|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 21, 2017 at 2:30 AM||comments (0)|
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1-3)
This promise Jesus made to return for His followers was spoken to bring them heavenly comfort. How comforting to us, in this discomforting world, to know that Jesus will be back for all of us who have followed Him through our time on earth.
When the Lord Jesus spoke these words, He would soon be leaving His disciples. He knew that the cross, the resurrection, and His ascension were close at hand. As He spoke of His departure, they were troubled. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me." One purpose in His leaving was to make ready a heavenly home for those who believed in Him. "I go to prepare a place for you." Then, the promise that followed brought Jesus' ultimate comfort. "I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." Jesus would be returning to take His loved ones to be with Him again.
After His atoning death and victorious resurrection, the Lord instructed the disciples for a brief season in the matters of His kingdom. Then, it was time to depart. "Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). Their gaze remained upon this one whom they had come to love. "They looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up" (Acts 1:10). Then, angelic messengers repeated the promise of His return. "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). What hope this had to stir in their yearning hearts.
Throughout the history of the church, loving hearts have longed for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostles were inspired by the Spirit of God to bring us all the comforting promises of His return. "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This is the promised hope we are to live in day by day: "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 20, 2017 at 8:25 AM||comments (0)|
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14)
We who belong to the Lord have a great invitation to thoroughly express our hearts to Him in humble, dependent prayer. "Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him" (Psalm 62:8). We also have a great need to be speaking to Him. "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We also have great promises of answered prayer. "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
When the people of God are prayerless, they do not receive from the Lord all that He wants to give to them. "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2). At times, God's children pray, but they still do not receive from the Lord. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:3). Their prayers are anchored in their own will and interests. True praying is to be anchored in the will of God. "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).
At this juncture, the scriptures are vital in our daily prayer life. God's word directs us in praying according to the will of God. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you" (John 15:7). As we are abiding in (depending upon) Christ, we will be wanting His word to have full sway in our lives. As we are consistently getting into His word, the scriptures are shaping our thinking and our desiring. Consequently, we ask what the Lord is teaching us to desire. In that beautiful biblical setting, He promises to give us whatever we ask.
All of this describes the essence of praying in the name of Jesus. Praying in Jesus' name is not merely a formula of words with which to conclude our prayers. Whether we verbalize that phrase or not, it is about praying as Jesus would pray (always concerned about the will of His Father). It is about praying based on all that the word teaches about the person and work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf. Those who pray this way enjoy the certainty of these great promises of answered prayer, and they see much glory brought to God. "And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it."
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 19, 2017 at 2:50 AM||comments (0)|
Now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. (Galatians 4:9-10)
If we are going to be justified (declared not guilty and pronounced righteous in Christ), we must be delivered from the law (which condemns us, pronounces us guilty of sin). This rescue from the law is secured by placing our faith in the Lord Jesus, enjoying His justifying grace. "We have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law" (Galatians 2:16).
Through this exercise of faith, we come to know the Lord. At this point, many Christians return to a religious striving under law performance, assuming they can grow in sanctification by their own dedicated efforts. "Now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements." These words from Galatians repeat a major theme of that revolutionary book: the power and richness of grace contrasted with the weakness and poverty ("the weak and beggarly elements") of the law. The grace of God, that was powerful enough to bring us justification, is the only option powerful enough to bring us progress in sanctification (growth in godly living). The grace of God, that was abundantly rich unto the saving of our souls, is the only resource rich enough to effect the transforming of our heart and character. God's law was never intended to be the means of providing the heavenly power or riches needed for justification. Neither was the law intended to do such for sanctification.
The futility of the law in producing godliness can be seen in the Galatians' vain hope that observing the religious holy days of the law could empower them spiritually. "You observe days and months and seasons and years." Far from liberating lives, this was a return to religious enslavement. "You desire again to be in bondage." God's people are certainly free to celebrate days that may have spiritual significance to them. "One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5). We are not to require or prohibit the observance of days. Nevertheless, if our hope is in religious observances, we are heading into religious bondage, not into spiritual liberty.
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 18, 2017 at 1:40 AM||comments (0)|
The law has dominion over a man as long as he lives…But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (Romans 7:1, 6)
In the word of God, the Lord has promised truth which brings spiritual liberation. "The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). We have considered such truths that set people free from bondage to sin, from bondage to the fear of death, and from bondage to the influence of the evil one. Now, we will look at another category of liberating truth: truth to deliver us from the law.
This issue pertains to everyone initially, because we all begin under bondage to the law. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Romans 3:19). Everyone who has ever lived, is living now, or will live in the days to come ("all the world") is initially held in a state of condemnation ("guilty before God"), because of their sin. This guilty condition would persist for a lifetime, if God did not supply a remedy. "The law has dominion over a man as long as he lives." However, this condition need not persist, because the Lord's word proclaims liberating truth for this drastic need. "But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by." The person we were at physical birth died on the cross with Christ, when we believed in Him. The new creature in Christ now stands justified by faith in Christ (not by law performance). "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified (declared not guilty, pronounced righteous in Christ) by faith apart from the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:28).
All of God's children have experienced these liberating truths, as they apply to justification (our eternal righteous standing before God in heaven). However, many of God's people are unaware of the need to be delivered out from under the bondage of the law concerning sanctification (our daily growth in personal, practical godliness on earth). Yet, the word of God addresses this matter repeatedly. Here, in one of our primary verses for meditation, we see these truths given a sanctification implication. "Now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter." Yes, understanding the truth of being delivered from the law determines whether we will struggle daily in bondage to law performance, or live freely by the ongoing, fresh work of the Spirit of God.
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 17, 2017 at 8:50 AM||comments (0)|
If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…that they may know the truth…and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him. (John 8:31-32; 2 Timothy 2:25-26)
As followers of Jesus Christ, it is so important that we abide in His word. We are called to live in the word of the Lord that we might know His truth. Then, as we are embracing God's truth, we are impacted by its liberating power. "The truth shall make you free." Bondage from the enemy is one fundamental area where people need spiritual liberation.
The entire realm of unbelieving humanity lies under the binding influence of the evil one. "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). Even those unbelievers who do not accept the truths of God about Satan and sin, are nonetheless captivated by him. Consequently, we are to humbly reach out to them with the truth: "in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." Paul was sent forth to proclaim the gospel truth that offers freedom from such bondage: "to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God" (Acts 26:18). The testimony of all who believe in the truth of the gospel is this: "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love" (Colossians 1:13).
The problem of Satan's binding, hindering, restricting influence is not ended at salvation. Many saints (though headed for heaven) are still bound in areas of their thinking and behaving. They are still influenced by the enemy's lies. They cannot make the liberating confession of Paul and his missionary team: "we are not ignorant of [Satan's] devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Ignorance of the enemy's tactics will persist in the lives of those who do not know (or will not yield to) God's liberating truth. On the other hand, all who are willing to embrace the truths of God's word will increasingly enjoy freedom from the enemy's lies. They will grow in understanding of, and reliance upon, the victorious purposes of Jesus' coming to this earth. "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 16, 2017 at 2:25 AM||comments (0)|
If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
As we have seenin previous Blogs, the Holy Spirit is promised as our guide into all of the truths of God's word. "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). A related promise assures us that this truth will have a liberating impact upon our lives. "The truth shall make you free." This promise of spiritual liberation through the truths of God's word is such a vital one for man, because various forms of spiritual bondage threaten us all.
Everyone needs liberation from bondage to sin. Those who first heard this promise of Jesus needed instruction on this. "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will be made free'? Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin' " (John 8:33-34). This "whoever" includes us all, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). However, we can all praise God that His liberating truth can set us free from the bondage to sin. All who trust in the Lord Jesus are justified from their sins (declared righteous in God's sight) through the redemption price of the blood of Christ: "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation (satisfactory payment for sin) by His blood, through faith" (Romans 3:24-25).
The fear of death is another bondage from which people need liberation. Hebrews speaks of those "who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). What a tormenting bondage is the fear of death! Yet, Jesus' liberating truth can deal with this bondage as well. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). All who believe in the one who is resurrection life will live forever. Even if they should experience physical death, the grave has no grip on them. In fact, though their body may go into a tomb, they would go immediately into the presence of the Lord. "We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 15, 2017 at 7:30 AM||comments (0)|
When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all the truth…He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you…Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. (John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:12)
The promised teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit involves His guiding us into all the truths of the word of God. "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all the truth." As the Spirit is fulfilling this promise, He especially wants to unfold God's truth in ways that will glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you." The desire of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory and honor, not to Himself, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me" (John 15:26).
One of the primary ways the Spirit glorifies Jesus is to reveal to us (and bring into our growing experiential knowledge) the free heavenly riches that are ours in Christ. "Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." This is the language of grace: "freely given to us." The wonders of God's grace are poured out freely: "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved" (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:6). What man deserves (and has earned by his own sin and offenses) is judgment. However, Christ supplies at His cost (His death for us) the free remedy of eternal life. "But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many…For the wages of sin is death, but the (free) gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 5:15; 6:23).
These freely given things of everlasting life include far more than the precious gift of forgiveness. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). From a river of blessings (including, peace, hope, fruit, gifts, victory, etc.) we are to freely drink throughout time—and even for all eternity. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts...and let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Revelation 21:6; 22:17)
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 14, 2017 at 1:30 AM||comments (0)|
The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things…When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all the truth. (John 14:26; 16:13)
One aspect of this promise is the qualitative development of the spiritual life of God's people. To properly develop spiritually, the Lord's people need to learn the truths of His word. The Holy Spirit is promised to us to fulfill that need.
The coming of the Spirit (in His ministry as Helper to the church) was a matter of promise: "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name." When the Father would fulfill this promise (on the day of Pentecost), one of the primary purposes would be the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. "He will teach you all things." This teaching work of the Spirit was to involve leading us into all the truths of the word of God. "He will guide you into all the truth." This role harmonizes fully with one of the titles of the Spirit: "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come."
Our need for Spirit's teaching ministry is an absolute necessity. We cannot learn the truths of God on our own intellectual capabilities. "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isaiah 55:8). The thoughts and ways of God are as far above our thoughts and ways as the heavens are above the earth. Jesus gave similar insight concerning the heavenly kingdom that He invited people to enter by following Him. "My kingdom is not of this world…My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36). Consequently, we need the Holy Spirit to be our teacher concerning this kingdom.
God loves us beyond measure. The death of His Son demonstrates that without question. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). For all who will come by faith and, thereby, love Him in return, He offers blessings far beyond what human minds can grasp. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Yet, these wonders can be known. "But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:10). These spiritual treasures are in the word of God to be unfolded to us by the Spirit of God.
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 13, 2017 at 1:15 AM||comments (0)|
I will build My church. (Matthew 16:18)
This promise has enormous implications for every follower of Jesus Christ. "I will build My church." Each of the five words in this brief declaration reveals an essential truth of Christian life and service.
First, this promise discloses who will build the church. "I (Jesus) will build My church." Jesus is the builder of the church, not man. He wants to use us in the process, but He is the builder. Paul understood this arrangement. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation" (1 Corinthians 3:10). By the grace of God, Paul served the Lord. As he went about proclaiming Christ, the Lord was using him to lay the foundation (Christ) in lives that were being saved and individual churches that were being started.
Second, Jesus' promise reveals the certainty of His church being built. "I will (assuredly) build My church." There is no room for doubt. Jesus will do what He is promising. The only question for us is whether or not we will be available as a part of this wondrous process. The Lord wants to make us usable for His work: "sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21).
Third, this promise indicates the manner in which the Lord wants to work. "I will build (construct) My church." As with any construction project, there are both the quantitative and qualitative aspects. The Lord saves souls, adding them to His church in a quantitative increase. "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). The Lord also enriches those He saves, bringing to His church qualitative development. "And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33).
Fourth, His promise settles the issue of ownership. "I will build My (Jesus') church." The church does not belong to the Pastor, the Church Board, or the District Office. It is Jesus' church. He paid the price to redeem us: "the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).
Fifth, this promise specifies exactly what Jesus is going to build. "I will build My church (His people)." The church is not a building. This word (church) literally speaks of "a called out people." "But you are…His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
|Posted by Rev. Jeff Ferguson on July 12, 2017 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
"The" promise of all promises that God has made concerns the gift of everlasting life. "And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life" (1 John 2:25). All who respond to this promise in faith become those addressed by Jesus in the promise to build His church. "I will build My church."
The Lord gave this promise after Peter's accurate confession of Jesus being the Messiah. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). As Jesus confirmed this confession, He let Peter know that he did not come up with that insight on his own. "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:17). Then, Jesus contrasted the meaning of Peter's name with the kind of foundation He would lay for His church. "You are Peter (in Greek, "Petros," a stone), and on this rock (in Greek, "petra," a bedrock) I will build My church." Peter's name signified a stone, that which could be easily moved or held within one's hand. Jesus would not build His church on mere men, which at best are like movable stones. Rather, He would build upon a bedrock foundation that could not be moved. He would build upon the rock-solid truth contained in Peter's confession. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16). Yes, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself would be the actual foundation for the church. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).
This picture of Jesus Christ as the foundation of His church is a fulfillment of one of the great prophetic promises the Lord made long ago. "Therefore thus says the Lord God: 'Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation' " (Isaiah 28:16). Also, it is in perfect harmony with the Old Testament revelation of God as our Rock. "Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation" (Psalm 95:1). This rock-solid, anointed King (Jesus, the Messiah) would be fully effective in His mission. Even Satan and his demons, the authorities ("gates") of death and darkness ("Hades"), would be unable to prevent the fulfillment of His promise to build His church: "and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. "