Thursday, April 28, 2011

A FATHER AND SON REUNION

A Father and Son Reunion



“… A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.” Luke 15:11-12. Why is it so difficult for so many to understand Jesus’ parables? He spoke in parable so those who had rejected Him would not understand what He was talking about, but afterward He explained them to His disciples, well most of them that is. Why then do so many Christians get confused with the parables? They are for our benefit. Jesus’ parables, for the most part, are a picture of God dealing with His children. God loves His children and Jesus occasionally conveyed that love through His parables. The parable of the prodigal son is one such occasion. After reading of the exploits of the prodigal son one should come away fully convinced of God’s incredible and everlasting love for those who belong to Him.



This particular parable begins with an apparently wealthy man with property, servants, and livestock. The man had two sons; the younger of the two sons became dissatisfied with his life and made the decision to head out into the world to see what the world had to offer. Before this young man left he asked his father to give him his inheritance, so the father divided the inheritance between both sons, and the youngest quickly left. “And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.” Luke 15:13-14. Yes the inevitable happened and the young man was quickly corrupted by the world. As such, he went about wasting what his Father had given him on things that fulfilled his worldly lusts. As is common in many instances when an inheritance is involved, the money is spent with total abandon. What was not earned, many times, is not appreciated. I’ve seen people drop a hundred thousand dollar inheritance quicker than they would drop a twenty dollar bill that they worked hard to acquire.



“And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.” Luke 15:15-16. After this young man had wasted his entire inheritance, a famine took hold of that country, and he was now looking starvation square in the eye. The young man did find work in a pig sty, and to anyone it would have been a humbling job, but to the Jewish audience listening to the parable it was totally repulsive. You see, swine are unclean animals that Jews have nothing to do with. This young man had stooped as low as any Jew could stoop. The young man was attempting to keep from starving by living off the scraps left by the swine.



“And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” Luke 15:17. While in the pig sty starving the young man began to reflect on just how much better off he would be even as a servant at his Father’s house. “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19. So this youngest son of the wealthy Father knew what he needed to do. He had to return to his Father’s house and apologize for his disobedience and sinful lifestyle. In his heart he knew he was no longer worthy to be called his Father’s son, but perhaps he could return as a servant on his Father’s property.



The next verse is so awesome and full of the proof of our Fathers love for even one child who goes astray that it completely undermines any thought of one losing their salvation. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says happened next. “And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:20-24. Here we learn that this young son had not lost his son-ship. He was always the father’s son even as he was living with the swine. Yes, indeed the boy was out of fellowship with his father, but when he came to his senses he immediately repented of his sins and the fellowship he once took for granite was reestablished with his father.



Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son speaks of the relationship between God the Father and those who have become sons of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14. God’s sons are all those who are born again. Outsiders without understanding of how God views those who’ve been born again would look at this young man as a dead, lost soul. But in reality, as a son of God, he had only moved away from his Father’s fellowship.



The entire chapter of Luke 15 speaks of the Fathers love for a wandering child. The parable about the man who left 99 sheep to go and seek the one that had wandered off and the parable about the women who lost a silver coin and swept clean her entire home until she found the coin both tell of people seeking something they owned but had lost. There was rejoicing in Heaven on both occasions as these verses speak of those who belong to God wandering off and then being found again. What many miss when they read of the sheep wandering and the silver coin disappearing is that both the man who lost one of his sheep and the women who lost one of her coins already possessed these two items. The sheep already belonged to the man and the coin belonged to the women. They were lost for a while but then they were found. I was lost but now am found. There are those who are indeed lost, not saved. But there are also those who are saved (who belong to the Father) and simply wander off. The later are addressed in this chapter of Luke’s Gospel.



Remember God never moves away from us, but because of the human appetite for lust we move toward sin coinciding with our move away from the Father. In his first epistle, which was written to Christians, John tells us that fellowship can and will be re-established. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. As you read John’s epistles you will notice that he speaks exclusively to the sons of God.



Yes, I’ll receive a lot of negative responses on this subject since many have been taught that if that young son would have died while living among the swine he would have been condemned to Hell. That interpretation means that anytime one of us (sons of God) sins and removes themselves from fellowship with God, and then dies in that condition, we are instantly condemned to Hell. The people who believe this erroneous teaching really have no concept of God’s power and will. God keeps those who belong to Him secure in His hands and no man can remove us from God’s hand. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” John 10:27. Our salvation is based on our belief in Jesus the Christ, what He did for all of us by allowing man to nail Him to that cross, then to die and be raised again on the third day. This is God’s generously free gift to us and once we are born again, born from above – from God – it doesn’t take our strength to stay secure in His hands; it is God’s strength which keeps us justified in His eyes. Being justified doesn’t mean we will never wander off.



Jesus taught the parable of the prodigal son so we could get a clear picture of God our Father always standing before us with open arms. God is always in a fellowship mode, whether we walk away or not He’s there. If we do walk away, God remains diligent waiting for us to re-join Him where He is. Once a person becomes justified (saved), that person is no longer accountable for their sins “…for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I... Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” Romans 7:15b, 17.



“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26. As God’s children sin can’t remove us from the Father’s hands. Whether they be past sins or future sins, they have been paid for by God Himself. Thus our actions after we are justified are never condemning. We may feel terrible during a session of sinning and rebellion, as well we should, and that’s the Holy Spirit dwelling inside us. But we, as born again believers in Christ, are never condemned. Out of fellowship? Yes. Never condemned.



God always takes us back no matter what kind of mischief we get ourselves into. We move away, He waits for us to return. The reward of salvation is the same for those in fellowship as for those out of fellowship. And every believer’s inheritance remains intact no matter where they walk off to while on earth.



God bless you all,



Ron Graham

All scripture is from the KJV and God breathed

twotug@embarqmail.com

96 County Road 5480 Salem, MO 65560

My past commentaries are archived at the following link

http://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

Thursday, April 07, 2011

OPEN DOORS

Open Doors

4/7/2011



“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;” Revelation 3:7. Jesus was speaking to one specific church, the church of Philadelphia. Yet today every Christian congregation believes their church is representative of this one church which Jesus had nothing but praise for.



First of all we know that Jesus was not at all unhappy with the church of Philadelphia (meaning brotherly love). They had persevered in times which were extremely difficult. They kept the faith, they did not waver on the Gospel, and they would not deny the name of Jesus Christ. Honestly, how many Christian churches fall into that category today?



“...behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8. Out of the seven churches addressed in the book of Revelation, by none other than Jesus Christ Himself, the church of Philadelphia is one of two churches which Jesus didn’t admonish to repent. And this particular church (the Church of Philadelphia) will not go through the horrible events of the Great Tribulation. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Revelation 3:10.



Jesus titles Himself as Holy and True, having the key of David and having power over opening and closing. Jesus’ proclamation as being Holy and True declares His authority as God Almighty with power only He has to open and close doors, doors only He can open and close. Jesus references opening doors twice in the above verses while addressing the Church at Philadelphia, thus we can conclude from these references that there are two separate meanings being addressed. The first “open door” I believe refers to evangelism because, speaking of the Church at Philadelphia, they had the strength of Jesus and had kept His word which means they didn’t shirk their responsibility to preach the Gospel. In the following verses Paul plainly uses the open door idea. “For a great door and effectual [opportunity for spreading the Gospel] is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Corinthians 16: 9. “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord” 2 Corinthians 2:12. We also see it in Colossians “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds:” Colossians 4:3. Evangelism is a door that God opens and it is commanded of all His followers that we recognize and walk through that door.



The second open door is the door that is open to Heaven. There are two Greek words we are concerned with: “Thyra”, meaning door or gate, and “Anoigō” which means open and refers to the door of Heaven as it is the same word used in the following verse, “And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” John 1:51. Seeing Heaven’s door open will be the ultimate view by the Church as we are being Raptured. At some point after the Rapture, the door that leads to Heaven will be shut, forever.



Evangelism, for now, is a constant open door with proactive participants going about our Father’s business daily; that open door has remained so for the last 2,000 years. Even during the Great Tribulation there will be a tremendous amount of evangelism going on.



The other door, the door that leads to Heaven, is also currently open. As Stephen was being stoned to death he said: But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56. At some point though, Jesus will shut that door and no man will be able to open it. There’s a picture type of this same shutting of doors in the Old Testament. “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; …And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.” Genesis 7:13 & 16. God shut the door to the ark and no man was able to open it. What I’m trying to say is that there is only so much time left before the doors are closed and, as we all know, time always runs out. Someday time will run out for entering Heaven. Time is one enemy that all Christ rejecters will soon come to despise.



How many churches today are involved in evangelism? What I mean by evangelism is, do Christian churches today seek people to come to church or do they send people who attend their church out to spread the truth of the Gospel of Christ? Jesus taught His disciples many things and gave them a simple commandment that He fully expected them to follow. As He was winding up His earthly ministry, He admonished His disciples to go into all the world and teach others what He had taught them. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20.



That same commandment remains our marching orders today. Jesus was quite specific, when He says “Go ye”. What did He mean when He said “Go ye”? Did He mean go ye to that big white building every Sunday morning and sit in a pew for an hour and by doing so you’ll be fulfilling His Great Commission? No, He commands His own to be much more involved in spreading His good news than that. No matter how late the hour it’s never too late to witness to someone who is lost. Traversing the world in an attempt to evangelize is admirable and certainly is adhering to Christ’s command to spread His Gospel throughout the world, but you and I can find many lost folks right in our own communities who still need to hear the Gospel of truth. Why not start there? By the way “Ye” means “You”.



Then Jesus gave His disciples a final promise, a most important promise as they/we are to be about His business. “...lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (v.20). I’m not sure everyone involved in ministry fully understands this promise. No matter who we are, no matter what Christian ministry we’re involved in, whether it is evangelism, preaching, street witnessing, or writing commentaries for the internet, His promise is clear. Jesus is with us and will remain with us during every aspect of that ministry.



Let’s take a deeper look at His promise. Presence, power, peace, and love are four distinct attributes associated with Jesus’ promise of always being with us whether we’re involved in witnessing or whether we’re being persecuted.



What could be more reassuring for a believer in Christ as we access the most powerful of powers in the universe? Jesus is handing His powers to us along with His Gospel to teach others, how can we fail? This is the open door He speaks about. If God Almighty tells you He’s opened a door for you to go out and evangelize the world or your next door neighbor, are you going to refuse?



This is why the church of Philadelphia was so wonderfully singled out by the Creator of the universe; it was because of their devotion to Him and to evangelism. If a church body truly believes they are a branch of the Philadelphian church then that entire body must be involved in spreading the Gospel of Christ, and just like that early church they must never deny His name.



The Apostle John wrote seven letters to seven Churches as Jesus directed – the letter to the Church of Philadelphia and six more. The Church at Smyrna was singled out as the persecuted church. They, along with the Church of Philadelphia, received no rebuke from Jesus. But the other five churches had some major problems which Jesus addresses and He admonishes them to repent of their ways. One had lost their first love and the others were basically in the “falling away from the faith” mode. Speaking metaphorically of the Church of Philadelphia, it’s the only Church today which is moving in the right direction. Look for a church that relies on Jesus’ strength and power, and one that never denies His name and voila you have a branch of the Church at Philadelphia.



Evangelism is the key. We, as believers in Christ, are all evangelists in some form or fashion. We may not be in the category of a Franklin Graham or a Greg Laurie, and we don’t need to be. But we are all members of the body of Christ which means we are all on the same team, and being on the same team means we should all be on the same page of the play book.



Jesus is so distressed over the wayward and apostate church of the last days that He begins to plead with them on a personal level. The next verse is so touching, so to the point and it’s directed to anyone who will open their ears and hear, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20. In other words, in the last days, and referring to the apostate Church, Jesus is not in that Church; He’s standing and knocking on the door of the heart of each individual waiting to be invited in.



We can see two distinct camps appearing in the last days. Clearly there are people who profess to follow Jesus Christ dwelling in each camp. Camp number one is the church of Philadelphia, and camp number two contains those of the last days apostate church. The two doors Jesus speaks about (evangelism and Heaven) are both currently open, so ask yourself if you have walked through the door He’s opened by following His command to spread the Gospel? Or have you staked claim to camp number two and you’re now just sitting back enjoying your riches and your perceived salvation, unconcerned with the rest of the world’s lost and perishing people.



Jesus says to be either hot or cold is a good thing. Hot and on fire for the Lord, cold and in love with the Lord displaying a refreshing and sustainable help to others, but to be lukewarm, is to be dead. No one wants to be found lingering in the dead apostate camp, or do they?



God bless you all,



Ron Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

96 County Road 5480 Salem, MO 6560

All scripture is from the KJV