Weekly Seed of Faith 11/16/19

Seed of Faith – I Believe – Amen and Amen   By Pastor Dave  

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

Dear Faithful Seed-Sowers:

We come to end of our series on the Apostle’s Creed just as I come to the end of my 12-day vacation! Jac and I drove from SOCAL to WACO, TX! We enjoyed our two grandsons and our son and his lovely wife. Jac can’t fly yet due to her lead levels, so we drive: 3 days there and back. We have been so very blessed by our alone time in the car; God has been refreshing and renewing our souls. It’s good to get away and it’s going to be good to get back to ministry at the SEED.

I suggest you take a few moments to read Revelation 3:14-22 & Revelation 22:17-21.  In the opening of the letter we hear, “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.” Do you see what I see?  Jesus is the faithful and true AMEN!

Today let’s think about three images of Christ:  the patience of Christ, the plea of Christ and the place of Christ at our table. Each one worthy of a SEED OF FAITH!

In William Holman Hunt’s painting “The Light of The World,” Christ is holding a lantern and knocking at a door. (See bottom right, top photo.)  I had always heard that Christ was knocking at the door of the human heart asking for entrance.  This passage puts a whole new twist on that thought: Could Christ be also knocking on the door of the church?  I think it’s easy for us to envision Christ  knocking on the door of our heart, or knocking on the door of our home.  Have you ever thought about Christ knocking on the door of our churches? Profound thought here.

Let’s look at the painting and see if we can find some of the rich symbolism in it. First, there is no handle on the outside of the door. Why? Isn’t that odd? Could it be that even though Christ desires entry, He never forces his way in. Instead, He must be invited in, the door must be opened from the inside. The decision is ours as to whether Jesus Christ will be invited in–or not. Next, look at the hinges in the picture. They are rusted and the bolts are broken. The door is held in place by vines; showing that the door has never been used or the vines would be torn. Third, Jesus is holding a lantern. The symbolism is to show that Jesus is the light of the world. Outside, there is a neglected garden overgrown with weeds, there are fruit trees which have not been pruned, and a crop which has been lost because of the lack of tending. There is fruit that has fallen on the ground near the feet of Christ symbolizing Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden, and that all of mankind has fallen away from God.  One more observation, there is a bat above the door, a nocturnal creature which loves the night. It is dark outside, pointing to the truth of the Scripture, “This is the verdict: ‘Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’” (John 3:19).

There is so much more in this painting but as we see the painting and read the scripture, “Behold I stand at the door and knock,”  I think we need to ask some questions.

The first question is: To whom is Christ speaking? I had always thought that Christ was speaking to each individual, and that the door represented each individual’s human heart. Christ is knocking because He wants to come into our hearts and lives. I’m not saying that this is incorrect because I have a sneaky suspicion that Christ does want entry into each and every heart. I also want to consider the context. In this chapter, Jesus is speaking to the church.  Isn’t it wild that in this picture Jesus is asking for admission into his own church? Apparently, the church had closed the door on him and never answered his knock.

The three P’s of Christ:
1.  THE PATIENCE OF CHRIST — “Behold I stand at the door and knock…”

Do you see the great love that God has for us, and for His church, as Jesus patiently stands at the door and knocks and keeps on knocking over and over, and is still, today, patiently knocking? Sometimes the knock comes through suffering or grief, hardships or difficulties, sickness or death, financial loss or family problems–whatever the case may be–Jesus stands patiently knocking at the door of your heart and the door of his church. It’s totally up to us to open the door and invite Christ inside.

2.  THE PLEA OF CHRIST — “If you hear my voice and open the door…”

The plea of Christ is that we hear His voice.  Each letter to the seven churches of Revelation ends with the words, “Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”  In the Greek language the word “to hear” means to obey, to follow through or to act upon what you had just heard. The plea of Christ is for us to hear the sound of his voice as He stands knocking at the door, and for us to open the door wide so that He may come in.  Remember, we must open the door from the inside. Christ will not open the door.  He will not force Himself upon us.  Christ never forces anyone into salvation. It’s a choice of our free will.  Freely He offers salvation to you and me by grace. Everywhere in Scripture Jesus offers himself to men and women, and grieves over the fact that many do not receive Him. Remember the remarkable scene in the Gospels during Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem as he comes over the top of the Mount of Olives and sees the city spread out beneath him? Jesus wept over the rebellious city saying, “O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You stone the prophets and kill everybody God sends to you. How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not…” (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34)  Christ wants us to act upon his knocking—he wants us to open the door, to invite him in, to say to him, “Come in, Lord Jesus. Enter my life. Be my Lord. Be my Savior. Deliver me from my sins — and from myself.” As Christ stands at the doors of our churches, shouldn’t we say,  “Come in, Lord Jesus. Enter our church. Be our Lord.  Be our Savior. Deliver us from our sins and from ourselves”? Isn’t this the whole plea to the 7 churches in Revelation? This isn’t a knock-knock joke at all.  This is a call to HEAR and ANSWER and OPEN THE DOOR and INVITE CHRIST INTO OUR HEARTS, HOMES AND CHURCHES. If you hear His plea, open the door. Churches, don’t resist the Gospel; open the doors!

3.  THE PLACE OF CHRIST AT OUR TABLE — “I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me…”

The third plea is very clear. Jesus will enter in! He says so right here, “If you open the door, I will enter in and remain with you. We will eat together and be together.” What a beautiful picture of Christ: permanently dwelling within you. He will move in and live with you.  The actual word for “eat” here is the Greek word “deipneo” which refers to the evening meal or supper.  Supper was the main meal of the day.  Breakfast was a slice of dry bread dipped in wine.  Lunch was seldom eaten at home. But supper was the time to sit down and fellowship in the home after the work of the day was done. Have you ever traveled to Europe or Mexico? Dining together is an event. It isn’t like here in America:  hurry up and eat so we can do homework, go to a sport’s game, watch TV or go to bed! NO! It’s like sit down, take a load off your feet, sit back, breathe, enjoy this space to just BE–and share the great gift of TIME with your family. Tell stories, laugh and remember.  Build relationships. Back then in Jesus’ time, supper was a time of intimacy and relationship, sharing and fellowship–it was called “communion.” Wow. Let that sink in.

This is not a mere courtesy visit that Christ is promising.  He desires to come in, sit down and spend a long time with us in communion, in conversation, in relationship with us.  This is the place Christ desires: sitting with us at our table; a table filled with intimacy,relationship, sharing and communion.  Jesus patiently stands at the door and knocks. Knock, Knock. No joke. Jesus’ plea is that we hear His voice and open the door. He longs to take his place at the table.

SO WHAT?
“So what?” is it that you believe about God the Father?  What is it that you believe about Jesus?  What is that you believe about the Holy Spirit?  What is that you believe about the church and the communion of the saints?  What is that you believe about forgiveness?  What is that you believe about the resurrection and life everlasting? It’s all right here in this APOSTLES’ CREED.

This past week has been a hard week in ministry. Actually, it’s been the most intense month of ministry I’ve ever had. I’ve sat at the bedside of a person who is preparing to go home to meet Jesus face to face. This person wanted to bless her four grandchildren. We’ve been meeting and planning and we were able to complete her plan this week by meeting with each grandchild and blessing them with the meaning of their name. A holy time for me to be able to share that with her. There’s another person who I’ve been visiting regularly who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  This man is a longtime friend and coworker in the ministry.  He is a retired surgeon.  Every week, I go and sit with him.  Sometimes other doctors and  friends come by when I am there. We sit out in the hot sun and we laugh and remember the good times and the memories we’ve made together. I have been with him in the hospital when he has gone for treatment.  My friend asks everyone he meets this one, simple question since being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. Here’s his question. “If I believe the way you believe, what will happen to me when I die?” Go ahead. Answer the question. Take all the time you need. “If I believe the way you believe, what will happen to me when I die?”  My dear friend has been sharing the Good News of the resurrection with others as he walks with Jesus through this difficult diagnosis.

So What?  What is it that you believe?  The final thing I want to tell you is this: IF YOU BELIEVE LIKE I BELIEVE…when you die—you will be present with the Lord Jesus. The Bible tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I see this all the time. Over and over, the faith of the person dying impacts the way they die. I’ve truly been blessed to be at so many bedsides.

I know a person who had a near death experience.  This person is my wife. She saw heaven. She saw Jesus…on a white horse…riding her way. She saw the celestial city. Said it’s a million Disneylands and prettier and more majestic than you can imagine. The city was filled with people and the people were filled with JOY…the kind of contagious JOY that we cannot imagine. This person told me, “I used to be so afraid of dying. But ever since that experience in June of 2000—I’m not afraid. I’m anxiously waiting for that final call home.” Whenever we talk about death, she says the same thing…word for word. For 19 years now, she’s never changed a word of her story. Jesus, white horse, sword in hand, millions of miles of castles, a city filled with people and love and joy! This lady opened the door to her heart on a dark night in Rochelle, IL, on August 30, 1979. She’s never been the same since that day. She opens her Bible and devours the word each day. She listens to Christian music 24/7. She’s developing a relationship with Jesus. They sit and share communion. She writes, she reads, she sings, she thinks about her life with Christ. I’m here to tell you, I’ve witnessed it and I want to witness it in you, too.

Open the door. Invite Christ in. Here’s a scenario: Jesus is standing outside the door of your heart. Open the door and say, “I’m a sinner. I need a Savior. I know that you are Jesus and that you’ve already died for my sins. Come in. Sit. Read with me. Talk with me. Teach me. Amen.”

And that’s the Apostles’ Creed in a nutshell.

The Apostles’ Creed

1.  I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; — AMEN!

2.  and in Jesus Christ, His only (begotten) Son, our Lord; — AMEN!

3.  who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, — AMEN!

4. suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried; — AMEN!

5. He descended into hell; — AMEN!

6. the third day he rose again from the dead; — AMEN!

7. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; — AMEN!

8. from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. — AMEN!

9. I believe in the Holy Ghost, — AMEN!

10.  the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, — AMEN!

11.  the forgiveness of sins, — AMEN!

12.  the resurrection of the body, — AMEN!

13.  and the life everlasting. Amen — AMEN!.[i]

See you Sunday —God loves you. He sent His only Son to die for you. Open the door. Communion.

God Loves You and So Do I
Pastor Dave
www.theseedchristianfellowship.com

[i] Historic Creeds and Confessions. (1997). (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Lexham Press.

Copyright © 2018 THE SEED CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP, All rights reserved. May you be blessed by God’s grace and love. You are receiving this email because you signed up for our weekly devotionals.   Our mailing address is: 6450 Emerald Street Alta Loma, California 91701   Want to change how you receive these emails? You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Romans 3:25-26 Faith

 

It’s time to talk about faith. Wonderful as the salvation that has been accomplished by Jesus Christ may be, it is of no use to us unless it becomes ours personally – and the way the work of Christ becomes ours personally is through faith. That is why the Bible says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” (Heb. 11:6) and why the apostle Paul speaks of faith so often in the section of Romans we are now studying – eight times in verses 21 through 31.

What exactly is faith? Of the writers on faith, John Calvin perhaps had the strongest point of view, for he found it necessary to oppose a very serious error about faith that had developed in the teaching of the medieval church. In the years before the Reformation the church had been derelict in teaching the Scriptures to the people. Consequently, most people were ignorant of the true gospel of salvation, and most clergy were ignorant of it also. Calvin argued that “the object of faith is Christ” and that “faith rests upon knowledge, not upon pious ignorance.” Calvin wrote, “We do not obtain salvation either because we are prepared to embrace as true whatever the church has prescribed, or because we turn over to it the task of inquiring and knowing. But we do so when we know that God is our merciful Father, because of reconciliation effected through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-19), and that Christ has been given to us as righteousness, sanctification and life. By this knowledge, I say, not by submission of our feeling, do we obtain entry into the Kingdom of Heaven.” This ancient debate has bearing upon the “faith” of many persons today, for although many probably do not exercise “implicit” faith in the church or in any other authority, they seem to have implicit faith in themselves or merely “faith in faith,” which turns out to be almost the same thing.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin is so concerned about stressing the importance of knowledge as the first element in faith that he rightly presents it in another way, showing the necessary link between faith and the Word of God, or the Bible. Reduced to its basics, Calvin shows that: (1) faith is defined by God’s Word; (2) faith is born of God’s Word; and (3) faith is sustained by God’s Word.

The first of these points is particularly clear in Romans 3. For Paul speaks of faith after having spoken of the righteousness of God (that is the gospel) in verse 21. It is after this that he says, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (v. 22). In other words, the faith in Christ about which he is speaking is faith in that work of Christ previously revealed in and explained by the Old Testament. There cannot be any true faith without the Word of God, for it is in the Word alone that we learn what we are to believe.

The second way in which faith is linked to the Word of God is that faith is created, born, or awakened in us by that Word. Apart from the Word, we are like Lazarus – as dead in our transgressions as he was dead in his cold Judean tomb. What will awaken us from that sleep of death? Only the call of the life-giving God can produce such new life. The only place where we can hear the voice of God is in the pages of the Bible, where alone God speaks.

The third link between faith and the Bible is that it is through the Bible that faith is strengthened or sustained. Why? Because the Bible directs us to God and His promises, and only God is strong enough to support us in this matter of salvation. The conclusion is that if you wish to be strong in faith and grow in it, you must spend time studying the Bible and appropriating the promises of God that are found there.

As important as biblical content of faith is and which Calvin stressed so strongly, it is nevertheless possible to know this content and yet be lost – if it has not touched the individual personally at the heart level. Here is how Calvin put it – after a long section (forty out of fifty pages on “faith”) dealing with the element of knowledge or content: “It now remains to pour into the heart itself what the mind has absorbed. For the Word of God is not received by faith if it flits about in the top of the brain, but when it takes root in the depth of the heart that it may be an invincible defense to withstand and drive off all the stratagems of temptation.”

The third element of faith is a real yielding of oneself to Christ, which goes beyond having knowledge, however full or accurate, or even being personally moved by the gospel. (Many are moved, even to tears, but are not saved.) It is the point at which we pass over the line from belonging to ourselves (as we think) and become the Lord’s disciples. It is what was seen in Thomas when he not only believed in Jesus and his resurrection but fell at His feet in worship, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). It is at this point that faith joins hands with love, which it closely resembles, and hope is born from that union.

Jesus pledges Himself to us; He has already done it. We pledge ourselves to Him through the third element of faith: commitment. He died for us, demonstrating the nature of His true love and sterling character. He wooed us getting us to love Him who first loved us. Now He takes the wedding vow, saying, “I Jesus, take thee [put your name in the space], to be my wedded wife; and I do promise and covenant, before God the Father and these witnesses, to be  thy loving an faithful Savior and Bridegroom; in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, in this life and for all eternity,”

We then look up into His face and repeat the words: “I [your name], take thee, Jesus to be my loving Savior and Lord; and I do promise and covenant, before God the Father and these witnesses, to be thy loving and faithful wife: in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, and in sickness and in health, for this life and for all eternity.” God the Father (not an earthly minister) then pronounces the marriage, and you become the Lord Jesus Christ’s forever.

Have you done that? Have you believed on Jesus Christ? Do you love Him? Do you know yourself to have been made His forever? You may say, “Well, I don’t know if I have or not.” If you don’t know, settle the matter right now! Perhaps you say, “But I’m unworthy.” Of course you are. How could anybody possibly be worthy of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ? All are unworthy, but it is precisely your awareness of your unworthiness that makes it possible for you to know you need a Savior. Paul reminds us that God has shown “His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

You might say, “But my faith is so weak.” Yes, and your love and hope and everything else are weak, too. But it does not take strong faith to be saved, just faith. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The weakness of your faith will not destroy you. A trembling hand may receive a golden gift.”* Reach out your hand. Place it in that pierced hand that is stretched out to you. Clasp it to your heart, and love Jesus forever.

Romans 3:25-26 Reflection Questions:

What is your faith in; the church, some other authority, yourself, in faith, or in Christ?

How much time do you spend daily or weekly studying the Bible? Now compare that with the time you spend on your phone, the internet, or the T.V.

Has the Word of God touched your heart? How do you know?

*Spurgeon, All of Grace, p. 43.