ocean by evaporation.

      C. But the Greeks had no concept of resurrection. They had no belief in a bodily resurrection; that would have been a contradiction in terms to them, for they thought the body was evil. They had no concept of personal survival or personal identity beyond death.

II. The Hebrew concept of death.

      A. The Hebrews’ understanding of death was very different from that of the Greeks. The Hebrews believed in a place of existence after death that they called Sheol, the place of shades. The earth was the abode of humans and animals, and heaven was the abode of God and the angels. They had no concept of humans going to heaven where God was, but they knew that humans did not remain on earth. Therefore, they spoke and wrote of Sheol as the grave or the pit. It was the place of shadowy existence after death. There was no personal identity there.

      B. The psalmist saw Sheol as a contradiction because the shades could not glorify God. He wrote in Psalm 6:5 (RSV): “In death there is no remembrance of thee; in Sheol, who can give thee praise?”

      The Greeks saw death as escape for the immortal soul. The Hebrews saw death as a shadowy existence in nothingness.

III. The New Testament concept of death.

      A. Immortality is the gift of God to those who believe. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12 RSV). Jesus said that if we believe in him, we have eternal life, beginning now.

      The Christian view of death centers on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have an insight and understanding of death and life after death that is not characteristic of other groups.

      B. Christians, because of Jesus’ resurrection and postresurrection appearances, are no longer left with blind guesses about life after death. We have been given an authentic glimpse of glory. Therefore, we can have certainty about life after death.

      C. Death wears two faces. It is like the Roman god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. Janus had two faces, facing opposite directions. Death is like that. Death from the human point of view looks like defeat and tragedy. But from God’s point of view, death is victory and triumph: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15).

      D. “Death is like blowing out a candle, because the dawn has come.” This quote aptly describes the reality of death. Death can be terribly tragic, but it is not the worst phenomenon. While the prospect of dying can be very bleak, there is no reason to have an ultimate fear of it. The resurrection of Christ means that death has died.

      Lift up your hearts! Christ is risen from the dead, and every person who places faith and trust in him will rise and be clothed with immortality and live forever in the presence of the Lord.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

  One glimpse of his dear face,

  All sorrow will erase.

So bravely run the race, till we see Christ.

Alton H. McEachern

Conclusion

Let me dare for just a moment to be intensely personal, to probe a bit, and to perhaps plant a question in your mind that will set you thinking. The hope I have talked about belongs to every born-again believer. If today should be the day of your death, do you have the kind of faith relationship with God that would mean eternal life?

You can have this hope of glory. If you have never received Christ as your own Lord and Savior, I invite you to turn from sin and self right now and receive him as your personal Lord. If you will do that, God’s Holy Spirit will work a miracle in your life.

Sunday Evening, November 29

Title: “The Sin Which Doth So Easily Beset Us”

Text: “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. 12:1).

Introduction

Most of us have what we call “a besetting sin.” By a besetting sin we refer to some personal weakness or shortcoming. Usually we justify or explain our reason for tolerating this sin to the extent that our conscience does not hurt us too much.

What is your besetting sin? Is it a vile temper? Is it a critical spirit? Is it a sharp tongue? Is it profanity? Could it be spiritual idleness?

Instead of a different sin for each person, the writer of the book of Hebrews is referring to a sin that is common to us all — the sin of unbelief. The sin of unbelief is the sin that God’s people have been guilty of through the ages. Failure to exercise faith was the undoing sin of the Israelites. Weak faith plagued the early church. Our failure to trust God robs the modern church and individual Christians of spiritual power and achievement.

The sin of unbelief causes unbelievers to remain lost and under the wrath of God. It causes the children of God to remain in spiritual infancy.

I. Our unbelief and the Savior.

      A. It is a source of grief to him.

      B. Lack of confidence disappoints his love.

      C. Little faith is an insult to his truthfulness.

      D. Failing to trust him hinders his purposes for us.

II. The results of this besetting sin.

      A. Imaginary dangers darken the pathway ahead when we do not face the future with faith in the living Lord (James 4:2).

      B. Without faith the resources of God that come in response to believing prayer are undiscovered (James 4:2).

      C. Without faith the fear of failure captures the heart of the one who would be the servant of Christ, and he or she will attempt only that which is humanly possible (Phil. 4:13).

      D. Without faith we place limitations on both the power and the activity of God (Ps. 78:41).

      E. Refusal to trust God dishonors and displeases him (Heb. 11:6).

III. The cause of little faith.

      A. We have a natural inclination to see obstacles and difficulties and to form opinions on the basis of mere appearances. We depend too much on human agency alone.

      B. We forget and ignore the presence of God (Zech. 4:6; John 14:12).

      C. We fail to recognize that faith is both the gift of God and something that we develop as we discover that God is faithful in keeping his promises (Mark 9:2324).

IV. The cure for little faith.

How can we put aside the besetting sin of unbelief and grow faith?

      A. Put faith in faith. Instead of trusting alone in human ability and common sense, recognize that the presence and power of God comes into human life through the channel of faith.

      B. Interpret the Bible, not only as a history of what happened in the past, but also as a revelation of what can happen in the present. Identify with biblical characters and recognize that we can depend on God to respond toward us as he did to them in ages gone by. This is the whole purpose of the challenge in Hebrews 12:1 and the list of witnesses that are marched on to the witness stand of Hebrews 11. Each of these would tell us that God can be depended on and that we can trust him implicitly.

      C. Pray for the gift of an increasing faith (Luke 17:5).

      D. Place your confidence in the promises of God to the very limit of your ability and capacity (Heb. 11:23).

Conclusion

We trust God for the salvation of our souls through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Let us also trust him with the daily decisions and responsibilities we face.

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