“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” John 1:1-3. The science is settled. Isn’t that what we’re told? Yep, deciding that there is no God who spoke all we see into existence, man, in his infinite intellect, has already discovered everything there is to know about how something came from nothing and then how that coincidental accident of complex systems of galaxies down to the intricacies of a single cell are sustained. Rather than the increasingly fantastic, fairy tale explanations that these secular anti-theologians spout, it is better to accept that “Our God, He Is Alive” and continues to be active in His creation today. The first two stanzas tell us of the wonder and beauty in which God created our world and how He continually guides us through “His inspired Word.” It is the third stanza which sings of God being the author of life that He alone possesses. And it is true that just as men can only reorganize existing matter and not create as God does, they cannot make life from non-life. This is why we need the fourth stanza of God’s Son upon a tree to bring us eternal life with Him one day! Do you know that “Our God, He Is Alive?”
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” 1 Peter 2:21. Most often, examples held up for us to follow are of those who have succeeded in some great way for us to follow. Perhaps it is some sports star, business owner, or student who worked hard, overcame adversity, and made sacrifices to achieve a great result—that is, accord-ing to the world’s standard and not God’s. Jesus is a stumbling block and folly to the world, according to 1 Co-rinthians; dying on the cross was shameful for One who could have called twelve legions of angels to stop it all. But to us who are being saved by His “failure,” it is the power and wisdom of God, which is wiser and stronger than men and their standard of success. This is why we are willing to suffer with Him and copy His example, following His footsteps that lead to our own Golgothas as we carry our own crosses that He helps us to bear. To this we have been called. Jesus was made like His brothers in every way to let us unite with Him in death and in His resurrection, yes, but also to show us how to live. Are you following in His steps as an example?
“And a scribe came up and said to him, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go” Matthew 8:19. It’s over two weeks since the new year began and more than likely you’re among those who have already let go of any resolutions you declared you would keep all year long. Like Peter insisting that he would die rather than deny Jesus just hours before he would say three times that he didn’t know his Lord and Master, we too can be all talk and no walk. After all, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The scribe in this passage insists that he will follow Jesus wherever He goes, and Jesus points out that it is a rough path to tread. Another disciple (meaning the scribe was one) had some essential business for this life to attend to first, but Jesus says that following Him requires every bit of time, energy, resources, and focus that a person has. Like the gym you no longer visit, perhaps the declaration of your baptism is looking more like empty words. In the hymn, “Where He Leads, I’ll Follow,” the words tell about Jesus’ great life, love, and rest that is worthy of following and that we will do so from this moment forward. Will you follow where He leads or do you not mean what you sing?
“Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest” John 4:35. The fields white for harvest are not white heads as we look out over our congregations on Sunday morning. Churches of every stripe are facing aging populations as younger generations are increasingly not attending churches. And, of those who are in our pews, most have obeyed the gospel already. We lament that there are not many who “grow up in the church” anymore to have baby-to-believer growth, and transfer growth, the redistribution of sheep from one of God’s pens to another, is a lazy method for the Lord’s church to count on. Should we compete with other churches for those already saved or hope that they just happen to walk in? No, it’s time for each church in the new year to recognize that God’s plan all along for churches to grow is by reaching out to the lost. Our buildings sit within the harvest fields of our communities that are full of people who need to hear the gospel. It’s unlikely that they are yet “white for harvest” as the world in Jesus’ day. We may have to work before grain is ready for the sickle. Are you willing to roll up your sleeves to plant seed and tend it so God can provide an increase?
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin” Romans 4:7-8. Abraham knew this blessing as he believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. This belief was not a mental affirmation of God’s promise as he submitted to circumcism as a sign of this covenant. Obedient action followed faith. So it was for David who is attributed to speaking these words from Psalm 32. When Nathan makes him aware of his sin with Uriah’s wife, David declares, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Lest we think that repentance is just mental affirmation of guilt, we should explore the godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10-11) that David undergoes in Psalm 51. So too, our faith is not just mental affirmation of who Jesus is and what He has done for us at the cross and tomb. We believe and so we submit in obedient action to baptism into Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. It’s a sign of the new covenant made in His blood that redeems us (Ephesians 1:7). So we now can sing: “I’m redeemed by love divine, Glory, glory, Christ is mine … All to Him I now resign, I have been redeemed!” Are you redeemed?