Monthly Archives: December 2013

Following Jesus in A New Year

Following Jesus in A New Year

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

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Peter has just declared that Jesus was “The Christ of God.”  Jesus tells them to “tell no man” and that He would suffer many things.  Peter and the other disciples did not really understand the suffering of Christ until after His death and resurrection.  The next part of this narrative directs us to this verse: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Self denial is one of the most difficult things to do as human beings.  Recently, our family was treated to a terrific Chinese Buffet.  Walk into a Chinese buffet or similar “all you can eat” restaurant and you will see that many Americans struggle with denying self.  Denial issues could relate to eating, exercise, music, the friends we have, time in front of a screen, and nearly every area of life.  Even things that are not necessarily a sin of themselves can become sin to us when we do not practice moderation and the discipline of self denial.

Taking up the cross includes suffering for Jesus.  Some people at work or at school will not love Jesus like you do.  Some will persecute you.  You may be passed over.  The neighbors may not be as kind to you.  You may have people threaten you or mock you.  Take up this cross, letting others know you are a Christian, no matter what suffering you may encounter.  This is to be done daily.

Then Jesus says: “Follow Me.”  “Deny self, take up cross,” and “follow me” are great places to begin a new year.  Here are a few suggestions to help you follow Christ.

  1. Decisions are about Jesus.  A new year’s resolution?  Read the Bible in a year?  Handout a Gospel tract each week? Accept a new job?  Relocate?  Become engaged?  Get married?  What about other spiritual decisions such as confessing sin?  Going to the altar during the altar call and making a decision for Christ?  How about service in the through the local church?  Will you serve in areas you like most or areas that are needed the most?  Make all your decisions about Jesus. 
  2. Discussions are about Jesus.  What will be the topic of our conversations?  Will you boast, exude pride about self?  Will you speak of personal selfishness?  Will you talk about the Lord to others?  Will you say how good God has been to you?  Could you tell someone about Jesus and His gift of eternal life in this new year?  Avoid talking negatively about your local church, pastor, Sunday School teacher or other Christian.  They are not perfect, and for that matter neither are you.  We are to talk to others about Jesus and talk to the Lord about our “problems.”  Be sure to tell people about Christ while at the same time speaking well of His bride – the church.  The lost will pick up on dissension in your speaking about other Christians and it will turn them away.  Be careful of the words you say and how you say them.  If it would be improper to say something in a press conference in prime-time, it would be wrong anytime.  Discussing the Lord will help you choose proper words because of the proper topic being Christ.
  3. Dedications are about Jesus.  To Whom or to What will you be dedicated to?  “Me, myself, and I” is very shallow and humanistic.  The “world, the flesh, and the devil”, are other choices for the dedication of your heart, but will leave you in sin leave your heart heartbroken and enslaved to sin.  “Money, fame, and getting ahead” are insufficient to bring you true peace and lasting joy.  “Following Jesus” is all that really matters.  Be dedicated to following the Lord in every area of your life. 

 

Whether the dedication of your heart, the discussion of your mouth, or the decisions of your mind, let’s determine to be followers of Jesus Christ this year.  Deny self, carry your cross, and follow Jesus.

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Gift Giving

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Gift Giving

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Gift giving has gone on at Christmastime for a long time.  In our passage, the wise men bring worthy and timely gifts to Christ and His family. The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrated His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  With these gifts, Joseph was able to leave his employment and even leave the country as tyrannical King Herod was killing off all the male babies two years of age and under.  The Christ child lived in Egypt for a while before being brought back to Israel as the Old Testament prophesied in Hosea 11:1.  With hearts of love, expecting nothing in return, these men gave. The gifts the Wise Men brought were symbolic, meaningful, and beneficial to the Christ child and to His family. 

When we give gifts at Christmas time, be sure that you and those in your home are reminded about the significance of gift giving.  Every gift that is given is an opportunity to remember the greatest gift – when God sent Christ into this world to bring us the gift of eternal life.  As Romans 6:23 instructs:  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   With thankful hearts, let’s give to each other all the while remembering the greatest gift .

“Unto Us”

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“Unto Us”

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 6:9

What a beautiful truth to consider during this Christmas season.  Jesus came to this world for sinful men like me.  He came to this sin-sick earth for you.  He came for us!  Unto us, Christ was born 2000 years ago.  Unto us God’s Son was given!  Unto us the Savior entered human history and embarked on His mission to “seek and save that which was lost!”  With all the selfish materialism and consumerism of today’s society, one personal note is often overlooked:  Jesus came to this world for us!  Romans 5:8 tells us the purpose in Jesus coming to this earth: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  We can praise God that He loved us in spite of our sin.  Jesus demonstrated God’s love by coming to earth, living, dying, and then living again – all for us!  Unto us, God gave His Son Jesus!  Beloved John 3:16 reminds us of this love for us: “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.”  No-one is outside of the “unto us.”  He came for the whole world, yet some reject His gift of salvation.  Praise the Lord that “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved!” You can receive the gift of salvation by faith today!   With all the “goings on” at this time of year, with every exchange of gifts, remember the whole reason behind it: Unto us, Jesus came, bearing the gift of salvation, so we could be saved.  

Away With the Manger

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Away With the Manger

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:7

What a humble birthplace for the King of glory to enter into humanity and to be born into this sin-sick world!  A dirty stall, in a cattle feeding trough with hay for bedding!  What an incredible God we have!  Far away, in a manger, Jesus came into this world for us! Do you enjoy singing the Christmas Carol “Away in A Manger?”  I enjoy singing it along with all the other wonderful carols we have. 

Today, it seems, the most accurate phrase could be: “Away with the Manger!”   Many have attempted and continue to try to remove Christ out of Christmas.  Fake substitutes for gift-giving, like a fat man with reindeer is just one example.  Anything that diverts our attention from Jesus is a cheap substitute for what Christmas is really all about.  People are trying to get “away” from what Christmas is all about! 

Praise the Lord there are a few who still know that Christmas is about Christ. When you hear the song:  “Away in a Manger” remember the tremendous sacrifice, and incredible love that Jesus has for us. Be encouraged to use the word “Christmas” so people know what special day you are celebrating.  Lift up the name of Christ in your conversation as you greet and speak with people this season.  Yes, Jesus came – in a manger – the story remains true – He came for us, He came for you!