Joey Sparks
6Aug/120

Nobody Likes Fractions

Fractions are the evil underbelly of basic math.

They are certainly necessary, but they are rarely anyone's favorite digits with which to add, subtract, multiply, or divide. We love using whole numbers simply because it's easier. It's easier to count dollar bills than coins because they represent a whole instead of a part (and because such, are worth more).

Fraction 1/5 (by Leo Reynolds Flickr CC by nc sa)

The same is true of people.

We build better relationships with people who are "whole" instead of "fractioned." When we realize someone is not who they seemed, we are hurt, disappointed, and confused. Living a "divided" life usually starts in response to the craving to be liked by everyone. Somewhere we wrongly assume that our challenge to be kind and likable means we must make everyone approve of us. Since people around us are different, we mold our personality and choices based on the people we're around at any given moment. Before long, we're juggling different parts of ourselves, none of which are authentic.

The English word "integrity" is built from this same premise. By definition, it's tied to honesty, ethics, and simply doing right things. By etymology, it's tied to "integer" which, in math, refers to a "whole number." Doing the right things--simply because they're right--will certainly rub some people the wrong way. But men and women of integrity acknowledge that there are more important things than others' opinions. They also know that integrity is the only path to success. The false, divided, unethical, dishonest person never accomplishes truly great things nor receives others' approval, which is what he or she so desperately wants.

The Old Testament Wisdom writers leaned heavily on the importance of integrity. Notice a sampling:

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out. (Proverbs 10:9)

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them. (Proverbs 11:3)

The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him! (Proverbs 20:7)

More important than the practical necessity of integrity, a life of a "whole" relationship to God is the only life He accepts. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 22:37-38, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment."

All your heart.

All your soul.

All your mind.

In the Bible I used as a teenager, I have 10/10 written next to this passage. I remember our Youth Minister saying "ten-tenths" to describe these important words.

Whole person.

Whole devotion.

2Aug/120

Protect Their Hearts

The Internet is simultaneously one of humanities' greatest inventions, amazing blessings, and dangerous threats. We are always one click away from danger no matter our age, gender, profession, naivety, or blamelessness. We must make sure we interact with the same godliness online that God expects in all other ways of life.

We frequently hear of children who are harmed by brutal and sick individuals who gain access to their lives through the Internet. We should do all we can to close up those loopholes.

As parents, you have the right--and responsibility--to know exactly what your children are doing on the Internet...no matter how old they are. You should have the same access to their accounts (with passwords, etc.) they do. You should talk openly and honestly about their online friendships, habits, and overall safety. But when you do, do your best to model the attitudes in yourself you wish to see from them. If you're condescending and not understanding, you shut those doors of communication down.

ABCLRC-Internet Safety (by ABC LRC Flickr CC by nc sa)

But the most urgent arena of concern for your children on the Internet is that of sexual sin, specifically pornography.

The statistical likelihood of your child facing a child predator online is slim. But the chances of your child NOT viewing pornography online in some capacity is about 3% for boys and 9% for girls. That includes those who unintentionally stumble across it. If your child wants to find it, there's a 100% chance he or she will. It's just that easy.

The good news is that God forgives and cleanses no matter the depths of sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

More good news is that you don't have to know everything about the Internet and computer technology to protect your child's heart from spiritual threats such as pornography.

The most powerful weapons at your disposal are spiritual and internal; they should be aimed at his or her heart. Pray for them. Model purity, consistency, and propriety before them--online and off. Talk openly and honestly (with common sense) with them about temptations, sexual sin, and God's purpose for sexual intimacy in marriage.

Would you rather them to hear the truth from you and God's Word or error from the world and Satan?

There are other weapons that can assist you from an external perspective, as well.

The best place to start is http://covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes specializes in Internet technology that provides a safe surfing atmosphere for the entire family. They feature two softwares: Internet accountability software (browsing is monitored around the clock and reports are sent via e-mail to accountability partners) and Internet filtering software (specific sites are blocked and attempts to access blocked sites are logged and sent via the accountability reports). These softwares simply run in the background, but cannot be disabled without also disabling access to the Internet. This "two-pronged" approach is the best external solution, especially for homes with children. Covenant Eyes charges for using their services. While they are not free, they are more than reasonable. Amanda and I have used the accountability software for years and we pay for an entire year of service for less than what most Internet service providers charge for one month. There are a few free services out there, but research suggests the paid services are much more efficient and effective. If you recognize the legitimacy of this most dangerous threat, is any price too great?

Additionally, the Covenant Eyes website also features a wealth of resources for all kinds of Internet safety and protection. They have numerous (free) e-books, articles, statistics, podcasts, and a well-maintained and regularly-updated blog. No matter your relationship to the dangers on the Internet, whether totally naive or buried in addiction, there's something to educate, challenge, and help you.

Every child born in our part of the world is a "digital native." He or she will never know a time with less technology. He or she will never be less tech-savvy. He or she will one day view smart phones like many of us view rotary phones.

In a matter of a few decades, computers have moved from warehouses to business centers to living rooms to briefcases to front pockets. We as adults and parents will never be on the edge of technological advancement like younger generations. But that's no excuse for letting this powerful tool destroy their souls. May God help us to use the Internet responsibly and ensure our children do the same.

 I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1)

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." (Mark 9:42)

The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)

9Jul/120

Lifestyles of the Rich & the Lowly (James 1:9-11)

Notobasis syriaca - Syrian Thistle - Barkan (Flickr CC - by nc sa)

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (James 1:9-11)

In addition to writing his book full of imperative statements, James also relies heavily upon contrasting elements. In 1:9-11, he contrasts the "lowly" against the "rich." He challenges them with action in the present, but does so by previewing the future.

We must take note that James' emphasis is not upon their bank accounts; it's upon their attitudes. The lowly (humble, 4:1-10) brother acknowledges the utmost importance of God in all that he does. He will be exalted in the life to come. The rich are not necessarily all who are financially blessed, but those whose pride and boasting are founded upon their possessions--and the status in life they provide (cf, 5:1-6).

When Jesus came to earth, he turned it upside down--especially for the Jews. He didn't come with the purpose of doing away with rich and poor designations while on earth. He came to show that man will not be judged by their political, socio-economic, or even religious status. He will judge all men by their hearts (Matt. 5:8).

To illustrate this reversal of standing, James turns to nature in a way where first century Palestinians could not misunderstand him. He compares those who are rich to the grass and flowers of the land. Though beautiful, they don't last forever. Though beautiful, they don't withstand the elements of heat. Likewise, he says, the rich man will perish "in the midst of his pursuits."

These few verses are not James' final word on proper attitudes, partiality, riches, and the brevity of life. He further develops those themes throughout his letter. But we cannot gloss over these specific instructions. Humble and lowly Christians should take courage from their relationship with the Creator of the universe; Christians who choose to build their lives on possessions should repent. Soon, there will be a day when those possessions are nothing but dust.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27)

16Sep/110

4 Things Jesus Says About Salvation

In John 5:34, Jesus says, "Not that the testimony I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved."

Jesus spoke and taught during his ministry on earth so that we all might be saved (Luke 19:10). Because it leads to salvation, we must obey all he taught. The following are not a trite formula, but rather the simple truths spoken by Jesus:

1) Believe Him.

"I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).

The foundation of obedience is faith in Jesus as the Son of God. He is the only one through whom man is saved (Acts 4:12).

2) Repent of sin.

"No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

Believing Jesus illuminates our sinful state. A life of complete change from sin is the only life that can follow Jesus. We must put our old lives to death daily, or we'll experience death in the life beyond.

3) Confess Him before others.

"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).

Followers of Jesus must acknowledge him as the Son of God. This commitment is expected when we obey Christ and every day thereafter. The pull to deny him is strong at times, but we must always confess our discipleship (John 12:42-43).

4) Be immersed.

"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).

The gospel is for all. Thus, the need for baptism is for all as well. We meet Christ at his death (Rom. 6:3-4) and are born again through immersion for the forgiveness of sins (John 3:3-5).

Many well-meaning souls claim, "all we need is Jesus" to be saved. They don't want to exclude or offend others by specifics and difficult commands. Yet, the honest reading of scripture guides us to the expectations of salvation, straight from the Savior.

19Nov/080

Peter: A Case Study in Immaturity

Peter was one of Jesus closest apostles. We might know more about him than we do any other figure in the New Testament, outside of Jesus himself. And yet, time and time again, Peter ends up displaying his shortsightedness and immaturity.



The most immature moment of Peter’s life—the time when he was spiritually weakest—likely came when Jesus needed him the most. When Jesus was arrested and carried off to the cross, Peter followed. He would later buckle under pressure and deny association with Jesus. Some of the circumstances regarding Peter’s situation are similar to ones we face when we make weak and immature decisions.



Jesus was taken from the disciples (Matthew 26:47-56). Jesus was obviously important to the disciples as they followed him around for almost three years. They heard his teachings and saw his miracles. Peter’s faith was built upon his direct interaction with Jesus. His overall faithfulness is to be commended; but he failed to be strong when Jesus was taken away from him.



Most everyone develops their personal faith because someone else influences them in that direction. Yet, basing faith only on someone else will prove detrimental when tested. This is one reason many young people fall away upon leaving home—their sources of influence, support, and encouragement are no long around. May we respond with strength when our faith is tested. May we train and strengthen young people to handle this necessary part of growing up.



The crowd was pressuring Peter (Matthew 26:69, 71, 73). When Peter claimed he had nothing to do with Jesus, he was prompted on all three occasions by someone in the crowd. This was a crowd, by the way, who was trying to condemn Jesus. No matter his motives for being there, Peter was in the midst of the wrong crowd. And he couldn’t handle their pressure.



With good reason, we emphasize the dangers of peer pressure to our young people. Young or old, we should all remember warnings about evil companions from Solomon (ie, Prov. 22:24-25) and Paul (1 Cor. 15:33). Being a part of the wrong crowd will lead us in the wrong direction. Likewise, not being prepared with spiritual strength will leave us defenseless when we’re in unavoidable situations with ungodly people. If we’re going to be spiritually mature, we must have the strength to stand up and stand out for good, no matter who else is around.



Peter was forced to choose his allegiance (Matthew 26:69-75). Not only was Peter in the midst of the wrong crowd, but he was forced to choose his true allegiance. He couldn’t remain neutral. He had been with Jesus or he hadn’t. Peter’s decision to deny Jesus is heartbreaking because it went against his earlier claim of faithfulness (Mt. 26:35).



The true strength of our faith is evident when it is tested. Football players don’t know the effectiveness of strength training until they’re blocking or tackling an opposing player. Marathon runners don’t know the effectiveness of their training until they push themselves for mile after mile. Likewise, we will have our faith tested. We will prove ourselves genuine or phony. We must develop the strength to choose Christ no matter the cost.



In order to learn from Peter’s example, we must commit to developing healthy spiritual habits and attitudes that give us true spiritual strength.

Stay tuned for Part 2, "Peter: A Case Study in Maturity."

4Oct/070

An Open Door for Effective Work (09.30.2007 Bulletin Article)

When Paul was concluding what we know as 1 Corinthians, he tells the Christians in Corinth that he is remaining in Ephesus a little longer. Additionally, he tells them why he is remaining there: “for a wide door for effective work has opened to me…” (1 Cor. 16:9).

On several occasions in the New Testament, the imagery of a door is used to represent opportunities. Jesus said “I am the door” (John 10:9). The only way to the Father is through Jesus (John 14:6). When Jesus told the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25), the bridegroom came and took the prepared virgins, leaving the unprepared searching for oil: “And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready when in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:10). The finality of judgment is represented by a closed door. That’s a pretty clear image. When Jesus spoke to the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3, he said the following words: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). We have the privilege of opening the door to allow Jesus into our lives. He’s done the work, we have to be willing to open our lives to his will.

Hopefully, we see the power of the door analogy in scripture. Likewise, we need to see the opportunities literal doors present us in this life. How often do we remember that souls live behind the many doors in our communities? Probably not as much as we need to. Not as much as Jesus does.

What has happened to the practice of door knocking? Like so many other things, it is fallen by the wayside because it seems confrontational and outdated. And yet, there are some people who might only have the opportunity to hear the good news about Jesus if someone lovingly visits their home.

We always have the opportunity to tell our neighbors about the love of Christ. Specifically, next weekend we have a marvelous opportunity to tell the community that the Lord loves them and that the church at Midway cares about them. Next Saturday, we will spend several hours knocking the doors of the communities around us to inform them specifically about our upcoming Youth Weekend. Generally, we want them to know that we are a loving group of Christians seeking to serve and obey God.

Many of us aren’t thrilled when someone we don’t know knocks on our doors. Yet we would all do well to greet them with love and hospitality. That itself may be an opportunity to share the gospel with others. Improving our response to the practice will help us as we spread our good message.

The biggest hurdle many of us face is that of fear. Maybe it’s the fear of having the door slammed in our faces. Maybe it’s the fear of a barking dog. Maybe it’s the fear of saying the wrong thing. Maybe it’s the fear of doing something we’ve never done before. As understandable as those fears are, we must realize all of them are centered upon the wrong thing: us. If we are convinced the community needs to know about Jesus and how to obey him, then we need to spread the gospel because it’s God’s will and not our own. If we’re going about the Lord’s business, then we have no reason to fear. That’s why Paul told Timothy the following in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

I hope you’ll prayerfully consider the opportunity to tell the community about our upcoming Youth Weekend. Please make your plans to stay after the PM service tonight. We’ll meet on Saturday, October 6 at 8:30 am to begin knocking. If you are unable to be here at 8:30, let me know, and you can join up with us when you are available.

Let’s commit to doing the Lord’s will and making his love and grace known to the world...starting with the world around us.

4Apr/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Consolation

This is the final week of our six-part series from some of Jesus’ final words before leaving the earth. His words were meant to teach, motivate, and encourage His disciples as He turned the work of saving the world over to them. As His followers today, we are responsible to these words of our Savior.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The final phrase of this familiar passage is the one we need to carry with us most closely. As we are doing His work, Jesus gives us the ultimate security: His presence.

We all understand the helplessness associated with feeling alone. Jesus no doubt had experienced that loneliness himself while on earth. Many people followed Him around because of His powers. Yet few followed to the end. Jesus was faced with the loneliness that came from knowing the salvation of the world depended on Him alone. Jesus felt humiliation and loneliness on the cross of Calvary when He bore our sins on His shoulders (Matt. 27:46). Because Jesus knew the heartache of loneliness, He also knows the comfort of presence and intimacy. That’s exactly why He offers it so freely to His followers: we need it!

When Joshua was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land after the death of Moses—a parallel situation to the disciples in Matthew 28—the Lord spoke the following words: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). God knew taking the Promised Land would be a difficult and daunting task. God knew it would take great courage on the part of the Israelites. He told them that He was the source of their strength and courage. The Lord’s message centuries later to fearful followers of the new covenant was the same: do your mission and stay strong because I am with you.

We need the presence of our Lord because of several reasons. (1) There are plenty of people around us that don’t live godly lives. If we depend on them for companionship, we’re doomed to fall into sin ourselves. (2) We need to continually remember His example each day as we serve Him. We need to see with His compassionate eyes, touch with His understanding hands, and speak with His confident words. (3) We need to constantly remember the price He paid for us to have a relationship with Him. As we hold to His nail-scarred hand, we remember our work was first His work. Knowing He gave so much should motivate us to give Him our whole lives in obedience.

Not only do we long to feel His presence as we do His will, we literally cannot do His will without Him. As the Hebrew writer was closing his letter to first century Christians, he had many things of which to remind them. He had spent the majority of his previous words convincing them to not give up on their new-found faith in Christ. Here’s the author’s words to those struggling Christians many centuries ago:

“For He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Have a good week...alongside Him.

31Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Instruction

This week, we focus on the fifth portion of our six-part series from some of Jesus’ final words before leaving the earth. His words were meant to teach, motivate, and encourage His disciples as He turned the work of saving the world over to them. As His followers today, we are responsible to these words of our Savior.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Now we’ll notice Jesus’ clause, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” After bringing people to Christ and baptizing them for the remission of their sins, we have the responsibility (and opportunity) to teach them more about the love of God and how to please Him. The disciples had been trained and taught about the new covenant God was issuing through Christ; it’s those things Christ had relayed to them that they were to relay to new disciples. Today, we are to teach what Christ taught; we are also to teach what those apostles and disciples relayed to first century Christians.

When we view this command to continually teach about Jesus and His commands, we must ask ourselves “how are we doing in our teaching?” As we pose that question together this morning, let’s ask and answer that question in two specific areas:

How is the teaching in our homes? The context of our passage shows that whoever “makes a disciple” is generally responsible for “teaching them.” This makes pretty common sense from the church perspective. However, do we ever read this portion of the passage and think about our homes? If parents have been responsible for bringing their children to Christ (or are preparing for and praying for that decision), wouldn’t it be in keeping with Christ’s command that they should be teaching them as well? That’s the idea that is emphasized continually in scripture. Back in Deuteronomy, Moses said, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…” (6:6-9). Paul echoes those words in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers...bring [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The main source for teaching children the ways of the Lord is the home. If we were to compare the amount of time spent in the home on schoolwork and studying the Bible, which would have greater emphasis? Are grades important? Absolutely. But so is learning the Bible throughout one’s childhood. May our homes not skirt that responsibility.

How is the teaching in our Bible classes? Many elders throughout the church have set aside periods of time for their congregations to meet for the specific purpose of studying the Bible. We should take this seriously as it is a response to our elders’ authority and because we are studying the holy words of God. Paul told Titus in Titus 2 that the older men and older women of the church were responsible for teaching and encouraging the younger men and younger women of the church. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the purpose of our Bible classes today? How seriously do we take our Bible classes, though?

We show how much we value Bible class by our simple attendance. We show how much we value Bible class by our timeliness. What does it say about our devotion if we’re consistently late? Adults, we show how much we value Bible class by our examples. It’s no wonder that some young people don’t respect their Bible class teachers and classmates (and God) when their parents either (1) don’t come to Bible class at all, or (2) are at the building but don’t actually attend a class. As adults, we are helping to form the current generation of young people’s perceptions of the Bible and Bible class. How are we doing?

Nothing is more important to the lives of those who come to know Christ than to continue to know and learn more about Him. May we never wilt under the pressure to teach them the Truth.

23Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Remission

This week, we continue observing the words of our Savior as found in Matthew 28:18-20. Shortly before ascending back into heaven, Jesus gives His followers a mission statement of sorts.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Over the past several weeks, we’ve noticed the importance of Jesus’ authority over heaven and earth and that we should carry the gospel into the world and offer the invitation to follow Him in response to that authority.

There are countless sources of discussion and controversy in the religious community. Among those who profess to follow Christ, there may not be a more sensitive—and important—issue than baptism. When we consider the evidence, we can’t help but see the seriousness of the matter as it involves the salvation of man’s soul.

We could spend hours discussing scripture that shows the necessity of baptism. We can use Biblical arguments from many different angles that show it’s essential. This morning, however, it would serve us well to remember one of the scriptural purposes of baptism: remission of sins. Understanding this purpose should help us see baptism’s necessity.

Baptism is for the remission of sins. Throughout God’s quest of allowing man to have a relationship with him (and man continuing to come up short), He has constantly pointed to the cross of Christ as the eternity-shattering climax (Gen. 3:15). The cross of Christ serves as the final and supreme sacrifice in a long line of imperfect and inferior sacrifices. Hebrews 9 makes it clear that, though important, the Old Testament sacrifices were incapable of forgiving man’s sin. Christ, while serving as the perfect High Priest, gave Himself as the perfect spotless sacrifice so that all who had obeyed and all who would obey could be forgiven of their sins. That amazing piece of scripture in Hebrews 9:11-22 closes with the following words: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Since perfect blood has been shed, forgiveness is possible. Thankfully, the Bible shows us how to contact that blood and be forgiven of our sins.

In Acts 2, a multitude of Jews were assembled when Peter and the other apostles began teaching them the truth about the man they knew as Jesus. When they were convicted by the truth that they had literally killed their Messiah, they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…” They acknowledged a sin problem; Peter told them the solution: the blood of Christ that would forgive them. How great is the irony of their situation (and ours today also)! They had Jesus killed and it was that death that provided the opportunity for that very sin to be forgiven. Truly God enacted His amazing grace to save our souls. We can’t receive that grace any other way than through baptism.

When Paul stood before the Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 22, he gave the testimony of what happened that led him to Christ. At the climax of his conversion, he was told by Ananias, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Paul was instructed to be baptized to wash his sins away. While necessary, his new faith in Christ hadn’t saved him from sin. While essential, his repentance from his wicked deeds hadn’t secured his home in heaven. While convincing, his confession of Jesus as the Son of God on the road to Damascus didn’t cleanse his sins. His baptism washed away his sins. In order to experience that same washing and forgiveness, we must contact the blood of Christ through baptism as well.

There’s another interesting phrase in that passage as well. Romans 10:13 is often cited as proof that baptism is not essential for salvation, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” It’s interesting that Paul is citing Joel 2:32 and it uses the same wording as Ananias when he told Paul to be baptized (“calling on the name of the Lord”). From the New Testament’s perspective, being baptized for the forgiveness of sins is inseparable from “calling on the name of the Lord.”

Clearly, having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the ticket to our heavenly home (Matt. 10:32-33; John 14:6). The Bible teaches us how to have that intimate relationship with Him. Among other things, baptism is required to accept the gift of salvation offered by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. May He bless us as we teach and practice this truth to a lost world.

19Mar/070

Matthew 28.18-20: The Great Invitation

A couple of weeks ago, we began observing the words of our Savior as found in Matthew 28:18-20. Shortly before ascending back into heaven, Jesus gives His followers a mission statement of sorts.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Thus far, we’ve noticed that Jesus makes it clear that He has all authority, both in heaven and on earth. Because of that authority, we should give Him our lives in complete submission. We’ve also noticed that we are commanded to “go” into all nations and teach them the good news of Christ and make disciples of them. We often try to skirt our responsibility to actually go into places that need the gospel, but Jesus reminds us of our task.

This morning, we are going to look at the phrase “make disciples” from a slightly different perspective. W e are only disciples ourselves because Jesus had given us the opportunity to be His followers. We should always be reminded of His love and graciousness in allowing us to be Christians through His blood. That we can be disciples and make disciples of Christ is one of the most profound blessings known to man. May we not spurn the greatest invitation; may we not keep it from other men and women that need Christ.

The invitation has a connection with authority. Although we could make a connection between the invitation to come to Christ and His authority in Matthew 28, there is another place where Jesus Himself connects the two ideas. Matthew 11:25-30 is one of the most comforting passages from Jesus’ life. Here we find our Savior telling all who would come to Him that He “will give [them] rest…[they] will find rest for [their] souls. For [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light.” Prior to telling us these great words of encouragement, He says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father…” Who better to “come” to than the one who has been given all things by God the Father? We have an incredible opportunity to come be a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ. One thing that makes that amazing is the authority, power, and faithfulness of our would-be Master and Lord.

Accepting the invitation comes at a cost. As lucrative as Christ’s invitation to come to Him is, we must all be reminded of the cost of being a disciple. In Luke 14, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple...so therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” One of the things that makes Christianity unattractive to many in the world is the list of things that they would “have to give up.” From passages like Luke 14, we see that it’s not just about the things we give up, but it’s about being fully devoted to Christ and His cause. Being a disciple can’t be just in word only; it must be seen in our lives. Being a true disciple of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest opportunities we have been given on earth; may we accept it ourselves; may we convince others of the great opportunity that exists for them as well.

Have a great week in His service.