I have been taught that a good speech should always end with a call to action. What this is depends on the type of speech. A speech given by an election candidate will usually end by telling people they need to vote. A product placement speech or demonstration will end with a way to buy the product. Often a sermon will end with a life application.
As we look at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, we see that Jesus ends with a call to action. He has given us some other actions to take throughout this passage, but let’s look at this final section and see how we should respond to this sermon.
Let’s start by looking at Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, an in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
So, making the assumption that the goal is to be in the kingdom, Jesus says our action is to do the will of God. This is obviously more than actions that we do. Many times in chapters 5-7, Jesus talks about our thoughts, attitudes, and reasons for doing things being as important as the actions we take.
Jesus continues in verse 24 by saying, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Again, the key here is to act on the words that Jesus has spoken.
The call to action is to put all the things that Jesus taught into action, which includes our thoughts and attitudes. I encourage you to spend some more time reading through Matthew 5-7, and reflect upon seeking God, his righteousness, and his kingdom. As we seek these more, the actions will follow.
Did you know that less than 3% of people living in Pakistan are Christians? Pakistan is mainly a Muslim country. Because of religious persecution and the law, our Christian brethren meet in homes. Currently, we support seven home-congregations that believe as we do.
Why do you believe in God? Have you ever been asked this question? After being asked this question, I would often flounder around saying things like “Ummm because I was raised in it” or “because the Bible says it’s true” or “God and Jesus changed my life” (meanwhile I didn’t really know how they changed it). When it came right down to it, I didn’t really know why I believed in God. If we take our faith seriously, we are not allowed to stay in ignorance; we have to be ready. There has probably been a time and place when we all had to give an account for our faith to someone, or at least when we have questioned our own beliefs. Let’s take a look at 1 Peter 3:13 – 18 to see what a very wise man had to say about this subject.
“13 Who is [c]there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you [d]are blessed. And do not fear their [e]intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but [f]sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a [g]defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and [h]reverence; 16 [i]and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if [j]God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the [k]spirit”
Verse 15 blankly states to always be ready to share your defense, or your testimony of the hope that lives in you! So let’s get practical and dive into the nitty gritty of what a “defense meant to convince” might look like. Here are several starters to get you thinking about what elements of your personal faith story are powerful to your testimony.
It’s not enough to just be different from the world. Buddhists, Muslims, even moral atheists live differently from the world. If you aren’t living like Christ than anything you say after that can as easily be dismissed as saying the word ‘hypocrite’.
Show how you lived before and how your life is different now, only through the power of God’s grace and strength; you couldn’t do this alone!
The kingdom of God resides here on the Earth now and in the future!!! This belief has given you purpose. HOPEfully your peers will be able to perceive this from the way you have been living. Our actions and mindset produce joy!
There is a judgement day approaching; it is sooner now than it has ever been. This aspect is meant to help others perceive the urgency of believing
If you feel like you can articulate these aspects well, go for it! These are very valuable reasons for believing. However, you do run the risk of appearing uninformed if the person you are talking to is studied up on these subjects. You wouldn’t want someone to tear apart your arguments and thus misinterpret your testimony.
Express stories of growth and change that you have witnessed in others. This is a great time to offer a friend the chance to believe!
I encourage you to take some time and write out your testimony on paper. That way, when the time comes you will have a “defense meant to convince” ready to go.
In Pakistan, people are not Christians because it is casual, it is the exact opposite. With only 3% of the country practicing Christianity, our brothers and sisters are not doing it because of the trendy churches, or latest fad. These people believe in God and Jesus because they have experienced it; they have a powerful testimony to share. They have done the preparation and know that this is the best way of life. Although it is not the popular belief, they are prepared disciples. I am inspired by our brothers and sisters in Pakistan to testify boldly, and to stand ready to share my defense.
If you would like to support our family in Pakistan with Bibles and money for meeting grounds, please follow this link. Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection
Josiah & Amber Cain
Missions Spotlight: Haiti
Under the direction of Lesly Bertrand, our conference supports 24 orphans with shelter, food and an education. In addition to tending to the children, Pastor Lesly shepherds one of the 25 Haitian churches that share our beliefs. He also meets with 21 ministers in the region for Bible study and leadership training each month.
This past week, some of our beloved family from Ohio came to stay with us. Among the company, was our adorable 4-year-old niece, Melody. The thing about Melody is, from 8AM to 9PM, she does not slow down. From visits to the playground, building box forts, and painting masterpieces, to singing, dancing and acting on the fireplace hearth, Melody is in constant motion.
As I am worn out and ready to head to sleep at 7PM, I am reminded of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 18. The disciples come to Jesus and ask him just “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus responds, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Melody is innocent, she trusts, she is content, and she makes friends at the Chick-Fil-A play-place within a matter of seconds. Melody and her buddies fly through the play equipment and zip down the slide over and over and over again. I get tired just watching her through the glass as I shove another french fry into my mouth. Melody runs with perseverance. As long as the sun is up, she never stops. This zeal and energy brings me to 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
We are called to be children of God like Melody. We need to be going for his kingdom from sun up to sun down we can’t stop. I think that is what Jesus meant in Matt. 18. Children are fully reliant on their parents for everything. Like children, we need to be fully reliant on our heavenly father. Children trust without reservation. In the same way, we need to trust without reservation. Children are excited about life. Therefore, we need to be excited about this life and the life that we have to look forward to in the kingdom of God. If we can’t accept God in the simple way children accepts their parents, then we can’t live our Christian life the way Jesus wants.
Our conference supports 24 children in Haiti just like Melody. While I have never met them, I can imagine they are full of energy and life. When hurricane Matthew hit our brethren in Haiti a short time ago, they did not let the hurdles and obstacles of life defeat them as their churches and homes were crushed. Instead, they had the mentality of a child. They understood that their Creator provides for them, that He is always worthy of our praise.
Today, I am inspired by the orphans in Haiti to play harder. I am inspired to take each step one at a time, and remember that God sees me through each situation, no matter how big or small. I am inspired to run the race with perseverance and consistency; not just choose to serve Him or trust Him when it is easy. I am inspired to live every moment, whether I am alone in my thoughts, or surrounded by friends and family, for the glory and honor of God.
If you would like to support an orphan in Haiti with food, shelter, and education or donate towards hurricane relief, please follow this link. Thank you! https://www.givelify.com/givenow/1.0/MjM0MDg=/selection
Josiah & Amber
In today’s section we’ll look at verses 20-28 of I Corinthians 15. Did you know that you’re a king or a queen? So many blessings and riches are made available to us “in Christ” and in today’s section Paul speaks of another gift that comes with being “in Christ” – resurrection.
Paul begins by affirming that Jesus has indeed been raised from the dead, given the sad reality of if he hadn’t (v. 12-19). He then proceeds in verses 21-22 to compare Adam to Christ. Just as by a man came death, so to by a man came the resurrection of the dead. Paul clarifies this saying in the next verse by identifying the two men. In Adam all die but in Christ all live. This is a critical teaching of Paul about the dichotomy between Adam and Christ. By default all of us are in Adam, that is, we are identified and participate in the sphere of Adam which is rebellious and God hating. This inevitably results in death. But you and I can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ”. When we are found “in Christ” that is our new identity (II Cor. 5.17) and this inevitably leads to life, specifically, resurrection and immortality (II Tim. 1.10). The way we can go from being “in Adam” to “in Christ” is by repentance, acceptance of the gospel, and obedience to Jesus as Lord. For more on the Adam-Christ teaching read Romans 5.12-21 and all of Romans 6 for what it means to be “in Christ” (“in Christ” is a technical term found often through Paul’s epistles that is rooted in his understanding of Adam and Christ). But Paul specifies that there is an order to the resurrection: Jesus first then those who are his at his coming.
Then Paul says literally “then the end”, when Jesus hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has abolished all rule and authority. In other words, when Jesus comes back he will dismantle and overthrow every human authority and government and establish his Father’s rule and reign with him as king. Then concluding, Paul says after this happens Jesus will hand over the newly established rule to his God and father, being subjected to him, so that God may be all in all forever and ever.
To be “in Christ” means so much more than just ‘I’m saved’ it’s larger meaning is that we get to participate in the sufferings and victories of Jesus. Specifically, because Jesus was raised from dead, we will be raised from the dead (I Cor. 15.20,23). Because Jesus ascended to God’s right hand and has been given all rule and authority, we too are seated with Christ and share in Jesus’ power and authority (Eph. 1.20-21, 2.4-7). You are a king and queen in the making whom God is making ready to rule and reign through our Lord Jesus Christ by means of the resurrection!
Chapter six picks up where chapter five leaves off about elementary vs. mature doctrines. As we talked about yesterday, the doctrine of Christ is supposed to be an elementary doctrine to go along with repentance, faith, washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Some of these the Church of God is better trained than others. However, the author of Hebrews viewed these all as elementary. I am going to assume that most of you who are disciplined enough to do devotions every day are ready to go on to the more mature doctrines.
Speaking of more mature doctrines and teachings, verses four through six are quite interesting. It states that “it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them to repentance.” What this seems to be saying is that it is impossible to be saved, then fall away, and then be saved again. I’m not sure exactly what I think about this, and I won’t pretend to have all the answers. However, it is interesting nonetheless and could be looked at by all.
On Sunday when we introduced the book of Hebrews, I mentioned that one of the main purposes of Hebrews was to encourage the Jewish Christians. These Jewish Christians were going through some tough times, and they presumably doubted their faith at times. The rest of chapter six serves as encouragement for them and to reassure them. Verse eleven encourages them “to have the full assurance of hope until the end.” We aren’t to be pretty sure of what is to come in the age to come, but we are to have a FULL assurance of hope. We are to be confident in the faith that we have. It’s through this bold and confident faith that we can be imitators of those who inherit the promise of the Kingdom. We can be sure of the promises set before us because “it is impossible for God to lie,” (Heb 6:18). We can be encouraged by this. God has promised us the Kingdom, and he is a promise keeper. We just have to accept the free gift.
There has been a lot of content in the first six chapters of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews has provided a lot of reason for the Jewish Christians to be encouraged. They, along with us, can be sure of the hope that we have. God has promised us many great things, and he is a faithful God. We have been granted a free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. There has been a lot of talk on Jesus in the first six chapters. We have seen Jesus being glorified repeatedly in the first six chapters. He is our high priest. Many times Church of God people can fail to give Jesus the credit that he deserves because they are too worried with trying to distinguish him from God. Jesus is deserving of glory, and when he is glorified, God is glorified in him. With that said though, many people in the Christian world give Jesus too much glory by making him equal with God. Although Hebrews does a great job of giving Jesus the credit he is due, the author also does a great job distinguishing between God and Jesus. There is a happy balance between giving Jesus glory and distinguishing him from God. Overall I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the first six chapters of Hebrews. It doesn’t slow down at all in the last half of the book. I strongly encourage you to continue along with the reading of the devotions, as Sarah Blanchard will do a wonderful job dissecting the second half of the book. I hope you all had a great week!
In Christian love,