God

Why Jesus said, “Love Your Enemies”

Sunday, November 17, 1957, the young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stepped into the pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Ala., to deliver one of his most profound sermons, ever. The sermon, entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” taken from Matthew 5, not only presented a Biblical definition of love, and God’s commandment to have this love toward all men. It also outlined the philosophy of Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement from that day forward.

The Civil Rights Movement had just secured a major victory after the Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s ordinances segregating the bus lines were unconstitutional. In the aftermath of that victory, Dr. King saw that his method of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to the Jim Crow laws of the South could secure more freedoms for his people, and put an end to racial segregation.

However, Dr. King also realized that while those political, legislative and judicial victories could put an end to institutional racial discrimination, they could never put an end to racism, or heal the wounds left from America’s racial strife. Dr. King understood that for there to be true peace and equality, America had to be redeemed from its past, not defeated because of it.

Therefore, love became central to Dr. King’s message. In His sermon, “Love Your Enemies,” Dr. King said that God commanded us to love our enemies, not only because God is love, because God loves them, and He wants to redeem them, but because love itself has a redemptive quality.

“Love has within it, a redemptive power,” Dr. King stated. “And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.

“That’s why Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies,'” he continued, “Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and transform them.”

Dr. King went on to say that at the root of love is the power of redemption.

This concept is not only a philosophy put forth by Dr. King. It was stated by Jesus Christ Himself in Luke 6:35-36:

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

This love that God had toward us motivated Him to give His only begotten Son for our salvation (John 3:16). The love God had toward us redeemed us. We can extend that same redeeming love to others, and in doing so, we can see others transformed by the power of the Gospel into the people God created them to be.

Today, America is divided. Political discourse has grown harsh, cold, and even leads to physical violence. With each passing day, our society becomes more about us vs. them than it is about E pluribus unim.

With more sin and evil being propagated in our society, and more rancid division arising daily, it becomes easy to look at those on the other side as enemies, and work to defeat them. This runs contrary to scripture.

While scripture teaches us to hate sin and to hate evil, we are also commanded to love the sinner. While “love the sinner but hate the sin” seems to be a modern cliche, we are taught by the Word that if we love the sinner, we can see him redeemed from the sin. Isn’t that the goal that all believers should have toward non-believers?

So, as we move toward 2018, let’s make an effort to see people as God sees them. Let’s love people, and see the redemptive power of love come alive.

Leland Acker is the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Services are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce building at 104 E. Industrial in Early. This week, Bro. Waymon Childress will bring the morning message. 

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And His name shall be called…

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For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

-Isaiah 9:6

There was a hymn we used to sing at the church where I grew up, called, “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.” You’ve probably heard it. It begins with, “There’s a sweet, sweet Spirit in this place….”

The song praised God for pouring His Spirit into our lives, and into our church. The song thanked God for what He was doing at that moment in the lives of each one present, then concluded with the following line of hope, “Without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived, when we shall leave this place.”

Oddly enough, I used to hum that line to myself as I walked the halls of Jacksonville High School as a teenager. I looked forward to graduation, when I would leave school and home to try my hand in the real world. I had no doubt that I would be successful in life, that the blessings would pour in, and that I’d make my family and community proud. I couldn’t wait.

I could not wait to “be revived” on graduation day, when I “shall leave this place.” The promise of the graduation was what kept me going in school. (I had a good high school experience, but I’ve always seemed to look forward to the next stage in life).

You may think it silly to apply a hymn of praise and hope to high school graduation, and you’re probably right. Still, how many high school seniors today are anxiously awaiting May 31?

Scripture teaches that, just as high school students anticipate the coming commencement ceremony, we are to anticipate the coming of the Lord. For it is that day that the promises of God will come to full fruition. In fact, 2 Timothy 4:7-8 indicates that you can measure your faith by how much you look forward to the return of Christ.

Isaiah 9:6, often quoted around Christmas as it did foretell the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, was more a prophecy about the hope He would bring than the fact He would be born.

Unto us a child is born. Jesus was born of the Jewish nation of Israel, just as God promised repeatedly in the Old Testament.

Unto us, a Son is given. God promised to give His only begotten Son for the salvation of the world.

The rest of the verse, often glazed over, is where the true hope is found.

Isaiah 9:6 says His name shall be called “Wonderful.” That is a word that has lost its meaning over the past few centuries. The original English word used in 1611 literally meant, “full of wonder.” The Hebrew word that was translated “wonderful” meant “miraculous.”

Not only was the birth of Jesus miraculous, but His entire ministry on Earth was a continual working of miracles, from the turning of the water into wine, to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The miracles of Christ healed multitudes of people, fed thousands, restored hope for two sisters, and testified to the people that the promised Son of God was now among the people, and that Christ had come.

The people of the Old Testament looked forward to the One who would heal them. Likewise, we look forward to the One who will heal us. When the Lord returns and establishes His Kingdom on Earth, He will miraculously heal us all of our ailments, wash away our sin, put an end to the sin in the world, and usher in a perfect eternity of peace and prosperity. That will be a wonder, living in a Kingdom led by Christ, who is full of wonder. His name shall be called Wonderful.

His name shall be called “Counsellor.” This is an adviser, one who gives counsel, one who teaches, and one who plans. The teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth were so perfect, that even the religions that deny His divinity and Sonship admire His teaching. Those religions that reject Jesus as Messiah accept Him as a wise teacher.

In fact, my World History teacher in high school even noted that, “If you reject Christianity, you still have to admit that Jesus had some good ideas.”

The teachings of Christ were given both to the people of Bible times, and to us as well. His teachings shed light on the true meanings of the scriptures and God’s love toward mankind. If one wants to conform to God’s standard, or realize the love of God, one would do well to read, learn, and apply the teachings of Christ.

“His name shall be called… the mighty God, the everlasting Father.” Jesus Christ of Nazareth is God in the flesh. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:1-2 tells us that the Word was God, and the Word was with God. Jesus told His disciples, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Think about that for a moment. God has always wanted to dwell with His people. It’s why He ordered the building of the tabernacle in Exodus. So, in order to dwell among us, He became a man, and lived our experience. How much love did God demonstrate in doing that?

This is why Hebrews 4:15-16 tells us we can trust the Lord to hear our prayers. He lived our experience, and is therefore empathetic.

This also opened the way for God to redeem us, seeing how He paid the price for our sins on the cross, thus removing the debt and guilt of sin from us. Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

This is the hope promised to us in Isaiah 9:6, that God would redeem us through Christ, who would live our experience then purchase our salvation.

The final name attributed to Christ is “the Prince of Peace.” The Lord bought peace between us and God, and will bring everlasting peace into the world when He establishes His Kingdom.

There is a lot we can learn from the names of Christ given in Isaiah 9:6, but let us not forget God’s end game… to redeem us from sin, and to one day rescue us from the troubles of this world, taking us into the perfect world He intended for us in the beginning.

Knowing that these promises were made, kept, and will be kept should restore our hope as we celebrate the fulfillment of the first two phrases of Isaiah 9:6, “unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Celebrate the Lord’s birth this Christmas, and look forward to the joy that will follow.

–Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. Sunday, He will bring a special Christmas message from Isaiah 9. Sunday School begins at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Life Point meets at the Early Chamber of Commerce at 104 E. Industrial Dr. in Early, TX. 

Shedding Spiritual Pounds

 

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Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

-Hebrews 12:1

Dr. Morris not only preached healthy living to his patients, he practiced it himself. A middle-aged doctor living in the piney woods of East Texas, he constantly trained to run ultra-marathons (foot-races of 99 miles, or more) in Death Valley, Ca., and Leadville, Colo.

He never won those races, but anyone who has attempted such a feat will tell you, just finishing the race is the victory. During an interview I did with him in 2007, Dr. Morris said the feeling one gets upon crossing the finish line is pure euphoria.

Most of the time, Dr. Morris finished his race. A few times, he did not. The year I interviewed him, he failed to finish a race because he had gained weight prior to running at Leadville, a course consisting of steep climbs and descents in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Now, in gaining the weight, Dr. Morris did not get fat. Au contrare! He gained muscle as part of a nutrition and workout regiment designed to build strength. He was still in shape, better than many professional athletes. However, the gained muscle mass added strain on his cardiovascular system, rendering him unable to deal with the combined pressures of the altitude, slopes and added weight.

The weight wasn’t bad for him, but it did affect his ability to run the race. (He returned home, lost the weight and went on to finish another ultra-marathon later that year.)

Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and that we are to run with patience the race set before us.

In understanding this concept, we must realize that the Bible is telling us to lay aside two completely different things. Weight, and sin. What’s the difference?

The weight is something that, in and of itself, is not a sin. However, it is something that comes between us and God, making it sinful. Possible examples of weight could include career ambition, entertainment, or social lives.

All of these are not necessarily bad. Career ambition is a good thing. It motivates us to better ourselves so we can better provide for family. Entertainment is not necessarily bad, it relaxes the mind and can promote good mental health. Social lives are not bad, they result in lifelong friendships, which scripture says that we need.

However, when these things interfere with our Spiritual walk, they become weight. Anything that hinders you from living your life the way God wants you to live would fall into this classification. If entertainment keeps you out of worship, it becomes weight. If career ambition prevents you from honoring your commitment to your family, or to your church, it becomes weight. If social activities leave you too tired to have personal time with God, or to worship God, it becomes weight.

These are just a few general examples of what can happen. Only you know what’s truly happening in your Spiritual life.

When these things happen, Hebrews 12:1 tells us that we are to lay aside that weight. That means to re-examine our priorities when it comes to career aspirations and time management, to put our entertainment desires into perspective, and to stop letting social engagements control our lives.

Basically, whatever comes between us and God, we have to lay that aside.

Sin, on the other hand, is a direct disobedience to God, or a violation of His law. Sin is open rebellion against God, and will not only hinder our walk with Him, but will draw his chastisement upon us as He corrects us.

Is there anything that is coming between you and God? Is there recurring sin in your life? If so, it’s time to lay that aside so you can run your race for the Lord.

Leland Acker has served as pastor of Life Point Baptist Church since its inception in 2008. He is currently leading the congregation through a study of the book of Hebrews, which will conclude Sunday, Dec. 17, with a study of Chapter 13.

Meet God

 

When Moses approached the burning bush, God called out to him from the midst of the bush, telling him to take off his shoes for he was standing on holy ground.

At that point, Moses met the God he had trusted since childhood. All throughout Exodus 3, Moses sees the attributes of God on full display.

First, Moses saw the awesomeness of God, as He appeared in a burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire.

Secondly, he saw the life of God, as God described Himself as the eternal “I AM” who was still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as they had entered eternity with him after passing on this Earth.

Thirdly, he saw God’s deliverance, as God told Moses that He had come down to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt.

Lastly, he received God’s call, as God directed Moses to be the one to lead the people out of Egypt.

From this, we learn that God is to be revered, that He is the source of our life (both eternal, and Earthly), that God delivers His people and responds to their prayers, and that God works through His people to accomplish His mission.

Want more? Check out the above-posted podcast.

God’s Laundry Mat

The only thing harder than building is rebuilding. To go back, restore something that was ruined, rebuild a structure that collapsed, or to cleanse something that was stained. These projects are often harder than starting from scratch.

Such was the case in Jerusalem ca 520 BC. Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonian army at the start of the 70-year captivity where God allowed His people to be carried away so that He could teach them not to commit idolatry. In 520 BC, the captivity was ending, and King Darius decreed that the Jews should go home. So, home they went.

Upon arriving in the Holy Land, they found Jerusalem in total ruin. The Temple was destroyed, the walls were a pile of rubble, bandits raided the area, and discouragement set in.

The Prophet Zechariah was called by God to encourage the people to rebuild Jerusalem.

In Zechariah 3, the prophet sees a vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord while wearing filthy garments. His filthy attire was not from incidental contact with dust, but rather was the complete soiling consistent with rolling around in mud.

Old Testament Law required the high priest to wear clean clothing, so the fact the high priest was standing before God wearing filthy clothing was a major violation. Being the representative of the people before God, Joshua was essentially representing the sinfulness and the guilt of the nation before God.

To make things worse, Satan stood beside Joshua “to resist him” before God. Basically, Satan stood beside Joshua, criticizing his filthy clothes, and the sinfulness of the nation.

This had to be a mixed bag for Zechariah. One on hand, there’s the high priest. The priesthood and worship were being restored. On the other hand, he wore filthy clothes before God, and there was still no temple where worship could truly take place.

It was at that moment that God rebuked Satan, called Joshua (and by extension, the nation of Israel) a brand plucked from the fire, and restored Joshua to the glory of the priesthood by changing his clothes from filthy clothes, to new, clean, priestly clothes.

In this one moment, God showed the Prophet Zechariah that He not only accepted the return of the Jews to Israel, and the reconstruction of the Temple, but that He was behind it, and He would restore it, and He would cleanse the nation and reconcile them to Himself as His chosen people.

Therefore, the nation should move forward with reconstruction in faith and return to the Lord.

Often times, we wind up feeling like Joshua the high priest, standing before the Lord in filthy clothes with Satan (and the rest of the world) criticizing our weaknesses and failures. It often feels as if we stand alone, damaged goods rejected by the world.

Just as God cleansed Joshua and restored him to the glory of his position, God will restore us as well, if we (a) know Christ as our savior, and (b) turn to Him.

You don’t have to go through life defined by the scars of your past. You don’t have to go through life as a second-class citizen, or a second-hand friend. You are not some old CD single languishing in the bargain bin of a soon-to-close music store.

You have the opportunity for a new life, one where you’ve been made free in Christ, where you can grab that new lease on life, love God, and do as you please.

And we want to be a part of that with you. Come see us. Sunday School at 10 am, Morning Worship at 11 am. We meet at the Early Chamber of Commerce, 104 E. Industrial Drive, Early, TX, 76802.

When God is distant

Have you ever found yourself in a place where God seemed distant, or silent? Perhaps you’ve experienced troubles in your life, and you can’t feel God’s presence. Perhaps you look at the condition of this world, and wonder if God even cares.

That is where Jacob was in Genesis 28. Jacob had to flee for his life after tricking Isaac into giving him the family’s blessing. His brother Esau sought Jacob’s life, and Jacob knew that there was no chance for living in peace back home.

So, with the blessing of Isaac, his father, he lit out for Haran to live with kinfolk, and to find a wife. In Genesis 28, he stopped for the night in Luz. Sleeping outside, he made a pillow of stones, and rested. As he slept, he dreamed of a ladder reaching into Heaven, with angels ascending and descending upon it. Standing at the top of the ladder was the Lord God.

Standing at the top of the ladder, God introduced Himself as the LORD God of Abraham and Isaac. Though Abraham had died, God was still His God, as Abraham was alive in Heaven. Though Abraham had died, God was still alive. He did not die with Abraham.

God also identified Himself as the God of Isaac, who still lived. Not only did God still live, He was still involved in the things of the world. Jacob likely felt that God was distant. God assured him that He was working His plan.

In this episode of The Point, we see how God reaffirms His presence and plan, how God reaffirms the covenant and promises salvation, and how God promises His blessing on His people.

The Tower of Babel

The world’s first tyrant to build an empire was Nimrod, an ambitious, valiant, yet rebellious warrior who built a kingdom by providing for his people in successful hunts, putting down opposition on the battle field, and by building influence around his Type-A personality. First in war, first in peace, first at the dinner table.

Nimrod’s downfall, however, came in his rebellion against God. He built a kingdom in modern day Iraq, and the people decided to build a tower to reach into Heavens. Essentially, they were trying to invade Heaven.

God’s response shows His patience and grace, while also showing that He will not tolerate sin and rebellion.

The Rise of Civilizations

Two brothers, two sacrifices. One pleased God, the other didn’t.

Cain was wroth, angry that God did not honor his sacrifice of the fruits and grains that he had harvested. No doubt, Cain had labored hard for the harvest, and for God to reject his offering was equivalent to God rejecting Cain himself. This sent Cain into a self-destructive and homicidal rage cycle that led to him murdering Abel, his brother.

Abel sacrificed some of the firstlings of his flock. God respected that.

What was the difference between the two sacrifices? Faith (Hebrews 11:4). Obviously, both Cain and Abel believed God existed, but Abel looked to, and trusted God, whereas Cain just lived knowing He existed. The faith in Abel’s heart pleased God, so He was pleased with the sacrifice. Cain’s lack of faith, and minimal tolerance of God displeased Him, so He disregarded Cain’s sacrifice.

So, in a jealous rage one day, Cain kills Abel, and God drives him out, where he fathers an unGodly society that advances in sexual perversion (Gen. 4:19), agriculture (Gen. 4:20), culture and entertainment (Gen. 4:21) and technology, architecture and weaponry (Gen. 4:22).

Seth is born, and eventually fathers a culture that calls upon the name of God… and so we have the rise of the civilizations. One Godly, one unGodly. We’ll see how this turns out in the next few chapters, but for now, check out the impact that this has on us today by listening to this podcast.

God’s Will for Man (The Point Ep. 2)

In Episode 2 of the “Through the Bible Series” on the Point, we discuss how God created us in His image, and we discuss what that means. We also discuss how He created us with a purpose. He created us to create, to cultivate, to develop, and most of all to worship. He also created us for fellowship. We also briefly discuss the concept of the Sabbath Day. Check out our second episode of “The Point” podcast, posted above.