Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Is the Church Leading the World to Jesus Christ?

20151109_122835“Dear friends,
I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting—begging!—that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license—which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master.” (Jude 3-4, The Message Bible)

I look to the church to lead the world to Christ. What I see baffles me! I remember well how when I received a call to Christ and Christ’s gospel, I went to my beloved Willard W. Allen Lodge No. 108 and bid farewell to my brothers. They were happy for me that I had discovered my life’s calling and understood my decision to fully commit myself to the of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is the Church transforming culture or is culture transforming the church? Are the two so intertwined until they are no longer singularly recognizable? Grambling State University has the Bayou Classic, a game that alumni and well-wishers look forward to each year. I daresay they have supporters committed to going to this one game even if they miss all the others. They prepare for it in advance to include budgeting, putting in time off at work, scheduling reunions, etc. It is of the utmost importance to them.

Do you as a supporter, no as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ have that one service, that one day you have committed to the Lord and refuse to substitute for anything else? For me, it is the Holy Communion Service. Despite what I have going on, it is my commitment to be at my church partaking of the Lord’s Supper with my members. I do whatever I can to keep this commitment above all others.

Jude warns us of confusing our commitment to Christ with that of our worldly pursuits and aspirations. I love the Lord and the Lord’s Church; never would I forsake her for obligations to any other group I’m affiliated with. Do you have such loyalty to your church?

The world stands in need of disciples of Jesus Christ leading the fight for their souls. They do not need associates, friends, comrades that flock to the same worldly pursuits as themselves. They who have not God, need those who do to become recognizable and distinct from any other group. The world needs our light to shine its brightest at this very moment in history. I urge you to consider whether your witness leads others to Christ or to something someone, some place, else.

In His Service,

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Be Patient, A Change is Coming!

Text: Luke 21:5-19

Introduction

Votes were cast November 8th; the polls closed across the nation between 7-8pm; people waited patiently for the results, but even after votes were in, the winner was too close to call. People held their breath in hopes that their candidate would win. Then early Wednesday morning, we heard President-Elect Donald Trump would be our 45th President come January 20, 2017.

Shock, amazement, jubilation, despair, anger and joy filled the atmosphere. Millennials began protesting in the streets across the nation. Prophets of doom are being hired to speak in churches; news pundits and broadcasters are telling Donald what he needs to do next, as if he will listen to those who counted him out just a few months prior.

The world is in shock. They never expected Americans to elect such a brute of a man to the presidency. But this my friends is not the end. This is not the time for us to panic. World situations will continue to confound.

Jesus in our text addresses an impatient, stressed out crowd just like those in America today. Jesus talks to his disciples; not those in the world, but his disciples. And I pray today that you and I are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and can glean from his wisdom about what to do in tough times.

Move 1
His disciples’ questions about the future, reveal some impatience, some frustration about how they are going to make it in the coming days.
First, they are Impatient for Justice. They have suffered police brutality from the Roman Soldiers; been unfairly taxed to pay for government projects; incarcerated for minor infractions just for being Jewish; and murdered in the streets as if Jewish lives do not matter.
Second, they are impatient for validation. They know they are God’s children; people who have been blessed with gifts to help their people and the nation. Yet their dreams, hopes, and aspirations continue to be deferred.

Third, they are impatient for love. Hatred by the Romans is pervasive and can be evidenced by classism within the empire. Everyone has a place and moving up the social ladder outside their group is impossible. There is a place for the rich and a place for the poor within each ethnic and political group. No one can break out of the box that has been enforced upon them by the political powers of their community.
And so, they ask Jesus, the one anointed by God, to speak and lead them, “How much longer must we your disciples and God’s people contend with these unjust conditions?” They ask, “How can we stand in days like this?”

Move 2
Jesus responds in a way they least expect. Rather than tell them what will happen to the Romans, Jesus begins to tell them what will happen among their own community. Jesus says in Luke 21:5-6 (read). The things that are sacred to you; the things you hold most dear will be destroyed before change will come against your enemies. Jesus says you think God is going to begin his revolution with destruction of the Roman Empire, but not so.

The signs of change will begin with more deception and violence among your own people. In effect Jesus says situations must occur that cause God’s children to put their trust in God and not this world’s system of finance, government, and religion. Lord, have mercy!
Jesus breaks it down in Luke 21:7-19. Listen to the areas that Jesus addresses as signs that change is coming:

• False Christ will show up (v.8). People will begin to declare that they are the Messiah returned to deliver God’s people from bondage.

• Wars and rumors of wars will spread throughout the media (v.9). CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, continue to predict increased involvement in war against ISIS, Syria, North Korea, and the like.

• Civil Unrest (v.10). When Jesus says, nation shall rise against nation, he is referring to tribes, people groups (ethnicities). He is saying cultures will collide each fighting for the seemingly scarce resources on the earth that they need to survive.

• Natural disasters (v.11). And don’t we see that today? Flooding, fires, earthquakes, pestilences (incurable illnesses), and hunger abound.
That notwithstanding, Jesus says in Luke 21:12-18 that before any of these world issues take center stage, the people of God will be singled out for harsh times.

Listen to what Jesus says (read verses 12-18). Jesus says the people of God should be aware that things will get worse for them before they get better but a change is coming. Lord, have mercy!

Move 3
Jesus says there is only one way for God’s people, his disciples to get through these turbulent times of testing. He says in Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls.” It is not a suggestion, it is a direct command from our commander in chief, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Protests do not trump patience; fighting police and destroying property will not trump patience! Jesus says activate patience as a weapon against injustice. Jesus says exercise patience and don’t live your life in panic mode as if the world is coming to an end because it is not yet time for God’s judgment of the world, God is getting his people ready to inherit the kingdom of God. Hallelujah!

Patience in this text is referring to “trials incident to service in the gospel.” In other words, as we follow the Great Commission, that of making disciples, we will be tested. For this word patience derives from the Greek word “hupomone” which is translated, “an abiding under.” It means that as we live out our calling as disciples, as we obey the command of Jesus in Luke 21:12-18, the things we suffer will be overcome by our testimony. How? Because the Holy Spirit will continue to empower us to think feel, choose, and imagine how great life will be in the coming kingdom of God as opposed to the trials we endure in this life.

Beloved, our task is to continue to stand for Jesus in the face of proclamations of doom and destruction. Our task is to be a witness about our great God and His Christ. And Jesus says that as we continue to confess Jesus as Lord, we will be empowered to stand. In other words, our test will not defeat us. We won’t look like what we been through, hallelujah!

Listen beloved, the world is destined for destruction; religious systems will become bankrupt; political systems will crumble; economic systems will falter; and ethnic groups will be divided into classes with no power. But God’s people and God’s word will stand forever. God’s people Jesus says will be unharmed because we have eternal life in Jesus.

Yes, they will arrest some of you, but hold on. Yes, they will talk about you and your stand for Christ, but hold on. Yes, they will put some of you to death, but hold on. Yes, relatives, parents, and friends will betray you, but hold on. Be patient, a change is coming

The Church:  A Place for Forgiveness and Freedom

Introduction

It is said that one night in a church service, a young woman responded to God’s call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.  The young woman had a very rough past, involving alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. But the change in her was evident. As time went on she became a faithful member of the church.

It was not very long until this faithful young woman had caught the eye and heart of the pastor’s son. The relationship grew and they began to make wedding plans. Problems began.  About one half of the church did not think that a woman with a past such as hers was suitable for a pastor’s son. The church began to argue and fight about the matter. They decided to have a meeting. As the people made their arguments and tensions increased, the meeting became completely out of hand.

The young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry the pastor’s son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife to be. He began to speak, “My fiancée’s past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So does it wash away sin or not?”

The whole church began to weep as they realized that they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They thought that there harsh, condemning judgments were the judgments of God; how wrong they were.  How misled they had been.

Move 1

For Jesus said, 13-15 “No one has ever gone up into the presence of God except the One who came down from that Presence, the Son of Man. In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life.

16-18 “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

19-21 “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

Beloved, we need to come to grips with the fact that the church is not a place for condemnation; it is a place for forgiveness and freedom.  How often do our harsh, condemning judgments prevent forgiveness and freedom from being the inheritance of those we feel have lived too sinful a life to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

James Moore tells the story about a young girl named Ellen.  She was a junior In high school, an honor student, a member of the band, and secretary of her class.  Her life was beautiful, her future bright; but then, everything went wrong.  I was called on to conduct her funeral on what would have been her seventeenth birthday.  It was suicide.

In the depths of depression, she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills.  She left a note saying that she couldn’t go on.  She couldn’t fight the rumors and the rejection any longer.  She felt betrayed by her friends and her community.  This tragic teenage suicide was sparked by a misunderstanding, by a false rumor, by people spreading vicious gossip, by ordinary people like you and me passing on a cruel, destructive untruth.

The rumor was that she had come home at daylight in a drunken stupor, her clothes disheveled, delivered to her door by an older man in a fancy sports car.  That was the rumor.  The truth was that she had sat up all night at the hospital with her gravely ill grandmother and had been brought home early the next morning by her uncle.  That was the truth!

A neighbor saw something out her kitchen window and jumped to the wrong conclusions and then started spreading a false rumor.  As a result, an innocent teenager was devastated.  The harsh stares, the cruel jokes, the profane wisecracks, the vicious gossip, the whispering behind her back, the pointed fingers, and the blatant lies became too much for Ellen.  Her fragile, sensitive personality couldn’t take it.  She cracked under the pressure, and in a moment of deep agony and excruciating emotional pain, she took her life. (Moore, 2012, pp. 21-22)    

Move 2

This morning, we must come to learn that Jesus does not support churches which specialize in condemnation of others; for in our text Jesus makes clear his intention for coming to the earth.  Let’s explore them for a few moments.

First, Jesus says, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”  In other words Jesus’ vision for humanity is forgiveness and freedom.  Forgiveness from original sin and any wrongdoing we may commit while living on this earth.  Freedom to live the abundant life in God through his sacrifice on Calvary.  You will remember Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and that more abundantly.”  Jesus does not wish any of God’s children to be bound up by sin, weakness, or failure.  Jesus frees us to make mistakes and to grow from those mistakes.

Life gives us ample opportunity to sin.  We fail God in some way each and every day of our lives.  But we need to hear Jesus as he pronounces, “Where sin abounds my grace does much more abound.”  The grace of mercy of Jesus ensures that we are not defeated by sin, but liberated to get up and get back in the race.  

This leads us then to the second thing Jesus says in our text.  Jesus says, “God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”  

Say this with me:  I am not condemned by God; I am set free by Jesus Christ.  Beloved, you have been acquitted.  You have been set free to live in covenant with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now we must confess that when we look into the Word of God, the Word of God exposes our sinful condition.  The word exposes our weaknesses, flaws, and imperfections.  And when that happens rather than concentrate on the flaws, weaknesses and imperfections of others; we are to look within our own hearts and confess our sin.  For the bible declares in John 1:7-10, “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”  The Lenten Season affords us an opportunity to deal with the sin in our hearts so that God might wash and cleanse us with God’s Word.  Hallelujah!

But let us move on.  Let us consider next these words of Jesus, “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure.”

When the church operates through gossip, innuendo, condemnation, and using a person’s past to hold it over their heads, people refuse to attend that kind of church.  So what?  You know my past.  Have you forgotten your own?  Are we not all working out our own soul salvation with fear and trembling?  The church has been called into existence as a way station on a highway filled with traps and snares laid by our enemy the devil.  

We each will get trapped, but Jesus declares he will set each of us free.  The church then has no right to hold someone hostage to past sins, past mistakes; we need to be people who know how to let things go.  Every person who comes to the church with a past, is coming to be forgiven and freed from that past so they can move on with their lives.  Gossipy, tale-bearing Christians are the first line of offense used by the devil to make them run away from the light of God’s Word which is the only thing that can save them.  Lord, have mercy.

Jesus says people love to sin and changing their lives is not something they want to do.  None of us gives up sin willingly.  It’s a fight; it’s a struggle because we enjoy it.  Galatians 5:17 reads, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”  Beloved, each of us have selfish tendencies; we enjoy having things done our way.  And because we are selfish, we do not often please God voluntarily.  I agree with the gospel that says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure.”  God works a miracle in us when we come to the light of His Word.  And it is at this point that the church is so vital to the transformation of person.

But when we devour one another through harsh, condemning judgments, we circumvent what God is trying to do in the life of that person.  Beloved, these things out not to be.  None of us should condemn any of us; rather we should love, support, and pray for one another that God’s will be done in each of our lives.  The church should do everything in its power to ensure those whose seek to be free from sin, are not tripped up by some harsh words spoken among us.  Hallelujah!  Say this with me:  I am not condemned by God; I am set free by Jesus Christ. 

Move 3

Dr. David Sylvester, of Denton, Texas tells the story of a businessman who constructed a daycare center near a major highway. Due to budget constraints, a fence was deleted from the project. During recess, the children huddled near the steps of the entrance, afraid to venture into the yard toward the busy highway.  After a fence was constructed, the children felt liberated, and romped and played in the entire grassy area. The fence provided freedom, not restriction.

       As we come to Christ and look to His Word, we find true freedom rather than restriction. Freedom is found within the boundary.  That why David could declare, “The Word of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are safe.”  Beloved, there is safety in the Church, because the Church is the repository of God’s Word.  Whatever you do, don’t lead people away from the Church, help them run into the Church.  The church is God’s place for forgiveness and freedom.  The Church is the place where people are saved, healed, and delivered from sin.

The Word of God declares, “Thy Word O Lord, have I hid in thine heart that I might not sin against thee.”  Jesus is the Word; bring them to Jesus and let Jesus redeem their lives from destruction.  Put a watch over your mouth; be careful with your words.  Let God be the judge and you be the conduit through which the word of God flows.  This Lenten Season fast from gossip, fast from harsh, condemning judgments and allow God to be God in your life and in the life of others.  Let’s give this bad habit up for Lent and then for the rest of our lives.  Hallelujah!

Conclusion

         Finally, if you’re here today and have been injured harsh, condemning judgments from church members, take heart.  Jesus has come to give you victory over that offense.  Jesus has one objective for your life.  Jesus said “I came to seek and to save them that are lost.”  That’s why we’re here and I invite you to come to the altar this morning and allow Jesus Christ to deliver you from church hurt.  It’s time to let it go and move on with your life free to live, love, and laugh.  Forgive of your sins and redeemed through the one act of sacrifice by Jesus Christ.  I invite you to come; the Spirit and the Bride say come.  Will you come this morning and give your hurt to Jesus?  Will you come and let Jesus become your leader and guide; his Word will transform you and make your life better.  Will you come?  Let us stand.

References

Moore, J. W. (2012). Give Up Something Bad for Lent. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

A Call to Follow, Not a Call to Lead

Mark 1:16-20

16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him. 19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.
Introduction
Our challenge this morning is to understand God’s Call to follow his son Jesus Christ. To that end let me point four aspects of the call found in our text: 1) the call is to follow not to lead; 2) the call is to follow only Jesus; 3) the call is plural, many are needed for the task; 4) the call is specific to one vision that of evangelism and discipleship. Let me state those elements of the call again. (Repeat)
Now the one criteria necessary to answer this call is repentance and I’ll say more about that momentarily. Our quadrennial theme is “The Investment Factor: A Changed People, Changing the World.” Repentance is the way to change and repentance sustains change. Repentance is an ongoing phenomenon that results from following Jesus. A follower of Jesus has been changed, is changing, and awaits new changes each day they follow Jesus. The hymn writer wrote, “Everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” Hallelujah! Only a life of repentance can do that. Praise the Lord!

Move 1
Beloved, when people encounter Jesus through a life of discipleship they change the world around them. True story. A little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it was “too crowded.” “I can’t go to Sunday School,” she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class.
The child was so happy that they found room for her, and she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus. Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings. Her parents called for the kindhearted pastor who had befriended their daughter to handle the final arrangements.
As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled red purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note, scribbled in childish handwriting, which read: “This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.
For two years she had saved for this offering of love. When the pastor tearfully read that note he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his deacons to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building. But the story does not end there. . .
A newspaper learned of the story and published it. It was read by a wealthy realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered to sell it to the little church for 57 cents.
Church members made large donations. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00—a huge sum for that time (near the turn of the century). Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300. And be sure to visit Temple University, where thousands of students are educated. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of beautiful children, built so that no child in the area will ever need to be left outside during Sunday school time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen a picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell, author of the book, “Acres of Diamonds.”
Who would have thought that the investment of this pastor in this one, unkempt child would result in such a change. That’s the power of a changed life investing in someone else, hallelujah! This little girl, penniless, homeless, and broke fell in love with Jesus. She took everything she had and invested so that others would be blessed. When ordinary people answer the call to follow Jesus, God does miraculous things.

Move 2

That notwithstanding, everybody is not ready to follow Jesus; you have to observe people and target those you sense are ready to answer the call. Jesus passed by a lot of men, prayed many days, before he finally walked up to those he chose to follow him. As disciples of Jesus Christ before you invest in someone look for the same traits Jesus found in these men in those persons.
Let’s look at four criteria Jesus used to select members of his discipleship team.
Look again at Mark 1:16-17, it reads, “16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”
First Jesus looked for men who exhibited a consistent work ethic. These men were not afraid of hard work. Jesus looked at the way those men threw those nets into the water, the way they worked as a team, and decided these men can help me. Jesus called Simon and Andrew to serve because they were committed to a purpose.
Next, Jesus chose men who were teachable. Luke Chapter 5 tells us that Jesus had used their boats as a platform to teach and afterward gave them instructions on fishing and they obeyed. They were teachable. Listen, if you are not willing to learn, if you think you know it all, Jesus can’t use you. Someone who can’t be taught, also can’t follow.
Thirdly, Jesus chose men who were willing to follow. Look at verses 18, “18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.” Simon and Andrew heard the call to serve, to learn, to go on a new adventure and because Jesus had proven his ability to be successful, they followed him. Jesus didn’t have to bribe them, cajole them, or brow-beat them. When they heard the call, immediately, they followed Jesus. I wonder this morning is there anybody here willing to do likewise. I wonder this morning if in 2015, someone would enter a deeper level of commitment as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!
Finally, Jesus chose men who would sacrifice. Look at verses 19-20: “19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.” These men sacrificed what they were in order to become who Jesus needed them to be. They accepted an invitation to change and to begin doing something with eternal ramifications. They, along with Simon and Andrew also had witnessed the ability of Jesus to get results. No longer would they simply be ordinary men engaged in the fishing business, now they would become ordinary men engaged in the business of salvation.
They sacrificed their livelihood and chose to follow Jesus. Why, because discipleship requires sacrifice. Jesus needs somebody to answer the call to follow who is willing to sacrifice who they are to become who he needs them to be. Jesus offers a brand new life, not a part time job. I wonder if I have anybody this morning willing to sacrifice their livelihood to follow Jesus.

Move 3
The sum total of these four criteria – hardworking, willing, teachable, sacrificial – is repentance. When you answer the call to follow Jesus, you have to repent.
In Mission in Christ’s Way Lesslie Newbigin (d. 1996), long-time missionary to India, writes:
I remember once visiting a village in the Madras diocese. There was no road into the village; you reached it by crossing a river, and you could do this either on the south side of the village or on the north. The congregation had decided that I would come by the southern route, and they had prepared a welcome such as only an Indian village can prepare.
There was music and fireworks and garlands and fruit and silumbum (the performance of a South Indian martial art done on ceremonial occasions)—everything you can imagine. Unfortunately I entered the village at the north end and found only a few goats and chickens. Crisis! I had to disappear while word was sent to the assembled congregation, and the entire village did a sort of U-turn so as to face the other way. Then I duly reappeared.
This is what metanoia, the word repentance means. The TEV translation gives a misleading impression by translating it: “Turn away from your sins.” That might make it look like a traditional call for moral reformation. That is not the point. There is nothing about sins in the text (Mark 1:14-18). The point is: “The reign of God has drawn near, but you can’t see it because you are looking the wrong way. You are expecting the wrong thing..”

Move 4
God’s call comes to us as an invitation to follow, never to lead, never to take risks independently of him. In other words, when you follow Jesus, success is assured. For when we follow Jesus our sins no longer have dominion over us. So then, God’s call comes despite our sins, flaws or handicaps. In other words God does not reject us because we’re flawed; he calls us who are flawed to serve others who are flawed. Hallelujah!
One of the main characters in the movie Seabiscuit is a broken-down, unemployed cowboy named Tom Smith. Millionaire Charles Howard, who is about to engage in a horse racing enterprise, has a campfire interview with Smith, and asks why he bothered rescuing an old, lame horse that was sentenced to death because of a broken leg.
Tom replies, “You don’t throw a whole life away just ’cause it’s banged up a bit.” Every horse is good for something, Tom claims. This devotion to horses convinces the millionaire that Tom should be his trainer.
Together they find and purchase Seabiscuit, a horse whose physical shortcomings and temperament make it an unlikely prospect for racing success. Tom’s method of training, while unorthodox, is tailored toward curing the horse of its inner demons, a byproduct of the neglect shown by its previous owners.
Tom hires a second-rate jockey named John “Red” Pollard to ride Seabiscuit. At 5’7″, Red is considered too tall to be anything but a bush-league jockey and a bad match for this undersized horse. But Tom notices a mystical connection between Red and Seabiscuit.
Red has another handicap. He is blind in one eye, and he has concealed the handicap fearing that track officials would no longer allow him to race.
During a crucial race at Santa Anita, Red’s limited vision allows a competing horse, Rosemont, to overtake Seabiscuit on Red’s blind side, costing them the victory.
Tom, the trainer, is outraged that the jockey failed to urge Seabiscuit to keep the winning pace. He presses the jockey to explain how he could let this happen. Finally, in a burst of emotion, Red shouts, “Because I’m blind!”
Stung by the loss and betrayal, Tom scornfully urges Mr. Howard to fire Red. To Tom’s surprise, Mr. Howard requests that Red remain as his jockey. Dumbfounded, Tom demands a reason. Mr. Howard states, “You don’t throw away a whole life just because it’s banged up a bit.” God doesn’t throw us away just because we’re banged up a bit. Hallelujah!
This is it, precisely. Jesus recruits those who enjoy life, those who are teachable, those who are willing and those who will sacrifice their livelihood in exchange for his. Your sins are swallowed up in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. God calls you as you are to follow his son Jesus in service. Are you that person Jesus is calling today? Are you willing to answer the call of Jesus Christ to follow him? Come, follow Jesus and begin to live the abundant life of serving others through faith in him. Hallelujah!

Living in Exile

Matthew 2:12-15

 

Introduction

Joseph and Mary were ecstatic; a caravan of kings from the East, from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba; those wise sages from the East had come bearing gifts for her son. Now this was extraordinary and the gifts, wow, the gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Isaiah said they would come: “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. . .They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.” These three gifts were strange but somehow matched the prophecy she had heard about her son. Gold, gifts fit for a king, frankincense, an aromatic elixir used for medicinal purposes, and myrrh, the herbs used in burial preparation. By these gifts they recognized Jesus as King even while lying in a manger, hallelujah!

Mary prayed over Jesus and pondered the things the angel had told her in her heart. Each night she would meditate on what it would mean for her son to “save his people from their sins.” No doubt, she contemplated what this would involve. “Would he lead a revolt against the Roman Empire?” she questioned. “Or would he lead a spiritual rebellion and become High Priest?” she mused. As she looked into his eyes and thought of the awesome purpose for which Jesus was born, she had no idea that a few miles down the road Herod was plotting his demise.

Isn’t it amazing that when we have just been blessed and are thinking good thoughts, someone is plotting our demise. You know that there are some folk who will not let you be blessed. There are some folk who will not rejoice when you are happy. No, my brothers and sisters, some folk will try to steal, kill, and destroy everything that you cherish. And in this case, Herod who wanted to be King forever, could not stand the thought of   Jesus taking his place. No, Herod who was king, wanted to be king, had sold his soul to be king, was not going to just sit by while Jesus stole the spotlight from him. And there exists in the world today, people who will plot your demise just to keep you from taking their four minutes of fame.

But Joseph and Mary were people of God. Joseph and Mary could get a word from the Lord; they would have visions and visitations from angels. But more importantly, they would follow the advice they received from God without hesitation. You ought to be a person who when God shows you something in a dream, you will respond and act upon it because you understand that God has your best interest in mind. He knows what folks are doing against you in secret places. God knows what folks are saying behind closed doors. And God will not allow you to be blinded by them if you listen to his voice. And living in exile is just one of God’s ways of taking care of his people. Living in exile has its benefits. I have discovered that living in exile prepares you for your destiny, protects you from your enemies, and keeps you looking forward to the place of your destiny. Let’s explore these benefits this morning.

 

Move 1

First, living in exile prepares you for your destiny. Living in exile causes you to ask questions. You ask why am I here? What is my purpose in life?   You say things like, I know I’m not supposed to stay here. You imagine that you came from somewhere else. Yet despite the wanderings of your mind, living in exile gives you experience you could get no where else. You don’t have to worry about fighting the enemy while you’re in exile. You can take all the time you need to grow and develop in the presence of almighty God.

The stories Jesus learned in Egypt as a child, the customs he experienced there, made him long for the one true and living God everyday. Jesus had time for Joseph to teach him the ways of God, the word of God, and the lifestyle of a believer in God. Joseph built of a love for God in the heart of Jesus that satan nor other people would ever destroy.

In exile, all you have is God. You don’t know the people around you, nor do you understand their ways. And no matter how much you try to fit in, you don’t. You don’t talk like them, walk like them, nor live like them. You’re in exile, but you’re different. God gets to deal with you personally in exile. He takes you out of your comfort zone and places you in isolation so he can commune with you. There are just some things that only God can teach and you have to be willing to be alone with God to learn them. Hallelujah!

Jesus had a rich heritage and a great destiny, but he would not have fulfilled his calling, if God had not put him in Egypt. Egypt was the place where Jesus learned about his heavenly father. Egypt prepared him for Jerusalem. How else could he have demonstrated his knowledge of the scriptures so young. Joseph ensured Jesus knew the Torah and Joseph ensured Jesus knew how to live holy before his God. Never underestimate the value of a good stepfather or a father who adopts a child. Joseph proves that you don’t have to be the biological father to help a child fulfill his or her destiny. Hallelujah! Thank God for those men who stand in the gap for those boys and girls whose natural father has abandoned them. Hallelujah!

Move 2

Second, living in exile provides you a place of protection from your enemies. The angel came to Joseph and told him to take Mary and his son, Jesus, to Egypt. The angel warned Joseph that trouble was being stirred up; the angel said, “flee into Egypt; Herod wants to destroy your son.” In other words, the angel said, “Run, man and get in a hurry.” Sometimes, you got to move quick, fast, and in a hurry, because if you procrastinate trying to get confirmation or trying to get assurance from somebody else about what the Lord told you to do, the enemy will overtake you. No, my brothers and sisters, sometimes you just have to trust God for yourself. “Run,” the angel said, and Joseph got up the next day and started packing. By nightfall, he was headed out of Bethlehem on his way to Egypt.

But why, Egypt. Well, first, Egypt was close by. The cities of Alexandria and Pelusium were only about 90 miles from Jerusalem. But even more significantly, it was a place where Herod had no authority or influence. Not only that but, Herod could not bribe the officials to return Joseph to Jerusalem, because he didn’t know who he was looking for. Look at God. Egypt, which used to be a place of slavery for Joseph, was now a place of safety and hiding. God had made Egypt a place where his son could stay and live out his time in exile in peace. And God sent Jesus into Egypt to see and experience the place and the people that had put his ancestors in captivity. It was important for Jesus to understand the culture of the slave masters of his ancestors. And it was important for Egypt that Jesus come and bring light to a dark country. As a hiding place for the Savior, Egypt would receive God’s grace and mercy.

But as a beautiful as Egypt was and as comfortable as Joseph and Mary were, they longed in their hearts to be home again. They longed to live among family; they longed to observe family traditions; they longed to hear people speak in their own language and to hear the elders tell the stories of how God brought them from a mighty long way. Yeah, Egypt was alright; but there’s no place like home. Home, you see, when you’re in exile, seems more beautiful, more pleasant, more desirable, than any other place in the world. Yet, Jesus lived in Exile.

Move 3

God did not kill Herod, nor did he remove Herod from office. You know He could have done it. He did not stop Herod from trying to kill Jesus; he did not stop Herod from sending his troops to kill those innocent children two years old and under. You see, God knows something about evil that we don’t know. When we see evil coming, we try to stop evil; we try to bargain with evil; we try to rationalize evil; but I stop by to tell you this morning, evil doesn’t know when to quit. Evil doesn’t know right from wrong; and if you control evil today, evil will break free tomorrow. You see, evil can not be stopped by intellectual jousting; evil can’t be stopped by mental machinations; evil can’t be overcome by brute force or weapons of mass destruction. Evil is just evil, evil is a spirit. Evil doesn’t know good; and good has no affiliation with evil.

I’m glad our President is a praying man. Because a praying man knows that the only way to overcome evil is with good. Hallelujah!

God is good; and there is no darkness in him at all. God spends his time being good; he spends no time trying to understand evil and all its wickedness. In the face of evil, God just makes sure that his light keeps on shining. God makes sure that his goodness is greater; his grace is greater, his love is greater, than any evil in this world. Because love conquers evil; goodness smoothes out the wrinkles caused by evil; and grace overcomes the destruction that evil causes in our lives. Thank God that his goodness and his mercy endures forever. Hallelujah!

So, God sent Jesus into Egypt. No, Jesus was not destined to stay in Egypt, but he had to stay there for a season. God kept Jesus in Egypt until the evil Herod planned had worked itself out and time and circumstance destroyed Herod, along with all those who plotted to kill him. I wonder this morning, “Is there anyone here living in exile?” Are you somewhere right now because God moved you out of danger? The fact is you may not want to be in exile, but exile is where you need to be right now! Hallelujah!

Move 4

Well, I got to move on. There is another reason for living in exile. Not only does living in exile prepare you for your destiny, protect you from danger, but living in exile keeps you looking forward to the place of your destiny. Living in exile causes a longing in you that can not be satisfied until you reach the place God has prepared for you to be. There is a place prepared for all of God’s children to live out their calling, and you’ve to find it. That’s the joy of being a child of God. You get to go on these adventure quests knowing that God is leading you. You get to live in new places, experience new things, and see the glory of God in His world. Your soul will be restless, anxiously anticipating the place of your destiny. Your sleep will be deep, but your rest will be minimal. Your mind will soar, and your body will feel like it is exploding the closer you get to your destiny. And when you come into the place of your destiny, you will thrive. You will know that you are there. No one will have to tell you. Down in your soul you will experience peace. The longing will cease and the turmoil will end. You have arrived; now you can fully carryout the plan of God for your life. But most of all, you will fit in. You will be home!

Now we know that as a child of God our destiny is heaven; but I’m talking about your destiny here in the earth. There is a place on this planet that God has destined us to reach. Don’t stop short of it. Don’t settle for just being okay. Don’t settle for just being all right. Reach for the place that makes you exclaim, “I love it here!” Reach for the place that whatever you do prospers! Reach for the place that even your troubles bring you joy! Keep reaching forward to the place of your destiny and don’t stop until you find it. This is what living in exile is all about!

Jesus lived in exile in both Egypt and Nazareth. But when he arrived in Jerusalem, he said, “This is the place of my destiny!” He made Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee his headquarters, but he didn’t’ stay there. Many of his disciples came from Capernaum, but he didn’t stay there. He did many miracles in Capernaum but he didn’t’ stay there! It was the home of Roman soldiers and king’s kids, but he didn’t’ stay there. No, Jesus said, “I must needs go to Jerusalem, for it is not fit that a prophet should die outside Jerusalem.” He knew his destiny and no matter how good it was in Capernaum, he kept looking forward to that place of destiny God had prepared for him. You can do no less. You may be successful where you are, but is that the place of your destiny?

I pray today that you will enjoy the benefits of being in exile. One day, you will reach your destination and it will be that day when you soar like an eagle.   I don’t know about you but I want to be where God wants me to be.

A Desperate Plea for Restoration

Psalm 80:1-3

Hear us, Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who sit enthroned between the cherubim, shine forth 2 before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh. Awaken your might; come and save us. 3 Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.

Move 1

“Our world is not okay,” these Advent readings declare in stark terms, and God’s apparent absence isn’t okay, either. We are surrounded by evil and suffering, and we’re not sure our faith can endure what our eyes reluctantly witness each day. Though we long for a Savior to rend the heavens and come down, the very ferocity of that longing often wearies our souls.

The first gift of Advent, then, is the permission to tell the truth, even if that truth is laced with sorrow. We are invited to describe life “on earth as it is,” and not as we mistakenly assume our religion requires us to render it.[1]

Cities are exploding over worsening racial injustice and police misconduct. Football players like Ray Rice get a free pass on domestic violence. Colleges shrug off epidemics of rape and cheating.

Banks and the financially independent wage unrelenting war on their fellow Americans. Descendants of immigrants turn against new arrivals and call it patriotism. Large companies like General Motors sell defective products. Lobbyists control our legislators, and they in turn deny votes and basic rights to certain citizens.[2]

The second is the gift — and the discipline — of waiting. During Advent, we live with quiet anticipation in the “not yet.” We stop rushing, and decide to call sacred what is yet in-process and unformed. As Paul puts it in this week’s reading from 1st Corinthians, we “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is no easy task in the modern world, which applauds arrivals, finish lines, shortcuts, and end products, far more than it does the meandering journey or odd way station. Eugene Peterson calls the Christian life “a long obedience in the same direction,” and I don’t think we can get more counter-cultural than that. If the secular world speeds past darkness to the safe certainty of light, then Advent reminds us that necessary things — things worth waiting for — happen in the dark. Next spring’s seeds break open in dark winter soil. God’s Spirit hovers over dark water, preparing to create worlds. The child we yearn for grows in the deep darkness of the womb. “Our food is expectation,” writes Nora Gallagher about Advent. In this season, we strive to find, “not perfection, but possibility.”

Thirdly, Advent prepares us for the God who is coming — a God who will turn out to be very different from the one we expect and maybe even hope to find.[3]

The end of all this prayer, all this pleading with God is ‘we want some peace in our lives; we want peace in our world.” But what is peace without God as King and Sovereign. Certainly the bible declares “There is no peace to the wicked.” So if this plea is to be fulfilled, somebody has to invite God into their lives as Lord and King. Indeed, what we need is restoration. Thus we find ourselves waiting and God finds himself waiting. We wait for God and God waits upon us. God waits for us to change our attitudes and lifestyle to that of a worshipper. We wait until we’re so sick and tired of being sick and tired until we are able to change to meet God’s demands. Waiting then is for both God and man. And that is why peace alludes us; Restoration precedes peace!

Move 2

Billy Graham, world famed Evangelist remarked, “We’ve lost sight of the fact that some things are always right and some things are always wrong. We’ve lost our reference point. We don’t have any moral philosophy to undergird our way of life in this country, and our way of life is in serious jeopardy and serious danger unless something happens. And that something must be a spiritual revival.”[4]

The following is a fictitious story but it’s a beautiful way to illustrate God’s work to restore his fallen creation or his power to restore broken people.

Ever since he was a little boy, his parents had been promising that they would give him a beautiful car to drive when he turned 16. He even planned to park it in the family’s barn where it could stay warm and dry. Only first his dad would have to get rid of that old car sitting in the barn. He couldn’t wait for his dad to haul it off to the dump to make way for his dream car.

But when would that day come? When would that new car arrive? And when would his dad get rid of that old junky car under the tarp? Then one evening in early summer he heard strange sounds coming from that old barn. It sounded like power tools … a drill … a hammer. What was going on? Peering into the darkness he saw nothing but the stars overhead. And he noticed that a light was on in the barn. He walked into the warm night air, down the dirt path, and poked his head into the barn door.

When he saw the tarp, rolled up and left against the door, he excitedly thought, Was Dad finally getting rid of that junky old car? But then he suddenly looked and saw one of the most incredible sports cars in automotive history. It was a Corvette, but not just any Corvette. It was the coveted, beautiful, powerful 1963 Corvette 327 V8 with a split window, aluminum knock-off wheels, painted candy apple red.

So that was the car underneath the tarp all those years. He stood there stunned. It was always there, just getting ready for his father’s masterful work of restoration. At that moment his father looked up, his hands deep in the engine bay, and handed his son a socket wrench. With a broad smile, he said, “Come on, son. Grab a tool and let’s get this car ready.”[5]

Move 3

According to George Gallup, Jr. “Any revitalization of faith in this country will have to start with prayer, in which we gain a sense of the living presence of God.”[6]Prayer is our work done in the dark. Revival, restoration and renewal are God’s work revealed in the light. That’s what we need today. That’s the solution for this hour. We need intercessors who will pray under cover of darkness.

God does his best work under cover of darkness. It was in the darkness that God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham saying surely I will be with you wherever I send you and you and your family will be blessed forever.

It was in the darkness that God spoke to Pharaoh saying you’ve kept my firstborn, my people Israel in bondage too long. And about midnight the death angel passed over Egypt and destroyed the Egyptian firstborn. Yet the children of God remained untouched, covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

It was in darkness that God eradicated sin and its power by hanging on the cross of calvary.   There Jesus destroyed Satan and displayed to the world Satan’s impotence.

Just as that Father restored that old clunker under the tarp, God will restore us. It’s dark for Black people, its darker still for immigrants in America. Black sons and daughters of Abraham are being killed all over the country. Yet, I hear the Lord declare in Isaiah 43:1-7:

“Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them back! Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him. ”

Yes Lord, we cry out to you: “Show us your mighty power. Come to rescue us! Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.” (Psalms 80:2b-3) Come Lord, because you know what we need; come Lord, because you created us in your image and in your likeness. Lord, when you come, peace will flow. When you come we will indeed be saved.

Works Cited

[1] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[2] Ehrich, Tom (2014). “Can a nation so wounded by its divisions survive?” Retrieved from http://www.ministrymatters.com/preach/entry/5580/can-a-nation-so-wounded-by-its-divisions-survive.

[3] Thomas, Debie (November 2014) “Hard Gifts” Retrieved from http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20141124JJ.shtml

[4] Billy Graham in a speech at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Founder’s Day (April 4, 1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 9.

[5] Adapted from Randall Rauser, What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven?(Baker Books, 2013), pp. 157-158

[6] George H. Gallup, Jr. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.

The Investment Factor: Investing in the Jesus Brand

Introduction

Back in the 1500s, people didn’t have a Bible they could read. The Catholic Church controlled the translating of Scripture and only offered it in Latin. But when Martin Luther rebelled against the abuses of the Church of his day he worked hard to make a translation available in German (the language of his people). The daughter of the printer Luther used was cleaning in her dad’s shop and she picked up a piece of paper off the floor. It read, “For God so loved that He gave…” and that was all. The rest of the verse was not printed yet, but what she saw excited her. The thought that God would give her anything moved her. Her mother noticed a change in her and asked her why she seemed so happy. The girl pulled a crumpled piece of paper out of her pocket and showed it to her mother. The mother read it and asked, “What did He give?” The girl said, “I don’t know but if God loved us enough to give us anything we should not be afraid of Him.” What she read on that scrap of paper changed how she looked at God.

This is the investment factor at its finest: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Oh yes, God gave! God invested his best for us and now his best is asking us to invest our best in him!

Some time ago, a teenager, Arthur Hinkley, lifted a 3,000-pound tractor with his bare hands. He wasn’t a weight lifter, but his friend, Lloyd Bachelder, 18, was pinned under a tractor on a farm near Rome, Maine. Hearing Lloyd scream, Arthur somehow lifted the tractor enough for Lloyd to wriggle out. Love motivated him to do it.

Our Father in heaven heard the screams of lost humanity, crying out for deliverance. He sent His one and only precious Son to the cross so that our sins could be lifted off of us and on to Himself. Love motivated Him to do it.

The question for us today is: Have I invested in the Jesus Brand? A Brand has been defined as a particular product or a characteristic that serves to identify a particular product; a product that has its own name, and is made by a particular company; or simply a recognizable kind. A factor has been defined as “an active contribution to production of a result; a substance of a particular process or system. For Christians Jesus is that factor that produces results in our lives by filling us with his Holy Spirit. For Christians, we have a particular product, that of salvation, we which make available through the marketing of the plan of salvation through the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, in order for this plan to be successful, Christians must invest in the brand name Jesus. The message of Jesus, the life of Jesus, has to become the identifying mark of the Christian to the world.

Move 1

What is the Jesus Brand? In his own words, Jesus states the characteristics of His Brand:

The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)

 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

“When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus is a reconciler; Jesus is in the reconciliation business and he invites each of us to invest in the business of reconciliation. The Jesus brand is summed up in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21:  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Plainly put this is the identifying brand of Jesus. Jesus came to reach, teach, train, and send disciples into the world to redeem, restore, and reconcile people alienated from their heavenly Father by sin.

Move 2

Next question:  How I can invest in the Jesus Brand. Again Jesus makes this clear:

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25)

Peter replied, “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

Plainly put you buy into this company with faith in the President of the Company, the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ will get you in and keep you in even when sales are sluggish or profits are minimal. Faith in Jesus Christ will ensure your franchise will not go under; you will be successful with team Jesus. Hallelujah!

Move 3

Finally, once you have Accepted the Jesus Brand, Invested in the Jesus Brand, then Jesus calls on you to Promote the Jesus Brand. There are other brands vying for the customers Jesus sends you to reach, teach, train, and send. How then shall we recruit and outdistance the competition? Let us explore the method Jesus left for us to follow:

Then Jesus came to them and said. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

He said to them “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven, and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:15-20)

However, to do that will require a consistent effort against the opposition. And for those who think this promotion strategy too risky, too dangerous or too overwhelming, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit come on you; and you will be my witness in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

This power is supernatural power. This power is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. This power once activated conquers all fear of the competition. This power once received separates your brand from any other brand. This power once charged to capacity turns you into a person that can easily be recognized. Men and women, devils and demons will recognize the mark of distinction you wear. All because you have connected to the Jesus Brand.

Now, I want you to remember that every successful company has a logo. Well, when you invest in the Jesus Brand there is a Logo. That Logo is the Cross and the Dove. That Cross represents what Jesus did. That Dove represents what you will do in Jesus Name. That Cross which was a symbol of shame Jesus turned into a symbol of victory. That Dove which was noted as gentle and meek has become an unseen source of strength and power. That Dove provides insight that is unmatched in the world and wisdom that is unstoppable in the spread of the gospel. That cross reminds us that we are all human, but that Dove reminds us that we are forgiven.

Bryan Chapell tells this story that happened in his hometown: Two brothers were playing on the sandbanks by the river. One ran after another up a large mound of sand. Unfortunately, the mound was not solid, and their weight caused them to sink in quickly. When the boys did not return home for dinner, the family and neighbors organized a search. They found the younger brother unconscious, with his head and shoulders sticking out above the sand. When they cleared the sand to his waist, he awakened. The searchers asked, “Where is your brother?” The child replied, “I’m standing on his shoulders!”

When you accept the Jesus Brand, you’ll be standing on Jesus shoulders.  When you promote the Jesus Brand, you will be standing on His Shoulders. And when the storms of life are raging, he’ll lift you above the dangerous waters.

I don’t know about you but I have invested in the Jesus Brand! Want you join me? Want you buy in to this product called Jesus? Want you begin to sale this product to those who Jesus came to save? Yes, I’m so glad to be invested with Jesus! Hallelujah!