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Wordwise Insight, Issue #009 -- does Jesus care, praying around the clock, and more
September 14, 2005
Greetings

WORDWISE INSIGHT is the free, informative monthly newsletter of Wordwise-Bible-Studies.com

IN THIS ISSUE...

BIBLE INSIGHTS. Message outlines you are welcome to use on: serving the Lord; does Jesus care? and the place of service

READER Q & A. On whether Jesus could sin; on whether sinners truly seek after God

IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH. Praying Around the Clock

NEWS & REVIEWS. Two books of hymn stories


BIBLE INSIGHTS

SERVING THE LORD
Each of the four Gospels records the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the 5,000. It came about after the disciples’ comment that “there is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish” (Jn. 6:9). The Lord Jesus performed a remarkable miracle through one boy’s willingness to part with his lunch. His service for Christ that day has been pondered through all the centuries since. But think of what he might have done instead of what he did.

He might have been...

1) Careless, and lost his lunch

2) Wasteful, and thrown it away

3) Selfish, and eaten it himself

4) Exclusive, and shared it only with a friend

5) Neglectful, and not used it at all

6) Half-hearted, and given only a part

7) Grasping, and sold it

8) Deceitful, and said, “I have none”

9) Independent, and said, “I’ll do it myself.”

But he was...

10) Fully responsive and cooperative.

God works to bless others through our willing obedience. Warren Wiersbe comments, “The practical lesson is clear: Whenever there is a need, give all that you have to Jesus and let Him do the rest.”

DOES JESUS CARE?
Two particular texts in the Gospels provide jarring examples of the Lord’s actions being misinterpreted. Twice He was confronted with the question, “Don’t You care?” And of course the answer is He does care, infinitely.

1) About Our Salvation
When the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee, a terrible storm arose. “But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’” (Mk. 4:38). In the context, this deals with physical danger. But it is possible to draw a parallel to the eternal peril of the soul. Does He care that we are perishing? Yes, He does. And Calvary shows it (Jn. 3:16).

2) About Our Service
When He was visiting in the home of Mary and Martha, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear His word. On the other hand, “Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?’” (Lk. 10:40). But the Lord commends Mary’s sense of priorities (vs. 41-42). Service for Christ is an important part of the Christian life. But so is fellowship with Him. Without prayer, and meditation on His Word, our service will soon become powerless and sterile.

THE PLACE OF SERVICE
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it” (Prov. 3:27). This verse speaks to us of opportunity and ability.

1) Opportunity. The description in Proverbs is not meant as a moral evaluation (i.e. I’ll help him if I think he deserves it). “Let us do good to all,” the Word of God tells us (Gal. 6:10), exemplifying the principle of grace.“Those to whom [good] is due” are our neighbours. These can be broadly defined as any whom circumstances bring across our path, those with whom we come in contact day by day.

2) Ability. “When it is in the power of your hand to do it.” We are to use what we have–what He has given us--in the Lord’s service. In the words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

The parable of the Good Samaritan gives us a beautiful instance of the intersection of these two points (Lk. 10:30-37). When he came upon the injured man, he seized the opportunity presented and used the resources God had given to help him.


READER Q & A...

Question: Glenn asks, “Referring to Romans 8:3, the author of the footnotes in my Bible says, ‘Jesus, as God, took on our human nature, a nature that was susceptible to temptation. Although He was tempted, He never sinned.’ I don't believe that Jesus took upon himself our sinful nature. Is there a difference to what the author says in my Bible? Thanks.”

Answer: Both you and the author have a point. The Lord Jesus took upon Himself our humanity--a real human nature, but a sinless nature (Heb. 4:15). (Humanity's corruption was avoided through His miraculous conception in the womb of the virgin Mary, Lk. 1:35.) Think of the serpent in the wilderness, to which Christ compares Himself in John 3:15-16 (cf. Num. 21:5-9). It was like the poisonous snakes infesting the camp, but without the poison. Similarly, God sent "His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3). Notice it does not say "in sinful flesh" (implying that He too was corrupted by sin). Nor does it say simply "in the likeness of flesh" (implying that He was not a real human being).

I am a little more bothered by the phrase "susceptible to temptation" in your Bible's footnote. If the author means Jesus could be tempted, we know that is so (cf. Matt. 4:1-11). But is he inferring some weakness in the face of temptation? (Susceptible means: admitting of, or accessible to.) Then he is incorrect. The Lord Jesus Christ not only did not sin, He could not sin and still be who He is (Jas. 1:13). He could be attacked by the devil--and was. And the attack was all the more intense because He consistently resisted it without succumbing. But He could not fall.

Question: Bill asks, “Can you please explain what Paul was teaching in Romans chapter 3 where he refers to no one seeking God. Is this a general condition of mankind? There are many people who think they are seeking God, so to what was Paul referring?”

Answer: The short answer is that Paul is speaking of sinful fallen human beings left to themselves, and without divine intervention. But let’s dig a little deeper.

The entire passage, Romans 3:9-19 is devastating. The sin problem affects both Jews (favoured by God’s covenants, 3:1-2) and Gentiles. They are “all under sin” (vs. 9), and “all the world...[stands] guilty before God” (vs. 19). The passage is referring to each and every fallen human being, without exception. The virgin born Son of God, of course, was not corrupted by sin, nor did He commit sins. But apart from Him, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23).

The most striking note in the passage, is its unrelenting insistence on sin’s inclusiveness. Drawing from six different Old Testament passages, Paul carefully supports his argument: “all under sin” (vs. 9); “none righteous, no not one” (vs. 10); “none who understands...none who seeks after God” (vs. 11); “all turned aside...none who does good, no not one” (vs. 12). It is impossible to miss the point!

Then, the apostle looks at the subject from a different angle. Not only has sin corrupted us all, it has entirely corrupted each of us--that is, every part of our beings. Here is “total depravity” writ large. All of our conduct shows the result. Sin’s pollution affects what we say (vs. 13-14); the way we go, or what we do (vs. 15-17), and the object of our faith or allegiance (vs. 18). The unsaved may do good works, in a temporal and material sense, but not good that is free of fleshly effort and sinful pride. Any "good" the unregenerate might do is thus "unprofitable [worthless]" (vs. 12) in a spiritual and eternal sense. It cannot earn him acceptance with God.

Paul’s goal is to show the absolute necessity of the gospel of grace. To do that he begins with the “bad news”: that sin’s devastating effects are universal and entire. Then, the “but” of vs. 21 begins the “good news” and the answer: That righteousness (i.e. a righteous standing before God) comes through faith in Christ (vs. 22), and those who trust in Him are justified (pronounced righteous) “freely by His grace” (vs. 24; cf. 4:4-5).

Yes, there are many people who think they are seeking after God, or salvation. But it may be a god of their own imagining and a salvation of their own devising, and both are vanity and lead only to destruction. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). The condition of each individual born into the world is described as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1, 5). This deadness involves both a spiritual insensitivity and spiritual inability. No one in such a condition has the spiritual perception to understand God and His ways (I Cor. 2:14), or the power to respond to Him appropriately, even if he could understand (Rom. 5:6).

The only answer is for God to step in. Since man would never seek God on his own, God must act first. As Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him,” and “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him by My Father” (Jn. 6:44, 65). Part of this is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8). He also energizes the spirit to respond in faith. We believe “through grace” (Acts 18:27). (Cf. “To you it has been granted...to believe in Him,” Phil. 1:29). And, when the individual reaches out in faith and becomes a new creation in Christ, it is only by the continuing ministry of the Spirit of God that Christlike conduct is produced (Gal. 5:22-23).

Next Month: Are Christians obligated to tithe?


IDEAS FOR YOUR CHURCH

1) PRAYING AROUND THE CLOCK
As the fall season comes upon us, many ministries will kick into high gear. It is important for us to begin the church year with a sense of dependance on God, and an anticipation of what He will accomplish through our service for Him. Setting aside time for a Day of Prayer provides an opportunity for the congregation to unite in calling upon the Lord to bless. This can be done with a program held at in the church itself. But as an alternative you could have members of the congregation sign up to pray at home.

Draw up a schedule for 24 hours, marked off in 15 minute blocks. If your group is small, you could either reduce the total time involved or encourage individuals to sign up for a couple of time periods. If you have a larger church, you could allow for two people to sign up in each space. The object is to have continual prayer ascending to the throne of heaven for the day.

To direct the prayers to some extent, you could provide a hand-out which listed some important praise items and requests. And it might be worthwhile ending the schedule on a Sunday morning, so the theme of prayer can be used in the morning worship hour. Songs and Scriptures about prayer, as well as testimonies concerning answered prayers, could precede a message on prayer.

2) On the Website!--Interim Pastoral Ministry
Has the pastor of your church recently resigned? As well as beginning the search for a new undershepherd, have you considered the possibility of calling an interim man to minister for a shorter period of time? On the Wordwise website is an article called Interim Pastorates. Check out this practical material.

3) Also see, on the website, an article called 12 Keys to Good Music, giving you 12 biblical principles to evaluate the music in your life.

4) Is your church thinking of purchasing A NEW HYMN BOOK? Check out Choosing a Hymnal for Your Church on the website, for nearly three dozen excellent tips and ideas to help you make your choice.

5) Check out a Wordwise Bible study series to help seekers, or new Christians! A wonderful "review" for long-time believers as well! The free 10-part series is now available at Exploring Christianity.


VIEWS & REVIEWS

Hymn Stories
For years I have written a weekly newspaper column on the subject of our traditional hymns. I am often asked where I get my information, or to recommend a good book on the subject. Quite a few of the prominent hymn writers published autobiographies, or had their life’s stories told by others. However, most of these works are long out of print. Even secondary sources that drew upon them are often unavailable. Some of the books in my own library date from well over a century ago. Occasionally, you will come across recent reprints of these. Other times, they can be picked up in used book stores. Of the more recent books, two of the best are by Kenneth Osbeck. Between them they provide us with over 200 stories of the more familiar hymns. They are:
101 Hymn Stories
101 More Hymn Stories


If you have a question or an idea to share, please go to the Wordwise website and use the question form.

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