The Meaning of Christmas

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“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

December is a busy month. Christmas is right around the corner and has a special meaning for all. For a Christian, it means remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus. The birth of a child always brings joy and a sense of wonder. A new life is brought into the world and in the midst of the joy, we also ponder what the child will become and what difference he or she will make in the world. The birth of Christ was like that. Angels announced and celebrated His birth to lowly shepherds and eventually to the whole world. His mother, Mary, pondered all the things she was told about her Son, especially about what He would become. The verse above is central to understanding why Jesus came. His message was one of repentance (turning away) from sin and deliverance from the penalty of sin.

Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Ungodliness means a state of sinfulness. Sin is any act or thought that God deems to be an affront to His holiness and righteousness. Because we have sinned we are judged by God to be unrighteous with the penalty of eternity in hell—not by God’s desire, but ours. Something must be done to satisfy the judgment for sin. That “something” is trusting Christ to be our Savior. The message of repentance is that we can turn away from sin to Christ. True repentance means we will no longer desire to be in opposition or rebellion against God, but will choose to live righteously for Him.

Everybody wants to go to heaven and many believe they can get to heaven by some means other than by Christ. The bible and Jesus said they are wrong about that. The bible tells us, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) This Christmas remember the real reason we celebrate the birth of Christ.

The Truth Will Set You Free—if…

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John 8:31-32 (HCSB) (31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. (32) You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

The only absolute is the truth, because the truth never changes. The challenge you and I have is to find out what the absolute truth is and follow it. This is not a new concept. The legal system follows the evidence that will lead to the truth about a crime. True believers in Christ can find truth as well. We have a Bible that is God inspired and reveals the truth about Christ, the current worldview, and us.

If you read verse 31 carefully, you notice that knowing the truth and being set free is conditional. Jesus plainly says that (1) we must be a believer, (2) continue in His Word, and (3) follow Christ as a disciple. God created us with a need for Him. Philosophers throughout the ages have pondered about the nature of truth. The philosopher Rene’ Descartes made what he believed to be the truth about our nature and existence when he famously stated, "Cogito ergo sum", or “I think, therefore I am.” I think the Bible teaches about truth the other way around—“I am, therefore I think.” We have a tendency to make truth complicated by coming up with exceptions to God’s truth to suit our needs and continue as less than disciplined followers of Christ.

The two verses above summarize what truth is and how to get it. When Jesus prayed for His disciple and for us during the last supper in the upper room, He said, “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s process and work in us to make us more like Christ. The Bible teaches that the only way for us to be completely set free from false doctrine, false worship, and false obedience is to continue in Christ’s word.

The truth about who we really are in the “eyes” of God can only understood in light of God’s Word. Our own understanding is not reliable when it comes to evaluating how we measure up to the raw truth of us being a true disciple of Christ. Proverbs 3:5-6 says that we must “(5) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; (6) think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” Personal revival will come only when we accept the truth about ourselves, and believe that Christ is the truth we desperately need to accept.

Accountability to God

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It is safe to assume that everyone is accountable to someone. When we enter a relationship, such as a job, marriage or friendship, we put ourselves in a position of accountability. There are also those times when we are accountable to someone by default, i.e., a child being accountable to the authority of parents, and the mutual accountability of people to each other. With accountability comes responsibility and it is in our nature to know that we do answer for what we do. Accountability means that we are responsible for our actions because we are held to a standard higher than ourselves. Admit it—if you or I set our own moral and ethical standards we will be highly tempted to set those standards low. In the same way, we are held to a spiritual standard much higher than we are able to achieve. God sets the standards of righteousness for all mankind and we fall short in meeting those standards. That’s where we have a problem and it’s called sin.

Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” The literal meaning of sin is to miss the mark. The mark is righteousness by God’s standard. Because we miss the mark, we cannot share in the prize of everlasting life with God by our own merit. Sin also involves an offense. We do not define what sin is—God does. Since you and I have sinned willfully, it is an offense to God and a penalty must be paid. It is not God’s fault that you and I are not righteous by His standards—it is our fault, and once we have sinned (and we all have done so) we are held accountable. You can reason within yourself that you are a good person, and you may be, but not according to God’s standard (Romans 3:10; see also, Psalms 14:1-3). There is hope.

Do you want to have the penalty for your sin removed? If so, the Holy Spirit has convinced you that you need forgiveness, which will remove the penalty and establish your standing before God as righteous by His standard. Accepting Christ as your Savior is the only way you can be forgiven for your sin. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV) says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Ask Christ to be your Savior today.

Prayer

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As a Christian, we are at our most powerful when we pray. Right now, you can probably think of several stories in the bible about people who prayed and sensed the deep intimate presence of God during those prayers. When I think about the prayer warriors in the Old Testament, the one who comes to my mind is Daniel. The bible tells us that he prayed at least three times daily (Daniel 6:10). There was no command to do that, but still he felt the need to stop what he was doing long enough to pray. I often wonder what he prayed for, don’t you? He was in captivity, so did he pray for God’s deliverance? He served a pagan king, so did he pray for the king? I wonder….

There is power in prayer, but do you believe it? Think about your prayers—the deep desires of your heart that you pour out to God. The big question is do you have an encounter with God when you pray?

In the New Testament, Paul says we are a “royal priesthood.” The priest would intercede on behalf of those who sought to experience God’s forgiveness. The elements of this type of intercession involved the person presenting a proper sacrifice. The priest would bless the sacrifice and then offer it to God on behalf of the person. Christ is our High Priest who intercedes on our behalf. Because of Christ, we can intercede on behalf of others. When we pray in the name of Christ it changes things, but mostly it changes us.

Of course, our prayers can be hindered by a sinful heart. There are times when we may pray carelessly, flippantly, and with doubt. This leads to us praying amiss. We must ask ourselves what our motivation for prayer is. God has given us the ability to pray for others and make a difference. I believe that our prayers can actually hinder Satan and his influence on others so they will be able to see the light of Christ we shine forth.

If you were in Daniel’s place what would you have prayed for? Do you have difficulties, challenges, or disappointments that affect how you approach God in prayer? Try coming before the Lord and just being silent about what you want God to do and instead let the Holy Spirit help you worship in the presence of the Lord.

The Quest for Spiritual Fulfillment

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“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

 Somewhere, somebody is searching for meaning in life.  The search began with a feeling that things are not quite right—that everything seems a little…off.  This person could be a teenager or young adult faced with the making decisions about what they will do the rest of their life.  Or it could be an adult who is restless in their marriage, job, or retirement.  The thing they all have in common is a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, and uncertainty about the future.  For a Christian, this can lead to a spiritual emptiness that causes the person to question their salvation, faith, and even trust in God.  The verse above shows that Jesus anticipated this discouraging possibility.

When Jesus says He is the Bread of Life, He is indicating that He is the solution to the problem of experiencing a life without direction.  Jesus said that when we come to Him we will never hunger.  Coming to Jesus means admitting we are a sinner, turning away from sin, and looking for and following His will for your life.  If we believe in Him we will never thirst.  You will find fulfillment and satisfaction in life only by doing what is right by God’s standard.

As you search for meaning in your life, there are some things you can do to find fulfillment.  First, make sure you are right with God.  Second, pray for God’s wisdom as you make decisions about things you have control over.  Third, trust that God is working behind the scenes to resolve the things you cannot control.  Forth, be obedient to God by attending church; developing positive Christian relationships, and cultivating a strong personal relationship with Christ.

If you are uncertain about your current situation, your plans for the future, your relationship with God, or if you just feel empty, remember that you can fill the void by coming to Jesus and believing in Him.

Bearing Fruit Called Love

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

fruit-of-the-spiritI love fruit. I remember several years ago someone making the statement, “fruit is nature’s candy.” They may have been right about that. God created some wonderful, tasteful, juicy, fruit that He meant for us to enjoy. I think Paul may have looked at his favorite fruit tree and thought about how God produces a work in him that people need and can enjoy. The Holy Spirit indwells us and bears fruit through us in such a way that people will recognize that God is real

The Spiritual fruit, love, is more than an emotion. The love Paul is talking about is action on our part that makes the object of our love-people-better. When we experience salvation we have received the greatest love of all—the Love of God. When we live before others with unconditional love, we are planting a seed of God’s love in them. I Corinthians 13 indicates that compared to faith and hope, love is the greatest. The fruit of love has slices that could be described as acts of forgiveness, sacrifice, selflessness, compassion, mercy, honesty, and humility.

How is your love-life? Have you shown unconditional love toward someone? Do you love your friends, family, or coworkers enough to share God’s Love through Christ with them? The fruits of the Spirit that God has so richly blessed us with are to be shared. How can you share and demonstrate acts of love today?

Is God Real?

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Is God Real“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3

Delusional, weak, ignorant, emotionally unstable, evil, deceived, and intolerant. What do these words have in common? I have run across these words from time-to-time as they describe a person who calls themselves a Christian. You can easily do a search on the internet and find websites dedicated to abolishing the Christian’s belief in God. It is amazing to me that people will spend so much time, money and energy trying to cast doubt in the minds of believers that God is real.

So, is God real or am I (and maybe you) a delusional, ignorant, sad person who needs be convinced that the God we worship is not a reality?   I want to share some of the reasons why a person needs to accept the fact that God is a reality. After all, all believers were once unbelievers were we not?

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was about 17 years old. Prior to that time I did not read the Bible and had no knowledge about how I was “supposed to act” as a Christian. My friends at the church where I attended prayed for me and I remember realizing that if I died without accepting Jesus Christ as my Savior, I would be forever lost and separated from God. It was my choice to believe or not. The evidence at that time was overwhelming to me. I had never sensed that much guilt for wrong-doing in my life and I haven’t sensed it like that since because once you are “saved” you are always saved. I remember praying and asking God to forgive me for what I realized was sin (offenses against the will of God) in my life. When I made my choice, I experienced forgiveness and a relief of the guilt I had experience before. In that moment, I realized God is real. That’s when the adventure of a lifetime began.

You are invited to worship with us at 1st Baptist Church, Sanford, Alabama.  Check out the sermons at www.sermon.net/johnnymoore.

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