Weekly Bulletin Articles
Large crowds followed Jesus, not because they recognized His majesty or craved His life-altering words, but first because His signs amazed them (John 6:2), and then because He fed them (John 6:26).
The signs were to lead them to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, which would lead them to eternal life (John 20:30, 31). The bread in their bellies should have opened their hearts to the food that endures to eternal life (John 6:27, 35, 41, 48, 51). In their eyes, Jesus was great because He helped them. When the food ran out or the miracles finished, their service ceased.
Are we that much different?
Ask yourself these questions: Why do I serve God? Why do I praise him? Why do I love Jesus? Do I serve God because of what He gives or because of who He is?
I posit that our motivation for service matters. It is possible to serve the right God in the right way for the wrong reasons.
God is not great because of what He gives. God is great because of who He is. God gives because He is great, and what God gives is great because He is great.
It is natural for us to be drawn to God because of what He has done. Faith is informed, not blind. One must know to believe. And God reveals himself, at least in part, through His gifts.
Those seven signs recorded in John were bigger than the acts themselves. Healing a lame man was not just for the physical benefit of one man. Raising Lazarus was more than just restoring temporal life to a friend.
These acts were accomplished to draw people to Jesus — without the signs, Jesus wouldn’t have the crowds. But more than that, these signs were designed to show people who Jesus was. His nature, His power, His mercy, His love, His character should be seen in these acts.
What happens when the gifts of God are not what we expect or seem to vanish altogether? What happens when our perception of God’s gifts change? Do we still serve Him? What happened to many of Jesus’ followers when He didn’t feed them and they became disillusioned with what He preached? They followed Him no longer (John 6:60, 66).
Abraham received a promised child from God (Genesis 21:1-3), and then was willing to give Him up (Genesis 22:1-18). If we serve the blessing, we would be tempted to question God, to refuse His request, to blame Him for our loss. Abraham served the Blesser.
Paul experienced hardship, persecution, and rejection. He learned contentment (Philippians 4:11, 12). He served the Giver not the gifts.
It is natural for us to begin our journey by loving and serving God because of what He gives. The challenge is to grow in our faith as Abraham did (Romans 4:16-25), so that we are not moved when challenges arise.
While He gives great gifts, our God is great not because of the blessings He bestows, but because of the character He possesses.
Do you have faith in the gifts or the Giver, in the blessings or the Blesser? It is a distinction that can make all the difference.
How often do we want to blame what happens to us on someone else? It isn’t our fault that this happened! Growing up in the United States this was called “passing the buck”; we wanted to blame someone – or something – for our predicament. It surely couldn’t be us!
This seems to have been going on since God created humans. Even Adam in the garden blamed Eve, who in turn blamed the serpent when they sinned. But it isn’t a matter of assigning blame; it is about what we do and changing our lives. The Israelites at the time of Ezekiel had the same problem.
“The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying what mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?” (Ezekiel 18:1-2 KJV.)
In other words, the problems they were facing in being in exile wasn’t their fault – it was what their ancestors had done. They were the ones who had sinned and as a result the people ended up in exile – or so they reasoned. God through Ezekiel dealt with this type of reasoning decisively.
First there was a man who is righteous: he lived a good life, refrained from doing what was wrong, and obeyed God. This man was righteous and as a result would live; God wouldn’t punish him.
But he had a son. The son was not a good man but did everything he could that was wrong including worshipping idols. “ Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.”(Ezekiel 18:13). Just because his father was a good, righteous man that did not mean that the son would be accepted by God no matter what he did. Because of the way he lived – what he did – he would be responsible for his rejection by God.
This man in turn had a son. He observed his father’s life and decided that he did not want to live this way. Perhaps he also observed his grandfather’s life and was impressed by what he saw. He decided to live a righteous life, doing what was right, and following God. He would not be held accountable for his father’s sins. Because he lived a faithful life he would surely live.
Notice as well that the wicked father would not be spared because he had a righteous son. “As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity” (Ezekiel 18:18).
What is the point in all of this? We are each responsible before God for what we do. We can’t “pass the buck”. God put it this way:
“ The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20).
But there is hope for the wicked person. If he were to change his life, turn away from the sin he was involved in, become obedient to God, then he could change the outcome: “But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:21).
Of course the opposite is true as well. If the righteous man turns to sin, he will be held accountable for the sins he is now involved in. It is about what we do, how we live our lives.
“”Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye” (Ezekiel 18:30-32) .
Most people live as though they cannot disobey God, or that it doesn't make any difference if they do. There are at least five ways people disobey God:
1. By doing what is specifically forbidden. Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree (Genesis 1:16-17; 3:6). Lot's wife looked back to the city of Sodom (Genesis 19:17, 26). Ananias and Sapphira lied to God (Acts 5:1-11). There are many sins that are forbidden in the Bible (Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Romans 1:18-32; Colossians 3:5-9).
2. By refusing to do what God has commanded. "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). God commanded King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites, but he spared their king along with sheep and oxen. He sinned in refusing to do what God commanded (1 Samuel 15:22).
By adding to what the Bible says. God has never allowed men to add to His word (Revelation 22:18; 3. Deuteronomy 4:2). Men today add to God's word when they refer to themselves by man-made names not found in the Bible. When men add: mechanical instruments of music, burning of candles/incense, creeds and manuals, etc., they go beyond that which is written (1 Corinthians 4:6) and bring upon themselves God's judgment.
4. By taking away from what the Bible says. God has never allowed man to do so (Revelation 22:19; Deuteronomy 12:32). Denominational churches take away the name of the church (Romans 16:16), the first day of the week observance of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7), water baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16), and scriptural giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
5. By substituting something else for what God commanded. Nadab and Abihu died because they substituted a different fire for what God commanded (Leviticus 10:1-2). Denominations today substitute "fund raisers" in place of the first day collection (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), sprinkling instead of immersion (Colossians 2:12), entertainment and recreation instead of gospel preaching (1 Corinthians 1:18-21). There is no end to men substituting for God's divine arrangement.
Love, respect, and obey what God says.
You will not be saved any other way (John 12:48; Rom. 1:16).
(from Banner of Truth, via The Reminder, Cleveland, Tennessee
God’s grace is truly marvelous and measureless. Man’s greatest problem is sin (Rom.3:23), and his greatest need is the forgiveness of sins through the grace of Almighty God (Rom.6:23). It is by grace that we are saved, as we respond in the obedience of faith (Eph.2:8). Just as faith must be active in order to be effectual (James 2:26), grace is active in behalf of those who are willing to abide by the parameters God has placed upon it. How does grace act in our behalf?
Grace reaches. Through grace God has reached out to every sinner. The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). By the offering of His only begotten Son, Jehovah extended the hand of fellowship and reconciliation to the whole world (John 3:16). Justice demands that we should die for our sins, but by His grace God intervened on our behalf and offered His Son in our stead (Rom.3:23-25). Truly, as we sometimes sing, “His grace reaches me.”
Grace teaches. God’s grace demands certain things of us (Titus 2:12). Grace instructs us that there are behaviors that must be avoided. We are to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. It was because we gave into worldly lusts that we were estranged from our God in the first place (Isa.59:1-2; James 1:13-15). Grace demands that we get out of the sinning business (Rom.6:1-2). It only makes sense that one parameter of grace is to avoid the very things that caused fellowship to be severed. Grace also teaches us to embrace sobriety, godliness, and righteousness. We must learn to think properly and act appropriately.
Grace beseeches. God entreats us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom.12:1). After all that God has done for us, especially in the offering of His Son, it is only logical (“reasonable”, KJV) that we serve God by giving our lives in His service. God implores us to be united in the same mind and judgment, and that there be no divisions among us (1 Cor.1:10). Jesus prayed for the unity of believers, so that the world might come to believe on him (John 17:20-21). Our Father pleads with us to be reconciled unto Him (2 Cor.5:20). Jesus makes it possible for us to be made friends with God again. The Almighty begs that we walk worthy of the vocation with which we are called (Eph.4:1).
Christianity is our job (vocation); everything else is just an avocation. God entreats us that we receive not His grace in vain (2 Cor.6:1). It is possible to frustrate the grace of God (Gal.2:21). It is possible to fail of the grace of God, having once known it (Heb.12:15). We must abide by the parameters of grace that God has set so that we may continue in the riches of His grace (Acts 13:43).
- Patrick Morrison