Jesus said, “Where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst,” (Matt. 18:20). Here is a revelation of the power of Jesus’ Church; the promise of His presence within the church when it has fulfilled the conditions He laid down.
Two words stand out in His statement, “Where,” and “there.” They explain how the church can have the ethical authority that commands attention in world gone wrong. How does the church obtain such ethical authority that commands the world’s attention? It is where the conditions of Jesus statements are met, there He will be in our midst.
You cannot be a church of one, though many today are trying that. There must be two or more and not the individual. I’m not saying a person cannot still pray alone, but I’m commenting on what Jesus is talking about – His church. The principle that is to be met is, “Gathered together in My Name.” It means where people gather to receive His salvation, gather to be made pure, gather to submit to His authority, and gather to be ruled by Him. Under those conditions there He will be. Anyplace where two or more are gathered in Jesus name, and who have yielded themselves to his conditions there He will be.
The church that knows the where and there of Jesus presence knows when it gathers, when it prays, when it asks, and when it yields that it is His church unconquerable.
The superlative desire of Jesus is to teach His followers His mind. Paul states this is so, “We have the mind of Christ” (1Cor. 2:16). What is the desire of Christ for us? That we would have His mind, for wisdom of the world leads to nothing. What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? When exploring this question three things seem to emerge: The beauty of Holiness, the possibilities for things lost, and the beauty in claiming lost things.
What is, “The beauty of holiness,” (Ps 96:9)? We know that Jesus came from God, (Cf. John 17:3), and because Jesus came from God it was written of Him, “How great is His goodness, how great is His beauty,” (Zech. 9:17). God sent Jesus, consequently all things were viewed by Jesus through that relationship, and the issue of holiness is always beauty.
When Jesus came into the world He found beauty spoiled. Despite what he found, He knew that everything had the possibility of restoration, renewal, and recreation. He knew this because He knew God and that gave Him a conviction of the possibilities for lost things.
Jesus knew the beauty of holiness, and the possibility for things lost, and therefore He considered His death on the cross to be the highest glory that could be granted to Him. Through His death God’s beauty would be known in creation, and those things lost would be restored. This was the master inspiration of His mind, and thus he emptied Himself!
Once when King David was being chased and threatened he asked this question, “Who can show us any good,” (Ps 4:6)? This is a question for all ages, for though there have been great changes in society, they are but surface changes; underneath the same human nature exists. It’s true, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
Take three examples: Those who are successful, those in the middle, and those who fail. Successful people who have obtained all the world can offer, in the end can be heard saying, “Who can show us any good?” Then those who always seem to fail; trial after trial, effort after effort, but always they are beaten, until at last heartbroken the say, “Who will show us any good?” Is not the same cry heard from those in the middle? It is worth our attention that people in all circumstances ask the same question. This fact suggest an underlying problem which is independent of circumstances.
The Psalmist answers our question, “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord. You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety,” (6b-8). If you are restless, sleepless, crying out in agony, asking if life is worth living, and who can show us any good? The reason for the question is that you have lost touch with God.
Get back to God,
Is there any value to the religious life? By religion I mean the Christian religion. I recognize there are other sincere religions, but of those other religions I quote from Tennyson, “They are broken lights of thee, and thou, O Lord, art more than they.”
I was motivated to ask this question after looking at the life of John the Baptist this week. John was born into a godly family, and trained from childhood for the ministry. As a young man he took the Nazirite Vow, which means he lived a life solely dedicated to the Lord. The consequences of the vow was he renounced the world and its pleasures, and lived solely unto the Lord. What gave rise to the question was not the ascetic life he lived, but what happen to him because of his training, service, and sacrifice for God. John’s life resulted in a long imprisonment that ended in an ignoble execution brought on by the whims of a spoiled young girl, a conniving woman, and a hedonistic king. Thus the question, is there value in the religious life?
When you read the New Testament it seems that time and again God wastes his saint in their service to him. However time after time the resounding answer is, “Yes, there is great value in the religious life,” for it is in yielding and serving God in one’s life that the human life is lifted, ennobled, glorified, and brought into what it was originally meant to be.
Matthew 13 is titled, “Jesus Sermon of Parables,” and that is because there are eight parables in the chapter. As Jesus was concluding his points he asked the disciples, “Have you understood all these things,” (51). What was Jesus asking them that they understood? He was asking them if they understood how the Kingdom of Heaven begins, what it is like, and how the present age would end. They simply replied “Yes.”
I think Jesus at this moment showed a remarkable amount of patience with his disciples, for he knew the truth; they really didn’t understand. What Jesus did know was He had planted the concepts of the kingdom in their minds. He knew that after His resurrection the Holy Spirit would come and bring those parables to their remembrance, and then their true meanings and understandings would explode in their minds and hearts revealing the truths of the kingdom.
As Jesus had patience with the disciples, he has patience with us, and thus we need not to be impatient with others. Always remember how Jesus dealt with you – with patience and gentleness. I’m not suggesting that we are to water down the truth of God. Let it have its way as Jesus did, and never apologize for it. Remember Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” He did not say make converts to your own thoughts and opinions.
You may have notice I often conclude our service or our prayer circle with the comment, “North Valley Christian Church now leaves the building.” I do that to affirm Jesus’ desire for us, his followers, to take His gospel to the community we live that is in need of good news. As Christ’s church may we not just hear the Word of God, and understand it, but may we also understand the seriousness of what Jesus charges us to do with that word. Jesus puts on his followers the obligation to share His Word with others.
As followers of Christ we must not just hear the Word, but we must receive into ourselves and grow it. We must not just hear the Word, but we must obey what Jesus taught, and apply it to our lives. We must not just hear the word, but we must share the light of Jesus to those in darkness around us. We must not just hear the word, but we must preserve it. Thus everyone who receives His Word becomes a sower, everyone becomes a lamp on a table, and everyone becomes salt. We are to become the sower, the lamp, and salt to the community that we reside in.
It is a solemn thing to hear God’s Word, for with hearing comes the responsibility of receiving, sharing, obeying, and preserving, for in so doing we produce fruit, not for ourselves, but for the glory of our King – Jesus Christ.
You Should Tell Someone,
Man was created by God out of dust and the inbreathing of the Spirit of God into that dust. The first man was named Adam, and his descendants are of his race. His race is summed up in the phrase, “A wicked generation,” (Mat 12:45). The teaching in the N.T. is that Jesus is not merely of our humanity, but he is the second man, the last Adam, and the founder of an entirely new race – a race that is born again.
Jesus is the first Man of a new race, and he is an infinite mystery to those of the old race. He is a mystery because one cannot be a member of this new race by their works, obedience to the law, or the recitation of a creed. One can only a member of His race by doing of the will of God. What is the will of God? The will of God is to repent, confess Jesus as the Christ, and be baptized. When a person obeys God’s will they are reborn. The Holy Spirit takes that person and mysteriously remakes them into a member of the new race.
Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother,” (Matt 13:50). Those who are reborn mysteriously become related to Jesus and thereby enter into a new relationship with God. Jesus said, “Whoever,” so the choice is ours to make.
Free to choose,
Our country is in the midst of changing its leadership. It seems the seat of our government is presently empty. It also seems there is much national corruption, world chaos, and municipal rottenness with too many dilettantes playing the fool; there are problems everywhere. Our change in government reminded me of something Isaiah wrote, “In the year that king Uzziah died, (6:1). Uzziah was the only king Isaiah had known, and suddenly the throne was empty, and chaos was everywhere. But then Isaiah wrote, “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.”
As we stand on the threshold of 2017, do we have a vision of our government being an empty throne, do we have a vision of worldwide chaos, or are we able to look past the empty throne and the chaos and have a vision of God enthroned? Such a vision of God is not one of an empty throne, or one of a throne that is tottering, but one where God is holy, in charge, and in control.
If we begin this year by first seeing God high-up and above all earthly thrones. If we can see that His throne is never empty, never trembles, and never changes. Then we can see, and we can know that God is very much in charge, in control, and that He has provided us with the answers to all of humanity’s ills. That answer is the evangel of Jesus Christ.
He is in control,
Amos said, “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I will send a famine through the land … a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, (8:11). The prophet described an unusual famine, not one of food, water, or sword, but one of the Word of the Lord. If you read the next verse you learn the result of this famine is a great restlessness in people living in the land.
What is the condition of a place in such a famine? A place without the Word of God is a place when no message from the unseen is recognized as truth. A place where God does not speak to the depths of a person’s life. A place where the people have hardened their hearts, and whose minds are unconscious of God’s presence. It is a place where God’s word still lingers, and is still powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword, yet it fails to affect. Think for a moment, is that what describes our world today? Are people today not hearing God? Is there not a great restlessness about us? Yes!
We today are in a famine similar to the one described by Amos. God is still speaking, but many are no longer listening, and there is a great uneasiness about us. As ones who were once living in that famine, it is time to take the Word of God to those around us who are starved, and end the famine.
Ending the famine,
Matthew 12 contains two stories about working on the Sabbath – Saturday. One is about Jesus and his disciples picking and eating grain, and the other is about Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. Both actions were criticized by the Pharisees, for they saw it as breaking the 4th commandment, “Keep the Sabbath holy.”
Physical condition in the Bible is always emblematic of spiritual condition, thus we see mankind’s spiritual condition in the two stories: Our insatiable needs, suffering, and incompetence. In response to his critics Jesus asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do harm?”
What is God’s answer to this question? God is such that in the presence of human failings He must either help or harm, and he cannot harm; he must either save or kill, and he cannot kill. Therefore, we have Calvary, the cross, the Son’s blood, the breaking of God’s heart, and the sacrifice by which he lifts crushed, bruised, broken humanity and remakes it.
What then is the Christian’s answer to this question? No Christian who comes into the presence of a failed, and sorrowful person can pass them by because, like God, we must either help or harm, and seeing as we are not to harm, we must help. In the presence of a hungry spirit, and a withered life we must tell about Jesus. Not to do so, is to be complicit in the forces that destroy.