The True Light

The True Light

Home Church Devotional 10/7/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.                                      John 1:9-11 (NASB)

Each year in these United States, we do something, not once but twice, in a vain attempt to add a single hour of light to our day. Each spring we are reminded to “spring forward” by setting our clocks an hour ahead, this is intended to give us an extra hour of daylight at the end of our work day, thus allowing us to work longer and take advantage of the extra sunshine. Likewise, we are reminded to “fall back” each fall by removing the hour we added in the springtime! We want that extra hour at the beginning of the day, allowing the sun to come up preventing our kids from standing in the dark while waiting on school buses or walking to school. At least, that is the popular arguments for Day Light Savings Time. The fact is, no matter what we do, there is only going to be so many hours of daylight each day.

Prior to the establishment of Day Light Savings Time, the invention of the light bulb also allowed us to add time to the workday, our evening activities at home and even a night out on the town! Yes, we would be lost without the means to produce and provide light for our busy, hectic, cram-packed schedules. There is, however, one source of light we tend to shrink away from. The True Light. The Light that comes from Jesus Christ. John tells us this light was to enlighten all people. The True Light came to the world He created and was soundly and promptly rejected. This is one light that mankind can do without!

John the Baptist captured the attention of the surrounding society because he was an unusual person; some might even say a lunatic. The description of John the Baptist, provided by Matthew, seems to validate that opinion. “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.” Matthew 3:4 (NASB)

But John was comfortable in his calling, secure in who he was and confident about his mission. Make no mistake, John the Baptist brought light to a darkened world. Now comes the transition from John’s ministry to the ministry of the True Light, Jesus Christ. The Creator has come to the world He created!

The literal reading of the Greek text says, “He came to His own things.” He, Jesus, came to that which belonged to Him. This expression was used in describing a homecoming and thus, intensifies the rejection of Jesus. Jesus, the Creator of the world, was not welcome in the world, His own home or even by His own nation. His own family – the nation of Israel – would not receive Him. John uses the Greek word for receive that means to “welcome.” How sad that Jesus was not welcomed by those who had been expecting Him. In fact, those who should have been the most anxious to welcome Him are the first to reject Him!

The world did not recognize its own Creator – this is a picture of mankind blinded and unable to see the light of Christ. He was denied even general acknowledgment that should have been His as Creator. And yet, every person has life because of God, thus every person has some light. The light of Christ is clear, pure and clean. It is to be the enlightenment of every person by penetrating and eliminating darkness. It is to reveal sin and opens the truth. The light of Christ is to guide by exposing and striping away darkness. It calms, conquers and ends chaos; warns of dangers that lie ahead; and it protects us from stumbling, falling and losing our way.

So, how then, does Christ give light to the world? Christ gives light through natural revelation – through creation and the natural order of this world and the universe. Christ gives light through the good gifts or blessings He gives to us. This goodness enlightens us to the truth of God’s love for us. Christ gives light through the Word of God by revealing Himself and His truth in the Scriptures. Because Christ came into the world, we have more light now than at any time in human history. All people can now see the truth, they may reject it, but they can see it.

Because Christ came into the world, all who believe in Him no longer live in darkness, every individual can now be delivered from darkness, sin, despair, and death. All light that exists in this world – from nature or heaven; physical or spiritual – is due to Christ. He is the True Light, and He gives light to every person. Christ created the world; He loved and cared deeply for it, so Christ gave light!

Christ gave the light of order, purpose and beauty to the universe He created. Christ gave the glorious light of living to those He created. This light of life allows us to learn and reason, love and care, work and serve to build a better world. Christ gave the light of knowing and worshiping God, that we might live with God forever. Christ gave the prophetic light that we might proclaim the truth and encourage others to follow God. It is by walking in the light of Christ that we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Christ cleanses us (1 John 1:5-7).

Have you heard Christ’s call to walk in the light? Are you walking in that today? There is only one source for True Light and that source is Jesus Christ. He alone brings light that penetrates and exposes sin and opens the truth. Only He can bring order to chaos with light that strips away darkness. Only Jesus can bring light that gives life and life eternal. If you do not know Jesus Christ, His light is still shining, ready to light your way to the truth of His love and care for you. Won’t you join us as we walk in the light of fellowship?

Amen and Amen.

The Giver of Life

The Giver of Life

Home Church Devotional 9/30/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.     John 1:4-8 (NASB)

We have already been introduced to Jesus as the Eternal Word, the Word of Creation and the Word Among Humanity. John reinforces the point of the Word of Creation by telling us in Him was life and this life was the light for all people. We learned that the Word Among Humanity came to those He created, this includes all people not just the Jewish nation, for all of us were created in the image of God. So, the life the Word brings is light to all people, all those He created. All people have the choice of walking in His Light and Life or rejecting Him and walking in darkness.

The life Christ gives brings a unique light that reveals divine truth to expose our sin. This light from Christ does more than just shine or reflect, like ordinary light; the light of Christ penetrates and enlightens the hearts and the minds of everyone who comes in contact with Christ. It is only in the light of Christ that we see our sin and the glory of Christ and all those who respond to Christ will receive this enlightenment. Christ, the Word of Creation, gives life to all things, but He alone brings light that shines into all the recesses of our lives to expose sin and in so doing, brings eternal life to those who respond to His calling.

To say “In Him was life” is to mean three things for believers – first, the Life in Jesus is the quality and essence, the energy and power, the force and the principle of being. Jesus is the quality, essence, meaning and principle of life. Second, the Life in Christ is purpose, meaning and significance of being. Jesus is the meaning, purpose and significance of being. Christ is the substance, being and significance of life! Thirdly, the Life in Christ is perfection. Jesus is the Source of life; He is the Way to life; and He is the Truth of life. Without Christ, there is no life at all!

As life, Jesus brings light to darkness. Light reveals, strips away subdues chaos and guides. Darkness cannot understand, overcome or extinguish light. The knowledge of the life in Jesus is to be the light of all people, for all who believe this is abundant and eternal life. The light received from Jesus is life that brings energy and restoration, the desire to do good works, to walk and to live as we should. Those in darkness reject Jesus, His light, His life and His people.

Those who do not know Jesus and His true identity cannot mentally grasp or understand He has come to bring true light and life to all people. Rather, they try to conquer and control Jesus. Those who do not believe and receive Jesus, those who are influenced and deceived by Satan, have not accepted the light, and in fact, at times they reject the light and life offered by Jesus.

Sin brings darkness, but the light of Christ brings light that shows the way God intended us to live, shows us the truth of life – the truth about God, humanity and the world – and shows us how to save our lives and avoid those things that lead to death. This light still shines today and is available for all those who would call upon His name. Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, the Word who came to live among those He created, has not given up on anyone. He simple waits for an invitation to enter into and work in a person’s life. In fact, He walks in the light and waits for you to walk with Him. Won’t you join Jesus as He walks in the light?

Amen and Amen.

The Word Among Humanity

The Word Among Humanity

Home Church Devotional 9/16/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.                                                                              John 1:14-18 (NASB)

John has been building a case for Jesus as the Word. We were first introduced to Jesus as the Word from Eternity. The phrase “In the beginning,” would call John’s readers to the very first book of the Bible, Genesis and the story of creation. However, John has a greater purpose than reminding us about creation, in fact, John takes us to before time began and introduces us to the Logos, the Word. Greek readers understood logos to be the shaping and ordering principle of the universe, while Jewish readers understood logos would go far beyond just the spoken language and a person reason. For both, however, logos pointed to a beginning. And so, the Word from Eternity was from the beginning.

John then shifts gears to point to the Word of Creation. Yes, this same word was active in creating the universe, not just the entirety of the universe, but every single detail of the universe. No matter how large or how small, the Word of Creation made all things. Nothing, in fact, existed before the Word created! Jesus, John says, is the agent of creation, who created all things. And without Jesus, nothing, not one single thing, could exist. We learn that the Greek word for apart carries the meaning of bereave, that of being separated from a close relation because of death, and in fact, a death does occur when we are apart from Jesus. Our own death! We are created beings and without the Word we can do nothing.

In our passage today, John introduces Jesus as The Word Among Humanity. Jesus, John says, the Son of God, who was, in fact, God and was with God in the beginning, active and responsible for all created things, became flesh to dwell or live among those He created. The Greek word that John uses for dwelt means to “tabernacle” or “to pitch a tent.” Once again, John brings to the mind of his early readers the Old Testament and the tabernacle, a time when the glory of God would descend upon the tent so God could dwell among His people.

John purposely uses the word flesh, the Greek sarx, to clearly point to the full humanity of Jesus. In his first epistle, 1 John 4:3, John reminds us that anyone who claims that Jesus has not come in the flesh, does not belong to God. John has already established the point that Jesus was already the Divine Word, but now, he says, Jesus arrives on earth in the flesh! Before Christ came in the flesh, people could only know God partially, through His written word and His creation; after Jesus arrived in the flesh, people could know God fully through the revealing of God through Christ in the flesh! In Christ, God is tangible and visible.

In Christ, God came to meet with people, just as He descended upon the tabernacle of the Old Testament; through Christ, the tabernacle of the New Testament, people can come and meet with God. In becoming human, Christ became three things for fallen humanity. He became (1) the Perfect teacher – in Him we can see how God thinks and how we should think; (2) the Perfect example – Jesus is the model for what we are to become, showing us how to live and He, Himself, gives us the power to live that way; finally, (3) Jesus became the Perfect Sacrifice – Jesus is our Passover Lamb, He came as the sacrifice for all sin, satisfying the requirements of God for the removal of sin. Christ became and continues to be the PERFECT example of God in human form! Given that the Greek logos, or word, can mean “reason” and refers to anything that wasn’t flesh, to say that the word became flesh is breaking all the rules. And isn’t that exactly what God did?!

When John speaks of glory, his early readers would understand this to be shekinah glory because shekinah carries the meaning of “in the tent” or “glory in the tent.” This is Christ’s divine greatness and shining moral splendor. On the mount of transfiguration, the disciples saw underneath the simple appearance of Jesus as an ordinary Jewish carpenter, they saw the indwelling glory of God. To outsiders Jesus was no one special, but to the inner circle, Jesus was the unique Son of God, filled with the shekinah glory of God.

John also describes The Word Among Humanity as full of grace and truth. The Greek word for grace – charis – parallels the Hebrew word for “lovingkindness,” as repeated in Psalm 136 and indeed, throughout the Psalms. Grace has always been of and from God, from the Old Testament through the New Testament. However, the Greek also carries an understanding of “that which is a free gift.” The Greek word for truth used by John is alethia and it means “reality” and “genuine.” Christ is the reality and in union with Christ we experience grace and truth. By His power, we can show His life to others through our own Lives.

When John speaks of the fullness of Christ, he is using the Greek word pleroma, meaning a “superabundance” and “completeness.” John is speaking from his personal experience with Jesus, for John has never found Jesus to be lacking in any way. Within this description of The Word Among Humanity is an invitation from John to trust Jesus to meet our every need. Should we, the ones He created, not be able to trust our Creator to know all of our needs? Jesus, the Eternal Word, responsible for all that has been created, has taken on flesh to dwell among those He created.

Jesus, the Word, became flesh that He might live among those He created. In living among us, He experienced all things we, as humans experience. There is nothing that surprises Jesus about the human race. For the writer of Hebrews reminds us “…we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 (NASB) Yes, The Word Among Humanity was the Perfect Teacher, the Perfect Example and the Perfect Sacrifice, because there is nothing He has not experienced in His humanity that we too experience in our humanity.

Jesus Christ, The Word Among Humanity knows all you are struggling with today. Whether it is finances, employment, relationships, spiritual battles or physical health, the Word knows and understands because He too has been where you are today. Now is the time to come to the Word, for He is the Perfect Expression of God, tangible and visible, able to express the heart and mind of humanity to God and express the heart and mind of God to humanity. In Christ, God has come down to meet us and through Christ we can come meet with God. Come, meet with God through Christ, the One who has superabundance and completeness to meet every need you might have.

Amen and Amen.

The Word of Creation

The Word of Creation

Home Church Devotional 9/9/2020

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”                                                                                                                                         John 1:3 (NASB)

There are many was to create in our world today. We can create chaos with those around us by the use of certain words and actions; we can create a peaceful atmosphere in much the same way. We can create a new product out of other products or parts already in existence and we can create separation or space between people and things by increased distance or space. In fact, the very definition of create is to bring something into existence or to cause something to happen as a result of one’s actions. That pretty much sums up what we just learned. But John has his sights set on something different in our passage today.

When John says all things came into being, or were made, John is not just talking about the universe in its entirety, but rather, he is talking about every single detail, no matter how large or how small, but every detail of ALL THINGS! This includes all things in the physical or material world as well as the spiritual world and all things human or angelic. All things means all things…everything, nothing is left out. Jesus created all things out of nothing through the actions of His spoken word, the Word of Creation! Nothing existed BEFORE the Word created.

For us, to be apart from someone, means to be separated from each other at a specific distance in time and space. John has something different in mind however, as the Greek word he uses for apart means separated yes, but it also carries the meaning of bereaved. Bereaved means to be deprived of a close relation or friend through the death. Think about the implications of this thought for a moment. Jesus tells us in John 15:1-5 that He is the True Vine and we are the branches, APART from Him we can do nothing. Yes, this is the same Greek word used in our passage today. In a real sense, when we are apart from Jesus a death has been suffered.

This death is our death! There is the physical life that has no true meaning without Jesus and most assuredly our spiritual life dies when we are apart from the source of all we need. Throughout the Scriptures we see Jesus grieving, moved with sorrow or having compassion on the masses that follow Him. He sees them as lost sheep without a shepherd, they are apart from the one who can guide them safely through this journey on earth and provide entrance into the Kingdom of God. And yet, these same lost sheep, time and again turn from Him or seek to force Him to be something He is not. The bereavement is real, and it is Jesus who suffers as much, if not more so than we!

Jesus, the Word, is the creative agent who has created all things. And without Jesus, nothing, not one single thing, could exist. When God creates, He makes something out of nothing, and this includes you and I. Because we are created beings, there should be no room within us for pride. We exist only because God made us, we have gifts and talents because God gave them to us. With God we are unique and valuable, without Him we are nothing, because only He can create something from nothing. As a created being, we truly can do nothing without the One who sustains us, guides us, molds us and causes our growth into His likeness.

The greatness of Jesus is seen in His role as mediator of the observable universe. Because all things are made through Him, He is the one unifying principle at the heart of all things that exist. So, the question remains, is Jesus bereaved over you? Do you find yourself separated from the One who has given you life? Do you feel lost and alone, trying to find your way through a life that increasingly make little or no sense? Jesus, as the Word of Creation, is the answer. He alone has the power to create something from nothing. He alone has the power to reshape a life that seems lost and out of sorts. He alone speaks and the seas, the winds and the storms of life are clamed. Jesus looks upon you with compassion, the proverbial sheep without a shepherd and calls to you to follow Him, the one, unifying principle of the observable universe.

Amen and Amen.

The Word from Eternity

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”                                                           John 1:1-2 (NASB)

When we consider the beginning, we tend to think of a fixed time when something started or began. This fact is clearly seen when we consider the definition of beginning. Merriam-Webster defines beginning as the point which something begins; the first part; origin or source; a rudimentary stage or early period. Dictionary.com add am act or circumstance of entering upon an action or state; the point of time or space at which something begins; the first part and the initial stage or part of something. In their smash hit Beginnings, Chicago the Band says beginning is “what I want to feel forever,” and “only just a start!” It is clear to see that we think beginning is the start of something.

To further expand the point, we can point to July 4, 1776 as the day we declared our independence from Britain and the birth of our country. December 7, 1946 is the day we point to as the start of World War II for the United States. Annually we point to the day we were born as the moment when we began life on this earth. Subsequent birthdays mark off the beginning of our teenager years, becoming an adult. We start the process over when we decide to have children and begin a family. We point the finger at someone and blame them for starting an argument. The list is endless, but the point is clear, beginning, for us is the starting point of something.

However, in our passage today, John has a different outlook on the beginning. When John starts his gospel account, he uses three words that are very familiar to his first readers. “In the beginning” would immediately take his reader to the very first words of the Old Testament, the only Scripture available to Johns first readers. Genesis, which means origin or beginning. But John continues to say that the Word existed BEFORE creation, in eternity past, with God! In fact, John says the Word was God!

Throughout John’s gospel account, Jesus is presented in many different ways. Jesus is expressed as God Himself; the Giver of Eternal Life; the Bringer of light into a darkened world; the Giver of Grace; the unique Son of God sharing an intimate relationship with the Father; the Bearer of Heavenly Truth; the expression of God’s glory and fullness; And in our passage, Jesus is presented as the Eternal Word – the One who expresses God.

The use of the word logos or word would appeal and make sense to many of Johns early readers. It would resonate with the Greek culture that surrounded the early church. For the Greek logos was the shaping, ordering and directing principle in the universe. Logos, as a participant in the divine order, was distinct from the material and historical world. John contrasts this by revealing the Word became flesh! So, for the Greek, logos or word, could have two meanings. It could mean a person’s thoughts or reason, or it could mean the rational principle that governed the universe, even the creative energy that generates the universe.

For both the Jew and the Greek, logos or word, conveyed the idea of beginning. But for John, “in the beginning” does not mean from the start. When the heavens and earth were created Jesus was already there! As the Word, Jesus is the agent of creation, the source of God’s message sent through the prophets, God’s law and His standard of holiness. Jesus, as the logos, reveals God’s mind to us. John presents the widest perspective of all four gospel accounts, describing Jesus as he very source of all things we understand as beginning. Jesus as the Word is the Son in and with the Father and is the One whom has made God known to us. Jesus shares the infinity and limitlessness with God thus we do not have a full or exhaustive knowledge of Him. Jesus is and must always be in the center of our approach to God, our thinking about God, and our relating to God. Jesus as the Word is the definition, the explanation and the expression of God. Jesus is God defined, explained and expressed.

The question remains, “Who is Jesus to you?” Is He the shaping, ordering and governing principle of your life? Is He God defined, explained and expressed to you? Or is He simply a point of origin? Something you “Want to feel forever?” Or perhaps, “only just a start?” There is no time like the present to come to know the Word who became flesh. In Him you will find more than a beginning or a start; in Him you will find all you need, for now and evermore. May we all be found in the Word at His return.

Amen and Amen

“Salt & Light”

Salt & Light originally published in the Dowagiac Daily News June 30, 2019.

“You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…” Matt. 5: 13 & 14

Salt was very important and had many different uses in Ancient Israel. Salt was used as a preservative to keep foods form going bad and decaying; salt was used as a flavoring influencing and enhancing bland foods; the Roman army used salt to make soil useless in growing crops and tasteless salt was thrown out to be trampled on to make paths and walk ways. Salt also creates thirst, try eating a few pretzels without the craving for a cold drink! Likewise, light was also important in Ancient Israel. Cities throughout Israel were made from limestone, once placed upon a hill these cities would reflect the light of the sun, gleaming brightly, shining as a beacon for travelers in the area. But it was at night when the limestone provided a truly amazing benefit for travelers. When families lit their lamps for the night, the limestone homes appeared to be glowing from the inside out, again providing a beacon for travelers in the area.

When Jesus called His disciples and followers the salt and light of the world, He placed a great responsibility on those who would call Him Lord. Far from sitting in our comfortable, air-conditioned sanctuaries, we are to be busy being the church. This means we are to be the salt that adds flavor to the life of the world. We are to influence others through our relationship with Christ, leading them to the One who can preserve their life throughout eternity. As followers of Jesus Christ, our lives should be radically different from those around us. Like the limestone house that gleams in the sunlight, the followers of Christ are to be reflecting the Son’s light as a beacon for the lost. Followers of Christ have moved from darkness to light; this important change begins on the inside, much like the glow of the limestone houses of Ancient Israel.

So, let me ask you, is your life adding flavor to an otherwise bland world? Are you inviting others to “taste of the Lord” and find the flavor of eternal life? Does your life say to others you have been preserved from decay? As salt your work is to spread throughout your entire sphere of influence bringing to bear on the lives of those you meet. Does your life create thirst among the dry and thirsty lives of the lost in the world? Are you the gleaming beacon that leads others to safety in the One who preserves throughout eternity? Can others see the change that began on the inside and glows in all you do? As God’s people we have work to do, get up…get out and let your light shine before men. Let them glorify your Father in heaven. Be salt and light to the lost of the world.

Costly Discipleship

Home Church Devotional 1/9/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”                                    Mark 8:34-38 (NASB)

Most everything we choose to do today has a cost of some sort attached to it. Whether we are simply watching a movie at home, playing an online game, enjoying a night out or taking our yearly vacation – somewhere, somehow, they all cost us something. One cost many of us forget to consider is the cost of our time – we invest our time in everything we do, so we invest our time wisely. Money, of course, is an obvious cost but what about the cost of our mental and emotional state? Cost is involved, and sometimes hidden, in all we do.

What about following Jesus? Is there cost involved in becoming a disciple of Jesus? While many have been deceived into thinking that following Jesus would cost them nothing, Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus uses two different examples, the cost of building a tower and the cost of a king going to battle, to illustrate the cost of following Him. Once again, it is not just money we need to be concerned about – following Jesus affects our entire life and lifestyle. Following Jesus means Costly Discipleship which carries a price tag too high for many to pay. In our passage today, Jesus lays down three (3) conditions or costs of discipleship that we must address in order to follow Jesus – and trust me, they are very costly!

As we consider discipleship and following Jesus, we must ask ourselves several questions; are there really costs involved in following Jesus? And if so, what are the costs of following Jesus? Can following Jesus really be that expensive in our world today? I mean, we have everything we need right at our fingertips! We don’t even need to buy a Bible anymore we can just download it for free on our phones!! Following Jesus requires Costly Discipleship at a price you may not be willing to pay.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Cost #1 – Costly Discipleship requires complete surrender to Jesus.

Denying self and self-denial are not the same thing. Self-denial is when we give up things or activities but denying self comes when we are completely surrendered to Jesus and have determined to follow His will. From our human perspective it may seem as if we are losing ourselves but from God’s perspective, we are finding our true self. When we live for Jesus, we become more like Him bringing out our unique individuality.

Denying self is the turning away from the idol of self-centeredness and attempts to orient our lives by the demands and desires of self-interest. We are called to put away our selfish ambitions and the desire for immediate material satisfaction and discover our true self and God’s interests. We move from self-centeredness to God-centeredness. Here we take up our cross by publicly displaying our submission and obedience to the authority of Jesus Christ and God the Father.

We can choose to live a life of indulging-self or we can live a life of denying self. This means we can choose to live a life of comfort and ease in the world or we can choose to live a life of commitment and discipleship in Christ. We can choose to chase a life of wealth and prosperity in the world or we can choose to live a life of works and compassion in Christ. We can choose to seek a life of recognition and fame in the world or we can choose to live a life of humility and sacrifice in Christ. We can choose to pursue a life of position and power in the world or we can choose to live a life of service and ministry in Christ. We can choose to desire a life of pleasure and feelings in the world or we can choose to live a life of righteousness and self-control in Christ.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Cost #2 – Costly Discipleship requires you to identify with Jesus in His suffering and death.

When Jesus told the crowds to take up their cross, they knew exactly what He meant, they saw it often under Roman oppression. The image of many condemned to death, carrying the beam of the cross they were to be crucified upon would immediately flash into the minds of those who heard these words. The cross is always an instrument of death, not just something to be carried on the shoulder. Christians are to die mentally and actively each day. We are to have the mind of Christ – humbling one’s self to the point of death, allowing Christ to be in us and filling our thoughts every day.

The motivation for true discipleship is for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. To deny self or lose yourself, is not an act of desperation but an act of devotion that does not stop there – our personal devotion should lead to practical duty, sharing the gospel with others in the lost world. Because we live for Christ we must also live for others! The reward for true discipleship is becoming more like Christ and sharing in His glory. Satan, seeking to deceive, promises glory but in the end, we receive suffering. God, in His holiness, promises suffering but in the end that suffering is turned into glory. If we acknowledge Jesus and live for Him, He will acknowledge us that we might share in His glory.

If we are to identify with Christ in His suffering and death, followers of Jesus must be willing to face literal rejection, abuse and even death. So, we have a choice to make, will we choose to save our life here on earth by trying to stop aging, decaying and even death and deny the sacrifice of Christ; will we seek to save our life by making it more and more comfortable and secure and neglect Christ and our relationship with Him; will we seek to save our life by gaining more wealth, power and fame and compromise the message of Christ; or will we seek to save our life by chasing thrill, excitement and stimulation while ignoring the call of Christ? If we choose the former the result is losing our life and our soul, in contrast, by choosing the latter, we save our life for an eternity through Christ Jesus.

If we are to identify with Christ, then we must also share the gospel message with others. Remember, if we live for Christ we must also live for others. The person who abandons their life, who sacrifices and gives all they are and all they have for the gospel shall save their life. But the person who keeps their life and all that they have and attempts to keep themselves and their family free from the suffering and needs of this world—that person shall lose their life. Again, there is a choice to be made; a life of the comforts of home or a life as an explorer and pioneer with Christ; a lifetime spending all we have on the desires of self and family or a life of sacrifice and giving in Christ; a lifetime spent attending to our own self-centered wants and desires or a lifetime invested in others by visiting, sharing and ministry through Christ. Allowing ourselves to die and be replaced by life in Christ is the highest price we must face.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Cost #3 – Costly Discipleship requires you to follow Jesus in complete obedience – wherever He may lead.

The final cost is the most difficult cost for believers to face – complete obedience to Christ. This comes down to what we value most – the things you have accumulated on earth or your eternal soul. While Jesus has called the crowds to gather around as He spoke to His disciples, this message is directed pointedly at the disciples. These are the men who have already confessed Him as the Son of God, so why this message at this time to those who already believe in Him? Jesus is not telling the disciples or the crowd how to be saved and go to heaven, rather He is telling them how to save their lives and make the most of their opportunities while on earth.

Will you choose to use the opportunities God gives you to share the gospel or will you ignore them and choose to build your comfort and security on earth? We can choose money and property and ignore the call of Christ to meet the needs of others. Money and property are fleeting, but the choice is yours. We can choose position and power over the call of Christ to give our life where it will do the most good. Position and power are held for a short time, but the choice is yours. We can choose freedom and pleasure over the call of Christ to strengthen families and children. Freedom and pleasure only last as long as you are in the moment, but the choice is yours. How will you choose to handle the opportunities God has given you?

Here is the hard part, following Jesus will lead us to places unexpected, require work unforeseen and test the limits of our absolute obedience to Jesus. We were never promised this would be easy, only that He would be with us always. To be in obedience is to hear and listen in a state of submission. To obey what we hear as we listen is to trust. Our response of obedience to the call of Christ is a response of trust or faith. Our obedience comes forth from gratitude for the grace we have received. Our love for God should also motivate us to obedience. For the believer, true obedience means we imitate God in holiness, humility and love. A life of obedience is the fruit of our faith and trust in the call of Jesus.

The price of Costly Discipleship requires that you pay nothing yet will cost you everything.

Most everything we choose to do today has a cost of some sort attached to it. Whether we ae simply watching a movie at home, playing an online game, enjoying a night out or taking our yearly vacation – somewhere, somehow, they all cost us something. One cost many of us forget to consider is the cost of our time – we invest our time in everything we do, so we invest our time wisely. Money, of course, is an obvious cost but what about the cost of our mental and emotional state? Cost is involved, and sometimes hidden, in all we do.

What about following Jesus? Is there cost involved in becoming a disciple of Jesus? While many may have been deceived into thinking that following Jesus would cost them nothing, Jesus warned His disciples about the cost of following Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus uses two different examples, the cost of building a tower and the cost of a king going to battle, to illustrate the cost of following Him. Once again, it is not just money we need to be concerned about – following Jesus affects our entire life and lifestyle. Following Jesus means Costly Discipleship which carries a price tag too high for many to pay.

Jesus has laid out three costs of discipleship we must address as His followers. There are choices to be made each day, and they are not easy choices. The lure and pull of the world are strong today. The demands that Christians especially bend to the concepts and ideal of society press harder against us each day. Costly Discipleship will become increasingly costly in the days ahead. There are those who simply do not want God in our country and as Christians we are His voice in a world growing darker by the day.

And so, we fight, but not as the world fights. We fight from our knees, bowed before the Creator of the world, the One whose image we bear. We must intercede for our nation and leaders. We must come before God in true repentance for the sins of our nation. We must cry out to God to awaken His slumbering church to rise and carry the gospel message throughout the land. We must seek to be obedient to the word of God, trusting Him to protect and guide us along the way. Pray like your life depends on it because it just may!

Yes, we have choices to make and no they are not easy but if we are truly trusting Christ, if we remain obedient to His word and calling, in the end the suffering we may experience will lead to the sharing of His glory. While it may be unsettling and a little scary, the One who has called you into fellowship with His Son is faithful and complete the work He has begun in all of us. The three conditions Jesus lays out are indeed costly. But the reward of becoming more Christlike is priceless!

May God strengthen you as you fight to remain obedient and trusting to the call of Jesus in your life.

Amen and Amen.

Daily Defense

Home Church Devotional 1/16/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)

For as long as I can remember there has been an inclination in our society to blame others for our mistakes. It started subtly in the 70’s sitcoms and the one that sticks out among the many is the comedy show Laugh In. The show was a series of short skits and one-liners with, at the time, many unknown comics and soon to be well-known actors and actresses. The skit that standouts in my mind for today’s topic is set in a courthouse with comedian Flip Wilson dressed as an older woman appearing before a judge. After hearing the charges and being asked for a defense, Wilson replies in a silly feminine voice meant to bring laughter, “The devil made me do it.” The judge slams his gavel, and the case is dismissed.

The above scenario was played out on the show Laugh In many times and in many ways, not just the courtroom setting. It wasn’t long until you started hearing the tag line “The devil made me do it” everywhere and in ever instance. We thought nothing of it, it was just funny. But something strange happened along the way. The devil was dehumanized into something we laugh at and about, we soon forgot that Satan, the devil is real and active in the world and remains so even today.

As we have been looking at this model prayer, Jesus has taught us to look to God for our daily bread, the forgiveness of our sins, to help us forgive others and now for our Daily Defense, for the devil is surely behind the temptations that come so subtly and deceitfully each and everyday to believers of all ages.

As we dig into the final verse of what we know as The Lord’s prayer, it is clear that Jesus is teaching a deeper truth here than a simple temptation or avoidance of evil, no, we need Daily Defense for our lives will be filled with the need for strong defense against a bigger and stronger opponent than we can handle alone.

As we examine this final verse we must as ourselves one simple question, “Why do believers need to ask for Daily Defense?” Isn’t once enough? Must we come back day after day to ask again and again? There is no truly simple answer, but we must remember that life changes, our circumstances change, our needs change so yes, we must come back day after day and ask again and again.

Believers ask for Daily Defense because the schemes of the enemy are strong, and we are weak.

1). Believes ask for Daily Defense because we fight a battle bigger than us!

This verse truly addresses our daily spiritual battle and reminds us to be aware that life is a spiritual battle. No believer is immune from spiritual battles, not even if we stick our head in the sand! Spiritual battles surround us daily. That strained conversation you had with a coworker or relative this morning…spiritual battle. The “moron” you yelled at who apparently cut you off while driving…spiritual battle. Those inappropriate thoughts that blindside you every day…spiritual battle. The desire to be in charge and get even…spiritual battle. Spiritual battle is common to all believers and will come in ways that are common to all believers.

They are subtle and deceiving in nature; they will target your weakest point and masquerade as an opportunity to achieve your desire only to bring heartache and disappointment. They will come with a pull so strong we cannot resist the chance to have our way. They come as if from God seeking to draw us away from His will and into our will. Satan is not very inventive, but he is very persistent!! We ask not to be led into temptation because they come along so often, and the pull is strong, and we simply get in the way too much as we seek our own way and will.

In chapter 4 of Matthew, we read of the temptation of Jesus after His baptism. He is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where He fasted forty days and forty nights before His encounter with Satan. In His temptation Jesus faces every type of temptation we face in our lifetime. Satan tempted Jesus with the same temptation he used against Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. First, came the temptation of the physical or material things of life in the form of making bread – the cravings of sinful people. Second, comes the temptation to confirm God’s love for you – it looks good to the eye and surely you will not die – this is the lust of the eye. Finally, comes the temptation to boast of what we have – we can have it all and become like God – this is power and pride.

The Greek word used for temptation can also be translated as testing – so whether a temptation or testing our prayer should be that it does not lead to an opportunity to do evil – that is, to commit sin. Sin will keep us separated from God, our source of strength and guidance as we face one spiritual battle after another. We must remember that testing always has a purpose – God is always refining His people to depend on Him and strengthen our character to be more like His. Remember the encouragement offered by James, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”                                                                                                    James 1:2-4 (NASB)

Believers ask for Daily Defense because the schemes of the enemy are strong, and we are weak.

2). Believers as for Daily Defense because we fight an opponent who is stronger than us!

Greek words use gender – masculine, feminine or neuter – to help identify who or what we are talking about. For example, if this Greek word were in the masculine we might be talking about an evil man or evil men. Likewise, if it were feminine, we might be talking about an evil woman or evil men. In this case the Greek word is in the neuter and is translated as evil. However, it could also be translated as evil one, neither male or female and this is perhaps the best translation for this prayer model.

I take you back to my earlier story about the television show Laugh In and how the skit blaming the devil for our mistakes and wrongdoing helped to dehumanize Satan. We made him out to be a cute little cherub or simply a man with a red complexion, horns and tail while carrying a three-pronged pitchfork. Slowly we have removed all sense of evil associated with the devil, the evil one who seeks our destruction. Through the subtle deceptions of the evil one we have made ourselves even more vulnerable to his attacks.

Satan and his influence are behind every attempt to turn a testing or temptation into an opportunity to do evil – that is, to commit sin. He comes against us at our weakest spot, not in some strange way that would be obvious it is a testing or temptation, but in ways that are common to all believers. We have not suffered anything that is unique and only experienced by a single individual. The attacks come in the form of physical wants, needs and desire; in a form that speaks to our pride and desire for power; in such a way that we seek to test God’s love for us through the lust of our eyes.

As part of the fallen human race, we must recognize our weakness and the need for God’s strength. The temptations of Satan are deceptive, powerful and subtle, therefore, because of our weaknesses we must call on God to rescue, preserve and guard us. We must, therefore, rely on God, not just for our physical needs of food, shelter and clothing or the forgiveness of our sins, but we must also rely on God for every moral and spiritual victory in all of the spiritual battles we face throughout a lifetime of spiritual battles.

Believers ask for Daily Defense because the schemes of the enemy are strong, and we are weak.

As we dig into the final verse of what we know as The Lord’s prayer, it is clear that Jesus is teaching a deeper truth here than a simple temptation or avoidance of evil, no, we need Daily Defense for our lives will be filled with the need for strong defense against a bigger and stronger opponent than we handle alone.

As we dig into the final verse of what we know as The Lord’s prayer, it is clear that Jesus is teaching a deeper truth here than a simple temptation or avoidance of evil, no, we need Daily Defense for our lives will be filled with the need for strong defense against a bigger and stronger opponent than we handle alone.

Jesus knows the power of the evil one after defeating in the wilderness, He also knows the spiritual battles that His disciples will face, so He encouraged them to seek the Fathers strength to be delivered from the temptation and schemes of the evil one, on a daily basis. In John chapter 17 Jesus prays for His disciples, known by many as the High Priestly prayer of Jesus. In verse 15 Jesus asks the Father to keep His disciples from the evil one. This is a continuous action, to keep on keeping them from the evil one, but we must seek Gods guidance and strength against the enemy on a daily basis as well.

So, we make this petition because all believers are tempted and tempted often, not in some strange or blatantly obvious thing, but in subtle ways that are common to all believers. We make this petition because our sins cause God great hurt and pain; we make this petition because sin causes great trouble, guilt and grief for ourselves and others; we make this petition because none of us are above falling.

Because our sins have been forgiven, we ask God to deliver us from the two things that cause our sin – temptation and/or testing and the evil one. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

                                                                                                           Ephesians 6:10-13 (NASB)

May we all be found fully dressed in the armor of God, daily seeking His strength and guidance, being kept safe by God, from the evil one.

Amen and Amen

Testing & Temptation

Home Church Devotional 1/23/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.'” And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ and, ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'” When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.                                            Luke 4:1-13 (NASB)

When I was in school, I hated to take tests, still do. I am not a test person. Let me do a research project, something I can sink my teeth into, and I will knock it out of the park…but do not ask me to take a test. I will and do fail miserably! But there is a reason for tests, they are a checkpoint to see if we are ready to move on to something deeper, the next step.

TESTING & TEMPTATION in our spiritual life is much the same, to see if we are ready to go deeper. They show us where our weaknesses are and where we need to allow God to work in our lives. They are meant to build our faith, strengthen our trust and build our character.

As we examine the temptation of Jesus, we must ask ourselves one question. “What is the purpose of TESTING & TEMPTATION of the believer?”

The purpose of TESTING & TEMPTATION is to strengthen the believer’s faith; build the believer’s trust and shape the believer’s character.

1). TESTING & TEMPTATION come to all believers in shared or common experiences.

This passage immediately follows the baptism of Jesus and we need to read and understand the first verse of chapter 4; “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Luke 4:1 (NASB) Luke tells us that Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and being led by the Holy Spirit throughout His temptation in the wilderness. We must understand that TESTING & TEMPTATION take place under God’s direction and in the case of Jesus, the Greek word for tempted indicates a continual action. For forty days Jesus was tempted, continually, by the devil. This testing took place, not to SEE if Jesus was ready for His ministry, but to SHOW that Jesus was ready for His ministry.

We must also note the final verse of this passage; “When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13 (NASB) We only read of three temptations, temptations that are common or shared experiences by all believers, but Luke says that the devil only left AFTER he completed ALL the temptations. Jesus has faced every temptation known to believer’s; He is truly our High Priest who has shared our experiences. He can stand before God and intercede for us because He has been through all that we are going through.

The first testing questions the provisions of God and His care for us. God does not want His Son to die so Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones to bread, the mighty Son of God could surely use His powers to meet this most basic need of life. But this request does not concern power but rather independence. How many times have we been faced with a basic need, whether food or shelter or money for a bill, and we take matters into our own hands and try to solve the issue in our own power, rather than wait in faith on God to work? Independence from God is weakness and leads to failure.

The second testing is an invitation to worship Satan and leave behind loyalty to God. This is an attempt to join the Son with Satan and remove Jesus from His ministry and all that lies ahead. Jesus can choose to join Satan and escape the suffering and rejection for a quick grab at power. How many times have we been caught in a spot that looks really good and will give us what we are seeking in the first place, and it gets us there quicker, easier and without all the hassles of having to earn it properly or wait for God to tell us the time is right? Loyalty to God is the path of suffering and rejection that, in the end, is turned into shared glory with Christ Jesus.

The final temptation involves God’s love for the Son – and us. The vision is at the top of the Temple – probably the Royal Porch – at the southwest corner overlooking a cliff and the Kidron valley some 450 feet below. Satan uses Scripture, Psalm 9:11-12, a passage that promises God’s protection for His own. Surely God will not allow His Son – or us – to suffer! Jesus sees through the ploy and so must we…this twisting of Scripture flies in the face of the rest of Scripture that calls for the Messiah to suffer and those who name His name to be identified in His suffering and death.

The purpose of TESTING & TEMPTATION is to strengthen the believer’s faith; build the believer’s trust and shape the believer’s character.

2). The way we respond to TESTING & TEMPTATION will determine the outcome for the believer.

TESTING & TEMPTATION in life are not necessarily bad, in fact, they may even be sent by God (James 1:2-4). TESTING & TEMPTATION are meant to produce endurance that we might become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The real issue is how we react to TESTING & TEMPTATION. The real issue is how we react to our testing. Do you respond by looking to God to guide you through the testing? Do you trust God or put Him to the test? How do you respond to personal struggles in life? Do you get angry? Do you try and take control? Or do you rest in faith? Do you look for God’s hand and ask Him what you are to learn from your testing? It is the response we can control and must be concerned about.

Jesus was tempted by Satan in the most basic of needs – bread; sometimes we feel the need to “feed ourselves” with things we think are basic needs. However, sometimes these “basics” involve a bigger home, more gadgets and toys, more material possessions that to say we are well “fed.” Yet our lives are more than the material things we collect, rather, our lives are defined through our relationship with God, spiritually grounded in knowing Him and serving Him within the context of His will. Our response to testing matters…life is defined by doing the will of God and being fully dependent upon His leading.

We lack trust in God when we grab for power that is not ours for the taking or taking power in a manner in which we are not meant to have it. Satan tempts us to slip into idolatry, using subtle substitutes like our work, our position, our possessions, our family or any number of other things keep us from knowing God. Maybe it’s the “easy button” to grow without the suffering, facing rejection, or the fear of failure; maybe it takes us away from our stand for Jesus or the values of the kingdom of God. Our response to being tested matters…we worship what we love; power, money, things. With worship of God comes service and true service means remaining loyal to God.

We lack trust when we put God to the test in a situation we are facing. “God, if You are with me, this will happen in this way.” Which usually means, “God make this go away and let me come out on top without being hurt.” In other words, we tell God how He should act and care for us, when He sees things we could not even know exist. We control God, rather than following His leading. We also blame God when suffering does come, feeling He has abandoned us, when in fact, He may be trying to get our attention, revealing His way – a better way – or simply asking us to meet Him in the midst of our adversity. Our response to being tested matters…putting God in a “show me” position is a private test of God that shows a lack of faith.

When I was in school, I hated to take tests, still do. I am not a test person. Let me do a research project, something I can sink my teeth into, and I will knock it out of the park…but do not ask me to take a test. I will and do fail miserably! But there is a reason for tests, the are a checkpoint to see if we are ready to move on to something deeper, the next step.

TESTING & TEMPTATION in our spiritual life is much the same, to see if we are ready to go deeper. They show us where are weaknesses are and where we need to allow God to work in our lives. They are meant to build our faith, strengthen our trust and build our character.

Two of these tests directly challenge the sonship of Jesus. “If You are the Son of God…” comes the statement from Satan. You see, he heard the words from heaven at the baptism of Jesus, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.” This is an attempt to get Jesus to support His sonship and thus create a rebellious Son and sonship. The challenge is the same for you and me, sons and daughters of the King. “If you are the son or daughter of the King…”

Are you ready for the TESTING & TEMPTATION that is sure to come your way? They are coming and they will come often. Jesus was tempted continually for forty days just as we are tempted throughout our lifetime. It is not a matter of if but when and when they come will you show yourself ready? Will you follow the example of Jesus and keep God’s word in your heart? Will you keep the things of God and His kingdom in the forefront of your heart and mind?

If you are to grow spiritually, you can expect testing. If you are to grow spiritually, you need to look to God in the midst of your testing. May our eyes be fixed on Jesus even in the deepest and darkest of temptations, seeking God’s guidance and looking for His hand.

Amen and Amen.

The Doxology

Home Church Devotional 1/31/2021

These devotionals were written during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic when area churches were not allowed to meet for fear of spreading the coronavirus. They were used in place of a full sermon as my family and I gathered for worship and communion.

“Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]                                    Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)

We come, now, to the end of our series on The Lord’s Prayer. We have reached what is considered to be the doxology, but before we dig into the words that form this doxology, let us first take a quick look back at what we have learned from this model of prayer meant to shape our prayer life. We first learned that Christian prayer is to be genuine, not filled with meaningless repetition; Christian prayer is meant to be meaningful as it engages our thoughts and minds.

Next, we learned that we have a shared relationship with God as Father with other believers and we set apart the name of God in reverence and honor to glorify and exalt Him. We also learned that we are acknowledging a kingdom that already exists, a kingdom of God’s rule and God’s reign, and as we pray, we ask for God’s will and agree to God’s choices and God’s control.

In the fourth installment of the series, we learned that we ask God for a continuous supply of our daily needs – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual; we also learned we are expressing our continual dependence on the God of all resources. In the fifth sermon in the series, we learned we are asking debt forgiveness  for a debt of our own making, one that has not been forced upon us and we learned that our debt forgiveness must include forgiveness of others for the harm done to us. In our last look at this model of prayer, we learned we need daily defense because we are fighting an opponent who is stronger than us and a battle that is bigger than us.

Which brings us now to the closing of this series on The Lord’s Prayer. The Doxology, acknowledging the kingdom, power and glory belong to God forever. While this looks straight forward enough, there are still some important lessons to learn from these few words that close this model of prayer.

This doxology is not found in the best manuscripts of the New Testament. It is believed to be an ancient Jewish doxology added to prayers acknowledging the sovereignty of God and, has thus, been added here by scribes who wrote the manuscripts and are familiar with the doxology. There is a similar doxology found in 1 Chronicles 29:11. The point, however, is all things belong to God. God is the source of the kingdom, power and glory. God is the possessor of the kingdom, power and glory. And God is the recipient of the kingdom, power and glory. All things belong to God.

So, the question we must ask ourselves, “What does The Doxology mean for believers?”

For the believer, The Doxology is the assurance of who God is and what He does.

1). For the believer, The Doxology is found in the KINGDOM.

Kingdom, as an abstract noun, is defined as denoting sovereignty, royal power or dominion. As a concrete noun it is defined as denoting the people or territory over whom the king rules. As the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God has a claim on all things. He created them through His Son, His Son holds them together and His Son will have dominion over them in eternity. All things belong to God.

The kingdom was our first thought at the beginning of the prayer, and it is now our first thought as we close the prayer. The kingdom belongs to God, it is His rule and reign in the kingdom thus His will is to be followed. The kingdom is owned by God – to fund this kingdom God paid a high price, the death of His only Son, thus all things belong to God. This kingdom was established by God – He marked out the territory and those whom He would rule over, before the foundation of the world. All things belong to God.

Believers belong to the kingdom. God has accepted the believer into the kingdom and promised its glory at the believer’s death or the return of His Son. We are sons and daughters of the king, joint heirs with the Son to rule over the nations in eternity. While on earth we journey as foreigners, working to become Christlike and shine the light of Christ into a darkening world. But one day, when Christ returns, the darkness with flee and light will shine freely and completely in the kingdom.

In praying, “For Yours is the kingdom…” we are saying God has the right to rule and reign throughout the universe and only God’s kingdom and government can bring love, joy, peace and the best life has to offer. All things belong to God and His is the kingdom forever.

For the believer, The Doxology is the assurance of who God is and what He does.

2). For the believer, The Doxology is found in the POWER.

Power is defined as ability or might. The Greek words used for power is dunamis, from this we get the English word dynamite. God alone has the ability to establish an eternal kingdom; God alone has the might to sustain an eternal kingdom. The power belongs to God – in our own strength we can do nothing. God alone has the power to rule and reign in an eternal kingdom. All things belong to God.

Through His power God has created and sustains the universe. Through His power, kings and kingdoms rise and fall; through His power the oceans come only so far; through His power the sun and the moon shine in their appointed times; through His power the season know their beginning and end. Through His power we live, or we die; through His power the hairs on our head are numbered, the birds of the air are cared for and the lilies of the field are clothed in beauty. All things belong to God.

Believers belong to the power. Through His power God has delivered believers from sin and death while continuing to deliver them daily. By His power we have been created in His image; by His power God called us into fellowship with His Son; by His power we have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead living within us; by His power we can overcome sin; by His power we have been adopted as sons and daughters of the king. All things belong to God.

In praying, “For Yours is the power…” we are saying God alone has the power to create and sustain a perfect government and God alone has the power to change people that they might escape death and live forever in God’s perfect government. All things belong to God and His is the power forever.

For the believer, The Doxology is the assurance of who God is and what He does.

3). For the believer, The Doxology is found in the GLORY.

Glory comes from the Greek word Doxa, from the root word dokeo meaning to seem, it signifies an opinion or estimate and the honor resulting from a good opinion. And yes, this is where we get the English word doxology meaning to give praise and glory. For the believer, this is the assurance of who God is and what God does. The glory belongs to God, we keep none of the glory for ourselves. The glory is shared by God as we reflect His glory to the world we contact. All things belong to God.

The believer belongs to the glory. For His glory, God has done everything for the believer that He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For His glory, God created the universe to reflect His glory; for His glory, God placed His image bearing creation, humans, within His created universe; for His glory, He has called us into fellowship; for His glory, His perfect kingdom and His power sustains an eternal kingdom where we live with God forever. All things belong to God.

In praying, “Yours is the glory…” we are saying God alone deserves glory for all He is and all He does…our all in all! He is the Giver and Sustainer of life; He is the Author and Perfector of our faith; He is the King of all kings; He is the Defender of those who call on His name; He is holy and righteous, perfect in all of His ways. All things belong to God and His is the glory forever.

For the believer, The Doxology is the assurance of who God is and what He does.

And so, we have learned much from this short model for prayer. We have learned that Christian prayer is genuine and meaningful, engaging our thoughts and our minds; we have learned we have a shared relationship with the Father and we set apart His name in reverence and honor to glorify and exalt Him; we recognize a kingdom that truly does exist and acknowledge and agree to God’s rule and reign and God’s choice and control; we have learned to ask God for a continuous supply of all of our daily needs and acknowledge our continued dependence upon the God of all resources; we ask forgiveness for a debt that was of our own making and our forgiveness must include the forgiveness of others; and finally, we learned we are fighting an opponent and a battle that are bigger than us and we must seek our daily defense from God alone.

Which brings us now to the closing of this series on The Lord’s Prayer. The Doxology, acknowledging the kingdom, power and glory belong to God forever. God alone has paid the cost to establish an eternal kingdom; God alone has the power to sustain and eternal kingdom; and God alone deserves all glory for all He is and all He has done. All things belong to God.

The word “For” ties this doxology to the prayer and signifies that the kingdom, power and glory will be manifested in the petitions we have just prayed. It is not for our benefit but rather that God’s name be manifested, in us and through us to the world around us. This is why we gather each week, to worship the name of Jesus, to give God the Father the glory, to tap into the power supply we need for the coming week and to acknowledge the kingdom of God, in our midst now and His rule and reign in that kingdom. We come to agree to His choices and His control, knowing He has far kore wisdom and insight than our eyes and mind will ever be able to contain.

In the sight of God’s glory and honor our sufferings and concerns will diminish, we seek eternal life that the honor of God will be promoted, and His name displayed to all. God is to be the first, the last, the best and the supreme in our sight – our all in all. When we approach God in this manner, our prayers will be answered, our devotion will rise like the scent of incense and the lifting of hands in praise and worship like the evening sacrifice. All things belong to God and His is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.

Amen and Amen.