The blog contains daily devotions and notes from the weekly messages.  We encourage you to review the notes during the sermon or through the week!  Most of the posts will have an audio and/or video link at the end of the notes.  From time to time the pastors will share other insights and devotions here.

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Responding to the Priorities of Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

The Priority of Rest!

Key Verses:  Matthew 11:28-30; 12:1-16 & Hebrews 4:1-11

 

One of our big 7 words at FBC is “Rest”. These 7 big words are what our church considers priorities of Jesus and essential marks of the people of God. Today, we are going to talk about the one of seven words that no other church in America, that I know of, has prioritized for their ministries like we have here at FBC: REST!

 

Just like with last week’s big word “follow”, this week’s big word of “rest” is a word that has lost its biblical meaning in contemporary culture. Therefore, we are going to chase after the depth of Jesus’ promise and priority for our life by examining the rest motif of Scripture. We are going to start with Jesus’ words then learn from two illustrations from His life. Next, we are going to press into the origins of the concept and Old Covenant usage and finally bring it closure with a New Testament admonition to be diligent to enter God’s rest.

 

Apart from this kind of biblical study, we are left with a very watered-down cultural understanding that falls so far short of Jesus’ intent that even if you sincerely wanted to obey you couldn’t and would fall into either extreme of a legalistic sabbath-day observance (like the Pharisees) or a sinful permissiveness as found in most  American churches.

 

We are being invited to walk in the ways of Jesus by living according to His priorities!

 

Let’s start by reading Jesus’ priority for “rest” from Matthew 11:28-30,
 
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

We looked at this last week and saw that the context of this passage is in Jesus’ invitation to follow Him in Christian discipleship. Jesus was calling a Jewish people who were living unfaithful lives to God, just like the people in Jeremiah’s time were before the sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the 70-year Babylonian exile.

 

Today, we are going to focus on Jesus’ one word promise: REST! Rest is a major theme throughout the Bible. Listen to this quick overview of Jesus’ promise of rest:

 

It includes peace of mind and heart, and relief from uncertainty and anxiety. It is a deep refreshment that enables a person to go back to his or her tasks with renewed strength and energy. It is relief from sin and guilt, and from striving after salvation. It is an eschatological rest, and reflects the language of Jeremiah 6:16, but it is also a present reality. This “rest” is a proper fellowship with God. It is not idleness or inaction, but the contentment and full life that come from knowing and living by the truth which God’s Son reveals. It is eternal, eschatological salvation by faith. It speaks of a refreshing and fulfillment that looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath.[1]

 

This is what Jesus is promising you! Better than a rocker on the front porch, or a weekend off, or a vacation to one of America’s many meccas of entertainment, or even retirement! Wow! This is a really BIG promise!

 

Now, let’s take the second step in our study and watch the two back-to-back illustrations of this rest from Jesus’ ministry life. Watch Jesus at work in Matthew 12:1-16, immediately after He gives His famous promise of rest:

 

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath [the Jewish day of rest], and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was.

 

I invite you to really pay attention to how Jesus worked on the Sabbath. He did not reduce nor remove it; Jesus reformed and fulfilled the Sabbath! Jesus emphasized His authority as the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt. 12:8). In fact, Matthew intentionally placed these two sabbath stories immediately after Jesus’ invitation to find rest in Him. The literary proximity has theological implications, which we are about to look at.

 

Jesus’ actions on that sabbath in Matthew 12 were not in rebellion to the original sabbath commandment as given in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, but they were a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders’ perversion of God’s heart. Jesus was all about this one thing: returning people to the heart of God!

 

This leads us to our third step in our study of FBC’s big word of REST: to explore the biblical origins of Jesus’ promise of rest, rooted in the Old Testament Sabbath command.

 

The fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments is God’s command “to CEASE”, which is what the word sabbath means. Exodus 20:8-11 is grounded in the creation motif of Genesis, stating,

 

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy [italics added]. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy [italics added].

 

Sabbath is rooted in God’s creative intent, as recorded in Genesis 2:1-3:
 

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [italics added], because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

 

God sanctified, made holy, the seventh day because it was the day that He rested to delight in His completed work. As one scholar points out from the original Hebrew language, “The Sabbath day is a holy day. Interestingly, the only thing God deems as qadosh, or ‘holy,’ in the creation story is the Sabbath day.”[2]

 

This was the first intent of the fourth commandment: the Sabbath command is to cease from your own striving in order to rest in God’s delight of His completed work. It is a separation from your own capabilities in order to remember His ability. As another Christian author explains, “Keeping the Sabbath day constantly reminds us that Yahweh is to be pre-eminent in our lives.”[3]

 

Submission to the command to cease facilitates the “habitual practice” of resting in God one day per week, as it fuels the rhythm of prioritizing God as pre-eminent in each and every day. Jesus’ promise and priority of rest is rooted in rich theology. It is yoked in the hālakh of God—the habitual lifestyle choices of covenant faithfulness!

 

If you are not resting, then your life is out of control! We are good at pointing the inverse of this out to people who don’t work—we are a culture infatuated with our own self-efficacy and capabilities! That is proving to be our downfall because our culture has uprooted itself from resting in God’s sovereign grace! Truly, rest is all about learning to work in God’s rhythm of grace; to work from rest, which is faith and trust in God!

 

Sabbath is about submission to God’s Sovereign Rule over us because, unlike the Lord’s finished work at creation, human work is always incomplete. I can always justify work!  Gordon MacDonald wrote, “We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it.”[4]

 

People are called to a deeper trust in God by ceasing from their own efforts to make this life work out for them the way they want it to. It is surrender; it is a means of grace. All of humanity’s work, as from the Garden, was to flow from the divine wellspring of God’s grace, just as our good works are to flow from faith. Both are essential, but the order is critical—faith always comes before works! We are saved by grace through faith!  

 

From the very beginning, humanity’s first experience was not to work for rest, but work from rest. Choosing not to walk in this intended rhythm demonstrates a fundamental disbelief in, and rebellion against, a most fundamental of our Christian doctrines from Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

 

The rest motif of the Old Testament teaches that humanity serves not only the God of creation, but also the God of salvation, who delights in rescuing His people from slavery. The second giving of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy came with a different motive clause for the Sabbath command. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 explains,

 

Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

 

The exodus of God’s people from Pharaoh’s oppressive lordship in Egypt renewed the purpose of the fourth commandment, anchoring it in God’s redemptive work. Rest is an act of divine justice between God and humanity that we are called to participate in every week, between men and women!

 

God’s people had forgotten how to trust Him because of living under the heavy burden of an oppressive regime. God desired for His people to taste and see that they could trust their God to provide for them by the work of His hand, rather than by the works of their own hands and the sweat of their own brows.

 

How far humanity had fallen from Eden, to so fundamentally distrust the good gifts that came from the hand of the God who created them and delivered them. Sabbath was a day to declare divine deliverance from slavery. God rescued them so that they could enter into His rest, as they were created to do. It is freedom!

 

The Exodus became an early foreshadowing of the rest that was to come through Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated a true observance of this deliverance motif of the sabbath in Luke 13:10-17, when He declared His motivation for violating the Pharisees’ legalistic rules of sabbath observance:

 

You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?

 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had forgotten—not their own rules added to the Sabbath command, but the true intent behind its observance—divine deliverance! In upholding their own rules about sabbath they had created a new yoke of slavery, instead of commemorating the shattering of the heavy yoke of Pharaoh’s slavery.

 

Once again, just as the Israelites in Egypt had forgotten, the people Jesus was teaching had forgotten how to trust God because of living under the heavy burden of an oppressive regime. In fact, it was this very religious “heavy-burden” that Jesus came to take off of God’s people. Jesus promised a one word solution to lift these “heavy burdens”: REST! 

 

Sabbath is an active resistance against the oppressive regimes of this world, animated by the forces of evil who refuse to give up any claim for their rule over man, even though Jesus has rightfully reclaimed us!

 

Have God’s people forgotten again from what He has saved us? Are we once again living under an oppressive regime and don’t even realize that we are slaves to the same demonic principality that led Pharaoh to enslave an entire people group of over a million people just so he can build more storage facilities for more of his stuff?

 

If we can’t rest from our unfinished work, then have we truly found rest in Jesus’ finished work?

 

This bring us to our final step in our learning journey for today and a clear admonition of the New Testament for you to work hard at entering the rest of God. Hebrews 4:9–11 is critical; it informs and instructs,

 

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest [italics added], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

 

Rest is the hardest and most important work you will ever do! Because Sabbath has always been about trust, and in that trust, the living out of covenant faithfulness. As Pastor Ken preached recently, “True rest is trust!

 

Jesus Christ is the rest His original Jewish audience had been awaiting, but did not recognize. Jesus Christ is the rest this world desperately needs, but is too loud and busy to recognize, even well-intentioned religious people!

 

I believe that the greatest evangelistic witness of the Church of Jesus Christ in the 3rd decade of the 21st century, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, international instability, domestic uncertainty, and civil unrest is the people of God diligently learning to enter God’s rest in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. What could possibly be more attractive to our stressed-out culture, than non-anxious, non-defensive, restful people—at peace with their God, one another, and their world around them? Imagine if all that the world saw and read from all of us Christians, both from our relationships and our social media, was trust in God! Instead of us just being another blowhard’s opinion in the cultural malaise, imagine if you brought a fresh perspective of rest for their souls that was from the actual overflow of your cup. Just imagine the evangelistic impact we could be if we had: REST!
 
 
 

(Due to personnel being on vacation, there may be a week or 2 delay)

You can listen to the message here (It is usually ready by late Sunday afternoon):

 
 

This Message Video will be ready by next week. You can watch the entire service HERE.

 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries, 412–413.

[2] A. J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, 12.

 

[3] Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: easing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting, 141.

 

[4] Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, 174.

 
 
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 144

Amazing Grace

 
2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

 

One of the favorite hymns of the church was written by someone who had a very dark start in their life. John Newton was a rough sailor who engaged in capturing and selling slaves around the world. But during a very fierce storm and fearful of shipwreck, the grace of God moved on him to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis, and it led to his genuine conversion and dramatically changed his life.

 

Feeling a call to ministry and influence by John & Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, he became the ordained minister of a small Anglican church in Olney, England. He used simple heart-felt hymns in his services, leading him to write “Amazing Grace” with his friend William Cowper in 1779.  He never ceased to marvel at the grace of God that transformed him so completely, even proclaiming shortly before his death “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things…that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior!”

 

Seize the moment today by thinking about the magnitude of God’s grace. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…”

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 143

Take Courage in the Storm!

Acts 27

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Friday, August 7.

 

During the relief efforts, after a massive tornado ripped through Henryville, Indiana. a billboard went up declaring, “Don’t tell your God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is!”

 

In Acts 27, Paul, a prisoner in chains was on his way to Rome. He was on a boat with 276 people when a bad decision was made to keep pressing on into the storm season. They were now approaching their 14th day of a horrifying storm experience. Everyone’s life was in danger, people were hungry and scared, when Paul stood up and spoke to the people in Acts 27:22-26,

 

Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.” Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on a certain island.

 

There are many storms in our lives. In addition to whatever you are going through personally, at home or at work, our communities and nation are going through a stormy season.

 

Unlike Paul I have not received a message from an angel for you, but I do have Jesus’ words hidden in my heart: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

 

Seize the moment and take courage in this storm for Jesus has overcome the world.

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 142

The Church of Jesus Christ!

Acts 26

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Thursday, August 6.

 

What is the Church?

 

It is very important to see how Paul first learned about the church. Listen closely to a specific detail from his conversion story from Acts 26:14-15 (also found in Acts 9:4-5 & Acts 22:7-8), “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.’”

 

Did you hear Jesus’ question to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” It’s repeated three times!

 

This is a significant question because it is Jesus’ witness to what the church is, from His perspective. When Paul persecuted the church and the followers of the Way, Jesus made no distinction between Paul opposing Him personally and opposing the people. Jesus sees His Church as an extension of Himself!

 

This is illuminating to the mind of God. Is the church just another organization in town or is there something more to the church?

 

Honestly, many pastors and church goers have forgotten this and have become shop keepers managing spreadsheets of their religious goods and caring more about their storefront appearances and marketing strategies than living incarnational lives! We must return to who we are as the church by each of us returning to our first love!

 

The Church is the collective Body of Christ on earth; we are the incarnational witnesses of Jesus’ gospel to all peoples; we are a holy (set apart) people declaring a coming kingdom that is not yet of this earth!

 

Seize the moment and be a healthy functioning member of Jesus’ body on earth! You are called to be so much more than a member of an organization… We are so much more…

 

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 141

The Ripple Effect of Faith!

Acts 25

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Wednesday, August 5.

 

Have you ever thrown a tiny pebble in a pond and then watched the ripples go out from that small action? It’s called a “ripple effect” and how we respond to our situations does the same thing.

 

In Acts 25 Paul is caught in a very difficult situation. Listen to Paul in verses 10-11, “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. To the Jews I have done no wrong, as you yourself know very well. If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

 

The historical situation is complex, but Paul’s response is faithful to God’s mission for His life: to be Christ’s witness to the Roman Empire.

 

Paul models for us three ways we can put courage into our hearts when in hard situations to remain faithful to God, even the stress of our own suffering and death.

 

  1. Paul anchors himself in the Word of God. We, too, can memorize and meditate upon the Word of God to focus our courage and strength on faithful living.
  2. Paul believed in the power of prayer. We, too, can pray for one another and ask others to pray for us. There is a deep comfort and peace that comes from knowing others are praying for you.
  3. Paul knew there was a bigger purpose for what he was going through. Jesus told him that he was “a chosen instrument” We, too, are chosen instruments… we are called ambassadors for Christ.

 

Seize the moment and send out a ripple effect in your stressful situations today.

 

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 140

An Invitation to Intimacy with God!

Acts 24

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Tuesday, August 4.

 

Does it ever feel like life is going off course?

 

As we turn to the final chapters of the book of Acts, we find Paul making his way to Rome, just as God promised, but in the least likely of ways—as a prisoner! 

 

In Acts 24:27 we see just how long Paul stayed in Caesarea alone, “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”  That’s over two years in a prison cell…waiting!  Ruler by ruler would examine Paul, and like with Jesus, the rulers find nothing wrong or at fault with him. But in the name of politics and self-preservation, Paul would be kept in prison and on the slow winding path to Rome.

 

Where was God? Where was His promise?

 

The great people of God have always been formed in their faith and character through seasons of waiting and wandering: Abraham and the patriarchs, Joseph, Moses, King David… The list of faithful people forged in the fires of life’s circumstances is long and all encompassing!

 

This is the way of God and this is the way of maturing in faith and character. What appears to be a long, slow, drawn-out, twisted journey from our perspective, is really a straight line to the heart of God.

 

God is not focused on efficiency; rather, God’s aim is on intimacy!

 

So what are you to do right now as COVID-19, national politics, community unrest, and international instability is wearing everyone thin and causing people to act out of fear and anxiety? 

 

TRUST GOD! God is calling you to press into your relationship with Him. How will you see the events of this season of your life as an invitation to intimacy with God?

 

Seize the moment and grow closer to Jesus today. He is inviting you personally!   

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 139

Choose Your Loyalties Wisely!

Acts 23

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Monday, August 3.

 

Our loyalties determine what we think about and how we conduct ourselves. What loyalties are influencing you?

 

This very personal question jumped out of the story in Acts 23 when Paul was on trial in the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court. Listen to Acts 23:6-10, “Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, ‘We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?’ And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.”

 

Paul knew the true loyalties of the religious elites and exposed them for who they were—political parties more interested in defending their positions of power; rather then, humble followers of God who seek to knowing Him first and foremost and discern His will for those who trusted them to lead them spiritually through Word and prayer.

 

Paul remained free of all this and was at peace because of it!

 

I choose to repent of any divided loyalties and return wholeheartedly to my first love, Jesus Christ! Who or what are you choosing to focus your life?

 

Seize the moment and check your loyalties. In Christ, you will have peace and rest.

 

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Responding to the Priorities of Jesus (Week 2)

The Priority of Following Jesus!

Key Verses:  Matthew 4:18-20

 

 

One of our big 7 words is “Follow”. These 7 big words are what our church considers priorities of Jesus and essential marks of the people of God. We talk about these all the time because it is not enough to know them, but to live them. I have heard it said that I should never preach a new message until we are obeying the last one I preached; that it’s our hunger for novelty that keeps us immature in our thinking and living.

 

Biblically, we don’t know something until we are living it as a habitual lifestyle. For example: you don’t know the Lord’s prayer until you pray the Lord’s prayer. And you aren’t praying it until you are living it.

 

  • Our culture teaches you that it is enough to know the form of the words, Jesus teaches that it is enough when you are formed by the words.
  • Our culture teaches you to master the words, Jesus teaches that you must be mastered by His Word.

 

Do you see the difference?

 

In this gap is what one theologian called “The Great Omission” of our Great Commission. We are not calling people to follow Jesus; to becoming people who live in habitual lifestyles of following Jesus—being His apprentices, His learners. He explained it this way, using athletic imagery like the Apostle Paul did:

 

We know [that young people] won’t succeed [in becoming like a professional baseball player] if all they do is try to be like him in the game—no matter how gifted they may be in their own way. And we all understand why. The star performer himself didn’t achieve his excellence by trying to behave a certain way only during the game. Instead, he chose an overall life of preparation of mind and body pouring all his energies into that total preparation, to provide a foundation in the body’s automatic responses and strength for his conscious efforts during the game. … And what is true of specific activities is, of course, also true of life as a whole. … A baseball player who expects to excel in the game without adequate exercise in his body is no more ridiculous than the Christian who hopes to be able to act in the manner of Christ when put to the test without the appropriate exercise in godly living. As is obvious from the record of his own life, Jesus understood this fact well and lived accordingly. … To live as Christ lived is to live as he did all his life.[1]

 

This gets to the heart of what it means to follow Jesus, so let’s now listen to Matthew 4:18-20:

 

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

 

Later, in a different setting to a larger Jewish audience whom Jesus had just renounced for this unfaithfulness to God’s ways, Jesus invited to follow Him in Matthew 11:28-30:

 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

In both these Scriptures, the Koine Greek word (the original language of the New Testament) translated “follow” in Matthew 4:19 (cf. Mark 1:17) and “come” in Matthew 11:28 is δεῦτε. We see these words as very different, but they are actually the same word. In fact, we have distorted understandings of the word “follow” due to the dominance of social media understandings of what it means to “follow” someone.

 

Let’s explore some of these connections to get a larger understanding of why this is Jesus’ priority: What is Jesus actually inviting us to do when He invites us to “Follow” or “Come” to Him.

 

When you become Jesus’ friend by following Him, that doesn’t mean that you can disregard Him on any given day or disobey Him on any given issue. Just because you can stop following anyone you want, anytime you want, doesn’t mean that you can have that same attitude with Jesus Christ. Jesus’ word choice doesn’t allow it!

 

Let’s start in Mark 10:14-15 Jesus utilized this phrase as an invitation to the kingdom of God:

 

Permit the children to come to Me [italics added]; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. (cf. Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16)

 

From Luke 6:46-48, Jesus admonished His disciples,

 

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me [italics added] and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.

 

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus commanded potential disciples to carry their own crosses:

 

If anyone comes to Me [italics added], and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

 

This same Greek word is used in John 5:39-40; Jesus rebuked,
 
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me [italics added] so that you may have life.”

 

Next, note the parallelism found in both John 6:35 and John 7:37-38, between “come to Me” and “believes in Me.” Jesus said in John 6:35,
 
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me  [italics added] will not hunger, and he who believes in Me [italics added] will never thirst.”
 
Jesus made this same connection in John 7:37-38,
 
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me [italics added] and drink. He who believes in Me [italics added], as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

 

This parallelism is like a neon sign of Jesus’ intent on what it means to truly come to Him—to enter His life with God through faith in Him. And faith in Him is manifest in a life of learning from Him how to be like Him.

 

To truly get the heart of this, we need to dive deeper into the mindset of Jesus and His Old Covenant audience.

This Greek word δεῦτε is a translation of the important Hebrew word הלך (hālakh). Listen to meaning behind this rich Old Testament word; hālakh “has a common metaphorical sense that pertains to one’s manner of living. To walk (hālak) in a certain lifestyle or custom is to habitually practice [italics added] it.”[2]

So many rich examples are found throughout the Old Testament, but I’m only going to share three.  

 

First, it is used twice in the covenantal passage of Isaiah 2:1-5:

 

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths’ [italics added]. For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord [italics added].

 

Second, it is used in Psalm 81:11-16

 

“But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! [Italics added] I would quickly subdue their enemies And turn My hand against their adversaries. Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him, And their time of punishment would be forever. But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

 

Last, it is used in the famous exhortation of God in Micah 6:6-8,

 

With what shall I come to the Lord And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? [italics added]

 

Are you noticing a trend in the rich usage of the word hālakh? And don’t be deceived, Jesus brought all of those covenantal promises (the blessings and the curses) with Him when he used the Greek word δεῦτε, which we hear in the now overly familiar command of “follow Me” and “Come to Me”, which we have further neutered as a social media word to sometimes pay attention to, sometimes agree or disagree with, sometimes share…

 

We’ve got to understand the gravity of what it means to “follow” Jesus! Based on Jesus’ word choice, there is a clear foreshadowing that He was asking something of those who “come” to Him; essentially, this invitation is not a one-time action, but an ongoing journey of following Jesus through the “habitual practice” of His way of life. For example, He got up early to pray… He quoted Scripture to fight against temptation…

 

Jesus’ invitation has profound implications. Through a word choice that was unmistakable to His original Jewish audience, but easily missed by today’s audience, Jesus directly aligned His call to discipleship (“Follow Me”) with what it means to be saved, to find one’s life, while also directly connecting Himself to the ancient promises of God’s redeemed rule over all nations and the Messiah’s eternal reign over all of God’s creation.

 

Jesus’ call to discipleship was, and is, an invitation to enter into a relationship with God by joining Him in His relationship with the Father. Jesus declared Himself to be more than Moses; He is wisdom and Torah incarnate!

 

In Matthew 11:27, Jesus declared that He is the only authorized way to know His Father,
 
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

 

Jesus’ invitation directed His original audience to Himself, just as clearly as He did in John 10:9,
 
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
 
And in John 14:6,
 
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 

I conclude with a connection between the OT and NT: God speaks through His prophet in Jeremiah 6:13-21,

 

“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the Lord. Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; [italics added] And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ [italics added] “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ “Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also. “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba And the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Therefore, thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people. And they will stumble against them, Fathers and sons together; Neighbor and friend will perish.”

 

All the promises of God are yours in Jesus Christ. All the blessings and all the curses of the Old Covenant…

 

I read this to you because it was played out again in Jesus’ day; Listen to Jesus in Matthew 11:20-28:

 

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

It’s being played out again today! Following Jesus is so much more than following someone on FB. It is the only way to find your life, to be saved, and to experience the promises of God in this life and for eternal life.

 

Honestly friends, you don’t have to teach a young athlete or actor or singer who wants to be like their favorite star, how to take on their mannerisms and lifestyle, their beliefs and attitudes, and their activities (on and off the stage/field). You don’t have to teach that to anyone. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

 

Ultimately, the question comes down to who or what has captured your heart’s desire to such a point that you want to build your life and model your thoughts and actions off of them. Maybe you need to fall in love with Jesus all over again—return to your “first love” and Follow Him. You are already doing this, but with whom?  
 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 3-5.

[2] Joshua Hebert, “Travel,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

 
 

(Due to personnel being on vacation, there may be a week or 2 delay)

You can listen to the message here (It is usually ready by late Sunday afternoon):

 
 

This Message Video can be viewed HERE.

 

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Seize the Moment – Day 137

It Is Well With My Soul

Key Verses:  Psalm 31:14, Psalm 46:1
 

Psalm 31:14  “But I trust in you, O Lord. I say you are my God.”

Psalm 46:1  “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.”

 

              In 1871, Chicago was largely destroyed by fire and successful attorney H.G. Spafford loss much of his investment properties. So during the reconstruction time, he decided to take his family to Europe to lift their spirits. Besides, D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey had left for an evangelistic campaign, so he decided to help with their meetings there. However, when it came time to leave, he was detained by urgent business, so he sent his family on ahead. Halfway across the Atlantic, their ship was struck by an English vessel and sank in 12 minutes. He received a telegram from his wife that said “Alone”, as all four of his daughters had drowned and she miraculously survived. 
 
As he traveled to join her in Wales, he asked the captain of the ship to let him know when they were near where his daughters lay. As they approached the spot, these words came as comfort from God
“When sorrows like sea billows roll…It is well with my soul!”
 
What a picture of hope!!!

 

It is well, with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul

 

Ask yourself if you can truly say “it is well with my soul” no matter what the circumstances are you may find yourself sounded by today? Seize the moment and find that peace.

 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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Seize the Moment – Day 136

Love all the Peoples!

Acts 22

 

Good morning! This is Pastor Jerry Ingalls from New Castle First Baptist Church and today is Friday, July 31.

 

When does nationalism go too far?

 

According to the dictionary, nationalism is, “patriotic feelings, principles, and efforts; an extreme form of this, especially marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.”

 

This extreme form of nationalism says, “we are better than you.” When this extreme form of nationalism is merged with religion you neither have a healthy form of patriotism nor a humble practice of religion; rather, you have an ideology propelled with rocket fuel.

 

It is this kind of ideology that caused the Jewish people in Acts 22:22 to cry out about Paul, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” That’s crazy talk!

 

They wanted to kill Paul because he was bringing the fulfilled hope of Judaism to non-Jewish people (the Gentiles). Even though their own Jewish Scriptures say that the Jews would be a blessing to all people on earth, a light to the Gentiles, their ideology caused them to violently oppose the work of God. They wanted God to raise up a nationalistic kingdom on earth, not a spiritual one that welcomes all nations, tribes, and people groups!

 

The same thing is happening today in American Christianity! The nation you are born into is where God birthed you in real time and in real history. Yes, we are to be good citizens and pray for our leaders (that is healthy patriotism). But, we must not allow our nationalism to become compromised as an extreme form of prejudice against those that God has called us to bring the love of Jesus Christ.

 

Are you willing to be used by God to reach all peoples; to the ends of the earth?

 

Seize the moment and invite God to search your heart for any feelings of prejudice or superiority that would limit who you are willing to love as your neighbor.

 
 
If you would like to receive a personal phone call today, all you have to do is dial the phone number below right now and one of us will call you soon.
 
 

YOUTUBE:

If you prefer a video, Pastor Jerry reads his devotion on YouTube as well. Click HERE to visit the page.
Videos are posted about a week after the devotion appears in the blog.
 

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