1 Corinthians 15:12-20
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain,” 1 Corinthians 15:14.
All over Southeast Asia are thousands of huge, tall monuments called Chedi. Buried deep inside these gold covered mounds of concrete and plaster is a tiny fragment of Buddha. One may contain a couple of hairs, another, a tiny piece of bone, minuscule pieces of a dead man who did good and promoted simple living. But any one of these monuments can be destroyed in an instant by a flood or earthquake, and the relic inside would blow away with the wind or wash away in a flood.
Praise God that Christ is risen from the dead! There are no golden monuments that contain bones or hair or any other portion of Jesus, not even a blood stain, for He ascended to Heaven with all His earthly body parts. There He lives waiting for the day when His Father tells Him to gather His children. And there He loves and cares and intercedes for all believers. Here, He lives inside the heart of every believer as a testament of life.
Perhaps, if Christ had not risen, we, too, would build monuments to honor His death. We too would worship a relic of His body. Worry not my friend—He is not dead—He is risen!
Our faith is not in vain, we are absolutely sure that we, too, will be raised from this earth to our heavenly home!
The Greatest Giver
“For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living,” Mark 12:44.
Does God need anything? Is He somehow deficient if we do not obey Him, or is He completely self-sufficient? I hope you know the answer to these questions. By faith, we can say, “No, God needs nothing. He is absolutely self-sufficient.” Then, we must follow-up that question with this one: “Why does He ask us to give of our time, energy and money to Him?” If He owns everything, even the “cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10), then why would He request us to share what we have with Him?
In today’s text, I wonder if the poor widow who gave two small copper coins ever had a similar thought. “Surely, the God of creation does not need me to give this penny.” But she gave her offering anyway, and what Jesus said next gives us insight as to why God asks our financial involvement in His work. Some very rich people gave large offerings out of their prosperity, but Jesus said that what the poor widow gave was more than what the rich people gave. Jesus opens our eyes to see that what God wants most is our trust. He absolutely does not need our financial contributions, but when we do give God our time, energy and resources, it is a sign of faith and dependence upon Him. The more we give to God, the more we depend upon Him to care for our every need. The poor widow was “all in”—she was 100% dependent upon God to care for her, and God was pleased.
JUST A THOUGHT
Will you give God one hundred percent today?
“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him,” Hebrews 11:6.
Since everything was created by Christ for His pleasure, and since faith is the only way to bring Him pleasure, Christians would do well to understand what faith really is.
God working in us to bring about His good pleasure means that to live by faith we must surrender to God and let Him work His own pleasure out in our lives (Phil. 2:12, 13).
Faith is not something we can work-up, it is God working in us. Even in salvation, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8, 9). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:16, 20).
The faith and the grace is all of Christ that He may receive all the glory. Faith, hope and love are supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Surrender, relax, enjoy the ride and leave the driving to Jesus.
For whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom 14:23). How much of our lives will not reap rewards because it was not of faith?
“By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” Romans 5:2.
In twelfth century Italy, there was a man named Faninus who, in opposition to the dominant religion of the day, became a true Christ follower. He decided to share Christ with the world no matter who persecuted him or how terrible the consequences might be. Consequently, he was arrested for heresy and sentenced to die. On the day of his execution, it was recorded that he appeared remarkably cheerful. One observer said, “It is strange you should appear so merry upon such an occasion, when Jesus Christ himself, just before his death, was in such agonies, that he sweated blood and water.” Faninus replied, “Christ sustained all manner of pangs and conflicts, with hell and death, on our accounts; and thus, by his sufferings, freed those who really believe in him from the fear of them.” Faninus was then strangled and burned to ashes. (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, page 89.)
True Christ followers have nothing to fear. There is one person in the universe who has the power to cast us, body and soul, into hell, but through Christ, we have been justified by faith and are now at peace with God. That means the child of God is untouchable. Even in tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness and peril, there is absolutely nothing that will be able to separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:35). When difficulties arise, we should cling strongly to our Lord in faith, knowing that God has a plan for every circumstance that befalls us and glorify God until the day we die.
JUST A THOUGHT
Will you glorify God in your tribulations today?
A most interesting and intriguing question is that reverberating from the lips of the Roman magistrate Pontius Pilate who said to our Lord, “what is truth?” That question ever remains the point of division among men. Pseudo-scientists reject elements of faith in search of a truth they will not find. Philosophers offer variant, opposing viewpoints of what they think is truth. Religious leaders propagate diametrically opposing views all in the name of truth. Worse than all the others, they purport that the truth they espouse comes from God. Surely, the fierceness of judgment is ever increasing. But back to the question, “What is truth?”
Some say there is mathematical truth; medical truth, moral truth, religious truth, historical truth, etc. Why do these divisions exist? They are man-made, and exist mainly due to man’s desire to achieve an ecumenical mastery of life on the false premise that he is on an evolving scale of existence, without acknowledging his Creator. In that rejection, he is allowed to proceed to the ultimate global disaster by the very grace of the Creator he insists does not exist. Let it be underscored that truth is truth no matter what discipline of life it primarily affects, and that all truth comes from God.
Jesus asked our Heavenly Father to “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17. It is God Who created and set in order every aspect of creation, thus it is His Word that is the ultimate and prevailing truth. Thus did Jesus say to His disciples of then and now, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
So, where does all the variant lines of so-called knowledge purporting to be truth originate? Jesus plainly identifies them as coming from Satan, saying, “. . .He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. . .” John 8:44. On the other hand, we are told of the Holy Spirit that is given to God’s people, “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” I John 2:27.
Accordingly, the Spirit of God is altogether true, and teaches His people in all things that are true! It is the Word of God that is true; hence, the Spirit of God impresses upon searching hearts the unity, symmetry, and harmony of magnificent truth presented in His Holy Word. All who live in this manner walk in truth, not in total separation from the flesh, but in spite of it. I fully commit to these lines of thought because that is the kind of Christian I am!
“And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs,” Mark 7:28.
One day during Jesus’ earthly ministry, a Gentile woman humbly came to Jesus begging Him to heal her daughter who was demon possessed. Jesus responded with a statement meant to test her faith, instructing her that His immediate task was to enlighten and correct the wayward Jews and that it was not time to begin His ministry to the Gentiles. “Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs” (Mark 7:27). The woman’s response was remarkably humble and persistent. She said, “Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs” (verse 28). When Jesus saw the woman’s faith, He honored her request and healed her daughter. Jesus was focused on the task at hand but was available to extend grace and healing to this woman. She believed He had the power to heal, and she persisted in faith.
We have all been in situations that seemed hopeless. Like the distraught Syrophoenician woman, we must come to the realization that we are absolutely helpless to control our circumstances and in desperate need of God’s intervention. Similarly, we should come to Him with humble persistence, acknowledging that it would only take a few “crumbs” (verse 28) of God’s power to deliver us in our times of need. Jesus honors the simple, persistent faith of those in need.
JUST A THOUGHT
Will you come to God today in simple, persistent faith?
The Faith of the Lepers
1876 – Dr. James M. Haswell died after forty-one years of missionary service in Burma, with his dear wife Jane Mason, who he had married on August 23, 1835, and sailed for their chosen field one month later. He was more fruit from the Hamilton Theological Institute in Bennington, Vermont. Dr.Haswell mastered the Burmese language and then turned to the Pegulan dialect to reach the 80,000 of that tribe. He only took two furloughs, one in 1849 and another in 1867 and those were used to spur interest in missions. He was most diligent that his son James should follow him which he did but tragically died of cholera but a year after his father in 1877. But the Haswell vision lived on through their daughter Susan who founded the Maulmein Leper Colony in which she invested sixty years of her life. The government gave the land and the lepers themselves built the thatched roof buildings with, in some cases, stumps for hands and feet. It stood for years as a memorial to her and the faith of the lepers. Untold thousands were saved. [A.H. Burlingham, The Story of Baptist Missions in Foreign Lands (St. Louis: C.R. Barns Publishing Co., 1892), p. 944. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 501-02.]
Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
A Dull Scholar in Christ’s School
1751 – Rev. Isaac Backus, one of the outstanding pastors of a Separate (Conservative Congregational) Church at Middlebourgh, Massachusetts was baptized by Rev. Benjamin Pierce. This was at a time when the Baptists (only fifty churches total in America) being small in number, were also divided and persecuted. Backus would later write, “After renewing grace was granted, I was such a dull scholar in Christ’s school, that I was thirty-two years in learning a lesson of only six words, namely, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’ It took ten years to get clear of the custom of putting baptism before faith [his Congregational experience] and near five more to learn not to contradict the same in practice [his Separate experience] after which, above seventeen trying years…before we could refrain from an implicit acknowledgment of more than ‘one Lord’ in religious affairs” [the embracing of the church/state as an overlord]. His joining the Baptists was not prompted by prominence, popularity or pedigree but out of conviction. [Robert C. Newman, Baptists and the American Tradition (Des Plaines, Ill.: Regular Baptist Press. 1076, p. 32. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. pp. 459-460.] Prepared by Dr. Greg Dixon
Bound and drowned for Christ
Aeltgen Baten an aged woman. And Maeyken Wouters a young woman about 24 years both received Christ and were baptized and gave evidence of their faith before God and man in their community in their native city of Liege, Belgium. For no more than this, the authorities of the state church (Roman Catholic) sent 14 trappers (those who were charged to bring in heretics) to apprehend these two offensive women. They were imprisoned for ten weeks in the officials’ tower, where they were enticed to turn from their faith. One bishop’s chaplain came to Maeyken on bended knee with wine trying to get her to recant but she repelled the “devil’s deceipt.” A friend came and said, “Just yield on one point and you can live as before.” She said, “Would you advise that I should forsake God and become a child of the Devil?” The man said, “Then you will have to die.” She said, “I would rather have this come to pass than to enjoy the light of day.” These two saints of God endured the worst tortures devised by depraved mankind, often fainting and being revived with cold water. They were so sustained that Aeltgen said, “Yes, if the door stood open, I should not wish to go away.” In all their sufferings they were joyful in their God, thankful to Him and sang praises to Him in prison. Their sentence was that they were to be bound, gagged and cast alive from the Meuse River Bridge. And so it was. Aeltgen said, “O Lord, this is a beautiful city indeed; would that it repented with Ninevah.” Maeyken asked that she might pray, her executioner told her to pray to the lords the magistrates, and believe with us in the Romish Church, and you shall save your life. And so the depths swallowed up these two precious saints on July 24, 1595, and their Lord received them.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon: adapted From: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins/Thompson, pp. 303-04.
Beheaded for faith in sound doctrine
On June 13th 1560, Hans Mandemaker, Pastor: together with, Deacon: and Eustachius Kuter. Were condemned to death. At the passing of the sentence, a great number of people were present as they addressed the judges of the court and the jury, proving to them that the sentence, in the presence of God, passed upon innocent men, would rise up in judgment against them to their condemnation for having condemned innocent blood. When they replied that they were obliged to judge according to the emperor’s command and proclamation, Hans Mandemaker said, “O ye blind judges! You are to judge according to your own heart and conscience, as you will have to answer for it in the presence of God. If then you judge and pass sentence, according to the emperor’s proclamation, how will you answer before God?”
They all spake with boldness and exhorted the people to repent, to forsake their sins, and to tread the path of truth; it was the truth for which this day they would suffer. Their crime: they did not believe that the holy body of Jesus Christ was in the sacrament but they observed the Lord’s Supper in the same manner that Christ kept it with His disciples, and that they did not approve of infant baptism.
Kuter was first beheaded, after which Juriaen Raek stepped cheerfully forward to the executioner and said, “Here I leave wife and child, house and goods, body and life, for the sake and truth of God.”
Dr. Dale R. Hart: Adapted from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I. (Thompson/Cummins) pp. 243 -244.