Do you ever feel compelled or driven to do something radical for God? Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to spend forty days and nights in prayer and fasting in a lonely place. Why was he compelled to seek solitude for such a lengthy time? Was it simply a test to prepare him for his ministry or did Satan want to draw him into a trap? The scriptural word here means test in the sense of proving and purifying someone to see if they are ready for the task at hand. We test pilots to see that they are fit to fly. Likewise, God tests his servants to see if they are fit to be used by him. God tested Abraham to prove his faith. The Israelites were truly tested in Egypt before God delivered them from their enemies. Jesus was no exception to this testing. Satan will surely tempt us and will try his best to get us to choose our will over God's will. If he can't make us renounce our faith or sin mortally, he will then try to get us to make choices that will lead us, little by little, away from what God wants for us. Jesus was tempted like us and he overcame, not by his own human strength, but by the grace and strength which his Father gave to him. He had to renounce his will for the will of his Father. He succeeded because he wanted to please his Father and he trusted that his Father would give him the strength to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. Luke says that Jesus was "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1). When tempted by the devil, Jesus did not try fighting his enemy on his own human strength. He relied on the power which the Spirit gave him. Jesus came to overthrow the evil one who held us captive to sin and fear of death. His obedience to his Father's will and his willingness to embrace the cross reversed the curse of Adam's disobedience. His victory over sin and death won for us not only pardon for our sins, but adoption as sons and daughters of God. How can we overcome sin and oppression in our personal lives? The Lord gives us his Holy Spirit to be our strength, guide, and consoler in temptation and testing. The Lord Jesus is ever ready to pour out his Spirit upon us that we may have the strength and courage to resist sin and to reject the lies and deceits of our enemy Satan. God wants us to '"fight the good fight of the faith" with the power and strength which comes from the Holy Spirit. Do you rely on the Lord for your strength and help?
Today marks the final revelation of the babe born in the manger. We see Jesus revealed as never before. We see Jesus revealed as the son of God. Matthew describes this mountain-top effect that Peter, James and John saw in Jesus in this manner, "His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light." This was for Jesus and the disciples the assurance that Jesus was the Son or God, that all he had proclaimed about Himself was indeed true. The mountain top was apit stop for Jesus. The heavenly Father, knowing the tight race his Son was running, he began his final lap, his final journey to Jerusalem where he would encounter the cross. Are you prepared to see God's glory? God is eager to share his glory with us! We get a glimpse of this when the disciples see Jesus transfigured in glory on the mountain. Jesus' transfiguration on the mountain is celebrated in the Eastern and Western churches on August 6th. Mark's account tells us that Jesus' "garments became glistening, intensely white ". When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai "the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God". Paul says that the "Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness". In this incident, Jesus appeared in glory with Moses, the great lawgiver of Israel, and with Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, in the presence of three of his beloved apostles. What is the significance of this mysterious appearance? Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited him in Jerusalem - his betrayal, rejection and crucifixion. Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave his approval: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him". The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and his apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came, the cloud of God's presence would fill the temple again. Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Christ. We, too, as disciples of Christ, are called to be witnesses of his glory. "We all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”. The Lord wants to reveal his glory to us, his beloved disciples. Do you seek his presence with faith and reverence?
The characteristics of God are so many. We could look at some of them, truthful, just, righteous, patient, long-suffering, undeniable, unselfish, unconditional and much more. As with any word, people can perceive a different meaning. There are different meanings for the word "love" as well. There is romantic love, the kind between a man and woman. There is brotherly love we have for each other. We also have parental love and love for our pets. There is a whole host of uses for love when it comes to appreciating things, food, sports. "I love my job", "I love my car", etc. So, when it comes to talking about God, what kind of love are we talking about? God's kind of love is unselfish, which results in doing the best for another, even at the highest personal cost, without requiring or expecting a payback. That is called agape love. Love is the most precious gift any of us can ever have. It is the greatest gift we can receive or give to one another.It is the most intimate feeling we can share. It is the only thing in this world, besides the presence of God in our soul, that is eternal. Why is love such an awesome thing? Because it is rooted in the very nature of God. So far in His teachings, Jesus has taught his disciples to love their enemies; he told them to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. Jesus gave us this command. Love one another, but Hedid not stop there, He added, "As I have loved you" This is what Jesus is telling us. He is saying to us, "I have showed you howto love, now you love others the way that I do". And when you look at Jesus' love there are three adjectives that you can use to describe it.
People could debate about whether Jesus worked miracles by thepower of God. They could debate whether or not He was John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. But one thing that was undeniable was his love for people. Jesus provided day after day, through his teachings, his miracles, his healing, his compassion and acts of service, that he loved. To love like Jesus, we must love in such a way that it cannot be denied. By his bold teaching and actions, Jesus left no room for doubting his love, and neither can we.
Jesus love was completely unselfish. He taught us to give, expecting nothing in return. He taught us to give without blowing a horn or even letting our right hand know what the left hand is doing and Jesus practiced such love and giving. Acts 20:35 says "It is more blessed to give than to receive" Too often we love for selfish reasons. If I be nice to this person or that person, then I might get something in return. Too often we are self-centeredlooking out for ourselves.
All too often we put conditions on our love. We say I will love you if you do this and that. Even husbands and wives who have pledged to love "'for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part,” start putting conditions on their love soon after the honeymoon. But when you look at Jesus, you see a picture of unconditional love. While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. John 15:3 says "Greater love has no one than this that He laid down his life for his friends” That, my friend. is unconditional love.
Why do people tend to view the "law of God" negatively rather than positively? Jesus' attitude towards the law of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: "Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day." That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law because it placed burdens on people which God had not intended. Jesus made it very clear that the essence of God's law, his commandments and way of life must be fulfilled. God's law is true and righteous because it flows from his love, goodness and holiness. It is a law of grace, love and freedom for us. That is why God commands us to love him above all else and to follow in the way of his Son, the Lord Jesus, who taught us how to love by laying down our lives for one another. Jesus taught reverence for God's law, reverence for God himself, and reverence for the Lord's Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person's good name, respect for oneself and for one's neighbour. Reverence and respect for God's commandments teach us the way of love, love of God and love of neighbour. What is impossible to humans is possible to God who gives generously of his gifts and the Holy Spirit to those who put their faith in him. God gives us the grace, help and strength to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think and judge as he judges, and to act as he acts with mercy, loving-kindness and goodness. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers, we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin and wrong-doing. If we want to live righteously as God desires for us, then we must know and understand the intention of God's commands for us, and decide in our heart to obey the Lord. Do you seek to understand theintention of his law and to grow in wisdom of his ways? Jesus promised his disciples that he would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit, who writes God's law of love and truth on our hearts. The Spirit teaches us God's truth and gives us wisdom and understanding of God's ways. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, strengthens us in temptation and transforms us, day by day, into the likeness of Christ himself. There is great blessings and reward for those who obey God's commandments and who help others, especially the young, to love, respect and obey the Lord. Do you trust in God’s love and allow his Holy Spirit to fill you with a thirst for holiness and righteousness in every area of your life? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with a burning love and reverence for God's word so that you may grow day by day in the wisdom and knowledge of God's truth and goodness.
Most of us do not remember a time before electric lighting and, therefore, do not fully appreciate what a change that made to daily life. Yes, I dare to say that it would be hard for us to imagine the huge difference there would be in our lifestyle without electricity. Another light that many of us take for granted today, my friends, is the babe in the manger, Jesus the light of the world. The coming of that light changed the world forever. It is hard for us to appreciate His impact on the world because we have no recollection of the world before Jesus. I want us to consider the importance and blessings of Jesus as the Light of the world. My friends, light brings sight and understanding. If you look in the dictionary the first definition for "'light" is "'something that makes vision possible". In other words, light makes it possible for us to see. Without light, we are hopelessly blind, blind to our surroundings, blind to our situations and circumstances, blind to even our selves. Light makes it possible for us to see clearly things as they really are. Before Jesus, most of the world was spiritually blind. It was unable to see spiritual truth. The world had become blind because it had rejected God. You see, as the apostle, John says, "'God is light." If you push God out of your life, you will become blind. That is what the world did. Romans I :21, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened." Jesus came as light to help a blind world regain its sight. "I have come as light into the world, that everyone who believes in me may not remain in darkness." "And Jesus said, "I came into this world that those who do not see, may see.
Thanks to Jesus, we can say 'Once we were blind but now we see.' Matthew 4:16 tells us that the coming of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy given in Isaiah 9:2, "the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a light dawned." When you have Jesus, the True Light, in your life, you do not need to fear anything. He offers the best protection. He provides true safety. Nothing can break through the wall of defense which He builds around His own. Are you walking in the Light today or are you still in darkness? Unless you believe in Jesus as your Savior, unless you have repented, decided to leave a life of sin and have chosen to dedicate your life to please Him. Unless you have confessed your belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, you still are living in darkness and have yet to know the full benefits of His light. I want to plead with you today not to miss the wonder of the birth of Christ, the light of the world. Do not allow any one to rob you of the joys God has for you today. He is worthy of your praise today. His birth is the greatest light in the world today!
What is the good life, and the ultimate end or purpose of life? Is it not happiness, which is none other than the complete good, the sum of all goods, leaving nothing more to be desired? Jesus addresses this question in his sermon on the mount. The word beatitude literally means "happiness" or "blessedness". What is the significance of Jesus' beatitudes, and why are they so central to his teaching? The beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness that God has placed in every heart. They teach us the final end to which God calls us, namely the coming of God's kingdom, the vision of God, entering into the joy of the Lord and into his rest. Jesus' beatitudes also confront us with key choices concerning the life we pursue here on earth and the use we make of the goods he puts at our disposal. God alone satisfies. Do you seek the highest good, the total good, which is above all else? The beatitudes which Jesus offers us are a sign of opposition to the world's understanding of happiness and joy. How can one possibly find happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution? Poverty of spirit finds ample room and joy in possessing God as the greatest treasure possible. Hunger of the spirit seeks nourishment and strength in God's word and Spirit. Sorrow and mourning over wasted life and sin leads to joyful freedom from the burden of guilt and spiritual oppression. God reveals to the humble of heart the true source of abundant life and happiness. Jesus promises his disciples that the joys of heaven will more than compensate for the troubles and hardships they can expect in this world. Thomas Aquinas said: No one can live without joy. That is why a person deprived of spiritual joy goes after other pleasures. Do you know the happiness of hungering and thirsting for God alone? We need to ask the Lord, to increase our hunger for him and show us the way that leads to everlasting peace and happiness. That we desire him above all else and find perfect joy in doing his will.
Do you know the joy and freedom of the good news of the kingdom of God? John the Baptist's enemies had sought to silence him, but the good news of God's kingdom of salvation cannot be silenced. As soon as John had finished his testimony, Jesus began his in Galilee. Galilee was at the crossroads of the world and much traffic passed through this little region. Jesus begins the proclamation of the Gospel here to fulfill the word of God. The Old Testament prophets spoke of God's promise to send a re deemer who would establish God's rule. That time is now fulfilled in Jesus who brings the light and truth of the Gospel to the world. The "good news" brings peace, hope, truth, promise, immortality, and salvation. Jesus takes up John's message of repentance and calls his hearers to believe in the good news he has come to deliver. What is the good news which Jesus brings? It is the good news of peace - the Lord comes to reconcile and restore us to friendship with God. The good news of hope - the Lord comes to dwell with us and to give us a home with him in his heavenly kingdom. The good news of truth - the Lord Jesus sets us free from the lies and deception of Satan and opens our mind to understand the truth and revelation of God's word. The good news of promise - Jesus fulfills the promise of God to reward those who seek him with the treasure of heaven. The good news of immortality - Jesus overcomes sin and death for us in order to raise our lowly bodies to be like his glorious body which will never die again. And the good news of salvation - the Lord Jesus delivers us from every fear, every sin, and every obstacle that would keep us from entering his everlasting kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy. The Gospel is the power and the wisdom of God - both power to change and transform our lives and wisdom to show us how to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord makes it possible for us to receive his word with faith and to act upon it with trust and obedience. Do you want to grow in the knowledge of God's love and truth? Ask the Holy Spirit to renew in you the gift of faith, the love of wisdom, and the heart of a disciple who desires to follow the Lord Jesus and his will for your life.
Then John gave this testimony: "This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me." John testifies that Jesus is the eternal God. Look at verse 31. "I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." It is interesting to know that John did not know who the Christ was when he began his mission as the forerunner. John simply began preaching and baptizing by faith. But one day, as he was baptizing, Jesus came to him. Unlike others, who looked shameful and guilty as they came and confessed their sins, Jesus was holy and pure. Jesus had no sins to confess. Recognizing this, John hesitated to baptize Jesus. But Jesus insisted that it be done. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, something amazing happened. "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." Here we learn two things. First, we can come to know Christ personally when we accept the word of God and experience the work of the Holy Spirit. When God sent John to prepare the way for the Lord, he did not tell him who the Lord was. But he told him that the Spirit would come down from heaven and remain on him. John held this word from God in his heart and watched for the Christ day by day. At last the Holy Spirit fulfilled the word and John recognized Jesus. John testified, "This is the Son of God." We must accept the word of God by faith, then the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to see Jesus, the Son of God. Second, we learn that Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, he bums away our sins and purifies our souls. The Holy Spirit enables us to live a powerful and active life for the glory of God. We learn that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Let's accept this word of God by faith and ask the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.