Making Things New (A New Year Sermon)

 

 

 

“Making Things New”

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . . .”

         Revelation 21:5 KJV

As we approach another new year, I am sure many are already talking and speculating about what their New Year resolutions are going to be. But, if the truth is to be told; many who are doing this now were doing the same thing at this time last year and much of what they proposed to accomplish then did not come to pass! In most cases, resolutions for the new year lose their resolve in just a matter of weeks! So, what can be done to make the promises we make to ourselves and to others more resolute and definite?

Well, I was looking at this text the other day and I saw something that might be helpful to us in our quest to make things new. You might have noticed, that while the text says: “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . ,” the title of this discourse is not about making ‘all’ things new, but rather just making things new. I did that because; only the LORD GOD can make ‘all’ things new! However, because we are made in His image and in His likeness, coupled with the fact that we were given the Dominion Mandate, I believe if we look at how He that sat upon the throne makes ‘all’ things new, we can discover a blueprint, a pattern, or a guide to how we can make ‘some’ things new!

Now, it is interesting to note, as we look at the text, that God did not say He was making all ‘new’ things; He said He was making all things new! The two Greek words most commonly translated as; ‘new’ in the NT are ‘neos’ and ‘kainos.’ The word; ‘neos’ primarily denotes something that is recent in time; or something that was not there before. Whereas ‘kainos’ refers primarily to quality; something that is of a better quality and nature than the old. Neos is new in time; kainos is new in nature. ‘Kainos’ is the term used in the text. The text is not saying that God will make ‘new’ things which did not exist before, but rather that God will refurbish, renew, or make better the quality and nature of all things that already exist! The New Heaven and the New Earth will be the ultimate make-over job!

Isn’t that what we seek to do when we make our new year resolutions? We seek to make our lives and things better than they were the year before! But alas! Most of the time, the new year ends up being a repeat of the year before! Why does this happen? Why is it that our new year resolutions rarely stick? Well, I think the primary reason is because most of us don’t understand how we are programmed to function! Let me show you what I’m talking about: By nature, we are creatures of habits! We learn by repetition; doing things a certain way; over and over again. Do you remember how hard it was when you first learn how to tie your shoe laces or how to write? You had to concentrate and focus and it took time and much repetition to master those new skills. But now, you can tie our shoe laces and write your name in a matter of seconds, without much thought or effort! Why? Because you programmed yourself through repetition to the extent that tying your shoe laces and writing your name are automatic-habitual skills! Most of us can do them with our eyes closed without any thought at all!

Well, just like we learned how to tie our shoe laces and write our names, we learned every other skill and function in our lives. And just as we now tie our shoe laces and write our names without any effort or thought, so do we perform every other skill and function in our lives! Most of us, when we got dressed this morning, we stepped into one particular pants leg before the other and we put on one particular shoe before we put on the other! We don’t really think about it, but chances are, we step into the same pants leg first and put on the same shoe first every time we put on our pants and shoes! Now, as an experiment to illustrate the principle I’m talking about, the next time you get dressed, make a mental note of which pants leg you step into first and which shoe you put on first. Then the next time you get dressed, consciously make an effort to step into the opposite pants leg and put on the opposite shoe first! First, you will have to stop and think to even remember to do this exercise. Then, if you succeed in remembering, you will experience some awkwardness or even difficulty in making the attempt! Now, here’s the kicker: Chances are, you will try this experiment only once or twice, if at all. And if you try it at all, most likely, you will revert back to putting on the same pants leg and same shoe that you’ve always put on first! Why? Because you are not willing to continually go through the awkwardness and difficulty of doing the opposite of what you’ve always done! But here’s the super-kicker; should you continue with the experiment, in a matter of time, the opposite pants leg and shoe will become your automatic choice and easy and the choice that was once automatic and easy will become the difficult one! That’s how we are programmed to function and that’s how life works! Most of our new year resolutions fail because we are not willing to go through the awkwardness of remembering and the difficulty of learning to put our leg through and put on the opposite pants leg and opposite shoe first! When we don’t persist with a conscious effort to endure the initial awkwardness of doing things differently, we automatically revert back to the comfort and ease of doing things the way we’ve always done them!

But in the text, the One who sat upon the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new. . .” All things will not automatically be new, in order for all things to be new, the Lord will have to ‘make’ them new! The word ‘make’ implies effort and work! Now if the Lord will have to put forth an effort and work to make ‘all’ things new, then how much more should we be expected to put forth effort and work to make some things new? But that’s our fundamental flaw; we want a maximum return with minimal effort! We want something for nothing! We want a ‘new year,’ but most of us a not willing to put forth the necessary effort and work to ‘make’ the year new!

If we were to look at the verse that just precedes our text, we can gleam another principle in making things new. The last phrase says: “for the former things are passed away.” There it is: In making all things new, it was necessary for the ‘former’ things; the things that were before, to pass away; to cease to be. It’s impossible for the former things and the all things new to co-exist! In looking again at our experiment; we might have missed the fact that it’s impossible for anyone to put both legs through and put on both shoes at the same time! No! One leg and one foot always goes before the other; both cannot be first! Therefore, in order for the experiment to work; the one that used to be first, must pass away from being first and the one the used to be last, must be made new into being first! As we said earlier, that will not automatically happen, because the former thing was automatic; the new thing must be made new!  That’s the way it is with anything in life! The things we desire to be new or different in our lives will not be new or different just because we want them to be new and different; they will only be new and different if and when we ‘make’ them new and different! Changes do not make themselves; changes must be made by us! I know we say it all the time, but is it really true? We always say: “Prayer changes things,” but is really prayer that actually changes things? I would like to suggest that in most cases; prayer doesn’t and isn’t designed to change things, but rather prayer actually changes us, and is designed to empower and motivate us to change things! I’ve noticed, as a pastor down through the years; particularly with church folks; when people don’t want to do something, they often veil their obstinacy and resistance with prayer. They say things like: “Pastor, we should pray about it!” But when they really want to do something, they don’t even mention prayer; they just go ahead and do it! In most cases, they pray about and refuse to do the things they should do, while they don’t pray and do the things they shouldn’t do!

Well, I’m just about through now, but there are a few more ideas I want to share with you about making things new, and then I will leave you alone. Notice in the text, the position of the One who said; I make all things new! According to the text, He sat upon the throne! The throne is the seat of authority and power. While some would suggest ‘authority’ and ‘power’ are synonymous terms; actually, they are not! Authority denotes legal right and privilege, whereas power denotes ability and might! In the world, there are some who have authority, but they don’t have ability and might, while there are others who have ability and might but don’t have authority! But He who sits on the throne in the text has both; authority and might!

Well, the good news this morning is that the offspring of the One who sat upon the throne have been given authority and might as well! In Genesis 1:26-28, we read:  “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” When God said, “Let them have dominion” that was the authority! When God blessed them, and said, “Be fruitful and multiply” that was the power! Now, I hear you! You’re saying: “Yes pastor, but that was before the Fall!” Yes it was, but Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! The authority and power that Adam lost in the Fall has been reclaimed and regained in the Last Adam; Jesus the Christ! Therefore, the Apostle Paul says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” The Greek word translated as ‘new’ in the Apostle Paul’s statement is the same Greek word that is translated as ‘new’ in our text! Only ‘new’ people can really make things new!

How can we make things new for the new year? By changing our thoughts! The Bible says: As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If you really think you can; you can, but if you really think you can’t; you never will! Don’t worry about what others think; what you think is much more important! Train your thoughts, look at the list in Philippians 4:8 and make a habit to only think on those things! And then, we must watch our words! We must train ourselves to only speak life, for the power of life and death is in the tongue. What we say to and about ourselves is much more powerful and effective than what anyone else says to or about us! And finally, we must understand that we can’t live our lives a year, a month, a day, or even an hour at a time! We can only live our lives; one moment at a time! Therefore, we shouldn’t worry so much about making the year new; but rather, just focus on the making the present and next moment new!

Choices and Decisions (Sermon Snippets)

Snippets from the sermon: “Decision: The Power of Choice” Text: Deuteronomy 30:19. This sermon was the 6th of a 7-sermon series on “Dealing With the D’s.” Preached at the New Hope Baptist Church / Covington, GA. December 9, 2018.

We all have the God-given authority and right to make choices and decisions. This is one of the distinctive qualities of humanity that separates us from the animal kingdom; animals live instinctively, humans live by choices and decisions.

Our choices and decisions determine our direction and destiny.

We are where we are today because of the choices and decisions we made yesterday. Where we will be tomorrow is being determined by the choices and decisions we are making today!

“I don’t have a choice!” is a fallacy: That is erroneous thinking! It’s not a matter of not having a choice; it’s a matter of not liking the available choices!

Many people do not exercise the power of choice and allow life, circumstances, and other people to make choices and decisions for them.

To strengthen your decision-making muscles:

a. When confronted with a choice, never default by saying; “It doesn’t matter.” Make a decision; make the choice between grits or hash browns, coffee or tea, etc. Resolve to be proactive in making decisions in even the smaller things that might not matter as much.

b. When you make it a practice to consciously make a decision with little things that don’t matter as much, you will be better able to make better decisions with the big things that matter more.

c. Count the cost of your decisions ; weight consequences and options. All choices and decisions cost something: time, energy, finances, emotional investments, etc.

We literally make thousands of choices and decisions everyday. What to wear, eat, drive, who to see, to answer or not, etc. Therefore, we don’t need help to make choices and decisions, we need help in making better or good choices and decisions.

Even if we refuse to make a choice or a decision, that is a choice and a decision! To choose not to choose is a choice! To decide not to decide is a decision!

The greatest choice and decision we must make is: “What are we going to do about God’s call to salvation? What are we going to do with Jesus?

A Conversation With My Self (A sermon on self-talk)

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation”  Psalm 42:5 ESV

“Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.”  Psalm 42:5 AMP

Because of their share vocabulary, themes, and refrain, most biblical scholars think Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 were originally one unit. They open a collection of psalms (42-49), attributed to the Korahites, which opens the Second Book of the Psalms. The exact setting of this unit (42-43) is unknown, but it appears to be the prayer of an individual estranged from his home and the Temple. Some have suggested that Psalm 42-43 was written by David when he was driven from Jerusalem during Absalom’s (David’s son) rebellion. But whoever he is, the psalmist is being taunted by his enemies, he has been exiled or otherwise denied access to the Temple, and he is in despair. The unit can be divided into three sections: (1) 42:1-5, (2) 42:6-11, and (3) 43:1-5. The unit is held together by a recurring refrain in 42:5, 11, and 43:5: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British Baptist preacher of the 17th century, known as; “The Prince of Preachers,” commented on this text: “As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hopes argues with his sorrows.” Yes! In this psalm, we have a record of a man who had a conversation with himself.

Now, before you think that strange, having a conversation with yourself is actually normal and natural behavior! In fact, research indicates that the average person talks to himself or herself about 50,000 times a day! The real strangeness is not in actually talking to yourself; it is when you constantly do it out loud! So, having a conversation with yourself is an occurrence that happens all of the time! The truth of the matter is that no one does anything without talking to themselves first! Before every decision; we have a conversation with our selves. After every compliment or complaint; we have a conversation with ourselves! But what kind of conversation is it? Researchers say that 80% of the conversations we have with ourselves are negative and disempowering, things like: “They don’t like me. . . I’m never going to be able to pull this off. . . I’ll never lose this weight.” And when we constantly have these types of conversations with ourselves, it is no wonder that we must constantly have battles of anxiety and depression because 95% of our emotions are determined by the way we talk to ourselves!

In the text, the psalmist seems to be battling with depression. But the thing I like about it is that, although, he is somewhat depressed, as a child of God, he knows better, and so, he has a conversation with himself! He asked his soul; his inner self: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” In other words: “Self, why are you so depressed?” Now, if and whenever we find ourselves feeling sad or depressed, the best place to start of the road to recovery is to ask the question: ‘Why?’ When we ask; why?, we just might discover our feelings really are not justified! The song writer asked her soul: “Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart by lonely and lone for heaven and home? When Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!” Yes! The psalmist asked himself: “Why are you depressed and why are you filled with anxiety?” He tells himself, first of all, to hope in God. The Hebrew word for ‘hope’ in the text, means ‘to hope, to wait with hope, to have hope with a positive expectation.’ Oh! My brothers and sisters, there it is! When you’re feeling down and out, it might be because you have been saying the wrong things to yourself and not asking yourself the right questions!

No! No matter what going on, on the outside of you; it is never as important as what going on, on the inside of you! Even the conversations we have with others are not as important as the conversations we have with ourselves! You see, most of us never quite get a handle on our lives because we keep looking without, when the problem is actually within! The negative things other folks say to us and about us are not as powerful as the negative things we say about and to ourselves! In 1 John 4:4, we read: “for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (ESV) Now, we know that the ‘he who is in you’ in that text is God, and the ‘he that is in the world’ is Satan or his designated agent, but the truth of that verse is also applicable to our subject: The ‘inner-me’ is greater than my enemy! Unless by negative self-talk, I make my ‘inner-me’ my enemy! And that is the problem with most folks! The reason they are constantly depressed and not successful in life is because they have an internal conflict; they are fighting against their own self! Therefore, we must always remember; what we say about and to ourselves is always greater than what any other person might say to or about us!

The psalmist had a conversation himself to encourage himself! Be careful of how you talk to yourself! Be kind to yourself! Never put yourself down, it’s really not needed because there are enough people in the world, standing in line, waiting to do that for you! Don’t make yourself your enemy! Yes! I like the fact that the psalmist said to himself, and I am ‘Millerizing it;’ “Self, why are you depressed and filled with anxiety? It doesn’t matter what the enemy is doing because greater is he that is within you than he that is in the world! Look to the Lord! I don’t believe He brought us this far to leave us now! If the Lord brought us to it; He’s going to bring us through it! Just sit tight, wait on the Lord and remember the good times! This is not the first time we’ve ever been in trouble! Do you remember when? The Lord did it then and He’s going to do it again! Besides, trouble don’t last always! It can’t rain forever, and even while it’s raining, up above the clouds; the sun is still shining!” That was what the psalmist said to himself! No! Things are rarely as bad as we tell ourselves they are! But, if we keep on telling ourselves how bad they are; they will get worst! Most people don’t realize it, but our words influence the way we feel and the way we feel influences the actions we take, and the consistent actions we take, have a cumulative effect of shaping our character and determining our destiny! Wherever we are right now is because of the consistent conversations we have had with ourselves in the past! If you don’t like where you are! If you want to change your destination; the change will begin when you change what you consistently say to yourself!

Now, the Bible says in KJV style: “faith cometh by hearing.” In plain language, faith is developed from what we hear. But the hearing is not just from what other folks say, it also comes from hearing what we say to ourselves! In fact, as we said earlier, what we say to ourselves is much more powerful, for good or bad, than what others say to us and here’s why: We can choose to disagree with and reject what others say to us and about us, but we always accept as truth what we say to and about ourselves, whether it is actually true or not! Now, most of the time, what we say to and about ourselves did not originate with us, but rather with some authority we believed (had faith in), from childhood, such as; our parents, teachers, and other adults. That’s why, we should be ever so careful how we talk to our children! Most messed-up adults were messed up children who accepted the bad and negative judgement and labels from parents and other adult who were messed up themselves because as children, they accepted the bad judgement of parents who were messed up because, as children. . . . you get the picture? The root of some of present-day inter-personal issues can be traced back through generations!

But, the key to changing your situation is not to be angry with your parents or any of your ancestors! When you were born, there was no manual or an instruction book sent home with you from the hospital. So, your parents did the best they could with what they knew! But since you are listening to this word today; you now have access to knowledge that could change, not only your life, but the lives of generations to come! All that is possible because now you know, you need to go home, sit down, and have a heart-to-heart honest, positive and open conversation with yourself!

Now, someone at this point might be asking; ‘Well, what should I say to myself?’ Well first of all, you need to quit telling yourself what you think about yourself and start telling yourself what God says about yourself! Quit telling yourself you are a chump because the word of God says you are a champ! Tell yourself: “Romans 8:37 says, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Quit telling yourself that you are a victim because the word of God says that you are a victor! Tell yourself: “1 John 5:4-5 says: ‘For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?’ Tell yourself: “Self, since I have been born of God and I believe Jesus is the Son of God, then that means I am an overcomer; I am a victor and not a victim!” Yes! You’ve got to discipline yourself to believe and accept; not what other people say and think, not even what you say and think, but rather what the Word of God (the Bible) says about you!

Now, you need to remember, I said you’ve got to discipline yourself in this area! That means, it’s not going to happen without consistent, intentional, attention and effort on your part! We’ve been talking to ourselves wrong for so long that when we start talking to ourselves right, it will not feel right, at first! We’ve been having bad conversations with ourselves for so long that having a good conversation with ourselves will seem unnatural and fake, at first! But as you stick with the program, surely, gradually, and eventually, your world and your life will be transformed by the renewal of your mind and your positive faith-affirming self-conversations. Because, when you change your conversation; you will change your thinking, and when you change your thinking; you will change your life! The Bible says: Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus! That means we should think and speak like Jesus, even when we are having a conversation with ourselves!

Well, I need to quit here, but even when we change our conversation with ourselves; life won’t always be easy! Sometimes, it will seem like more than we can bear! But when the tough days come, remember the words of an old familiar song I heard them singing the other day: “Like a ship that’s tossed and driven; battered by an angry sea! When the storms of life are raging and their fury falls on me! I wonder what I have done, to make this race so hard to run, then I say to my soul; (I have a conversation with myself!) Yes, then I say to my soul: ‘Take courage! The Lord will make a way somehow!”

 

A Thanksgiving Sermon

“Thankful for Not Enough”

“When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.”

John 6:5-11 KJV

The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians in 1 Thess. 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Well, it’s really not a problem to obey that command when your provision is adequate and enough. But, the real test of faith comes when you are asked to be thankful for not enough! You’ve worked all week long and get your check on Friday. But, when you look at your bills and then look at your check; you discover you don’t have enough! At the end of the month, you have more month than money, but can you still be thankful for not enough?

Well, it seems that Jesus and the disciples were faced with a similar situation in the text. Jesus and the disciples were attempting to find some time alone, but the when the crowd saw them, they followed them and would not leave them alone. Mark says that when Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, so he began to teach them many things. However, it was getting late in the evening and the crowd had been with Jesus all day, so the disciples came to him and said: “Send them away so that they might go and get some food, for the day is far spent and the hour is late and we are here in a lonely place” But Jesus told them: “You give them something to eat!” It is at that point that we see the first “not enough” in the story. First of all, because they have been with Jesus all day, there was not enough time for them to go and buy provisions for themselves. For if they had indeed gone away, by the time they got to the market places, the markets would have been closed! Somebody here knows what it means to not have enough time! But you still need to be thankful for not enough!

Mark says “they said,” but John identifies the spokesman as Philip, who said “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” One denarius was a day’s wage; therefore, this would have been about eight months’ wages! Now, the text gives no indication how Philip came up with this particular amount. Perhaps it was the amount of money they had in their treasury, but Philip’s point was: “We don’t have enough money to buy enough bread to adequately feed all these people!” In other words, Philip and the rest of the disciples thought that Jesus was asking them to do that which was impossible! That was the second ‘not enough’ not enough money! Oh! I really don’t have to labor that point:  All of us know what it means to have not enough money!

But, while Philip was explaining why it couldn’t be done, Andrew was busy looking for a way it could be done! The Synoptic writers record Jesus as asking them to go and see how many loaves they could find, but only John reveals the source of the provisions. Andrew reports to Jesus: “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?” In other words, “Jesus, we found something; but it’s not enough!” Oh yes! This story is filled with ‘not enough!” There was not enough time for the crowd to go and buy food! There was not enough money for the disciples to buy food to feed the crowd! And the two fish and five barley loaves of bread were not enough food to feed five thousand men, not counting women and children!

Now, when we are faced with ‘not enough’ situations, we must guard our attitudes and dispositions! For, if we are not careful, not enough will cause us to fret and complain! Have you ever met someone who is always complaining about not having enough? What most of these people fail to realize is that part of the reason they don’t have enough is because they are always complaining that they don’t have enough! The Bible says: “A man’s belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.” In other words, what we believe and say with conviction on a consistent basis will ultimately find fulfillment in the circumstances of our lives! It’s self-fulfilling prophecy! They never have enough because they believe and consistently speak they will never have enough! If you are one of these people, you need to change your vocabulary and increase your faith! You need to quit speaking about what you don’t have, and start speaking about what you want to have! The Bible says: “Let the weak say: ‘I am strong!” But, the more you grumble and complain; the more you will have to grumble and complain about!

But, Jesus did not complain that the two fish and five barley loaves were not enough! In fact, the Bible says that Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks! That’s the point I really want to drive home today! We’ve got to learn to be thankful, even when we think it’s not enough! You see, sometimes, what we think is not enough, is actually more than enough! What they had was not enough in their hands! But when they placed it in the hands of Jesus; it was more than enough!

I believe the difference was in the thanksgiving! The disciples resented not enough; but Jesus was thankful for not enough! The disciples despised not enough, but Jesus embraced not enough! The disciples saw not enough as a problem, but Jesus saw not enough as an opportunity! You see, often the difference between frustration and fulfillment, between success and failure, between poverty and provision, is in how you respond to your not enough situations! And I don’t care who you are! It doesn’t matter your financial status or social standing; everybody has and everybody will face some not enough situations! But, when you are faced with a not enough situation; what do you do? How do you respond? Do you grumble and complain? Or do you praise and thank God that not enough, is at least, more than nothing!

You see, that’s the key! Life never leaves you with nothing: Life always leaves you with something! But, sometimes the not enough really is enough, it only seems to be not enough because you misunderstand and therefore misappropriate its purpose! Let me show you what I’m talking about! Sometimes, the not enough is not meant to be fruit to be consumed, but rather seed to be planted! The frustration comes about when we eat or consume that which was meant to be planted! The disciples were frustrated by the two fish and five barley loaves of bread because they thought they were not enough for the crowd to consume. Jesus was thankful for the two fish and five barley loaves of bread because he knew he was going to use them as seed to grow a miracle to feed the multitude!

Oh! There are many people who don’t pay their tithes or give offerings unto the Lord because they think, if they do, they will not have enough to pay their bills. They don’t understand, the tithe is a seed! You can’t harvest a crop unless you plant seed! Many of us are suffering today because, instead of planting our seed, we’ve been eating our seed! And when we eat our seed, we never have enough, because the seed is not meant for consumption, the seed is meant for the production of a harvest after it has been planted in the ground!

Yes! Jesus was thankful for not enough! The Bible says Jesus took the loaves and the fish and began to bless and brake them! That’s where the miracle took place; in between the blessing and the breaking! As Jesus blessed and broke, the pieces of bread and fish multiplied. Well, I told you a few minutes ago that it is dangerous to complain, because the more you complain; the more you will have to complain about! Well, the opposite is true also! The more thankful you are; the more you will have to be thankful for! That’s why you ought to live life with an attitude of gratitude!

Well, Jesus took the bread and the fish and blessed and broke the pieces. Then he gave it to the disciples and the disciples gave it to the crowd. As Jesus was thanking, blessing and breaking, the disciples were passing to the multitude and a miracle took place! The bread and the fish began to multiply. Well, I’ll be through in a minute, but I think we ought to notice when the miracle took place! The miracle didn’t take place ‘before’ they needed it; it took place ‘as’ they needed it! Oftentimes, we are tempted to fret and complain about not enough because we don’t see the need being met before the need needs to be met! In other words, we want to wait until we can see something happening before we praise the Lord! But, we’ve got to learn to thank Him in advance! Don’t wait until the battle is over; shout now, for although you can’t see it in the natural; the victory has already been won!

Now, the Bible says: “They all ate and were satisfied!” Before we go, I think we need to know who they all were! We call this; the feeding of the five thousand, but that’s a misnomer. There were quite possibly, well over twenty thousand people who ate and were satisfied, because the five thousand was only the number of men; They didn’t count the women and children!

Well, after they had all eaten and were full, John says that Jesus told the disciples: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” I’ve got two more things to say and then I’m through! Notice they started out with not enough, but they ended up with more than enough! Somebody needs to know today that sometimes the most important thing is not in how you start, but rather in how you finish! If you are dealing with not enough today; don’t despise your not enough! Just be thankful for your not enough and put it in the hands of Jesus! Because, what is not enough in your hands is more than enough in the hands of Jesus!

Yes! Jesus said: “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost!” When the Lord takes your not enough and turns it into more than enough; you need to be careful how you handle the leftovers! Don’t forget to pick up the pieces! Sometimes, we are faced with a not enough situation this time, only because we were not faithful with the leftovers last time! But I’ve learned how to handle the leftovers! Some people think they are too good for the leftovers, but leftovers are a defense against the future not enough! How you handle the leftovers will determine if you will continually face not enough situations.  But if you are faithful with the leftovers, God will always make sure to supply your need, not according to your need, but according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus! Oh! Be not dismayed whatever betide; God will take care of you! Beneath His wings of love abide; God will take care of you! Yes! Through every day, over all the way. He will take care or you! God will take care of you!

The “Latter-Day” Saints

This, my 200th post, is a combination of a two-sermon-series preached at the New Hope Baptist Church in Covington, GA several years ago. Your comments are welcomed.

“The Latter-Day Saints” (part 1)

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”  II Timothy 3:1-9 KJV

          Let me begin by saying that this sermon does not and will not have anything to do with nor will it in any way intentionally speak about the Mormon Church, which is officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. No, I am not talking about nor am I referring to “those” latter-day saints. But, of all the times that I had previously looked at this text, it wasn’t until I was browsing through this neighborhood of the scriptures the other day that I made, what was for me, an alarming discovery! You see, all the other times that I read this text and heard it preached and expounded upon, I just assumed that this was a listing of the character traits of people in general in the last days. I mean after all, when you go through this list, it looks pretty grim and hopeless, therefore I assumed that it must be describing people, who obviously know nothing about God! But, the other day, when I looked at this text more closely, I was shocked to discover that Paul was not describing how the people of the world would be in the last days! No! This is a description of the people who will claim to know God in the last days! This is a description of church folks in the last days! Hence, this is how I arrived at my subject, for this is a listing of the character traits of the latter-day saints! It’s right there in the text in verse 5! Paul said that they would have a form of godliness. In other words, they will go through the motions of having church! They will be in regular attendance at the Divine Order of Service and Bible Class. They will claim and proudly wear the name: Christian! But Paul says that although they will have a form of godliness, they will deny the power thereof. In other words, they will pray prayers without believing in the power of prayer! They will be hearers of the word but will not be doers of the word. They will go to church and even support the church, but they will deny the power and purpose of the church. That is why Paul said that the times would be perilous! In the last days, the majority of those who will claim to be Christian will be Christian in name only!

          Now, it is interesting to note that the Greek word that is the basis of the English word “perilous” is the same word that is used to describe the two men possessed with demons in Matthew 8:28. The word means, “dangerous, difficult the deal with.” In the last days, the times will be difficult to deal with and here’s the reason why! First, it will be difficult times because men will have misplaced affections. In this listing, the first two characteristics in verse 2 and the last two characteristics in verse 4 deal with what men will be loving. Jesus said of those days; “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Bobby Blue Bland said some years ago: “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city! Ain’t no love in the heart of town! Ain’t no love, and you know it’s a pity! Ain’t no love cause you ain’t around! Yes! The last days will be fierce, dangerous and perilous because even those who will claim to be Christians will have mis-placed affections.

          The first trait listed in the list of the characteristics of these latter-days saints is that they will be “self-lovers!” In the last days, there will be an obsessive preoccupation with the self! Although the greatest commandment is; to love LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. The worship of the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost will be usurped with the worship of the unholy trinity of “Me, Myself and I!” In the last days, the affection and devotion due to God will be given to self. Therefore, “self” will be the “god” of those who will be lovers of self. Well, I think I ought to pause here and tell you that I believe the last days are upon us! Most of the problems that occur in the church today are rooted in selfishness! Everybody insists upon having their own way! Instead of praying and reasoning with one another for the good of the body, people try to tear up the church when they can’t get their own way! The root of most marital problems, problems in professional and personal relationships can be traced back to the domineering demands of self; the ego! That’s why the first requirement of true discipleship is the denial of self! When God is not properly worshiped, honored and given his rightful place in a person’s life, he is usually replaced with the self!

          Now, in the KJV, the second characteristic on the list is “covetous.” However, this is really an incorrect translation of the word Greek behind the text. The Greek word is “philarguros” which literally means “silver-lover.” This is not the same word that is normally used for “covetous.” One can actually be covetous without loving money, they do not mean the exact same thing. Friberg defines the term as, “having a greedy disposition loving money, wanting to be rich.” The term is found in the NT, only in this text and in Luke 16:14. The latter-day saints will be “lovers of themselves,” and “lovers of money!” All one has to do is just flick though the channels of so-called Christian television or browse through the bookshelves of any secular or for that matter, Christian bookstore today and one will find that “self-development, “self-realization,” “money,” “wealth,” “prosperity,” and “financial blessings” are the buzz words of the day! In the last days, the latter-day saints will be obsessed with pleasing themselves and obtaining money and material wealth!

          The next trait is that they will be “boasters.” The word literally means “empty pretender.” It is one whose mouth is bigger than his body. One who talks a big game, but is unable to back up his talk with supporting action. This is one who arrogantly presumes too much about himself. Akin to this is the next character trait. They will be proud with an overwhelming estimate of one’s means and merits, despising others or even treating them with contempt. Don’t you see this trait among the so called latter-day saints today? The spirit of humility is almost non-existent! Many church folks today are not bragging on Christ, but rather they are bragging on themselves! There are Pastors who are bragging about how many members they have and about how big their budgets and buildings are! However, while the emphasis is on building budgets and buildings, the ultimate calling of building people has been neglected and ignored! There is really no time and energy left to lift up Jesus because they are too busy lifting up themselves!

          Well, I’m just about to run out of time, so I guess I will have to break this sermon up into parts and try to finish the list the next time! So, let me close today with the blasphemers. Please note that according to the Bible, to blaspheme is not just speaking against God, but to blaspheme is to speak against God, Jesus, and the things and/or the people of God! So, when church folks talk slanderously about one another that’s actually blasphemy! How can you speak against of the people and/or things of God and not be guilty of speaking against God? The Lord has always identified himself with his own! The Bible says that the king shall say in that day: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

          Well, I really need to leave you alone now, I’ll pick up here next time! But, you need to check yourself to see if you are one of these latter-day saints! As for me, I believe I’ll be like the song the old folks used to sing! Just give me that old time religion! It was good enough for the Hebrew children! It was good enough for old man Daniel! It was good enough for Paul and Silas! It was good enough for my mother and my father and it is good enough for me!

“The Latter-Day Saints” (part 2)  II Timothy 3:1-9 KJV 

          Again, I would like to say that this sermon is, in no way, meant to cast any kind of negative light upon The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. No! We’re not talking about those latter-day saints! But, as we look at this text, we discover that Paul is not listing the characteristics of the world, but rather of people who will claim to be saved! People who will be associated with the church and will wear the label; Christian! People who will have a form of godliness but will deny the power thereof. So, with that being said, let’s continue with the list. 

          We left off last time in the middle of verse 2 with blasphemers, so let’s begin today with the next characteristic. The text says that these latter-day saints will be disobedient to parents. In ancient society, respect for parental authority was extremely important, disrespect and disobedience to parents was not tolerated. Listen to how disobedient children were handled according to the Law in ancient Israel, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;  And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deut.  21:18-21 KJV). In ancient times, there was zero tolerance for parental disrespect and disobedience, but these latter-day saints will be continually non-compliant and rebellious to parental authority. The next characteristic is that they will be unthankful! They will be ungrateful, unpleasing and ungracious. No matter what they received they will never be thankful. Next, it says that they will be unholy. According to the Analytical Lexicon of the NT, this speaks of those who reject religious obligations, having no regard of duty to God or man. The Greek word used here is only used here and in I Tim. 1:9 in the NT. Hence, in context, the verse speaks of the time when those who are supposedly Christian will make no distinction between that which is holy and that which is not. They will make no separation of holy things and will treat holy thing as common. Then the text says that they will be without natural affection. The NASB says that they will be unloving, the NRSV says that they will be inhuman. According to Louw-Nida, this word pertains to a lack of love and affection for close associates or family. They will be without family love! For the latter-days saints, blood will not be thicker than water! The KJV translation of the next term is really a bad translation. The word truce-breaker means one who makes a treaty and then breaks it. But the Greek term that is behind this translation denotes not those who make a truce or treaty and then break it, but rather those who refuse to make a treaty period! The modern translations render it as, irreconcilable, unforgiving, implacable. The Greek word literally means, “without libation or drink offering.” Hence, it is indicative of one who is strictly unwilling to make a treaty, hence irreconcilable and unforgiving. The absolutely irreconcilable person, who, being at war, refuses to lay aside his enmity or to listen to terms of reconciliation. This person is unwilling to be at peace with others. The latter-day saints will be false accusers or slanderers! The root of the Greek word is the same as the term for the devil. The term is used to describe those who are given to malicious gossip. They will be incontinent, which means they will be without self-control, lacking in moral restraint. They will be fierce, untamed, not gentle, brutal and salvage. And then they will be despisers of those that are good. Not only will they not want to do right, but they will hate those who will want to do right! I’m talking about the latter-days saints! They will be traitors, meaning they will deliver without justification a person into the control of someone else. They will be betrayers and will abandon in times of danger. They will be heady, which means that they will be rash, reckless and thoughtless. They will be high-minded, which means that they will be conceited, thinking of themselves more highly than they ought. And then the text says they will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Their main pursuit will be entertainment and relaxation, things that comfort and pleases the flesh, to the neglectful detriment of the spiritual and the things of God. The Louw-Nida Lexicon renders the definition as, “pertaining to being fond of pleasure and enjoyment – given over to pleasure.”  

          At this point in the text, the main list of the characteristics concludes. Note that the list began with the characteristic of being lovers of themselves and lovers of money and ends with the characteristic of them being lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God! Yes! The main problem with the latter-days saints will be that of misplaced affection! They will have a love for self, money and pleasures but have no love for family, others or God! Now, all the while they are doing this, Paul says that they will have a form of godliness! In other words, they will not quit coming to church! They will not stop offering up praises to God! They will go through the motions and the rituals of godliness. They will have a form of godliness, but it will just be a show! They will perform the rituals of the faith, but they will deny the power of the faith. Now, Paul warns Timothy to disassociate, to turn away, avoid, having nothing to do with such people. Those who are sincere are to withdraw themselves, as much as possible, from those who are hypocrites! 

          Now, I’m not going to deal with verses 6 and 8 because I really need to finish this today! So, let me comment on verse 7 and then I will conclude with verse 9. In reference to the women mentioned in verse 6, Paul describes them as, “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I believe that this is a description of the latter-day saints also! The latter-days saints will run from conference to conference, from workshop to workshop, from church to church, from this class to that class, always learning.  But, because they will be determined to remain in their sins, they will not be able to come to a full, saving, knowledge of the truth. People often erroneous apply John 8:32 which says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But when you really look at that verse, the very first word is “And.” That means that it is connected and predicated on what precedes it. The quote is only part of what Jesus said. The whole of what Jesus said is this, he said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” You can only be free unless the truth makes you free! The truth will only make you free if you know the truth! And you will only know the truth if you continue (remain, abide and dwell) in his word, thereby proving yourself to really be his disciple! 

          Paul concludes by saying that these latter-days saints will only go so far because their folly will be exposed for all to see! It will not be difficult to tell who is saved and who is not because the Bible says that a tree is known by the fruit it bears! Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them!” Now, we don’t need to know them for the sake of judging them, we need to know them for the sake of knowing the real from the fake, the sheep from the wolves, the real saints from the latter-day saints!

I Don’t Need A New Year: I Need A New Me!

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“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing”                                                                                                                                Romans 7:18-19 ESV

 “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”                                                                                                                     2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”                                                                                                                                      2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV

 When we were much younger, we used to be really excited about the new year!  Perhaps some of you still are! I mean, after all, it is a time when everybody is on the same page.  We are all thinking about making a fresh start!  We are all thinking about starting all over again!  We are all thinking about setting goals and making this new year better than the last year! But wait a minute! Weren’t we all doing the same thing this time last year? And the year before?  And the year before that?  Haven’t we all been doing the same thing every year, for as long as we can remember? Perhaps the reason some of us are not as excited about the new year as we used to be is because we have lived long enough to experience the disappointments of countless new year’s resolutions that are never kept!  For no matter how excited we were and no matter how good our intentions were, not matter how determined we were, by the middle of January, and if not then, certainly by Valentine’s Day, the thrill, the excitement, the determination, the resolve that was present on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day was long gone! No! Some of us are not particularly excited about the New Year because we have discovered that what is needed is not a new year, but rather a new person!  No! I don’t need a new year; I need a new me!

This is exactly the experience that the Apostle Paul shares with us in the Roman text.  Now we look at Paul’s experience, I would like to suggest to you that Paul is not relating a pre-conversion experience but rather, this was a post-conversion experience for Paul.  Some think that what Paul shares in Romans 7 is the struggle he experienced before he was saved, but a careful look at the text will prove otherwise.  Let me prove my point: First of all, when we look at the grammatical structure of the text, we note that Paul does not use the imperfect or the aorist tenses to describe this ordeal, but rather he consistently uses the present tense.  Paul is not describing what he used to go through, he is talking about the struggles that he is presently experiencing.  Secondly, the person who is not saved, has no real struggles with trying to do the right thing! It is not even on his mind to do right! Doing wrong is so natural, that doing right doesn’t even cross his mind.  Now there are some who would appeal to the fact of the conscience. But even the conscience of an unsaved person doesn’t want to do right.  The Bible says that there is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.  Paul says later on, in this same letter, “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.  So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

So, Paul says, I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.” Now, the flesh that Paul is referring to is not his physical body, but rather the unregenerate sin-nature that was present within him.  You see, when we are saved, God does not eradicate or remove our sinful nature, instead He places His Holy Spirit within us, which is His very own nature.  One of the purposes of God’s Spirit within us is to empower us to bring our sinful nature under control. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. “But, walk (live according to) by (the power of) the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Paul said that he died daily. Everyday, the flesh (the sinful nature) has to be crucified. Crucifying the flesh is not something that God does for us, we have to do it ourselves by the power of His Spirit that dwells within us.

Therefore, Paul says, there is a struggle that is going on within me! The will to do is present within me! I want to lose weight! I want to come to Sunday School every Sunday! I want to become more active in my church! I want to be more than just a bench-member at my local church! I really want to; the willingness is there, but the how to and the actual doing of it, is absent! Not only do I struggle to do the things I want to do, but the things I don’t want to do seem to over-power me! I eat too many neck-bones and too much pork! I eat too much and don’t exercise enough! I talk about folks instead of praying for them! Oh! Sometimes I don’t even like myself, because the things I really want to do, I don’t do them and the things I really don’t want to do; I end up doing them! That’s why I’m not really very excited about this new year! Because unless I do things differently, this new year is going to be just like last year and the years before that! I don’t need a new year; I need a new me!

Well, before we get all depressed and give up all hope, there is some good news! Paul said that though it is a struggle, there is an answer to our dilemma! The answer is found “in Christ.”  He said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things have passed away: behold, all things are become new.” Yes! That’s the secret to success for the new year! You must be “in Christ!” What does it mean to be “in Christ?” The term, “in Christ” was a favorite expression of Paul used over seventy times in the Pauline writings.  It refers to status and position. It’s a good place to be! There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ! We have been justified freely by the grace that is in Christ. God causes us to always have the victory in Christ. We are sanctified in Christ.  We are all the children of God by faith in Christ. We shall all be made alive in Christ. The dead in Christ shall rise first. Yes! Everything we need is in Christ!  And so, if we abide in him and his word abides in us, we can ask what we will and it will be done unto us.  In Christ is a good place to be! Paul says, here in this text, that if any many be in Christ, he is a new creation! That is, if you are in Christ, you are a new you! The answer to the dilemma is to translate the position into experience! I am a new me in my position in Christ and through the power of the Spirit of God that lives within me, I can be a new me in my experience in life!

And, if you are a new you, you really don’t need a new year to start something new! For I heard Paul saying on another occasion that though the outward man is perishing, the inward man is being renewed day by day! Do you see that? The new you don’t need a new year to make a fresh start because the new you is being renewed everyday! Yes! That’s why I don’t really get excited about the New Year, because I get excited every morning! Every morning when I wake up and find myself not dead, that’s like New Year’s Day to me! Every morning that I’m able to get up out of my bed and dress myself; that’s like New Year’s Day to me!

So, if you really want to have life and have it more abundantly, don’t wait until the New Year to start over again! It doesn’t matter what day of the year it is, if you just meet Jesus, and get in him, he will make you a new creation! He will make you all over again! He will fix whatever is broken, he will mend all of the broken promises and dreams! When you’ve met him, you really won’t need a new year because he will make you, a new you!

The Un-Invited Guest of Honor (A Christmas Sermon)

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“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”   John 1:11 KJV

“He came to what was his own, yet his own folk did not welcome him.”  John 1:11 James Moffatt Translation

“He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own-His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him.”        John 1:11 The Amplified Bible

Imagine, if you will, that you have been invited to a party; a birthday party.  All of your friends, loved-ones, acquaintances and some of your enemies are in attendance.  The place is all decorated and adorned with the trimmings for the gala affair.  The gifts are in abundance and everyone seems to be having a good time!  But, wait a minute, something is wrong!  It suddenly occurs to you that everybody is at this party except the birthday person; the guest of honor!  You inquire to the host as to the whereabouts of the honoree, and much to your dismay, you discover that the guest of honor was not even invited to his own birthday celebration!  Furthermore, you discover that not only was he not invited, should he happen to show up, he would not be welcomed!  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But, is this not the case with many of our Christmas celebrations today?  It seems as if this world is determined to celebrate a Christ-less Christmas!  Although he is the reason for the season, in many homes he is not welcome.  Many have X-ed him out and replaced the babe in a manger with a fat man in a red suit!  Now, I don’t mean to be a scrooge, but I think we ought to be more mindful of the real reason for this season.

 Some commentators have said that the verse of our text is perhaps one of the saddest in the Bible.  “He came unto his own, and his own received him not!” Let’s take a few minutes now to take a closer look at this text and see what application it has for us today.  First of all, notice that the text says, “He came!” Oh!  What a wonderful statement! He came!  He came! God breaking into the plane of human existence!  He came!  Because we were unable to go to Him; He came to us!  He came! The Word of God manifested in the flesh!  He came! God intervening into human history to give us HIS-Story!  For ages, God had been telling men the way, with the advent of Jesus, He provided a living illustration to show us the Way!  He came!  God’s idea manifested in the flesh; the embodiment of the faith. He came!  Immanuel; “God with us!” Oh, I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that He came.  Because He came, I can have life and have it more abundantly!  Because He came, I can face tomorrow! Because He came, life is worth the living!  Oh!  I’m so glad that He came!

 Yes!  He came!  He came unto His own!  He came unto His own world.  John wrote: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” It was His own because He was active in creation!  He was there when the statement was made, “Let us make man!” Hebrews says that the world is upheld by the word of His power!  Yes!  He came unto His own world; His own creation, and His own creation did not receive Him!  The Creator was rejected by the creature!

 He came unto His own people!  He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  In Matthew’s gospel, it is reported that Jesus sent out the disciples with instructions to go not the way of the Gentiles, but rather to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  One day a Syrophenician woman came to Jesus seeking his help, to whom Jesus replied, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He came unto His own people, but overall, He was rejected by them.  Even his own family had doubts about him, John 7: 5 says that even his own brothers did not believe in him.

 But not only was he not welcomed by his own creation and his own people, he was not welcomed by his own religion.  The scriptures that the Pharisees and scribes studied testified of Jesus, yet the religious authorities refused to acknowledge him as the Messiah!  Yes!  He came unto His own!

 He came unto his own and his own received him not!  Yes!  His own rejected the Christ and crucified him upon a Roman cross.  His own refused to acknowledge him as the Messiah!  His own refused to accept him as Lord.  But why?  Why was it that he came unto his own and his own received him not?

 Well, His creation refused to receive him because of the same reason that they were in rebellion against God!  Jesus said that men loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  When John wrote that Jesus was the light and that  the light was shining in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, there was a dual meaning.  One of the distinctive characteristics of John’s gospel is that it is full of dualism.  By dualism, we refer to those words and concepts within this gospel writing that has more than one meaning.  For instance, in John chapter three, Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born “anon.” The Greek word has two meanings which are both equally applicable in this context.  The word means, “again”: Ye must be born again!  But it also means “from above”: Ye must be born from above! Both concepts are equally valid.  In order to see (perceive or understand) the Kingdom, one must experience a second birth and that birth must be of a spiritual nature: from above!  So, when John wrote, what the King James Version interprets as “comprehend,” the Greek word is “katalambano,” which has the dual meaning of “understanding” or “comprehension” and “overcoming.” Hence the darkness did not understand the light neither did the darkness overcome, defeat, or extinguish the light.  The world did not accept or receive Jesus because the world was in darkness!

 His family according to the flesh and the Jews in general did not receive him because he came as a suffering servant and they were expecting a reigning king!  That’s the way it is you know, when you don’t measure up to other folk’s expectation of you, they will reject you!  Jesus came preaching a spiritual gospel, proclaiming deliverance from sin, but what the Jews wanted was a political manifesto declaring their independence from Rome!  Tradition has it that Barrabas was also named Jesus and that he was a political insurrectionist.  Hence the Jews wanted Jesus, the insurrectionist rather than Jesus the Christ. There are many people today who claim to be followers of Jesus.  But the question is, which Jesus?  The Jesus of the Bible; the Son of God or a Jesus of our own making?  Yes, he came unto his own and his own received him not!

 But thank God today!  The rejection was not total!  There were some who welcomed his arrival, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 

 No, the rejection was not total!  The record states, But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Yes!  I’m glad today that the rejection was not total!  For there were those who were willing to receive him as their Lord and Savior! No!  The rejection was not total!  For there are those even today, who realize that without Christ there would be no Christmas!  So, as I leave you alone to decide how you will celebrate this Christmas!  Just remember that it’s not about presents wrapped under a tree, but rather a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger!  It’s not so much about the presents you give to others, but the gift that God has given to you!  As you celebrate Christmas this year, don’t forget about the guest of honor!  You see, if you don’t invite him to the party, then he will not show up!  He’s too intelligent to be a party-crasher!  But if you invite him; he will come!  For I heard him saying, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  Yes!  If you let him, Jesus will come into your Christmas celebration! Well!  How should we celebrate Christmas?  I submit to you that if you are lost you cannot truly celebrate this season!  You cannot really celebrate a party if you’re not on speaking terms with the guest of honor!  You cannot celebrate a holy season in an unholy manner!  It’s on the verge of blasphemy to celebrate the birthday of Jesus by getting drunk at Christmas parties!  The best way to celebrate this season is by inviting the guest of honor to take his rightful place in your life!  The best way to celebrate is by letting him into your heart and life: 

 Oh!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare him room, And Heaven and nature sing!  Oh!  Joy to the earth!  The Savior reigns!  Let men their songs employ!  While fields and floods, rock, hills and plains, Repeat the sounding joy!  Yes!  You ought to go tell it on the mountain!  Over the hills and everywhere!  Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ was born!