Have you ever received a love letter? If well written, they can melt your heart. Did you know there is a well written love letter in the NT? It is a one-chapter book called "Philemon."
Philemon was a convert of Paul, who lived in the city of Colossae. He had a slave named Onesimus, who had run away and found his way to Rome (where Paul was in prison). He had come under the influence of Paul and had been converted to Christ.
Now comes the dilemma. What should Onesimus do, since he is now a Christian? The decision to return to his master was made. It was the right one, but not the easy one. Here is a lesson in restitution. As far as it is possible, God expects us to make restitution for our wrongs, even those before we became Christians.
Paul shows great confidence in Philemon when he says, "...knowing that you will do even more than I say" (vs 21). A great philosophy in life is to do all you can for another "And Then Some"!
Imagine if we could ask these three men some questions: Paul, why did you treat a runaway slave like you did? Answer: Because love has a ministry that serves the worst. Paul why did you write to Philemon and commend him so highly? Answer: Because love has a courtesy that gains the most. Onesimus, why did you go back to your owner, knowing that you could be punished? Answer: Because love has an honesty that will not take advantage in the least. Philemon, why did you forgive one who had wronged you? Answer: Because love has an expectancy that looks for the best.
I hope you will take a few minutes and read this little, but powerful inspired letter
James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Do what? Count it all a joy to have trials? Surely this isn’t what James is saying, or is it? The answer is that it is exactly what he is saying. Maybe this illustration will help explain.
A blacksmith, about eight years ago after he had given his heart to God, was approached by an intelligent unbeliever with the question: “Why is it you have so much trouble? I have been watching you. Since you became a member of the church and began to ‘walk square’ and seem to love everybody, you have had twice as many trials and accidents as you had before. I thought that when a man gave himself to God his troubles were over. Isn’t that what the preachers tell us?”
With a thoughtful, but glowing face, the blacksmith replied: “So you see this piece of iron? It is for the springs of a carriage. I have been tempering it for some time. To do this I heat it red-hot, and then plunge it into a tub of ice-cold water. This I do many times. If I find it taking ‘temper’ I heat and hammer it unmercifully. In getting the right piece of iron I found several that were too brittle, so I threw them on the scrap pile. Those scraps are worth about a cent per pound; this carriage spring is very valuable.
He paused and his listener nodded. The blacksmith continued: “God saves us for something more than to have a good time – that’s the way I see it. We have the good time all right, for God’s smile means heaven. But he wants us for service just as I want this piece of iron. And he has put the temper of Christ in us by testing us with trials. Ever since I saw this I have been saying to him “test me in any way you choose, Lord; only don’t throw me in the scrap pile.”
The next time you are faced with a trial remember this passage and exercise your patience.
The result will be a stronger you.
Do you believe Elvis is dead? There are some who believe he is still alive. People have reported they have seen him at various places. These say the “King” is alive and well. But I believe Elvis is dead.
However, I know another King who also died. But this King arose from the dead and established His Kingdom on this earth. His name is Jesus and His Kingdom is the church. Rev. 1:18 says, “I am He who lives, and was dead and behold I am alive forevermore…”
Jesus Christ is presently reigning over His Kingdom as “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. There are three things necessary for a kingdom to exist:
When it comes to Christ’s Kingdom, He is the King; Christians are the subjects and the New Testament is the authority.
Those of us who are Christians have a King in Jesus. We are to receive instructions from Him and live as He directs. We are to make Him the Lord of our lives and allow Him to reign over us. When it comes to the Kingship of Jesus, there are three possibilities:
Everyone fits into one of these three. Where are you? Who rules your life?
The Bible says the knowledge of God is infinite. The word “infinite” means: without limits of any kind, boundless, immeasurable. The question naturally arises, “How can we with our finite minds understand One who has an infinite mind?”
Of course, the answer is that we cannot completely comprehend the mind of God. However, He has revealed Himself to us through His word to the point we can grasp who He is.
The following two passages are among my favorites. Psalm 139:1-6 “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down. And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, you know it. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high, I cannot attain it.”
Mt. 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from Your Father’s will? But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Our God is an awesome God! He is omniscient, which is a big word for “all knowing”. He knows every sin you have ever committed, but does not remember them (does not hold them against you) and you can thank the blood of Jesus!
Have you read the shortest book in the Old Testament lately? It’s the little book of Obadiah and although not long, it has a powerful message for us today. The prophet warns us, as he warned Edom, not to be consumed with pride.
God’s destruction of Edom is a lesson of the inevitable end of any nation that proudly builds its nest among the stars. A nation, because of military might, may consider itself to be invincible. It may soar like an eagle above its fellow nations, but its idea of being secure against a fall is a delusion.
Neither man nor nation can escape the hand of God. The destruction of Edom is a clear picture of God’s dealing with the proud, impenitent nation. The situation with Edom was it thought, because of its mountain fortress, it could sit and do nothing when its brother was being attacked.
It is a grave sin to be neutral in some matters. One such “matter” is Christianity. We Christians must take a stand for Jesus. He said you are either with me or against me (Mt. 12:30). I wonder how many of us have remained silent about our faith in Jesus choosing to be neutral, instead of speaking up. Edom committed the sin of neutrality, along with pride.
Arrogant pride, whether in a man or a nation, has always been an abomination to God. Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall”. Obadiah reminds us that God opposes the proud who treat their brother with cool indifference or aggressive hostility.
Of course, pride has always been one of man’s greatest problems. It began in the garden when Satan convinced Eve she would become like God. As a nation, are we becoming more like Edom, letting our pride exalt us; thinking we can’t be brought down; thinking we have a nest among the stars? Remember the God of Edom is the God of America.
This hymn reminds me of my life without Jesus. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 26. As a teenager and through my early 20’s, I lived my life in “vanity and pride”. I did not know or care that Jesus was crucified for me.
The song talks about mercy and grace. The chorus says “...mercy there was great…” At the cross one can see the abundant mercy of God who has provided a way of escape from our sins. Paul tells us that our God is rich in mercy. (Eph.2:4)
This hymn says “grace was free”. The very definition of grace is that it is undeserved, unmerited favor. Eph. 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Salvation is a gift from God! However, it is not unconditional. God has placed conditions on His gift and we must respond to the Gospel in the obedience of faith (Rom. 1:5).
Another phrase says, “Pardon there was multiplied to me” God has made it possible for us to receive absolute pardon from every sin. Again, such is true only because of the sending of His Son. It’s sad to think of the people who have rejected the pardon made available to them because of unbelief. Jesus said “…if you do not believe I am He, you will die in your sins”. (John 8:24)
The chorus concludes “…there my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.” At the cross Jesus has given His blood to unburden our soul. We Christians find freedom when we submit to Christ in loving obedience. We are united with Him in the grave of baptism, based on our faith and repentance.
How often do we hear the need expressed for a good attitude? Whether you are at home, work, play or church, someone is sure to remind you that your attitude is of great importance. Many people are successful in life, not because of aptitude, but because of their wonderful attitude.
The Bible is filled with instructions about right and wrong thinking. For example, one might have an attitude of faith or unbelief. This was demonstrated in the life of David when the Philistine giant Goliath was taunting the army of Israel. In I Samuel 17 we find the brothers of David have developed a certain attitude about Goliath. They thought he was too big to hit and as a result were afraid. David thought he was too big to miss, and as a result was unafraid. The difference was one of attitude! When the brothers looked at Goliath they thought they were too small to meet the challenge because they compared their size to his. When David looked at him, he thought the giant was small and could be easily defeated. Why? Because he compared the giant’s size to God. David won the victory because of his attitude of faith.
God promises us that we can be victorious too, if only we will cultivate an attitude that says, ‘I can’. An attitude of fortitude is so vital in the world in which we live. Don’t let your circumstances control your life, you control your life by the way you react to your circumstances. Someone has said, “Life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”
In the church, there is no better attitude to adopt than the one Paul defines in Philippians 2:3-5 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem another better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.
The question is not, “Is Jesus Lord”? He is! The question is, “Is He the Lord of your life”? Have you submitted to Him as the One who rules your heart? Is He in control of your thoughts, words and actions”?
If Jesus is Lord, He will be preeminent in your life. That is to say He will be in first place in every area. He will occupy every nook, cranny and corner of your life. When decisions are to be made, you will ask, “What would Jesus do”?
One wonders how many there are today who are like those of old when Jesus said to them, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord’, but do not do the things which I say”? (Luke 6:46) It is easy to call Jesus “Lord”, but if one does not follow His words, the confession is vain. I John 2:3ff says, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in Him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked.”
What is the “secret” to following Jesus as Lord?
The answer is LOVE. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Those who love the Lord, obey the Lord. There is no higher motivation to submit to Jesus than love for Him.
Is He the Lord of your life because you LOVE Him with all your heart?